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The social-origin gap in university graduation by gender and immigrant status: a cohort analysis for Switzerland

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A large literature shows that families with more resources are able to provide better learning environments and make more ambitious educational choices for their children. At the end of compulsory education, the result is a social-origin gap in school-track attendance and learning outcomes. Our paper analyses whether this gap further widens thereafter for children with comparable school achievement, and whether the gap varies by gender and migrant status. We examine graduation rates from higher education by combining a cohort study from Switzerland with a reweighting method to match students on their school track, grades, reading literacy and place of residence at the end of compulsory school. The one observed feature that sets them apart is their parents’ socio-economic status. When analysing their graduation rates 14 years later at the age of 30, we find a large social-origin gap. The rate of university completion at age 30 is 20 percentage points higher among students from the highest socio-economic status quartile than among students from the lowest quartile, even though their school abilities were comparable at age 16. This gap appears to be somewhat smaller among women than men, and among natives than migrants, but differences are not statistically significant. For men and women, migrants and natives alike, abundant parental resources strongly increase the likelihood of university graduation in Switzerland.
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Keywords: Education; cohort study; gender; migrants; social origin; tertiary education

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Lausanne, Switzerland

Publication date: April 2021

This article was made available online on November 24, 2020 as a Fast Track article with title: "The social-origin gap in university graduation by gender and immigrant status: a cohort analysis for Switzerland".

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  • Longitudinal and Life Course Studies (LLCS) is a peer-reviewed journal dedicated to the needs of researchers studying the life course and using longitudinal methods at the interfaces of social, developmental and health sciences. It fosters cross-disciplinary and international endeavours and promotes the creation and exploitation of longitudinal data resources as well as their application to policy issues. As the journal of the Society for Longitudinal and Life Course Studies (SLLS) it provides an opportunity for scholars at all stages of their careers to publish work crossing disciplinary boundaries which is often beyond the scope of more conventional, single-field journals.

    Longitudinal research involves the follow up of individuals, households, communities or other groups over time. Life course study focuses on the influences that shape holistic pathways from conception to adult life and old age. LLCS brings together the broad range of specialist interests in an international, multi-disciplinary, multi-method framework.

    The Editors welcome submissions which report on research or methodological development, in one or more of these fields and from a spectrum of disciplinary approaches: sociological (quantitative and qualitative), demographic, economic, geographic, historical, psychological and behavioural, epidemiological and statistical. Typically papers deal with individual data in several domains (for example physical or mental health, education, housing, employment) as they change over time, and set in their life course and policy context. International comparisons are encouraged within papers and can be made between them.

    In addition to carrying research articles, the Journal specialises in publishing study profiles introducing particular longitudinal studies to scientific and policy users and the designers and managers of other studies It explores new forms of longitudinal data collection, including the exploitation of administrative sources. Occasionally, it also publishes edited debates and invited pieces about the research-policy interface, keynote addresses at SLLS conferences, and reviews of books of special relevance to our readership. The Editors seek to ensure that all research reporting is accessible to the journal's multi-disciplinary readership and encourage comparisons and collaborations between countries and studies. We are especially eager to showcase findings from parts of the world where longitudinal studies are increasingly being established, such as East Asia, Africa and South America. LLCS strives to maintain the highest quality in accepted papers through double-blind peer review, drawing on an international as well as interdisciplinary network of editors and reviewers.

    Back issues of Longitudinal and Life Course Studies are available via the PKP Platform.

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