The limits of social class in explaining ethnic gaps in educational attainment

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This paper reports an analysis of the educational attainment and progress between age 11 and age 14 of over 14,500 students from the nationally representative Longitudinal Study of Young People in England. The mean attainment gap in national tests at age 14 between White British and several ethnic minority groups was large, more than three times the size of the gender gap, but at the same time only about one‐third of the size of the social class gap. Socioeconomic variables could account for the attainment gaps for Black African, Pakistani and Bangladeshi students, but not for Black Caribbean students. Further controls for parental and student attitudes, expectations and behaviours indicated minority ethnic groups were on average more advantaged on these measures than White British students, but this was not reflected proportionately in their levels of attainment. Black Caribbean students were distinctive as the only group making less progress than White British students between age 11 and 14 and this could not be accounted for by any of the measured contextual variables. Possible explanations for the White British–Black Caribbean gap are considered.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Warwick, UK

Publication date: April 1, 2011

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