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Educational Decisions as Rational Choice? An Empirical Test of the Erikson-Jonsson Model for Explaining Educational Attainment

Volker Stocké ()
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Volker Stocké: Sonderforschungsbereich 504, Postal: L 13, 15, D-68131 Mannheim

No 08-03, Sonderforschungsbereich 504 Publications from Sonderforschungsbereich 504, Universität Mannheim, Sonderforschungsbereich 504, University of Mannheim

Abstract: This article tests the prediction from the Erikson-Jonsson (EJ) rational-choice model that altogether eight financial as well as non-financial dimensions of costs and returns of education, as well as the probability of being able to successfully realise educational credential simultaneously explain educational decisions. Among the included returns is a new measure for the families’ motive to avoid intergenerational status demotion. Furthermore, we test the pivotal assumption of instrumental rationality being the mechanism underlying educational selections. In this case, pupils do not take returns and success probabilities independently, but mutely weighted and in interaction into account. We test these hypotheses with data from the Mannheim Educational Panel Study about the decision between secondary school tracks in Germany. Results show that the probability of success, one financial but five non-financial kinds of costs and returns associated with educational degrees simultaneously explain educational decisions. Returns from reduced unemployment risks and financial costs prove to be irrelevant. Actors are more sensitive to all relevant returns if the respective educational track is more likely to be successfully completed. Results provide strong evidence for instrumental rationality being one important mechanism underlying educational decisions.

Pages: 34 pages
Date: 2008-03-21
Note: Acknowledgments: Stimulating discussions with Hartmut Esser, Rolf Becker, Yossi Shavit and Meir Yaish are gratefully acknowledged. Diana Braunwarth, Kerstin Hönig and Diana Schirowski were a great help in preparing the manuscript. Financial support from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, SFB 504, at the University of Mannheim, is gratefully acknowledged.
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