This paper presents an analysis of patterns of access to education in six Eastern European countries (Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Russia, and Slovakia) between 1940 and 1985. As in other industrial countries, average educational attainment (measured by duration, i.e. years in school) has increased greatly since 1940. But the expansion was most rapid until 1970. In all six countries, women increased their educational attainment more than men. By 1975, the difference between men and women in regard to years of schooling had virtually disappeared in all countries studied. Parents' educational attainment (measured as average years of schooling of father and mother) proves to be a main determinant of their children's attainment. However, the effect of parents' education decreased by about half from 1940 to 1985. Cultural resources (measured by parents' cultural behavior while the respondent was growing up) turns out to be a strong predictor of educational attainment, and equally so for men and women. It accounts for about one-third of the educational reproduction effect. However, the effect of cultural background declined considerably under communism. Finally, parents' political resources (measured as parents membership of the Communist Party) is shown to have a weak but consistent effect on educational attainment in the six countries. Although this effect was relatively strong in the early communist period, it was negligible for the younger cohorts.

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