Inter-ethnic relations of teenagers in England’s schools: the role of school and neighbourhood ethnic composition

Simon M Burgess, Lucinda Platt*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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In the context of ongoing debate about the positive and negative consequences of ethnic diversity for intergroup relations, we study inter-ethnic relations among adolescents in England’s schools. In the first national study of schools throughout England to relate inter-ethnic attitudes to both school and area ethnic composition, we combine survey data collected from 14-year-olds in nearly 100 schools with administrative data. We focus on relations between three ethno-racial categories: White-British, Asian-British and Black-British, for three conceptually distinct indicators of inter-ethnic orientations: warmth, friends, and attitudes. We posit that ‘contact’, proxied by school outgroup composition, should lead to more positive intergroup orientations, while ‘exposure’, proxied by neighbourhood outgroup composition, should lead to more negative intergroup relations. We show that higher school outgroup shares are associated with more positive orientations towards that group for almost all relationships and measures. We further show that for the two instances where higher school outgroup shares do not enhance positive intergroup orientations, they nevertheless moderate negative effects of neighbourhood composition. We conclude that schools offer the opportunity to enhance intergroup relations and to mitigate the threats associated with increased neighbourhood diversity with potentially enduring consequences.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Ethnic and Migration Studies
Early online date30 Jan 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 30 Jan 2020

Structured keywords

  • ECON Applied Economics
  • ECON CEPS Education


  • Inter-ethnic contact
  • schools
  • attitudes
  • England
  • exposure


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