Sociology, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in Research in Social Stratification and Mobility 29:4 (December 2011), pp. 371–391; doi: 10.1016/j.rssm.2011.04.002


Published by Elsevier Ltd. Used by permission.


How does institutional context shape the way family dynamics, especially ethnic background and parental resources, affect track placement? We contrast the track placement patterns of immigrants and ethnic majority students in two countries marked by drastic differences in the social organization of schooling. Drawing on German (GSOEP) and U.S. (NELS) data, we find that, in general, more family resources pull students from lower to higher tracks, but ethnic inequalities in these resources favor the ethnic majority groups in both countries. In addition, institutional context conditions which parental resources shape educational outcomes, and how they do so. We find that the effects of parental ties exacerbate ethnic inequalities between whites and Latinos in the U.S.; whereas in Germany, parents’ community ties play a compensatory role for immigrants, who benefit from interactions with secular and ethno-religious groups. Our findings confirm previous cross-national research, but they also highlight the need to elaborate the relationship between institutional context and ethnically specific reproduction mechanisms within countries.