The effects of social origins, life events, and institutional sorting on adults' school transitions
This study tracks a longitudinal, nationally representative sample of non-baccalaureate, high school graduates or equivalents over the adult life course, examining postsecondary adult school transitions and the types of schools entered. Baccalaureate degrees are the primary means to upward wage mobility in the time period examined. We estimate the relative effects of different domains of influence on the odds of adult school entry and type: social origins, life course roles, institutional tracking across schools, and labor market position. Findings are that advantaged social origins, fewer competing life events and stable employment promote postsecondary school entry, especially for women. Greater school attainment by adulthood promotes adult entry as well. Net of these factors, institutional sorting predicts school entry and especially, the type of school entered. Pre-baccalaureate certificates and degrees are stopping points for women, and reduce the odds of later school entry. For all entrants, a history of no postsecondary schooling or vocational-only schooling reduces the odds of enrolling in four year schools and universities. In short, there is a path dependent process of cumulative educational advantage within cohorts that leads to widening inequalities within and between groups ordered by gender and social class. © 2006 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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