Thompson, Ron (2016) Understanding class-based inequalities in education: rational action theories of educational decision making. In: Society for Research into Higher Education (SRHE) Annual Conference 2016, 7-9 December 2016, Celtic Manor, Newport. (Unpublished)

This paper discusses the rational action perspective on social class differences in educational opportunity. In this context, rational action theories derive from the distinction between the primary and secondary effects of social stratification made by Raymond Boudon, seeking to understand educational inequality through the decisions made by individuals based on their perceptions of the costs and benefits associated with different educational routes. The paper aims to evaluate the ability of these theories to account for observed patterns of stability and change
in educational inequalities, particularly in higher education, and to highlight some of the reasons why the rational action approach has received relatively little attention within the sociology of education. Methodologically, the paper presents a conceptual analysis based on critical appraisal of key theoretical literature and an evaluation of a range of empirical studies
which aim to test rational action models of educational decision making.

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