Explaining inequality? Rational action theories of educational decision making

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


This chapter addresses a number of important questions. First, how are inequalities in educational opportunity created, and why should they remain significant in spite of social and technological progress, and the increasing meritocracy claimed by many politicians? Second, although stratification research shows that patterns of inequality in Western countries are more similar than dissimilar, why do countries differ in levels of inequality and the extent of change? The chapter discusses the rational action approach to social class differences in educational attainment, a perspective designed specifically to answer such questions and to explain observed patterns of stability and change. Unlike the cultural reproduction perspective associated particularly with the work of Pierre Bourdieu, rational action theory seeks micro-level explanations based on the decisions made by individual actors and their subjective evaluations of the costs, benefits and chances of successful completion associated with different educational routes.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAccess to Higher Education
Subtitle of host publicationTheoretical Perspectives and Contemporary Challenges
EditorsAnna Mountford-Zimdars, Neil Harrison
Place of PublicationAbingdon
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781315684574
ISBN (Print)9781138924109, 9781138924116
Publication statusPublished - 18 Nov 2016

Publication series

NameResearch into Higher Education


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