Is it really disadvantaged to have a mixed ethnic background? Comparing educational attainment of mixed ethnic, ethnic minority and white British children in the U.K.

Raya Muttarak, European University Institute

Extant studies commonly claim that mixed ethnic children face difficulties in affiliating with either of the parental ethnic group, which consequently negatively affects their identity development. However, the majority of the existing literature is based on clinical evidence of small highly self-selected samples of those seeking psychological assistance. This paper aims to investigate the well-being of mixed ethnic children using a Longitudinal Study data (N=30,445) which is a nationally representative one percent sample of the UK Census. We hypothesise that an interethnic union between one immigrant parent and one parent from a majority population could promote integration of an offspring. Here educational attainment is used as an indicator of socioeconomic integration. Multinomial logistic regression is employed to estimate educational attainment of mixed ethnic individuals compared with that of ethnic minorities and the White British population. Generally, a key problem in the study of mixed ethnic individuals is how to identify who has mixed ethnic background. We overcome this issue by using ethnicities of the two parents. Controlling for parental demographic and socioeconomic characteristics and geographical characteristics, ethnic minorities, especially Indians and Chinese, have better educational achievement than average White British persons. Mixed ethnic individuals on the other hand have relatively poorer educational outcomes than their ethnic minority peers, but their educational attainment pattern is very similar to that of the White British. This converging pattern suggests that having one White British parent bring children of immigrants closer to the characteristics of the majority population. Results can be interpreted in two main directions, signalling either integration (i.e. mixed children’s outcomes are similar to that of the majority) or disadvantage (i.e. mixed children perform worse than minority ethnic children). We discuss these interpretations extensively in the last section of the paper.

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Presented in Session 68: Education and religion