Social Mobility and Higher-Education Policy

Number: 95
Year: 2016
Author(s): Elisa S. Brezis, Joel Hellier
This paper relates social mobility and social stratification to higher education policy. We show that higher‐education policy which leads to differences in quality and per‐student expenditure as well as in admission procedures between standard and elite universities, is a key factor in generating permanent social stratification and social immobility. We develop an intergenerational model which shows that a two‐tier higher education characterised by a division between elite and standard universities can be a key factor in generating permanent social stratification, social immobility and self‐reproduction of the ‘elite’. In our approach, low mobility is essentially explained by the differences in quality and in selection between elite and standard universities. A key result is that the wider the quality gap and the difference in per‐student expenditures between elite and standard universities, the less social mobility. This is because a larger quality gap reinforces the weight of family backgrounds at the expense of personal ability. Our simulations show that this impact can be large. These findings provide theoretical bases for the impact of higher education policy on social mobility.

Elisa S. Brezis
Azrieli Center for Eoconomic POlicy, Bar-Ilan University

Joel Hellier
LEM-CNRS and LEMNA, Univ. de Nantes

Language: English


The paper may be downloaded here.


Keywords: Elite,Higher Education,Intergenerational mobility,Social stratification