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Higher Education and the Business Cycle 1870-1990

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image of International Journal of Comparative Sociology
For more content, see Comparative Sociology.

The expansion of higher education is analyzed between 1870 and 1990 in five countries (Germany, Italy, France, United States, and Japan). Spectral analysis is applied for the first time to analyze the long-term causal relationship between the economic and the educational system. Two hypotheses are tested to explain the expansion: that of human capital and that of individual status competition. The analysis concentrates on the interaction between the educational and the economic systems, particularly during times of economic crisis. Spectral analysis is used to explore the cyclical character of the expansion and the relationship between economic growth and the increasing enrollment rates in higher education. For European countries the data support the theory of status competition: universities expanded particularly rapidly during times of economic recession. In the United States and Japan higher education expanded more or less apace with the economic system.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Social Science, University of Trier, Germany; 2: Department of Sociology, University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg


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