Literature Review Topic:
Impact of parents’ socioeconomic status on students’ academic performance and graduation rate in college and high school
Education researchers have been rigorously researching socioeconomic status as one of the most significant variables in relation to students’ academic achievement. For example Hernandez (2011) found significant correlation between years lived in poverty by a student and the probability of completing high school at the age of 19 years. Similarly Sirin (2005) found medium to strong relationship between socioeconomic status of students and their academic achievement. Ziol-Guest, Duncan and Kalil (2015) found that single parenting a social status that limits the graduation rates of their children. Moreover Walpole (2003) found that low SES is associated with less interest in studies, lower attendance, lack of college aspirations and hence low graduation rates. The current literature has also added family income, mother’s educational attainment, as well as a measure of family structure to more comprehensively measure socioeconomic status in relation to students’ academic achievement. Students’ educational or academic achievement is considered as an indicator of students’ success on education. Students’ academic achievement is defined as “the educational outcomes, or the extent to which student, teacher or institution has achieved its educational goals (Wikipedia.2016)”. Bradely and Corwyn (2002) through their review of literature found that socioeconomic status affects children’s cognitive development right from the infancy and that parental education and their economic conditions affect children’s academic performance later in school.
The purpose of this literature review is to analyze the literature to find the impact of parents’ socioeconomic status on students’ academic achievement at school. This issue is significant because the relationship between socioeconomic status and students’ academic achievement will provide an important insight into the issue for the educational leaders as well as governments to take initiatives to improve in this area.
Since there are several indicators of socioeconomic status as indicated by Sirin (2005), this literature review will consider and focus on three indicators of parents’ socioeconomic status i.e. their educational level, their occupation, and their income.
The major research question is:
What is the relationship between parents’ socioeconomic status and students’ academic achievement?
However, this can be split into sub questions based on the three indicators of socioeconomic status (SES) as follows:
- What is the relationship between parents’ educational level on students’ academic achievement?
- What is the impact of parents’ financial status on students’ academic achievement?
- What is the impact of parents’ occupation on students’ academic achievement?
Research on the relationship between home or family, community and school and its effects on students’ academic performance spans over decades now. However, many facets of the issue are still debatable and therefore researchers have not been relieved from conducting further studies around one issue or the other, related to this domain. This literature review throws light on one of the facets of home, community and school partnerships and its effects on students’ academic performance and that facet is the socio-economic status of parents. Research has found that parents’ socioeconomic status has its influence on students’ academic achievement.
Socioeconomic status of parents hinder and limit their involvement in academic activities of their children either due to their lower level of educational attainment, or due to their compelling commitments, which ultimately influence the academic performance of their children at school. Epstein (2010) conceptualized the connection between home and school as an essential strategy for parents and schools. According to Epstein home and school partnership strategy can positively influence students’ academic performance and their level of gratification. Epstein, Sanders, Simon, Salinas, Jansorn and Voorhis (2002) in their research on problems that hinder parental involvement and hence their disengagement from participating in home-school partnership programs, found that changing curriculum requirements in higher grades is one of the factors that hinder the parental involvement because all parents do not have that educational level to understand and help their children at home or involve in school activities. Secondly, they concluded that socio-economic status of parents limit their participation and involvement in academic activities of their school going children. Socioeconomic status of parents affects their quality and frequency of interaction with teachers. They further explored that parents are less involved in school activities due to their compelling commitments. Since according to Epstein (2010) parental involvement is related to students’ academic performance, hence these socioeconomic status issues produce negative impact on students’ performance.
Socioeconomic status of students affects their academic performance and hence graduation rate. Hernandez (2011) carried out a quantitative analysis of parents’ socioeconomic status in relation to the rate of completion of high school studies by their children at the age of 19 years. The study collected socioeconomic status data from the parents of 3975 students every two years between 1979 and 1989. The study used data from national database to find out whether these students completed high school by the age of 19 years. The results of the study found that poverty or low socioeconomic status had a negative impact on students’ graduation rate. According to their analysis, 32 % of the students who lived in poverty for more than five years, did not graduate at all. While 22 % of students with some poverty experience did not graduate at all. However only 6% of students with no poverty experience could not graduate by the age of 19. Moreover, the study found that Hispanic and black children had significantly low completion rates compared to white students.
