Understanding Society Scientific Conference 2019 - , University of Essex

An alternative investigation of social class inequalities in school outcomes

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Day:Wed 3 Jul
  • Roxanne Connelly, University of York

In Britain, despite changes in education and a raft of policies directed towards combating inequality, there is clear evident of a negative relationship between parent’s social class and their children’s educational outcomes. On average children from families in less advantaged social classes have less favourable educational outcomes, and this negative relationship has persisted for several decades. Inequalities in outcomes at school are important because they have long term consequences later in an individual’s lifercourse. Most notably poor outcomes at school influence further participation in education, training, employment and occupations, but also influence less obvious areas such as health.

In this paper we investigate the relationship between parental social class and children’s school level educational outcomes through a detailed analysis of Understanding Society (the UK Household Longitudinal Study). The analyses are original because we use the new administrative data on school General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) outcomes which has been linked to Understanding Society.

Within the social sciences there are now a plethora of measures of social class. Occupation based measures are most frequently used, although more recently the propriety of such approaches have begun to be questioned. There is an emerging school of thought that advocates the use of more culturally based measures as appropriate indicators of an individual’s social class position. The empirical work presented in this paper is an innovative attempt to compare and contrast occupational class measures with measures that reflect cultures and resources to investigate what insights can be gained to better understand school-level educational outcomes.