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The Impact of Teachers' Expectations on Students' Educational Opportunities in the Life Course


  • Dominik Becker

    (CGS, University of Cologne)


The substantial aim of this paper is to integrate the main idea of 'Pygmalion' or self-fulfilling prophecy research (Rosenthal and Jacobson, 1968; Jussim and Harber, 2005) into the general subjective expected utility framework about inequality in educational opportunities (Breen and Goldthorpe, 1997; Esser, 1999). In the theoretical section, a formal model of the impact of self-fulfilling prophecies on educational transitions is developed. In the empirical section, we test this model to predict both students' educational success (in terms of high school graduation) and their university transitions. Since we assume a conditional dependence of these outcomes, we control for sample selection bias (Heckman, 1979). We find that in our operationalization of self-fulfilling prophecies the latter show significant effects on both educational success and university transitions. However, while the results remain stable in case of educational success, we find that the conditional decision problem of university transitions leads to a selection bias for the estimates in the latter case. In a sensitivity analysis we find that only if unobserved heterogeneity would be disturbingly high, it could also affect the stability of self-fulfilling prophecy estimates.

Suggested Citation

  • Dominik Becker, 2010. "The Impact of Teachers' Expectations on Students' Educational Opportunities in the Life Course," Cologne Graduate School Working Paper Series 01-07, Cologne Graduate School in Management, Economics and Social Sciences.
  • Handle: RePEc:cgr:cgsser:01-07

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Ashenfelter, Orley & Harmon, Colm & Oosterbeek, Hessel, 1999. "A review of estimates of the schooling/earnings relationship, with tests for publication bias," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(4), pages 453-470, November.
    2. Flavio Cunha & James Heckman & Salvador Navarro, 2005. "Separating uncertainty from heterogeneity in life cycle earnings," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 57(2), pages 191-261, April.
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    Inequality in Educational Opportunities; Educational Transitions; Subjective Expected Utility Theory; Self-Fulfilling Prophecies; Pygmalion; Selection Bias; Sensitivity Analysis;

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