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Research project

Post-16 Educational Trajectories and Social Inequalities in Political Engagement

Project overview

This project will explore the relationship between socio-economic inequalities, political engagement, and different post-16 educational trajectories over the life course.

It is well established that there are social inequalities in political engagement in western democracies. This raises concerns about equitable representation and political alienation, including levels of trust in the legitimacy of public institutions.

Using the British Household Panel Survey and Understanding Society (BHPS/US), the researchers will investigate the extent to which participation in academic and vocational educational tracks influence political engagement through to midlife, and whether these mitigate or exacerbate existing differences by socio-economic background. For the purposes of the analysis ‘political engagement’ will be conceptualised as comprising actions, intentions, and interest, all of which are measured in the BHPS/US.

The project will be completed in two stages:

The first stage of this project will investigate trends in political engagement by socio-economic quintile between the ages of 11 and 34. The researchers will also look at individual-level stability in political engagement and whether the relationship between social background and political engagement becomes stronger or weaker over this time.
The second stage will focus on measuring the relative influence of post-16 educational tracks on political engagement until midlife, up to age 42 for the oldest cohort in the study.
Findings from the study will improve our understanding of differences in political participation. If findings suggest that different educational trajectories do influence political engagement, this would support the case for a more integrated approach to civic education for young people.


Lead researcher

Dr Nicola Pensiero

Associate Professor

Research interests

  • Educational inequalities
  • Social stratification
  • Social Theory

Collaborating research institutes, centres and groups

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