Horizontal Inequalities in Higher Education
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University in Białystok
Publication date: 2011-09-27
Polish Sociological Review 2011;175(3):333–350
This paper aims to answer two questions concerning inequalities in tertiary education. First question concerns the effect of social origin on choice of field of study and the second question concerns the effect of gender. Existing research has demonstrated a significant relation between social background and the field of study. Individuals with more educated parents are more likely to study at prestigious faculties, such as law or medicine. Women are more willing than men to choose humanities and social studies whereas men more often choose technical studies. Will these patterns continue in the face of the rapid increase in number of students which began in Poland in the 1990s? A survey conducted in three state higher-education establishments in Białystok in 2008 shows that students’ choices continue to be affected both by social background and gender. We also found a significant relationship between the field of study and general risk-proneness. These results are explained in terms of three different theories: cultural capital, critical theory, and rational choice.