Studying after the degree: new pathways shaped by old inequalities. Evidence from Italy, 1995-2007
In recent years in Italy, there has been a fast increase in the number of young people graduating with a tertiary degree and a sharp change in the composition of this population by gender, social origins and the field of study. Since the middle of the 90s, we have also detected a growth in the enrolment in post-tertiary education, but this is not the result of the compositional change which has occurred among graduates across cohorts. Instead, it seems mainly due to the increased offer of training and academic opportunities to the graduates: a new educational level emerged while the graduates’ rate was increasing. Until now, this new form of educational stratification has not been considered by sociological research, even if it could lead to new forms of inequality. In our paper, we primarily test the credentialist hypothesis, looking at the strength of the association between social origins and post-tertiary education among recent graduates’ cohorts. Following the credentialist theory, graduates coming from higher-educated families would be more involved in the new educational level, to maintain their advantage in the labour market, where they can take advantage of their higher credentials. Then we look at gender: we investigate whether this second ascriptive dimension plays a role in shaping enrolment at post-tertiary level. Our analyses, based on the best data available in Italy on this topic, support the credentialist hypothesis: higher social origins are associated with a greater propensity to enrol at post-tertiary education and training. Moreover, graduates coming from more educated families participated more frequently in the more institutionalized forms of post-tertiary education, the ones leading to a professional qualification. Contrary to this, gender seems not to play an influential role: the female advantage is weak and limited to the less institutionalized forms of post-tertiary education/training; moreover it almost disappears considering academic performance and horizontal stratification of upper school and university.
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- Stephen V. Cameron & James J. Heckman, 1998. "Life Cycle Schooling and Dynamic Selection Bias: Models and Evidence for Five Cohorts of American Males," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 106(2), pages 262-333, April.
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