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Ethnic inequalities in social mobility

Black and Asian Muslim children are less likely to get professional jobs, despite doing better at school, according to an official government report carried out by the Social Mobility Commission

This blog post summarizes this recent news article (December 2016) which can be used to highlight the extent of ethnic inequalities in social mobility – it obviously relates to education and ethnicity, but also research methods – showing a nice application of quantitative, positivist comparative methods.

In recent months, the low educational attainment of White British boys has gained significant attention. However, when it comes to the transition from education to employment, this group is less likely to be unemployed and to face social immobility than their female counterparts, black students and young Asian Muslims.”

White boys from poorer backgrounds perform badly throughout the education system and are the worst performers at primary and secondary school, the report said, and disadvantaged young people from white British backgrounds are the least likely to go to University.

Only one in 10 of the poorest go to university, compared to three in 10 for black Caribbean children, five in 10 for Bangladeshis and nearly seven in 10 for Chinese students on the lowest incomes.

Black children, despite starting school with the same level of maths and literacy as other ethnic groups, young black people also have the lowest outcomes in science, maths are the least likely ethnic group to achieve a good degree at university.

But after school, it is young women from Pakistani and Bangladeshi backgrounds that are particularly affected. Despite succeeding throughout education and going to university, they are less likely to find top jobs and are paid less than women from other ethnic minorities, the report concluded.

Alan Milburn, the chair of the commission said: “The British social mobility promise is that hard work will be rewarded. This research suggests that promise is being broken for too many people in our society. Britain is a long way from having a level playing field of opportunity for all, regardless of gender, ethnicity or background.”

The report also showed the role of parents plays a large part in performance at school, as the more they engage, the better their children do, according to the research

Two of the more specific recommendations made by the commission are

  • Schools should avoid setting, particularly at primary level, and government should discourage schools from doing so.
  • Universities should implement widening participation initiatives that are tailored to the issues faced by poor white British students and address worrying drop-out and low achievement rates among black students

Related Posts 

Ethnic minorities face barriers to job opportunities and social mobility (Guardian article from 2014) – so nothing’s changes in the last two years!

Ethnicity and Educational Achievement – The role of Cultural Factors – you might like to consider the extent to which it’s cultural factors which explain these post-education differences?

The C.V. and Racism Experiment (scroll down to 2009) – alternatively – racism in society may have something to do with these differences – this experiment demonstrated how people with ‘ethnic’ sounding names are less likely to get a response from prospective employers when they send them their C.V.s

 

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Is it worth doing a degree?

Is it worth spending £30, 000 or more and three years of your life doing a degree?

If we limit our analysis to purely financial considerations and if we focus on ‘median earnings’ – then yes, on average, it is definitely still worth doing a degree: graduates currently earn about £8K a year more on average than non graduates (graduate labour market statistics 2015)

graduate-earnings

However, the gap between the earnings of graduates and non-gradates is closing – in 2005 graduates earned about 55% more than non graduates, while in 2015 they only earned 45% more.

graduate-earnings-2015

If this trend continues, then a degree will be worthless by 2045, at least if we measure the value of a degree purely in economic terms.

A recent YouGov survey (May 2017) found that only 61% of students felt that their degree was worth the money, so possible this is evidence that what students feel is coming into line with the more objective financial trends above…

Of course there’s a whole load of other factors you need to consider to answer the above question fully! But I wanted to keep this post focused on just one dimension.

Further reading

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Introductory Reading for Undergraduate Sociology Students

What reading should you do in order to prepare for studying an undergraduate degree in Sociology? This post recommends some introductory reading that you might like to do over the summer to get ahead before commencing the first year of your degree in sociology, or related discipline.

I also explore some of the differences between A-level and degree level sociology at the end of the post…

Good introductory text books for studying an undergraduate degree in sociology

You should read at least the introductory chapter to one of the text books below (preferably the one recommended by the university you most want to go to), to give yourself an idea of the core themes in degree level Sociology.

  1. Giddens (2013) Sociology 
  2. Online summary of the above
  3. Fulcher and Scott (2011) Sociology
  4. Cohen and Kennedy: Global Sociology (2013)
  5. Web site for the above(might be a bit heavy going)
  6. Haralambos and Holborn (2013) Sociology Themes and Perspectives – The section on Globalisation and Late Modern theories are especially good.

Actual books to read – written by Sociologists

The two books below are on Globalisation, one of the most important concepts which Sociology deals with, and they are written by two of the leading Sociologists in the world today, at least they were until Bauman died in January 2017 (RIP!)

  1. Giddens (2002) Runaway World (Kindle edition is less than £4)
  2. Bauman (2007): Liquid Times: Living in an Age of Uncertainty

Podcasts/ Videos and blogs – to you keep up to date with contemporary sociology

You won’t be able to keep up with everything, so for the area of Sociology you are most interested in – search for that topic on any of the forums below… 

  1. ‘Thinking Allowed’ on Radio 4 – This is a weekly 30 minute sociology Podcast, which typically covers two pieces of research from two different Sociologists. Their archive is excellent.
  2. ‘TED’ talks are interdisciplinary but there is a lot of Sociology in here if you search – TED talks are 20 minutes long, but you can nearly always skip the first few minutes. NB – The most popular TED talk is Ken Robinson’s ‘How Schools Kill Creativity’
  3. The London School of Economics blog is more specifically political/ economic/ sociological than either of the above sites, but has some good updates on Sociological research.

