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Comparative or normative reference groups? The impact of primary school’s socio-economic composition on social differences in educational choice at the transition to secondary education

Simon Boone UGent and Mieke Van Houtte UGent (2012) 18th European Conference on Educational Research, Abstracts.
abstract
The persistence of inequalities in educational attainment despite massive educational expansion has been one of the major concerns in European education research during the past decades (e.g. Blossfeld and Shavit, 1993; Breen, 2009). Researchers generally agree that class differentials in educational attainment are due to differences in scholastic achievement, on the one hand and differences in educational choice, on the other hand. The latter have received wide attention among European education scholars as parents along with their children have to choose between mutually exclusive tracks at a fairly young age in most European education systems. Several studies have shown that working class parents do less often opt for the more demanding –academic- tracks in secondary education than service class parents, even if their children achieved equally well (e.g. Ditton and Krüsken, 2006, for Germany; Jaeger, 2009, for Denmark; Kloosterman, et al., 2009, for the Netherlands). Researchers have tended to explain these differentials by referring to differences in the amount of cultural, economic or social resources parents of pupils possess. In recent years rational action theory has become the predominant theoretical framework in research on socioeconomic differences in educational choice, witness the growing number of studies inspired by this theoretical perspective (Hatcher, 1998). Rational action theories explain inequalities in educational choice by referring to the different cost-benefit calculations parents with different socioeconomic status arrive at when faced with an educational decision (Goldthorpe, 1996; Breen and Goldthorpe, 1997). Whereas for a working class child it may suffice to enrol in some form of technical or vocational education, for a child stemming from a service class family, on the contrary, only academic education is a viable option. However, very little, if any, research has been taking into account features of the primary school in explaining this social inequality in educational choice. Yet, educational decisions are not taken in a social vacuum, for pupils’ preferences are socially constructed through interaction with peers and other significant persons. We might hypothesize that the composition of pupils’ peer groups in primary school may impact on pupils’ choices. In present study we aim to test empirically by means of multilevel analysis whether and how the association between socioeconomic background and educational choice at the transition from primary to secondary education in Flanders—the northern Dutch-speaking part of Belgium—is affected by the socioeconomic composition of the primary school. To answer these research questions, we use data gathered during the months of May and June 2008 from 1339 parents of pupils in their last year of primary education in a sample of 53 primary schools in Flanders. These data allow us to make use of multilevel analysis techniques, so that we can adequately control for individual pupils’ characteristics and test cross-level interactions. We assume that parents in Flanders make a series of binary choices when deciding between the educational alternatives available at the onset of secondary education. Consequently, we use stepwise logistic multilevel regression analyses. Results show that educational choices of average-SES pupils are not determined by the SES-composition of the primary school. For pupils with a higher than average SES the SES-composition exerts a positive influence, indicating that for pupils with a higher than average SES higher-SES pupils function as a normative reference group with respect to educational choice. For pupils with a lower than average SES, the effect of SES-composition is negligible, but negative. This points into the direction of relative deprivation, or an illustration of a frog-pond-effect regarding SES.
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
organization
year
type
conference
publication status
submitted
subject
in
18th European Conference on Educational Research, Abstracts
conference name
18th European Conference on Educational Research (ECER - 2012)
conference location
Cádiz, Spain
conference start
2012-09-18
conference end
2012-09-21
language
English
UGent publication?
