Untying the gordian knot of social inheritance

  • Esping-Andersen G
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Abstract

Uses the metaphor of the Gordian Knot to explore inequalities in life chances resulting from social inheritance & the likelihood of the "Knot" being loosened. Evidence that some countries are showing signs of greater equality of life chances is pointed out. A comparative study of various nations focuses on the magnitude of inequality in the distribution of human capital & mechanisms that reproduce or separate life chances from class origins. Gini coefficients for cognitive inequalities were constructed to determine how they are related to the strength of social inheritance. A more conventional analysis of the impact of social origins on cognitive skill development & educational attainment was also carried out. The results showed that levels of cognitive inequality are strongly & systematically related to the strength of class inheritance; however, there is sufficient evidence to suggest that public policy can loosen the Gordian Knot, ie, the link between class origins & cognitive & educational inequalities. The implications for educational reform & welfare state redistribution are discussed. Tables, Figures, References. J. Lindroth.

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Authors

  • Gøsta Esping-Andersen

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