Social inequalities in attaining higher education in Scotland: New evidence from sibling data

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Over the last decades, various policies at national and local levels have been implemented to widen participation in higher education (HE) in Scotland and more widely in the UK. Despite this, the acquisition of a HE qualification is still largely determined by the family in which individuals are born. Our study provides new evidence on the extent to which family factors matter by examining sibling data from the Scottish Longitudinal Study (SLS), a large-scale linkage study created using data from administrative and statistical sources. Random effects linear probability models are used to analyse individual- and family-level variance in the chances of obtaining a HE qualification. Our results show that about 40% of the variation in the chances of attaining a university degree is explained by siblings’ shared family characteristics and about a third of this share is explained by parental social class, education and housing tenure. A high degree of sibling similarity in the outcome was found across all social-origin classes. However, while siblings of advantaged families are alike because they both graduated from higher education, siblings of disadvantaged families are alike because neither of them did. We suggest that parental compensatory strategies in the former families and economic constraints in the latter families may explain such stark patterns of inequality. Finally, we do not find evidence that the availability of sub-degrees makes a difference to these patterns.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages22
JournalBritish Educational Research Journal
Early online date4 May 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 4 May 2021

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • social inequalities
  • sibling design
  • higher education
  • administrative data


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