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Social inequality and educational choice -DPhil thesis-


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The main puzzle of this study is the persistent inequality in educational attainment with the growth of overall participation in post-compulsory education in Great Britain. Under the educational expansion with a general improvement in GCSE results in recent years, students with worse academic performance should be able to gain a place in further education. Therefore, I have hypothesized that the inequality in educational attainment is related to the social difference in educational demand and choice. This study aims to examine how individuals’ social background makes a difference to their educational decisions. Using data from various waves of the British Household Panel Survey (1994-2002), I have found significant social differences in educational aspirations. Students from lower socio-economic families were less likely to plan to stay in post-compulsory education than those from higher socio-economic families. This class-divided pattern of school plans is one of the main reasons that lead to the substantial differences in examination achievement. Moreover, I have identified four types of parenting style. I have found significant links between youths’ class background and the pattern of family socialization in Great Britain. Evidence shows that higher levels of parental control and better parent-child relationships, which are more likely to happen in higher socio-economic families, have a crucial positive impact on students’ attainment process. It largely mediates the effects of class background on students’ aspirations and examination performance. Results overall suggest both academic achievements and aspirations are the main determinants of students’ decisions in post-compulsory education. However, neither could fully explain the class differences in educational choice. The class inequality in educational decision is working under mechanisms of the class effects on academic performance (primary effect) and its effects on educational aspirations (secondary effect).


Social Stratification, Higher Education, and Social Psychology


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