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Appears in Collections:Faculty of Social Sciences eTheses
Title: Social Stratification and Education: Case Studies Analysing Social Survey Data
Authors: Connelly, Roxanne
Supervisor(s): Gayle, Vernon
Lambert, Paul
Keywords: Social Stratification
Issue Date: 2013
Publisher: University of Stirling
Citation: Connelly, R., Murray, S. and Gayle, V. (2013). 'Young People and School GCSE Attainment: Exploring the 'Middle''. Sociological Research Online, 18 (1).
Connelly, R. (2012). 'Social stratification and cognitive ability: An assessment of the influence of childhood ability test scores and family background on occupational position across the lifespan'. In P. S. Lambert, R. Connelly, M. Blackburn and V. Gayle (Eds), Social Stratification: Trends and Processes (pp. 101-113). Aldershot: Ashgate.
Abstract: Social Stratification is an enduring influence in contemporary societies which shapes many outcomes over the lifecourse. Social Stratification is also a key mechanism by which social inequalities are transmitted from one generation to the next. This thesis presents a set of inter-related case studies which explore social stratification in contemporary Britain. This thesis focuses on the analysis of an appropriate set of large scale social survey datasets, which contain detailed micro-level data. The thesis begins with a detailed review of one area of social survey research practice which has been neglected, namely the measurement and operationalisation of ‘key variables’. Three case studies are then presented which undertake original analyses using five different large-scale social survey resources. Throughout this thesis detailed consideration of the operationalisation of variables is made and a range of statistical modelling approaches are employed to address middle range theories regarding the processes of social stratification. Case study one focuses on cognitive inequalities in the early years of childhood. This case study builds on research which has indicated that social stratification impacts on the cognitive performance of young children. This chapter makes the original contribution of charting the extent of social inequalities on childhood cognitive abilities between three British birth cohorts. There are clear patterns of social inequality within each cohort. Between the cohorts there is also evidence that the association between socio-economic advantage and childhood cognitive capability have remained largely stable over the post-war period, in spite of the raft of policy measures that have been floated to tackle social inequality. Case study two investigates the recent sociological idea that there is a ‘middle’ group of young people who are absent in sociological inquiries. This chapter sets out to explore the existence of a ‘middle’ group based on their socio-economic characteristics. This case study focuses on school GCSE examination performance, and finds that performance is highly stratified by parental occupational positions. The analysis provided no persuasive evidence of the existence of a ‘middle’, mediocre or ordinary group of young people. The analytical benefits of studying the full attainment spectrum are emphasised, over a priori categorisation. Case study three combines the analysis of intra-generational and inter-generational status attainment perspectives by studying the influences of social origins, educational attainment and cognitive abilities across the occupational lifecourse. This case study tests theoretical ideas regarding the importance of these three areas of influence over time. This case study therefore presents a detailed picture of social stratification processes. The results highlight that much more variation in occupational positions is observed between individuals, rather than across an individual’s lifecourse. The influence of social origins, educational attainment and cognitive ability on occupational positions appear to decrease across an individual’s occupational lifecourse. A brief afterword that showcases a sensitivity analysis is presented at the end of the thesis. This brief exposition is provided to illustrate the potential benefit of undertaking sensitivity analyses when developing research which operationalises key variables in social stratification. It is argued that such an activity is beneficial and informative and should routinely be undertaken within sociological analyses of social surveys. The thesis concludes with a brief reflection on large-scale survey research and statistical modelling and comments on potential areas for future research.
Type: Thesis or Dissertation
Affiliation: School of Applied Social Science

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