The making of higher education inequality : how do mechanisms and pathways depend on competition?


Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)

11 Citations (Scopus)


We extend the theoretical contributions of Alon (2009) by proposing and testing two hypotheses about the context dependence of inequality of educational opportunity (IEO). Alon offers a model of IEO that incorporates class adaptation and organizational exclusion as two test-score-based mechanisms that perpetuate class inequality. She hypothesizes that the changing level of IEO depends on trends in competition. Through a secondary analysis of Alon’s numerical results, we clarify her results and demonstrate that the causal structure of IEO (e.g., the explanatory roles of adaptation and exclusion) depends on trends in competition and college selectivity. Additionally, changes in competition for college admission from 1972 to 1992 had little to do with enrollment rates, but appear to be driven largely by changes in college wage premiums.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)807-816
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Sociological Review
Issue number4
Early online date23 Jul 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2014
Externally publishedYes



  • adaptation
  • competition
  • exclusion
  • higher education
  • inequality of educational opportunity

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