Entrenched Inequalities? Class, Gender and Ethnic Differences in Educational and Occupational Attainment in England

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Research in social stratification tends to focus on class differences in educational and occupational attainment, with particular attention to primary and secondary effects in the former, and class reproduction in the latter, domain. Research in ethnic studies tends to focus, however, on ethnic penalty or premium. Many studies have been conducted in each tradition on specific issues but little research is available that examines class, gender and ethnic effects simultaneously or in tandem with contextual effects, let alone on the whole trajectory from compulsory schooling, through further and higher education, to labour market position. Using data from the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England, this paper shows pronounced class differences but remarkable gender progress in each of the educational domains. With regard to ethnicity, people from minority ethnic heritages had lower GCSE scores due to poorer family conditions but achieved higher transition rates to A-Level study, higher university enrollment and, for some groups, greater attendance at elite universities, resulting in an overall higher rate of degree-level attainment than did whites. One might expect members of ethnic minority backgrounds to fare equally well in their earlier careers in the labour market, but only to find them more vulnerable to unemployment, less likely to have earnings, and more disadvantaged in terms of disposable incomes.
Original languageEnglish
Article number601035
JournalFrontiers in Sociology
Issue number601035
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jan 2021


  • England
  • class
  • educational attainment
  • ethnicity
  • gender
  • labor market position


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