Deborah Wilson, Simon Burgess and Adam Briggs
We exploit a universe dataset of state school students in England with linked test score records to document the evolution of attainment through school for different ethnic groups. The analysis yields a number of striking findings. First, we show that, controlling for personal characteristics, all minority groups make greater progress than white students over secondary schooling. Second, much of this improvement occurs in the high-stakes exams at the end of compulsory schooling. Third, we show that for most ethnic groups, this gain is pervasive, happening in almost all schools in which these students are found. We address some of the usual factors invoked to explain attainment gaps: poverty, language, school quality, and teacher influence. We conclude that our findings are more consistent with the importance of factors like aspirations and attitudes.