Social origin differences in subject choices in secondary education – New evidence from the Scottish Longitudinal Study
Klein, M. & Iannelli, I. (2015) British Sociological Association 2015 Annual Conference, 'Societies in Transition: Progression or Regression?', Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow, 15 - 17 April 2015 [SLS]
In this paper we assess the impact of student social origin on continuing school after compulsory education and choosing different subjects in upper secondary education (S5/S6) in Scotland. We further consider to what extent subject choice and performance until the end of compulsory education (S4) mediates continuation decisions and subject choice in upper secondary education. In Scotland (and more generally in the UK) access to prestigious universities and higher-status occupations not only depends on educational attainment but is strongly linked to having achieved qualifications in specific subjects. Parents from higher social origin can provide better support to their children when making educational decisions, particularly subject choice, than parents from lower social origin since they are more familiar with the educational system, the requirements of higher education entrance and subsequent labour market opportunities. We expect strong social inequalities in subject choices in secondary education that, in turn, have consequences for later decisions on HE entrance and labour market outcomes. With a few exceptions, social mobility and educational research largely neglected the role of secondary school subjects in the reproduction of social inequalities. The paper benefits from a large new data source for Scotland, the Scottish Longitudinal Study (SLS), which links 2001 Census data to administrative school data (2007-2010). These unique data provide detailed information on parental background characteristics, household and neighbourhood information, school attendance and school attainment at various stages (including attainment in different subjects at secondary level).