Does social class play the same role in explaining the ethnic gap in education for the first and second generation? results from the 1991 and 2001 Belgian census compared.

Vicky Bastiaenssen, Vrije Universiteit Brussel

This study considers the role of migration and group-specific ethnic penalties in minority groups’ life chances. More specifically it focuses on the ethnic and class inequalities in educational achievement in Belgium with 16- to 18-year old youngsters. Educational achievement is measured through the track of secondary education at a point when important selections with respect to hierarchical tracking have been made and education is still compulsory. The association between social class and educational attainment has long been established. Recent research with the second generation has shown that mechanisms of class disadvantage perpetuate ethnic disadvantage from one generation to the next. Moreover several studies have shown that classic assimilation theory doesn’t suffice in explaining ethnic underachievement. Does a substantial ethnic underachievement gap remain when variation is explained as a function of gender, region and social background (occupational status, profession, educational achievement and quality of housing of the parents) and when we consider subsequent migrant generations? Have these mechanisms changed over the last decade? Different ethnic groups are identified through ancestry rather than nationality, thus maximizing the number of students from immigrant background. This study adds to the existing research by examining whether social background influentials play the same role for the first and second generation compared to the indigenous population. Furthermore it compares results for the 1991 and 2001 Belgian Census and thus examines whether this ethnic gap in education is maintained, widened or decreased over the last decade.

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Presented in Session 78: Education