Educational Inequality Based on Social Origin

Seminar Paper, 2007

13 Pages, Grade: 1,7


Table of contents


1. Definitions of terms
1.1 Educational inequality
1.2 Social origin

2. Consequences of educational inequality

3. Causes of educational inequality
3.1 Educational level of the family of origin
3.2 Income
3.3 Segregation
3.4 Migration background
3.5 Changed family forms

4. Educational inequality due to social background? An attempt at explanation
4.1 Boudon's approach
4.2 Socialization-theoretic approaches
4.3 Social and cultural capital
4.4 Human capital theory
4.5 Sociocultural explanatory approaches

5. Conclusion



My work deals with the topic "Educational inequality due to social origin".

In the first chapter, I will first define the terms "educational inequality" and "social origin" in the sociological sense.

The next chapter then deals with the consequences of educational inequalities, before I then present the causes of these educational inequalities in the third chapter and briefly explain them in order to be able to give an overview of the current situation.

The fourth chapter then deals with some theoretical approaches that attempt to explain educational inequalities on the basis of social origin. Here, too, my main concern is to give an overview of this complex subject and to work out the points that are most important to me.

I would like to end my introductory remarks with a quotation from Max Weber, the content of which, unfortunately, is still, if not more, true than ever:

"Differences in education today are (...) undoubtedly the most important balancing difference (...). Differences in education are – no matter how much one regrets this – one of the strongest purely internal social barriers."1

1. Definitions of terms

1.1 Educational inequality

Educational inequality is a form of social inequality. When defining social inequality, it is often roughly agreed that this is an unequal distribution of resources or access to these resources within a society. Hradil describes social inequality as follows: "As a rule, people do not live in isolation from each other, but integrated into comparatively stable interpersonal structures... In the course of their co-existence and conflict within these social structures, people enter into a variety of relationships with each other and take different social positions... Depending on which social positions they each hold, certain similarities (...) or certain differences (...) can be identified between people. However, living and working conditions are linked to many social positions, which do not simply make their bearers appear different from others than in certain respects compared to others (...) but at the same time as better or worse, higher or lower, favoured or disadvantaged."2

Social inequality is therefore encountered in various areas of life, including education. In this context, educational inequality means that people are restricted in terms of access to education or do not have the same opportunities as other members of a society. On the one hand, this means that some people have another (private school vs. public school) or no access to education due to objective limitations (e.B. financial difficulties). However, since it does not happen in Germany due to welfare state regulations that persons do not have formal access to education, educational inequality is to be understood in this work in such a way that people objectively have the same opportunities to achieve an educational goal, but this is more difficult due to other factors. Here, factors such as e.B of an educationally distant family of origin are meant. However, this will be explained in more detail in the chapter on the causes of educational inequality.

In this section, it should initially only be shown what is to be understood by educational inequality in this work. It should be stated once again that this is not a disparagement of persons, but that the concepts of social inequality and educational inequality are disadvantages of certain groups of people, which are objectively observable and verifiable in figures (see Chapter 5).

1.2 Social origin

Social origin is to be understood here as a system of socio-cultural values and norms into which one is born. Layers, milieus or classes of a society each have their own values and norms. These are internalized within the socialization. Pierre Bourdieu has worked decisively in this field, pointing out that social origin is decisively responsible for the internalization of the possibilities existing within the milieu.3. This means that each milieu, each layer has its own opportunities to participate in social life, different likes and dislikes (this was called habitus by Bourdieu). At the same time, this means that people also have different access to the different resources of a society.

Distinctions in terms of social origin can be made, for example, on the basis of educational qualifications or training (workers, civil servants, academics), on the basis of income, etc.

In connection with the topic of this work, it should be noted that all citizens of the Federal Republic of Germany have equal access to education - at least from a formal point of view. Nevertheless, one can state class-specific educational poverty or educational disadvantage, as is to be illustrated in Chapter 5.

2. Consequences of educational inequality

The consequences of educational inequality are serious both for those affected and for a society. For those affected, who are disadvantaged in terms of education, this means, on the one hand, poorer educational and thus promotion opportunities compared to persons without this disadvantage. For society, this means, on the other hand, that this group of disadvantaged persons continues to reproduce this disadvantage and thus educational inequality cannot be reduced, but is passed on to subsequent generations. Thus, educational inequality persists, it reproduces itself.

In this context, one can name as a consequence an absolute and a relative educational poverty. "Educational poverty" means that a certain group of people has fewer opportunities to take advantage of an educational offer because it lacks the necessary skills and possibilities.4 and thus has less education than others. In order to determine this educational poverty, objective measures such as the verification of existing educational qualifications can be used.5. For example, comparative tests such as the PISA study are used to check educational skills. Here, too, a distinction can be made between relative and absolute educational poverty.6


1 Weber, Max (1921): Gesammelte politische Schriften, Stuttgart: UTB, p. 279

2 Hradil, Stefan (2005): Soziale Ungleichheit in Deutschland, Wiesbaden: VS Verlag, p. 15

3 Bourdieu, Pierre (1983): Ökologisches Kapital, kulturelles Kapital, soziales Kapital, In: Kreckel, Reinhard (Hrsg.) (1983): Soziale Ungleichheiten, Göttingen: Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft, p. 183-198

4 Institut der deutschen Wirtschaft Köln (Hrsg.) (2006): Bildungsarmut und Humankapitalschwäche in Deutschland, Berlin

5 Absolute educational poverty with regard to educational qualifications can be thereby "... measure on the basis of missing certificates of completion; the minimum standard can be defined by passing the Abitur or completing vocational training (...); an absence would then be a characteristic of educational poverty." Relative educational poverty with regard to educational qualifications affects a group of persons who "... which, measured in certificates, has only a certain proportion of the formation of the average resident." Source: Institut der deutschen Wirtschaft Köln (Hrsg.) (2006): Bildungsarmut und Humankapitalschwäche in Deutschland, Berlin, p. 6

6 Absolute educational poverty in terms of skills: "To determine the level of educational poverty, the proportion of people who only reach a maximum of competence level 1 in the PISA test can be used." On a relative scale, "(A)ls educationally poorly defined the group of persons who, measured in competences (competence levels of the Pisa test), have only a certain proportion of the average education of the corresponding age cohort or average resident." Source: Institut der deutschen Wirtschaft Köln (Hrsg.) (2006): Bildungsarmut und Humankapitalschwäche in Deutschland, Berlin, p. 6

See also Allmendinger, Jutta; Leibfried, Stephan (2003): Bildungsarmut, In: Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung (Hrsg.) (2003): Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte, B21-22, Bonn

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Educational Inequality Based on Social Origin
University of Würzburg
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educational, inequality, based, social, origin
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Stephanie Klingemann (Author), 2007, Educational Inequality Based on Social Origin, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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