Migrant Background and Access to Vocational Education in Germany: Self-Selection, Discrimination, or Both?

Der Zugang zur Berfusausbildung von Jugendlichen mit Migrationshintergrund: Selbstselektion, Diskriminierung oder beides?


Germany’s Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector is the major channel for the integration of a growing number of students with a migrant background – a group that is overrepresented among non-university school tracks leading towards VET. However, their participation in VET is lower compared to Germans. I argue that previous studies have neglected the role of educational preferences in explaining these disparities. Building on the literature on secondary effects of ethnic origin, I test whether migrants self-select into academic tracks to pur-sue higher academic qualifications and to what extent this selection explains ethnic inequality in VET access. Using a longitudinal sample of students at the end of lower secondary education (NEPS, N=6247), this study shows that self-selection accounts for 40% of ethnic disparities in VET access. However, further analysis reveals that self-selection at this stage should be understood as complementary to, rather than competing with, alternative explanations, such as discrimination. Implications for research and policy are discussed.

Zeitschrift für Soziologie
Jasper Dag Tjaden
Jasper Dag Tjaden
Professor for Applied Social Research and Public Policy

Have a look at recent publication via Google Scholar.