An onion of white advantage? (in UK HE degree attainment)

DEMACK, Sean (2023). An onion of white advantage? (in UK HE degree attainment). Radical Statistics, 134, 28-47.

Demack-AnOnionWhite(AM).pdf - Accepted Version
All rights reserved.

Download (193kB) | Preview
Official URL:
Related URLs:


After a couple of decades examining the statistics of structural educational inequality in the English education system from early years to university access, I first examined attainment differences amongst UK graduates across ethnic, socioeconomic and gender groups in 2015. The statistical practice that I observed both shocked and confused me. Shocked to see how out-of-step HE practices were with all educational levels leading up to HE. Confused that HE was a ‘system exemplar’ for poor statistical practice (the educational ‘capstone’ status of the University/Academy had made me assume/expect different/better). The confusion has since receded, but shock remains and has helped motivate a fascination in the quantitative methodology of UK HE equality analyses. This paper focuses specifically on HE equality analyses relating to student ethnicity. In becoming acclimatised to HE ethnicity equality analyses, the more you look, the more problems you will see. In this paper, I present the statistical problems as a series ‘onion layers’ all of which could be placed under two broad methodological themes: measurement and sample representation. In developing a Critical Race Theory of statistics (QuantCrit), Gillborn et al. (2018) highlighted how statistical data and analyses can be deployed to support or obstruct progress in racial equity. This paper draws on the principles of QuantCrit to consider the substantive implications of the layers of statistical obfuscation found in UK HE ethnicity equality analyses. One thing is clear, current practice commonly results in analyses that understate the extent of educational advantage enjoyed by white graduates in UK HE. Gillborn, D., Warmington, P. & Demack, S. (2018) QuantCrit: education, policy, ‘Big Data’ and principles for a critical race theory of statistics, Race Ethnicity and Education, 21:2, 158-179, DOI: 10.1080/13613324.2017.1377417

Item Type: Article
Page Range: 28-47
SWORD Depositor: Symplectic Elements
Depositing User: Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited: 07 Jul 2023 10:11
Last Modified: 11 Oct 2023 13:32

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics