Why does wealth influence educational attainment?

07 February 2011

Why do children from low income families leave school with lower levels of educational attainment than those from wealthier families? 

In 2008, less than one quarter of children from families eligible for free school meals left school with five or more GCSE's at grade C or above, compared to just over half of children from wealthier families. This attainment gap has begun to close over the last ten years, but it still remains large.

The gap is important because educational qualifications are a significant factor in determining the degree of opportunity and income in later life. In other words, gaps in educational attainment restrict social mobility.

The latest edition of the Longitudinal and Life Course Studies Journal has published a special edition in order to examine this relationship between socio-economic background and cognitive and educational achievement. Expert contributors assess the relevance of various factors including parenting, aspirations and engagement with risky and positive behaviour.

Highlights include:

  • Children’s educational attainment and the aspirations, attitudes and behaviours of parents and children through childhood, Alissa Goodman, Paul Gregg, Elizabeth Washbrook.

  • The socio-economic gradient in early child outcomes: evidence from the Millennium Cohort Study, Lorraine Dearden, Luke Sibieta, Kathy Sylva.

  • The socio-economic gradient in child outcomes: the role of attitudes, behaviours and beliefs, Paul Gregg, Elizabeth Washbrook.

  • The role of attitudes and behaviours in explaining socio-economic differences in attainment at age 16, Haroon Chowdry, Claire Crawford, Alissa Goodman.

  • Explaining the socio-economic gradient in child outcomes: the intergenerational transmission of cognitive skills, by Claire Crawford, Alissa Goodman, Robert Joyce

This edition of the Longitudinal and Life Course Studies Journal has now been published and can be downloaded free of charge from the Longview website.

The journal was established with a Nuffield Foundation grant and aims to provide an outlet for people across the world, working in the flied of longitudinal research to publish articles within the broad framework of life course enquiry.