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Maximally Maintained Inequality: Expansion, Reform, and Opportunity in Irish Education, 1921-75

Adrian E. Raftery and Michael Hout
Sociology of Education
Vol. 66, No. 1 (Jan., 1993), pp. 41-62
DOI: 10.2307/2112784
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2112784
Page Count: 22
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Maximally Maintained Inequality: Expansion, Reform, and Opportunity in Irish Education, 1921-75
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Abstract

Secondary education in Ireland has expanded steadily in the 20th century, with a big surge in the late 1960s. In 1967, tuition fees for secondary education were removed and other egalitarian reforms were implemented. This article analyzes the changes in the effect of social origin on educational transitions for the 1908-56 birth cohorts. The results show that overall class differences in educational attainment declined, but class barriers were not removed; they simply became less consequential because the educational system expanded to the point where it could afford to be less selective. The results lead to the hypothesis of maximally maintained inequality and an explanation of it in terms of rational choice. The 1967 reforms appear to have had no effect on equality of educational opportunity. A closer study of the economic incentives for education at that time suggests why and suggests alternative reforms that might have been more effective without costing more money.

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