Besides different preconditions for educational success in native and migrant families, an important role has been ascribed to students’ educational aspirations in the explanation of ethnic disparities in educational attainment. Based on a sample of several hundred 9th and 10th graders in Hamburg, the study investigates the dimensions along which native and migrant students construct their educational and future career aspirations and expectations at the end of compulsory full-time education. The results provide insight into the applicability of traditional approaches that investigate the mechanisms that shape social disparities in education to explain the ethnic attainment gap, and into the controversial meaning of subjective data in the form of respondent-reported educational aspirations and the interpretation of higher aspirations in migrant families as secondary effects of ethnic origin.

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