Education, Social Policies and Inequalities


Education plays a fundamental role in children’s and young people’s development, and it has a major impact through-out their life-courses. It also and shapes the future of nations, both economically and socially. Individuals’ educational attainment has been shown to be linked to their labour market chances and risks, happiness and life satisfaction, health behaviour and health consequences, among other outcomes. Education is also thought to be the major driver of social mobility. No wonder, then, that the importance of investing in education, and skill acquisition more generally, has gained considerable purchase among politicians and policy-makers. International organisations, such as the OECD or the World Bank, increasingly endorse reducing inequalities and promoting ‘inclusive growth’ via social investment and education. This research group aims to study the economic, social and policy forces that affect the future of education, and to investigate the role of education in people’s life-chances across all phases of their life-course.

The research group focuses on the following key areas:

(1) the linkage between early educational (dis)advantages and later-life educational, labour-market and health outcomes;

(2) the role of educational investments in intergenerational social mobility;

(3) how exactly educational inequalities in relation to social origins are generated, and what policies might be effective in reducing them;

(4) how far inequality of opportunity in educational and labour market attainment varies across different societies with different economic and social histories and different educational systems and welfare regimes;

(5) the politics of equal opportunities in education. We make use of cross-sectional and longitudinal data from a diverse pool of European and OECD countries. Methodological approaches include advanced quantitative techniques as well as qualitative historical analysis.

Convenor: Erzsébet Bukodi

Betthäuser, B. (2017). Fostering Equality of Opportunity? Compulsory Schooling Reform and Social Mobility in Germany, European Sociological Review 33(5), 645–662 

Bukodi, E. (2017) Cumulative inequalities over the life-course: Life-long learning and social mobility in Britain, Journal of Social Policy, 46: 367-404 (doi: 10.1017/S0047279416000635).

Bukodi, E., F. Eibl, F. et al. (2017) Linking the macro to the micro: a multidimensional approach to educational inequalities in four European countries, European Societies (

Bukodi, E., J.H. Goldthorpe, L. Waller, L. and J. Kuha (2015). The mobility problem in Britain: new findings from the analysis of birth cohort data, The British Journal of Sociology 66: 193-117 (doi: 10.1111/1468-4446.12096).

Gugushvili, A. (2017). Political democracy, economic liberalization, and macro-sociological models of intergenerational mobility, Social Science Research 66: 58–81 (doi:10.1016/j.ssresearch.2017.06.003).

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