Socio-economic status & educational achievement

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The social-economic status (SES) of school students’ is determined by their parental social position including income, education and occupation status (Considine & Zappalà, 2002; Sirin, 2005). A strong association between SES and educational achievement is well established within decades of international literature (Considine & Zappalà, 2002; Perry & McConney, 2010; Sirin, 2005). Students with low-SES are generally disadvantaged educationally, less likely to complete school and experience less successful transition between school and work (Considine & Zappalà, 2002) which strengthens intergenerational inequality (Polidano, Hanel, & Buddelmeyer, 2013). People living with low-SES, or poverty, are also disadvantaged with links associated to health risks, decreased social mobility and violence (Sullenberger, Hostetter, & Wood, 2012). Due to the disadvantages associated with low-SES, educational policies are implemented which impact funding within schools with the aim to minimise the effects on academic achievement (Considine & Zappalà, 2002).

Perry and McConney (2010) conducted a secondary analysis study on both student and school SES using the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2003 Australian data set which assesses reading, math and science literacy of 15-year-old students. A school’s SES has been shown to have a significant impact on academic achievement regardless of individual SES (Perry & McConney, 2010). Perry and McConney (2010) warns of the potential for segregation of schools according to SES which leads to widening the gap of inequality since high-SES students will be further advantaged by attending high-SES schools and the reverse is highlighted for low-SES students attending low-SES schools. This research result was reproduced by Mills and Gale (2011) through a study focusing on one rural Australian school located in a low-SES population.

Mills and Gale (2011) consider the utopian view of education as the “great social (and economic) equaliser” (p. 243) as false and plagued with problems that include exclusion and disadvantage. The teachers had low-expectations for student achievement and assumed low-SES parents were disinterested in children’s academic performance while the parents felt ignored and believed their low-SES children were academically marginalised (Mills & Gale, 2011). Both the Mills and Gale (2011) and Perry and McConney (2010) studies support the theoretical literature that claim a strong link between student and school SES and academic achievement (Considine & Zappalà, 2002; Sirin, 2005).


Considine, G., & Zappalà, G. (2002). The influence of social and economic disadvantage in the academic performance of school students in Australia. Journal of Sociology, 38(2), 129-148.

Mills, C., & Gale, T. (2011). Re-asserting the place of context in explaining student (under-)achievement. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 32(2), 239-256.

Perry, L., & McConney, A. (2010). School socio-economic composition and student outcomes in Australia: implications for educational policy. Australian Journal of Education, 54(1), 72-85.

Polidano, C., Hanel, B., & Buddelmeyer, H. (2013). Explaining the socio-economic status school completion gap. Education Economics, 21(3), 230-247.

Sirin, S. R. (2005). Socioeconomic status and academic achievement: a meta-analytic review of research. Review of Educational Research, 75(3), 417-453.

Sullenberger, S. W., Hostetter, C., & Wood, L. (2012). Families pass money and opportunities down: adolescent constructions of social class. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 22(6), 635-652.

One comment on “Socio-economic status & educational achievement

  1. […] Taken from a recent essay I wrote about 3 factors influencing youth and related to my previous post: Socio-economic status & educational achievement […]

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