LSE International Inequalities Institute working paper: The Great British Sorting Machine

Childhood school and neighborhood deprivation is negatively associated with adolescents’ school performance, aspirations and expectations for their future.

This is the key finding from the August 2018 working paper by the LSE International Inequalities Institute on adolescents’ futures in relation to their socioeconomic background.

This paper explores how adolescents’ aspirations, expectations, and school performance are shaped by the combined socioeconomic contexts of their family, school and neighborhood life.

Findings include:

  • Neighborhood deprivation is negatively associated with academic performance
  • School poverty is negatively related to academic performance for children of higher educated parents, but not for children of the lowest educated parents
  • Over 90 percent of children who grew up in universally affluent settings aspire to go to university, as compared to an estimated 69 percent of children growing up in universally poor settings
  • Those who grew up in poor neighborhoods and schools come to hold lower aspirations by about 9 percentage points
  • Equally talented students growing up in different social settings hold dramatically different expectations for their educational future

The study concludes that context impacts adolescents’ futures by shaping their dreams and realistic expectations for the future, over and beyond their academic performance.

This means that half the story is lost when we exclusively focus on academic performance.

Read the paper in full (pdf).

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