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Clemens Kroneberg

Research Findings

Unequal school access shapes ethnic boundaries in students’ identities and friendships

January 21, 2020

Every school year, a new cohort of parents faces the challenge of finding the right school for their child – each year with a disheartening result: ethnic minority children tend to end up at schools of lower prestige and quality. Intriguingly, this ethnic stratification across schools affects not only their further school careers, but it profoundly shapes minority students’ identities and their social relationships with their classmates.

Ethnic stratification, the uneven distribution of majority and minority children across schools of different prestige, is widespread: in various countries, at various school transitions, and in various school systems. A substantial share of the ethnic and racial inequalities we observe in modern societies originates from ethnic stratification in the school system.

But schools provide more than grades and certificates. It is here where youth form lasting friendships, where they develop their views, attitudes, and identities. Does unequal school sorting not only create unequal life chances but also produce stronger ethnic boundaries in the minds and relations of youth?

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