The increasing unemployment gap between the low and high educated in West Germany. Structural or cyclical crowding-out?

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This paper addresses trends in education-specific unemployment risks at labor market entry in West Germany from the mid-1970s to the present. In line with previous research it shows that vocationally qualified school-leavers have relatively lower unemployment risks than school-leavers with general education. Over time, the gap in unemployment risks between the low-educated and medium- and highly educated labor market entrants substantially widened for both sexes. The literature identifies two different mechanisms for this trend: structural or cyclical crowding out. While in the former scenario low-educated become increasingly unemployed due to an oversupply of tertiary graduates and displacement from above, in the latter their relative unemployment risk varies with the business cycle. The results provide evidence for cyclical rather than structural crowding-out in West Germany. Since macroeconomic conditions became generally worse over time, this strongly explains the widening unemployment gap between the low-educated and all other education groups.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)110-125
Number of pages16
JournalSocial Science Research
Early online date27 Nov 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2015


  • returns to education
  • unemployment
  • low-educated
  • crowding out
  • fixed effects

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