[Journal:] Zeitschrift für ArbeitsmarktForschung – Journal for Labour Market Research [ISSN:] 2510-5027 [Volume:] 42 [Year:] 2010 [Issue:] 4 [Pages:] 292-310
Recent studies provide empirical evidence on persistence of horizontal inequality of field of study depending on eligible individuals' social origin. In this article we explore the question why there is a correlation between social origin and choice of field of study. Using data from the Saxon survey of high school graduate candidates, we model the decision process of high school students regarding post-secondary education about three month prior to graduation. Our empirical results prove that the effect of social origin on the choice of field of study is the result of an individual decision structured by status maintenance motive, by expected costs for the different types of higher education and training, by individual ability level, by expected success probabilities as well as by the socio-cultural distance to tertiary education. These determinants of the choice of field of study explains the effect of social origin and, therefore for the aggregate, the persistent social inequality of opportunities in the access to field of study.