Social status origins not only affect students’ college experiences and outcomes but also their career choices. Walpole (2003) used data of 12376 college students from 209 different institutions of 4 years degrees from national longitudinal study of college students. Student Information Form (SIF) part of this longitudinal study is a 4 years and then 9 years follow up survey providing data on students’ activities in college, their future plans, aspirations to following college, and their educational and occupational achievement information after college. SIF also collected data on socioeconomic status of students in terms of their parents’ income, educational attainment and occupational status. The study found that low SES background students worked more, study less, and earn lower Grade Point Averages (GPAs) and hence can be associated with lower graduation rates as compared to all others and high SES students. Moreover, the low SES students earn lower incomes, lower levels of educational attainment, and educational aspirations compared to high SES students as found in a 9 years follow up study after college entry. The reason lower level of educational attainment in the follow up study is considered to be the reason that they work fulltime jobs instead of focusing on graduate education. While high SES students consider investment in graduate education which help them achieve higher incomes and higher level of educational attainment. Thus SES background affects educational aspirations and academic performance not only during college but also after the college. Sirin (2005) also verifies the negative impact of parents’ socioeconomic status on students’ academic achievement at school. Sirin carried a meta-analytic review of secondary data. The research considered journal articles published between 1990 and 2000 to find the impact of socioeconomic status on students’ academic achievement. The sample of this research included 101, 157 students, from 6,871 schools, spanning over 128 school districts. Research considered 74 independent samples. The results of this analysis showed that there exists a medium to strong relationship between socioeconomic status and students’ academic achievement. This relationship is medium level at student level and larger at school level.
Contrasting to the previously discussed studies, Sackett, Kuncel, Beatty, Rigdon, Shen, and Kiger (2012) found that SES have least impact on students’ academic performance in secondary schools and universities. They analyzed information on revised SAT scores, high school GPA, freshman’s academic performance, and socioeconomic status of parents data of 143, 606 students entering 110 different US colleges and universities in 2006. The data set was compared to 41 schools’ data set including previous versions of SAT scores, and SES analysis of at University of California to find the role of SES in predicting secondary school performance, and freshman’s academic performance. Sample included diversity in terms of size, type and location of the colleges to include large, small, private and public colleges and universities from appropriate geographical distribution. Contrasting to the previously discussed studies, this research found that SAT score was stronger predictor of students’ academic performance at secondary school and university compared to SES and high school performance. While SES was found to have least impact on subsequent academic performance of these students.
Although the research of Sacket and his colleagues bring interesting facet of the issue, majority of the research findings conclude a strong relationship between socioeconomic status and students’ academic performance at high school and subsequent levels of education. Moreover, the impact spans over life time of the students having its role in shaping their career choices, incomes, and decisions about higher education. However, the findings of Sacket and his colleagues still need an attention and must be taken into consideration for further research.
Since socioeconomic status is defined by its indicators i.e. educational level, financial status, and occupation. The next part of this literature review will consider the impact of individual SES indicators on students’ academic performance.
