[Journal:] Research in Social Stratification and Mobility [ISSN:] 1878-5654 [Publisher:] Elsevier [Place:] Amsterdam [Volume:] 46 [Year:] 2016 [Pages:] 112-128
This article examines under which conditions high school students’ college aspirations (unconstrained wishes) translate into (constrained) college intentions. Drawing on the Wisconsin model of status attainment and sociological rational choice theory, it is argued that—while educational aspirations are mainly the result of socialization processes within families and schools—educational intentions are constrained by institutional opportunities and barriers emerging from the higher education system, which might influence students from different social backgrounds in different ways. The focus lies on four institutional characteristics of German higher education institutions—namely geographical distance, reputation, selection procedures and the information provided by colleges. Methodologically, I draw on a factorial survey on application intentions for college programs that is integrated in a survey of Berlin high school students who indicated an aspiration to attend college one year before graduating. The findings suggest that distance from home is an especially strong constraint on college application intentions. The effects of the institutional dimensions, however, rarely differ for students from different social backgrounds. Nevertheless, social background differences can be observed regarding the overall strength of application intentions indicating that socially advantaged students feel generally less constrained by the institutional characteristics presented to them. The implications of these findings are discussed.
social inequality college aspiration higher education institutional constraints Germany vignette study