Ethnic educational inequality: ethnicity, social background and the educational career

Raya Muttarak and Anthony Heath, University of Oxford

[Project number 30105]

This study aims to investigate the issue of interethnic unions in Britain. The figures from the 1991 Census indicate that interethnic partnerships (both married and cohabiting couples) account for 1.3 percent of all heterosexual unions in Britain. If each ethnic group is considered separately, it appears that in some ethnic groups such as the Caribbean or the Chinese, as much as 20 percent and 17 percent of all forms of marital relationships in these two groups respectively involve partnerships with a white partner. The offspring of interethnic relationships who identify themselves as 'mixed' in the 2001 Census make up over 677,000 people or 1.27 percent in the whole population compared to only 230,000 persons in the 1991 Census. This could be evidence of a rise in interethnic unions in Britain.

In spite of the distinctive proportion of intermarried couples, there have been only a few studies of interethnic partnerships focusing on the British context as compared to those of the United States. Extant research rarely focuses on the factors contributing to interethnic unions or outcomes of intermarriage (Bagley 1972; Berrington 1994, 1996; Coleman 1985). The small existing literature on the outcomes of intermarriage on multiethnic individuals are qualitative studies involving only a small number of cases (Alibhai-Brown 2001; Wilson 1981). This study, therefore, aims to make up for research deficiency in the study of ethnic intermarriage in Britain.

Three research questions form the key interest of this study, namely:

1) Who intermarries and why?
2) What are the consequences of interethnic relationships on the intermarried couples compared to their endogamous counterparts?
3) What are the outcomes for the offspring in terms of their socioeconomic performance and identity development?

Large-scale government surveys such as the LFS, SARs and ONS LS are the main datasets applied in this study.

In order to investigate the outcomes of interethnic unions, a nationally representative longitudinal dataset is an ideal. Since the study deals with members of minority ethnic groups, it is necessary that the data contains a substantial number of ethnic minorities to perform statistical analyses. Rich and informative datasets like the BHPS or NCDS are, unfortunately, not applicable to this study because of their relatively small size.

I therefore plan to use the LS to investigate the outcomes of interethnic unions both on intermarried couples and their offspring. For intermarried couples, I would like to examine the economic outcomes of individuals who engage in marital relationships across ethnic groups (white and ethnic minority) compared to single and endogamous counterparts. It would be very beneficial if I can observe the change in economic status over a ten-year period. Another outcome of interest is ethnic identification. I would like to observe if intermarried individuals change their ethnic identity over time.

For the outcomes of the offspring of interethnic unions, I am interested to look at their socioeconomic attainment compared with mono-ethnic individuals. How multiethnic individuals identify their ethnic identity and how this changes over time will also be examined.

Upon exploring variables in the LS, I find that the LS has sufficient information on the outcomes I would like to investigate. The fact that the data is longitudinal also allows me to solve the problem of endogeneity between marriage and economic outcomes. For example, it is important to locate if marital status per se affects economic attainment or it is unobserved characteristics of married individuals that make married men earn more than single men. The LS, hence, appears to be the most appropriate and up-to-date dataset available so far.

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