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Disadvantaged children’s ``low'' educational expectations: Are the US and UK really so different to other industrialized nations?


  • John Jerrim

    () (Department of Quantitative Social Science, Institute of Education, University of London, 20 Bedford Way London, WC1H 0AL.)


In most countries, children from disadvantaged backgrounds are under-represented amongst the undergraduate population. One explanation is that they do not see higher education as a realistic goal; that it is ‘not for the likes of them’. In this paper, I use the Programme for International Assessment data to investigate whether 15 year olds from disadvantaged backgrounds are less likely to expect to complete university than their advantaged peers. I explore this issue across the OECD nations, though paying particular attention to the US and UK. My results suggest that children from less fortunate families are not as likely to make early plans for university as their affluent peers. Yet the extent to which these findings differ across countries is rather modest, with little evidence to suggest that the UK stands out from other members of the OECD. The US, on the other hand, appears to be a nation where the relationship between socio-economic background and the expectation of completing higher education is comparatively weak.

Suggested Citation

  • John Jerrim, 2011. "Disadvantaged children’s ``low'' educational expectations: Are the US and UK really so different to other industrialized nations?," DoQSS Working Papers 11-04, Department of Quantitative Social Science - UCL Institute of Education, University College London.
  • Handle: RePEc:qss:dqsswp:1104

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Jake Anders & John Micklewright, 2013. "Teenagers' expectations of applying to university: how do they change?," DoQSS Working Papers 13-13, Department of Quantitative Social Science - UCL Institute of Education, University College London.
    2. Jake Anders, 2012. "Using the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England for research into Higher Education access," DoQSS Working Papers 12-13, Department of Quantitative Social Science - UCL Institute of Education, University College London.

    More about this item


    Higher Education; University Access; Educational Expectations; PISA;

    JEL classification:

    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • I28 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Government Policy
    • J62 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Job, Occupational and Intergenerational Mobility; Promotion

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