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PhD: Student grants insufficient in fight against social inequality

Carpenter or lawyer? Your choice of education and your future social status is strongly determined by the neighborhood you grow up in. Student grants are not an equalizer

When students choose what future to pursue and what subject to study, their choice is closely related to the physical place where they grew up, David Thore Gravesen, a PhD. from University of Copenhagen, concludes.

“People who, through their upbringing, were exposed to social problems, want to take an education which enables them to help others. People with a more privileged background, who have not experienced social problems, want an education that can enhance and refine their individual ambitions and their often already well-developed academic skills”, says David to the University Post.

In his PhD, he found that privileged children often, like their parents, pursue long and prestigious programs, while the less privileged opt for vocational training, qualifying them for handiwork, or social work in which they can directly care for others.

Student grants can’t stand alone

The choice of education is a complex one, influenced by many factors. However, experiences people accumulate where they live, along with experiences from school, family and friends, are a crucial determinant.

“Despite the fact we have a very well-functioning student grant system, we can see that it is not sufficient in combating social inequality”, says David. “Although my PhD focuses on identifying and explaining the problem, it is obvious that the state instrument cannot stand alone”.

In his PhD, David Thore Gravesen interviewed 24 young people from the area of Aarhus, divided between a rich neighborhood in Risskov, a middle-class area in North of Århus and a low-income area in Gellerup. The research finds a clear pattern between the place of growing up and the choice of education.

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