The University of Bristol’s Recommended Reading List

Bristol is ranked number two for sociology in the U.K. Below I reproduce the University of Bristol’s recommended introductory reading list for its various core introductory courses for 2018, which are the bold headings below.

The Sociological Imagination

  • Z Bauman and T May, 2001, Thinking Sociologically, Oxford: Blackwell.
  • R Jenkins, 2002, Foundations of Sociology, Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan.
  • N Abercrombie, 2004, Sociology, Cambridge: Polity.

Key Social Thinkers

  • Calhoun, C., Classical Sociological Theory
  • Craib, I., Classical Social Theory
  • Fevre, R., and Bancroft, A., Dead White Men and Other Important People: sociology’s big ideas
  • Giddens, A., Capitalism And Modern Social Theory
  • McIntosh, I., Classical Sociological Theory: a reader
  • McLennan., G. Story of Sociology
  • Ritzer, G., Classical ‘Sociological Theory

Social Inequalities and Divisions  

  • Geoff Payne (ed), 2000, Social Divisions Basingstoke: Palgrave
  • Harriet Bradley, 1996, Fractured Identities Cambridge: Polity
  • Fiona Devine and Mary Waters (eds), 2004, Social Inequalities in Comparative Perspective Oxford: Blackwell
  • Shaun Best, 2005, Understanding Social Divisions London: Sage
  • Wendy Bottero, 2000, Stratification London: Routledge

Sociology in Global Context 

  • Castles, Stephen, and Miller, Mark J. 2009. The Age of Migration: International Population Movements in the Modern World. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Cohen, Robin, and Kennedy, Paul. 2007. Global Sociology. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Lash, Scott, and Lury, Celia. 2007. Global Culture Industries: The Mediation of Things. Cambridge: Polity Press.
  • Martell, Luke. 2010. The Sociology of Globalization. Cambridge: Polity Press.
  • Massey, Douglas S., Arango, Joaquin, and Hugo, Graeme. 2005. Worlds in Motion: Understanding International Migration at the End of the Millennium. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

An Introduction to the Sociology of Culture

  • Bennett, A. (2005) Culture and Everyday Life London: Sage Publications
  • Gray, A. and Mc Guigan, J. (eds) Studying Culture: an Introductory Reader London: Edward Arnold.
  • Hesmondhalgh, D. (2007) The Cultural Industries (second edition) London: Sage Publications.
  • Jenkins, H. (2006) Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide New York University Press
  • Strinati, D. (2004) An Introduction to Theories of Popular Culture (second edition) London: Routledge.

Research Methods  

  • Devine, F., Heath, S. (1999) Sociological Research Methods in Context. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Gilbert, N. (ed.) (2001) Researching Social Life (2nd edition). London: Sage.
  • May, T. (2001) Social Research. Issues, Methods and Process (3rd Edition). Maidenhead: Open University Press.
  • Robson, C. (2002) Real World Research (2nd Edition). Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Ruane, J.M. (2005) Essentials of Research Methods. Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Seale C.F. (ed.) (2004) (2nd edition) Researching Society and Culture. London: Sage.

 

What’s the difference between studying sociology at ‘A’ Level and studying sociology at ‘degree’ level?

  1. In terms of content – Sociology is a lot more diverse at degree level than at ‘A’ Level – Sociologists research very diverse topics and universities have more freedom to set the modules which they teach than at A level. Degree content will thus vary with the specialisms of the staff, and varies enormously from university to university – some universities will be more focused on politics and social policy, and others more on the media and the study of culture, for example.
  2. Sociology lot more interdisciplinary at degree level– there is a lot more overlap between Sociology and other subjects such as Anthropology, Development Studies, Criminology, Psychology, and Social Policy. Most students studying Sociology actually combine it with something else.
  3. You will need to do a lot more in-depth reading at degree level (this is the case in any social science, or humanities subject). You will typically need to read a minimum of one chapter from a book and one or two other sources which relate to this core reading. In total, this will mean at least 40 pages of reading per module per week, and you will probably be studying 4 modules at a time – so that means 160 pages per week – and you’ll need to add on more for the essays you’ll be doing.
  4. You will need to know the knowledge in much more depth at degree level – you will be expected to read and summarise extracts of core-texts each week and be able to critically evaluate these texts in discussion and essays.
  5. In terms of skills – you need show greater depth of critical awareness, analysis and evaluation, and be able to demonstrate all of these verbally and in writing, using evidence.
  6. You need to more self-starting in terms of reading and writing essays – there is a lot less contact time at university. 
  7. Although your options in Sociology will vary enormously from uni to uni, pretty much all degree-courses will have compulsory modules in the following

Common Themes in most Sociology Degree Courses

  • Research Methods
  • Social Theory – Classical and Contemporary

You will also find options in the following areas in most university departments:

  • Globalisation
  • Identity
  • Gender
  • Dissertation option (which will be restricted by staff interests)      

Two examples of Sociology departments to start you off

  • The University of Surrey – useful to know because it has reading lists attached to its courses (many universities don’t have these publically available)
  • The London School of Economics – useful to know even if you aren’t likely to get the grades due to its excellent public lecture programme and various blogs.

NB – There are another 99 universities which offer Sociology in the UK