Academic achievement is closely related to students’ development in numerous aspects. One of the important factors associated with academic achievement is socioeconomic status (SES), which often refers to the status or prestige of an individual or an individual’s family owing to the possession of certain social resources, capabilities, or wealth. Two meta-analyses conducted by Liu and colleagues investigated the relations between SES and academic achievement among primary and secondary education with a focus on macro-level and micro-level moderators.
The first meta-analysis was based on 326 empirical studies and 838 effect sizes from 47 countries and areas, while the second was based on three international large-scale assessments (PISA, TIMSS, and PIRLS) with 9883 effect sizes from 105 countries and areas. All studies were conducted from 1990 to 2021. Overall, small to moderate correlations were found between SES and academic achievement around the world (r = 0.22 ~ 0.28). In terms of macro-level moderating effects, after controlling for other moderators, the results are shown below.
- The strength of SES-academic achievement relation was no different between high-income and low-income countries/areas. Income equality (GINI) also played no significant role in the relation.
- In international large-scale assessments, the net enrolment ratio and duration of compulsory education were significant. The higher the mean net enrolment ratio or the longer the duration of compulsory education, the stronger the correlations.
- Effect of period of studies was significant. In ascending order of SES-academic achievement relation: year of study 1990-1999 (r = 0.21 ~ 0.24), 2000-2014 (r = 0.22 ~ 0.28), and 2015-2021 (r = 0.23 ~ 0.30).
In regard to micro-level and methodological moderators, the results are shown below.
- SES-academic achievement relation in longitudinal studies (r = 0.25) was not significantly different from cross-sectional ones (r = 0.22), after control of other moderators.
- The composite SES index (r = 0.34) had a stronger association with academic achievement than other single indicators (r =0.26-0.29; family income, parental education, parental occupation, and family resources) in large-scale assessments. Since the differences were small, any statistical significance found may be due to the large number of effect sizes.
- No significant moderation effect was found for subject of academic achievement (STEM, language, general)
These two meta-analyses provided up-to-date understanding of SES-academic achievement relations and the authors summarized the findings as:
- Correlation between SES and academic achievement has been strengthened since 1990s;
- GDP per capita and economic equality (GINI) did not affect the relations;
- Higher net enrolment ratio and longer duration of compulsory education did not weaken these relations.
Based on the evidence, the authors suggested that education expansion (enrolment ratio and duration of compulsory education) had a limited impact on weakening SES-academic relations. Other quality indicators (e.g., teacher-student ratios, learning environment) should be taken into consideration for educational equity policies.
Source: Liu, J., Peng, P., Zhao, B., & Luo, L. (2022). Socioeconomic status and academic achievement in primary and secondary education: A meta-analytic review. Educational Psychology Review, 34(4), 2867–2896. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10648-022-09689-y