Trajectories and transitions throughout the educational career: Implications for young people's health and health inequalities

Prof. Katharina Rathmann, University of Applied Sciences Fulda
Prof. Dr. Matthias Richter, Martin-Luther University Halle-Wittenberg

Theres Vockert, University of Applied Sciences Fulda
Max Herke, Martin-Luther University Halle-Wittenberg

Project Summary:
In general, childhood and adolescence are periods of good health and wellbeing. However, there is evidence for strong disparities in young people’s health and wellbeing according to their socioeconomic status (SES) and attended school type. Students with lower SES or attending low track schools report poorer self-rated health and lower life satisfaction. So far, mostly cross-sectional studies in Germany are available, treating health and wellbeing as a static trait, while it actually develops over time. With the availability of panel data, it is possible to analyse trajectories of health and wellbeing from a longitudinal perspective, as well as to examine short-term effects of having experienced a non-normative transition (i.e. grade repetition) for health and wellbeing throughout the educational career.

Overall aim of this research project is to investigate trajectories of health and wellbeing as well as the effect of a non-normative transition on health and wellbeing throughout secondary education in Germany to answer the following questions:

1. Which trajectories of health and wellbeing can be identified among students in lower and upper secondary education, and do they differ by SES and school type?

2. What (short-term) effect does a non-normative transition have for students´ health and wellbeing, and do they differ by SES and school type?

3. Do students show different trajectories of health and wellbeing, depending on whether they have experienced a non-normative transition throughout their educational career?

Analyses are based on longitudinal data from the German National Educational Panel Study (NEPS), using two cohorts. SC3 (5th Grade) covers students from grades 5 to 9, started with 5.208 students sampled in regular schools, and later was reinforced to 6.211 students with an additional sample in 7th grade. SC4 (9th Grade) covers grades 9 to 12 and started with 14.540 students sampled in regular schools. According to the NEPS time table, data for at least one additional grade for both cohorts will be available by the estimated start of the project, thus covering the full course of lower and upper secondary education in Germany. Linear Mixed Effects Models (LMEM) will be used to identify students’ trajectories of health and wellbeing as well as to differentiate inter-individual differences in these trajectories by SES, attended school type, and the presence of having experienced a non-normative transition. Fixed Effects Models will be used to analyse short term effects of non-normative transitions.

The proposed project will provide new empirical evidence on students intra-individual development of health and wellbeing and analyse the differential effect of socioeconomic background, attended school type and a non-normative transition throughout secondary education in Germany.