Impact of Parents’ educational level on students’ academic achievement
Research finds that parental educational attainment and family income affects students’ academic performance by controlling the behaviors and expectations of parents towards their kids and that there exists a positive relationship between educational attainment and family income of parents and academic performance of students. Davis-Kean (2005) studied the impact of parental educational attainment and family income (factors of socioeconomic status) on students’ achievement through parental behaviors and expectations as indirect forces in action. He used data of 868 students aged 8 – 12 years and equally representing males and females, from national cross sectional study. The sample also included a fair ethnic distribution i.e. 47% non-Hispanic European American and 49% African American. Data regarding their children’s health, behavior, home environment, childcare arrangements, schooling, and food security was collected from the primary caregivers through interviews (face-to-face and telephonic). To measure children’s achievement, four subscales of Woodcock Johnson’s revised test of achievement were used. Socioeconomic status (SES) of families was determined using three indicators of SES i.e. parents’ education, parents’ income and family size. Family education was measured by considering the highest attained level of education in the family. The researcher also assessed the primary caregivers’ education/literacy level by using Woodcock-Johnson’s passage comprehension test. The results of this study indicate that educational attainment of parents direct their beliefs, behaviors and expectations regarding their children’s academic achievement. However, these expectations and behaviors were found to be linked differently based on ethnicity which needs further investigation. U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics (2001) used data of high school graduates and postsecondary students experiences from three longitudinal studies, i.e. National Longitudinal Study, the beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study, and the Baccalaureate and Beyond Longitudinal Study to find the impact of parents’ education on students’ educational attainment and persistence. . These longitudinal studies considered first generation students i.e. the ones whose parents did not attend college. The highest level of parents’ educational attainment has been the highest degree attained by any of the parents. The results of the study indicate that parental educational attainment strongly predicted students’ enrollment at high school and postsecondary schools. Although other socioeconomic factors also influenced the decision of enrollment, however, parents’ educational level was the strongest predictor when controlling other factors. The most significant finding of this study is being the fact that those students’ whose parents’ did not go to college showed low rates of enrollments at postsecondary and those who enrolled, the probability of dropping without completion of postsecondary school was higher as compared to those whose parents attended college. The results of this study are in line with the study discussed above, however, this study added that the employment rate after completion did not show any significant difference among those whose parents attended college and those whose parents didn’t do so.
Research also finds that parental educational attainment is significantly positively related to high school graduation rates among their children as well as to their enrollment into colleges for further studies. Postsecondary Education Opportunity (1999) analyzed data collected through Current Population Survey (CPS) by Census Bureau from a national sample of around 50,000 American households in order to find the relationship between parental educational attainment and the chance for college education among their 18 to 24 years old children. Chance for college was defined as the product of high school graduation and then college participation of high school graduates. The results showed a significantly positive relationship between chance for college and parental educational attainment. The study concluded that higher the parental educational attainment, more are the chances that their children will graduate from high school and will enroll in college for further studies. Ziol-Guest, Duncan, and Kalil (2015) also found the positive relationship between parents’ educational attainment and students’ academic performance and hence their graduation rates. They used data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) to find the impact of single parenting on students’ graduation rates. The subject sample includes 31 cohorts of students born between 1954 and 1985. The variables considered included time between age 14-16 years spent with single parent, parental income, completed education at the age of 24, mother’s educational attainment, age of mother at the time of child birth, and total number of siblings living with single parent. The results of this study not only showed negative impact of single parenting on students’ graduation rates but also predicted significantly positive relationship between maternal educational attainment and students’ graduation rates.
An analysis of the above research findings shows that parental educational attainment is strongly related to the students’ academic performance, their graduation rates, and further education. Findings of Epstein, Sanders, Simon, Salinas, Jansorn and Voorhis (2002) as discussed earlier can be used to explain this linkage. As per their findings, parents with lower educational attainments have difficulties in understanding the changing curricula especially in the higher grades, which hinder their involvement in academic activities of their children and this can be one of the reasons that their children’s academic performance is lower compared to those students whose parents have higher educational attainments.
