Making education count: the effects of ethnicity and qualifications on intergenerational social class mobility

Platt, L. (2007) The Sociological Review, 55(3), 485 - 508 [ONS LS]

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This paper examines the role of social class and ethnic group background in determining individuals' social class destinations. It explores the extent to which these background factors are mediated by educational achievement, and the role of educational qualifications in enabling intergenerational class mobility. To do this, it uses the ONS Longitudinal Study. These data allow us to observe parents' characteristics during childhood for a group of children of different ethnic groups growing up in England and Wales in the same period and who had reached adulthood by 2001. Results show that the influence of class background on these children's subsequent social class position varied with ethnicity: it was important for the majority, even after taking account of educational qualifications, but had a much smaller role to play for the minority groups. The minority groups made use of education to achieve upward mobility, but to greater effect for some groups than for others. Among those without educational qualifications, minority groups suffered an ‘ethnic penalty’ in relation to higher class outcomes; but for Pakistanis and Bangladeshis, this penalty persisted at all levels of education. These findings challenge the notion that a more equal society can be achieved simply through promoting equality of opportunity through education.

Available online: The Sociological Review,
Output from project: 30008


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