A Comparative Analysis of the Transmission of Socio-Economic Inequalities
Edited by Fabrizio Bernardi and Gabrielle Ballarino
Chapter 2: Inequality of educational returns in France: changes in the effect of education and social background on occupational careers
In contemporary France, does social origin still have an influence when young men and women leave the educational system after they obtain their qualifications and present themselves on the labour market to enter their first jobs? If, even in a post-industrial society (Bell 1973), family background still affects the degree of success of this first step among young people with the same educational assets, does this ascription effect persist over the course of their subsequent occupational careers? Could it be the case that, in a country characterized by tremendous educational expansion over recent decades, the long-lasting effect of social origin has become more prominent in the most recent cohorts as compared with the previous ones? Finally, have returns to education followed the opposite trend, thereby reflecting a recent shift in the relative balance between ascription and achievement? These questions are of central interest for both the study of French society and the more general understanding of fundamental social stratification processes that govern the dynamics of occupational attainment over the life-course. This chapter conducts an empirical examination of the aforementioned questions on the basis of large-scale, high-quality and nationally representative data spanning the evolution of French society from 1977 to 2003 and the labour-market situations of cohorts born between 1938 and 1975.
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