Social background and school effect in performance inequalities at the end of compulsory education

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© 2018, Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona. All rights reserved. School effects have been a controversial issue since the publication of the Coleman report. Students’ attainment varies depending on the school they attend; a fact that is well known in social scientific research as well as in families, who take these differences into account in their school choice strategies. The key issue is whether this difference is related to the student social composition or to the pedagogical model implemented by the school and based on the comprehensive curricula. The main hypothesis is that the impact of social composition is greater than that of comprehensiveness. Data were collected from 1,782 secondary school students in the 10th grade at 27 schools in the city of Barcelona. A hierarchical linear model is run to analyze the differences between schools, controlling for the individual features of students. The differences between schools are mainly due to the social composition of students and the different degrees of comprehensiveness is not relevant. Moreover, lower class female students are less exposed to the composition effect because they perform better than expected in more socially complex schools.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-50
JournalPapers: Revista de Sociologia
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jan 2018


  • Academic performance
  • Comprehensive school
  • Multilevel model
  • School achievement
  • Sex
  • Social composition


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