Social recruitment of a school elite in France. Evolution of inequality between 1950 and 1990
Michel EURIAT Claude THÉLOT
The article aims to define the capacity of the « Schools » to have members of the popular and middle layers of the population become part of the school elite, based on the study of social recruitment of students, over a forty-year period, at the four famous French Schools : l’École Polytechnique, l’École Normale Supérieure, l’ENA, HEC. On the one hand, the general evolution of social inequality within the « Schools » is measured for the same period at three specific points in the educational system : college (secondary school), passing the baccalauréat, and higher education, and depending on which point is being studied, there can be seen stability or more often a decrease in inequality. On the other hand, it is shown that the proportion of youngsters of « popular » background (with a farmer, manual worker, office worker, craftsman, shopkeeper father) in the four French Schools listed above has greatly decreased over the last forty years : approximately 29% of the students were of popular origin in the first half of the 1950s, compared to 9% today. The evolution is very different to what it is at university where the proportion is more or less constant (50%) for the same period. This evolution must be viewed in relation to the social structure in France, in which case, it can be said that the four schools in question have not shut their doors to members of the popular layers of the population : rather, there is a slight opening up, but less than in the educational system as a whole, in particular universities.