The Making of Higher Education Inequality: How do Mechanisms and Pathways Depend on Competition?

Tony Tam, Jin JIANG

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

We extend the theoretical contributions of Alon (2009) by proposing and testing two hypotheses about the context dependence of inequality of educational opportunity (IEO). Alon offers a model of IEO that incorporates class adaptation and organizational exclusion as two test-score-based mechanisms that perpetuate class inequality. She hypothesizes that the changing level of IEO depends on trends in competition. Through a secondary analysis of Alon’s numerical results, we clarify her results and demonstrate that the causal structure of IEO (e.g., the explanatory roles of adaptation and exclusion) depends on trends in competition and college selectivity. Additionally, changes in competition for college admission from 1972 to 1992 had little to do with enrollment rates, but appear to be driven largely by changes in college wage premiums.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)807-816
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Sociological Review
Volume79
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2014

User-Defined Keywords

  • higher education
  • inequality of educational opportunity
  • competition
  • adaptation
  • exclusion

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