yes
classification
C3
id
2998290
handle
http://hdl.handle.net/1854/LU-2998290
date created
2012-09-24 12:19:59
date last changed
2012-09-28 10:27:56
@inproceedings{2998290,
  abstract     = {The persistence of inequalities in educational attainment despite massive educational expansion has been one of the major concerns in European education research during the past decades (e.g. Blossfeld and Shavit, 1993; Breen, 2009). Researchers generally agree that class differentials in educational attainment are due to differences in scholastic achievement, on the one hand and differences in educational choice, on the other hand. The latter have received wide attention among European education scholars as parents along with their children have to choose between mutually exclusive tracks at a fairly young age in most European education systems. Several studies have shown that working class parents do less often opt for the more demanding --academic- tracks in secondary education than service class parents, even if their children achieved equally well (e.g. Ditton and Kr{\"u}sken, 2006, for Germany; Jaeger, 2009, for Denmark; Kloosterman, et al., 2009, for the Netherlands). Researchers have tended to explain these differentials by referring to differences in the amount of cultural, economic or social resources parents of pupils possess. In recent years rational action theory has become the predominant theoretical framework in research on socioeconomic differences in educational choice, witness the growing number of studies inspired by this theoretical perspective (Hatcher, 1998). Rational action theories explain inequalities in educational choice by referring to the different cost-benefit calculations parents with different socioeconomic status arrive at when faced with an educational decision (Goldthorpe, 1996; Breen and Goldthorpe, 1997). Whereas for a working class child it may suffice to enrol in some form of  technical or vocational education, for a child stemming from a service class family, on the contrary, only academic education is a viable option. However, very little, if any, research has been taking into account features of the primary school in explaining this social inequality in educational choice. Yet, educational decisions are not taken in a social vacuum, for pupils{\textquoteright} preferences are socially constructed through interaction with peers and other significant persons. We might hypothesize that the composition of pupils{\textquoteright} peer groups in primary school may impact on pupils{\textquoteright} choices.  In present study we aim to test empirically by means of multilevel analysis whether and how the association between socioeconomic background and educational choice at the transition from primary to secondary education in Flanders---the northern Dutch-speaking part of Belgium---is affected by the socioeconomic composition of the primary school. To answer these research questions, we use data gathered during the months of May and June 2008 from 1339 parents of pupils in their last year of primary education in a sample of 53 primary schools in Flanders. These data allow us to make use of multilevel analysis techniques, so that we can adequately control for individual pupils{\textquoteright} characteristics and test cross-level interactions. We assume that parents in Flanders make a series of binary choices when deciding between the educational alternatives available at the onset of secondary education. Consequently, we use stepwise logistic multilevel regression analyses. Results show that educational choices of average-SES pupils are not determined by the SES-composition of the primary school. For pupils with a higher than average SES the SES-composition exerts a positive influence, indicating that for pupils with a higher than average SES higher-SES pupils function as a normative reference group with respect to educational choice. For pupils with a lower than average SES, the effect of SES-composition is negligible, but negative. This points into the direction of relative deprivation, or an illustration of a frog-pond-effect regarding SES.},
  author       = {Boone, Simon and Van Houtte, Mieke},
  booktitle    = {18th European Conference on Educational Research, Abstracts},
  language     = {eng},
  location     = {C{\'a}diz, Spain},
  title        = {Comparative or normative reference groups? The impact of primary school{\textquoteright}s socio-economic composition on social differences in educational choice at the transition to secondary education},
  year         = {2012},
}

Chicago
Boone, Simon, and Mieke Van Houtte. 2012. “Comparative or Normative Reference Groups? The Impact of Primary School’s Socio-economic Composition on Social Differences in Educational Choice at the Transition to Secondary Education.” In 18th European Conference on Educational Research, Abstracts.
APA
Boone, S., & Van Houtte, M. (2012). Comparative or normative reference groups? The impact of primary school’s socio-economic composition on social differences in educational choice at the transition to secondary education. 18th European Conference on Educational Research, Abstracts. Presented at the 18th European Conference on Educational Research (ECER - 2012).
Vancouver
1.
Boone S, Van Houtte M. Comparative or normative reference groups? The impact of primary school’s socio-economic composition on social differences in educational choice at the transition to secondary education. 18th European Conference on Educational Research, Abstracts. 2012.
MLA
Boone, Simon, and Mieke Van Houtte. “Comparative or Normative Reference Groups? The Impact of Primary School’s Socio-economic Composition on Social Differences in Educational Choice at the Transition to Secondary Education.” 18th European Conference on Educational Research, Abstracts. 2012. Print.