Regarding social background, German academia still represents a highly selective field. The paper discusses to what extent recent structural changes in academia lead to increased social selectivity. It is argued that, on the one hand, informal practices of promoting and recruiting strengthen the importance of cultural and habitual matching while, on the other hand, politically initiated competition and the rise of precarious short-term and part-time employment deepen the correlation between academic careers and social background. This trend shows itself quantitatively in a high level of competition amongst early-career researchers and qualitatively in precarious employment conditions and insufficient career-prospects. Moreover, these mechanisms seem to operate within periods of qualification, only to become visible during periods of transition.