Trajectories of Immigrants' Children in Secondary Education in France: Differentiation and Polarization

By Yaël Brinbaum, Annick Kieffer


Inequalities in education according to immigrant and social origin are analysed by examining performance at the start and end of lower secondary school (collège), the track choices made at upper secondary school (lycée), and qualifications obtained among a panel of students who entered year 6 in 1995 in France. The inequalities affecting immigrants’ children are forged in primary school, but get no worse afterwards. Examining both absolute and relative data, the educational difficulties of these young people are confirmed, more so for boys than for girls. However, the difference between these students and their French-origin counterparts from the same socio-occupational background is quite small. Leaving school unqualified is the result of failing examinations in the case of students of North African origin, while those of Portuguese origin leave school to enter the labour market. Although over half of the student cohort obtains the baccalauréat, this is often a low-status technology or vocational baccalauréat. The gender gap in achievement is higher among students of immigrant background. We thus observe a differentiation in educational trajectory by origin and a gender polarization.

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