Were They Pushed or Did They Jump? Individual Decision Mechanisms in Education

Were They Pushed or Did They Jump? Individual Decision Mechanisms in Education

Were They Pushed or Did They Jump? Individual Decision Mechanisms in Education

Were They Pushed or Did They Jump? Individual Decision Mechanisms in Education


"Like few other decisions in life, educational choices must be made by virtually everyone growing up in industrial societies. The consequences of these choices for individual lives are momentous, yet decisions about schooling can be treacherous. They are made during the teen years, at a time when personal preferences are unstable and there is little past experience to draw upon; once made, they are not easy to change. Diego Gambetta offers a refined exploration of the mechanisms that influence educational decisions between compulsory school and college. Gambetta tests two fundamental and opposed explanations, which he applies to the study of educational and other personal choices. One approach holds that individuals are essentially passive, either constrained by a lack of alternatives or pushed by factors they are unaware of. The other approach regards individuals as capable of purposive action, able to weigh the available alternatives against the prospect of possible future rewards. Applying sophisticated statistical models to two surveys conducted in northwest Italy. Gambetta provides an integrated assessment of the specific effects of a variety of factors on educational decisionmaking: family economic and cultural capital, previous academic achievements, labor market prospects, and personal aspirations. From this analysis emerges a subtler, more realistic approach to individual decisionmaking that brushes aside either extreme. The author concludes that rational adaptation is the predominant operating mechanism in making choices, but that it generates different effects depending on class-related values and personal preferences." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved


I am deeply grateful to Cathie Marsh, who throughout the research reported in this book was a constant source of stimulating criticism, to Jon Elster for his invaluable help towards greater conceptual clarity, and to John Craig, who by offering me an impressive array of micro critical comments had an important part in improving the macro results.

I am also most grateful to Gordon A. Hughes, who spent a substantial share of his time and patience acquainting me with the use of the logit model. In addition, Pat Altham and Ugo Colombino gave me important statistical advice. I received comments on various versions of this work from several persons, and I would like to express my appreciation to Alberto Baldissera, Bob Blackburn, Flavio Bonifacio, Daniela Del Boca, Elisabetta Galeotti, Tony Giddens, A. H. Halsey, Geoffrey Hawthorn, Anthony Heath, Angelo Pichierri, Ken Prandy, Luca Ricolfi, Loredana Sciolla, David Voas, and Jonathan Zeitlin.

My friend Andy Martin gained my special gratitude for attempting to improve my style. Lynda Ball was patient and accurate in typing this work on the computer. To her go my thanks.

The research presented in this study has been possible thanks to a British Council scholarship, which supported me during a period of over two years in Cambridge.

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