In: Wingens, Matthias, Michael Windzio, Helga de Valk and Can M. Aybek (eds.). 2011. A Life-Course Perspective on Migration and Integration, Springer, Dordrecht.
Describing and explaining achievement gaps between immigrant and native-born students is one of the central concerns of studies on the integration of immigrants in sociology. The analyses in this paper concentrate on youth with lower school certificates, as this group is perceived to be most vulnerable in the general public debate with respect to their chances on the labour market. After attending such a school a young person in Germany has more difficulties to make smooth transition into the vocational education and training (VET) system and respectively into the labour market than graduates of the higher school tracks. Young people from migratory background concentrate in such schools which offer lower level educational degrees.
Adopting a life-course perspective means to emphasize the procedural character of this issue and focus on the question on how inequalities develop along the life course of individuals. Transitions within the educational system, e.g. from primary to secondary schooling, or from school to vocational training and later on into the labour market are considered to be critical time periods that may contribute to inequalities within society.
Transitions are structured and structuring at the same time, i.e. they display a specific order and serve as occasions to include or exclude individuals. Departing from this general statement, the focus of this paper is on young people in Germany with lower school certificates or no school degree at all and the main research question posed is:
• Are there any differences between native-born and immigrant youth with respect to the different phases they go through after leaving school until they begin a vocational training?
This main question can be specified further as follows:
• What kind education/employment related activities are young people engaged in during the first three years after they leave school?
• Are there any systematic differences between the experiences made by native-borns and immigrant youth during this period? And, if yes, how do we explain these differences between both groups?
In order to pursue these research interests a data set will be used that allows for a sequential analysis of the transition from school to VET and includes information not only on the education and vocational training periods for every interviewee (N= 1086), but also on various types of activities between the time of leaving school until entering a vocational training.