My dissertation, Educational Expansion and its Consequences, explores how the expansion of higher education (re)shapes the pattern of inequality and mobility in contemporary societies. In my previous research with Richard Breen published in Sociological Science reveals that more educational opportunities do have a rather modest impact on income inequality at the societal level (Breen and Chung, 2015). In the dissertation, each of three chapters deals with social mobility in Korea, earnings inequality among working females in the US, and the change in household income inequality in four post-communist Central European countries (Czech, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland) respectively. Using counterfactual decomposition methods, I investigate whether the educational upgrading in these countries has a meaningful impact on changing mobility or inequality (either decreasing or increasing). For example, in my first chapter on social mobility among Korean males, I found that the educational expansion would potentially have contributed to more class mobility throughout the second half of the twentieth century in Korea. This positive effect was, however, offset by the huge direct transmission of parental status to their children over the decades. Fortunately, as more people get a college education in Korea, a recent cohort enjoys a sharp increase in social class mobility. This does not mean that the highly educated young Koreans are satisfied with social mobility trend in Korea. While more people get a higher education, occupational upgrading slows down. The result is more educated persons can’t find a ‘decent’ job in comparison to the earlier cohorts.
Apart from my dissertation project, I am also looking at how the direct and indirect (mainly through marriage) transmission of parental status is associated with trends in intergenerational income mobility (co-authored with Seongsoo Choi and Richard Breen). Another project examines the relationship between the structural mobility and social fluidity in the United States and Korea (co-authored with Mike Hout and Hyunjoon Park).
Chung, Inkwan, and Richard Breen. (2015). “Income inequality and education.” Sociological Science, August 26, 2015, DOI 10.15195/v2.a22