This article considers changes in the association between educational attainment and occupational prestige in Germany over time. We argue that the link between attainment and occupational prestige has become weaker over time because of compositional changes in graduate occupational destinations. Prior to higher education expansion, the small elite group of graduates tended to access the occupationally closed and thus more prestigious professions on graduation. As higher education participation expanded, however, an increasing proportion of graduates found employment in less prestigious and more diverse graduate jobs. The results confirm our theoretical expectations. The association between educational attainment and occupational prestige has decreased over time as graduates entered a broader range of jobs and their relative advantage over those with lower levels of qualifications decreased. This can, in fact, be attributed to a merely compositional change among graduates’ occupational destinations from prestigious professions towards less prestigious free-market graduate occupations.
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