Research Handbook on the Sociology of Education
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Research Handbook on the Sociology of Education

Edited by Rolf Becker

Presenting original contributions from the key experts in the field, the Research Handbook on the Sociology of Education explores the major theoretical, methodological, empirical and political challenges and pressing social questions facing education in current times.
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Chapter 13: Early educational inequality: growing up in different learning environments

Birgit Becker


This chapter focuses on early educational inequality and addresses the questions of why and how children from different social backgrounds differ in their developmental trajectories during early childhood. Firstly, it presents a resource-oriented model of early child development: parental resources are expected to indirectly affect their children’s development in early childhood via the provision of different learning environments. Secondly, it summarizes empirical results regarding these associations. The literature identifies socioeconomic status differences in the home environment as a major source of unequal developmental trajectories in early childhood. In contrast, the role of early educational institutions might be more ambiguous as selection and compensation effects tend to work in different directions. Parents’ child care choices also seem to be context-dependent.

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