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 24: Returns to education in the life course

Michael Gebel and Guido Heineck


We review the theories, concepts and evidence on the importance of education for individuals’ life chances and outcomes. In addition to the more traditional research that focused mainly on labour market success or monetary returns, we introduce the literature that addresses non-monetary outcomes. For example, we highlight the relevance of education to individuals’ health as well as their civic engagement and political participation. From a methodological perspective, we stress the importance of measurement issues, and particularly of causal inference. The life course perspective and variations across countries and over time are discussed as well.

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