Lee Rainwater Memorial Lecture given by Robert Erikson: Social Selection in Education and its Consequences for Mobility


Thursday, April 6, 2017, 4:30pm to 6:00pm


CGIS Tsai Auditorium


Robert Erikson, Professor of Sociology Emeritus at the University of Stockholm, will give the inaugural Lee Rainwater Memorial Lecture. The lecture will be followed by a reception.  Open to the public.



Social Selection in Education and its Consequences for Mobility


How advancement in education is dependent the individual’s social origin and the further consequences of educational attainment for the class of destination, thus the role of education for social mobility, has been the object for much sociological research for at least a half century. In this lecture I will discuss some observations made during this period and give illustrations from Sweden. It will necessarily, given the vast literature, be just a small (idiosyncratic) selection of results. Thus, I will use social class rather than social status or earnings as the stratification dimension and accordingly mostly refer to results based on a logistic approach rather than on linear regression.

A much discussed issue is whether educational attainment has become less dependent on social origins. This is often assumed, and results from many nations support this view. However, such a trend does not appear in all countries and it may to some degree depend how the educational hierarchy is conceptualised. The role of social origins for educational attainment is partly based on that children from more advantaged backgrounds on average are more academically able, but research shows that there is an important element of socially determined choice in this process. 

The role of education in the social mobility process has been discussed in terms of the so called OED triangle, implying that Origins affect Education, which in turn affects Destinations, although leaving a direct effect of Origins on Destinations – the Blau and Duncan path analytic model is a forerunner conceived in a different methodological format. Much interest in this process for good reasons refers to the interaction between the constituting elements and the degree to which the increasing numbers of young people involved in higher education result in increased rates of social mobility due to this interaction.     

In concluding I will discuss to what degree the results of research in the area provide a basis for political measures to reduce intergenerational inequality.


See also: Inequality