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CVER Research Paper
Socio-economic inequality and academic match among post-compulsory education participants
Konstantina Maragkou
September 2019
Paper No' CVERDP023:
Full Paper (pdf)

JEL Classification: I21; I24; I26; J31

Tags: academic match; post-compulsory education; inequality; social mobility

The study investigates the impact of socioeconomic background on the academic match of students in post-compulsory upper-secondary education making use of detailed individual-level linked administrative data from schools, colleges and tax authorities in England. Academic match occurs when student quality matches the quality of the qualification that they take and is measured using a continuous variable which defines undermatched, matched and overmatched students based on the distance between each student's prior attainment in age 16 high-stake examinations and the median prior attainment of the other students who achieved their chosen academic or vocational qualification. Students from socially disadvantaged backgrounds are found to be more likely to be exposed to academic undermatch compared to their more advantaged peers and this effect is identified to be greater among the highest achieving students. Also, the study demonstrates that undermatched students are more likely to be found in schools with lower proportions of high achieving students and higher proportions of disadvantaged students. Among the highest achieving students, 80% of the identified socio-economic gap in academic match can be explained by such differences in the schools that those students from differing backgrounds attend. In addition, the study identifies indications that significant masses of undermatched students are more likely to be found in rural districts with higher rates of youth unemployment and higher proportions of poorly educated residents. Finally, the study establishes a positive relationship between academic assortative matching and labour market income returns. Non-university participating girls who were one standard deviation less undermatched earned 17% more at age 25 while non-university participating boys earned 5% more.