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Educational expansion without equalization: social origins and children’s choice of the upper secondary track in Italy (1958-1989)
This paper analyzes trends and patterns of social inequalities in the choice of the upper secondary track in Italy (1958-1989). The latter is particularly important to understand the persistently strong effects of social origins on educational attainment in the Italian setting, given the relatively high degree of stratification of its educational system at the upper secondary level. Empirical analyses are carried out on a unique dataset obtained by merging five waves of the IARD survey on the condition of Italian youth (1983-2004), which allows to distinguish the effects of parental education and social class. Results show that, regardless of a huge and generalized expansion of the academic track, relative social inequalities did not decrease substantially neither in terms of parental education nor social class. Moreover, consistently with theoretical expectations, social class inequalities in the relative and absolute chances of enrolling at the academic track are stronger at high levels of parental education, while they are largely muted among low-educated parents. We suggest the latter as a possible mechanism to explain why educational expansion has not produced an overall decline in the association between social origins and educational attainment.