Tracking in israeli high schools: Social inequality after 50 years of educational reforms

Eyal Bar-Haim, Yariv Feniger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper provides an overview of tracking in Israeli upper secondary education and assesses its effect on the attainment of higher education degrees and earnings. Since the early 1970’s, the Israeli education system has gone through three major reforms that profoundly transformed tracking and sorting mechanisms in secondary education. All three aimed at reducing social inequality in educational attainment through structural changes that expanded learning opportunities and replaced rigid top-down sorting mechanisms with concepts of differentiation and choice. Utilising a data set that includes a large representative sample of Israelis born between 1978 and 1981 who were fully affected by the reforms, the analysis shows that there is a clear link between social background and track placement. Track placement, in turn, is associated with attainment of higher education degrees and income. Moreover, tracking mediates a large proportion of the association between parental class and these two adult outcomes. We also show that the low-status academic tracks that replaced the vocational tracks did not improve the life chances of low-achieving students from disadvantaged social groups.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)423-440
Number of pages18
JournalLongitudinal and Life Course Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2021


  • Income
  • Inequality of opportunities
  • Israel
  • Secondary education
  • Tracking

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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