Parents’ financial status and students’ academic achievement
Parents’ financial status is another important indicator of socioeconomic status and has be researched for its impact on students’ academic performance. Malik, Khan, Naeem, Almas, and Bhatty (1993) carried out an analysis of primary data collected by interviewing 90 participants (parents and guardians of students). Participants interviewed related to students from grade 9 and 10. The researchers collected data on socioeconomic status of parents and guardians in terms of their monthly income. Students’ academic performance was measured in terms of academic grades that they secured during their academic assessments. The analysis of data found that students’ academic achievement is directly related to the students’ socioeconomic status. For example none of the students whose parents had the lowest income among the respondents could secure an A grade. 40% of the students whose parents had the lowest income could secure B grades while 60% secured C grades in their learning assessments. The results showed an increasing trend in academic achievement (grades) with increasing income of parents/guardians. 50% of the students whose parents had the highest incomes secured A grades. These trends help establish the relationship between financial status of parents and students’ academic achievement. Hernandez (2011) discussed earlier also came up with similar findings. His research found significant correlation between years lived in poverty by a student and the probability of completing high school at the age of 19 years, which shows the negative impact of low financial status on students’ academic achievement. Ziol-Guest, Duncan, and Kalil (2015) in their research on the impact of single parenting on students’ academic achievement also found the financial factors affecting the students’ graduation rates. Since single parenting is usually associated with lower financial income, which was found to have negative impact on students’ academic performance and hence graduation rates. Since parents’ financial status is related to their occupational status, therefore, this review considers both representing each other. Based on the assumption that occupational status is related to financial status, this review concludes that occupational status is also related to students’ academic performance the same way as financial status is. Hence it can be explained that good occupational status of parents will predict better academic performance and graduate rates among students.
Based on the research literature discussed above, it can be concluded that socioeconomic status of parents is strongly related to students’ academic performance, their high school graduation rates as well as their subsequent career choices, and income levels. Moreover, the higher education aspirations, and educational attainment level of students is also directed by the socioeconomic status of their parents. Although, there still exist research findings which give low scores to the role of socioeconomic status of parents in academic performance in subsequent college and university education, however such facets of the issue require further research before establishing these findings. Considering individual indicators of SES it is concluded that parents’ educational attainment, and their financial and occupational status are significantly related to academic performance and high school, and subsequent graduation rates of their children. The major reasons for lower academic performance and school graduation rates are found to be the weak occupational, financial, and educational attainment levels hindering parental involvement in the academic activities of their children.
These findings ask for efforts to facilitate parents with special requirements like training them in higher curricular activities of their children to help them understand and help their children more efficiently and effectively. Moreover, parents with heavier occupational commitments should be facilitated in terms of flexible meeting schedules. The impact of financial status of parents on students’ academic performance and graduation rates is a serious concerns which also requires special attention from the policy makers and educational administrators.
Bradley, R. H., & Corwyn, R. F. (2002). Socioeconomic status and child development. Annual review of psychology, 53(1), 371-399.
Davis-Kean, P. E. (2005). The influence of parent education and family income on child achievement: The indirect role of parental expectations and the home environment. Journal of family psychology, 19(2), 294.
Epstein, J. L. (2010). School/family/community Partnerships: Caring for the Children We Share: When Schools Form Partnerships with Families and the Community, the Children Benefit. These Guidelines for Building Partnerships Can Make It Happen. Phi Delta Kappan, 92(3), 81.
Hernandez, D. J. (2011). Double Jeopardy: How Third-Grade Reading Skills and Poverty Influence High School Graduation. Annie E. Casey Foundation.
Malik, N. H., Khan, S. A., Naeem, R. A., Almas, K., & Bhatty, N. (1993). Socioeconomic status of parents and academic achievement of their children. Pak. J. Agri. Sci, 30(3).
Postsecondary Education Opportunity (January 1999). Parental Educational Attainment and Higher Educational Opportunity (No. 79), Author, Oskaloosa, IA.
Sacket, P. R., Kuncel, N. R., Beatty, A. S., Rigdon, J. L., Shen, W., & Kiger, T. B. (2012). The role of socioeconomic status in SAT-grade relationships and in college admissions decisions. Psychological Science, 23(9), 1000-1007. doi:10.1177/0956797612438732
Sirin, S. R. (2005). Socioeconomic status and academic achievement: A meta-analytic review of research. Review of educational research, 75(3), 417-453.
U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2001). Students whose parents did not go to college: Postsecondary access, persistence, and attainment (NCES 2001–126). Retrieved from http://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED460660
Walpole, M. (2003). Socioeconomic status and college: How SES affects college experiences and outcomes. The review of higher education, 27(1), 45-73.
Ziol-Guest, K. M., Duncan, G. J., & Kalil, A. (2015). One-parent students leave school earlier: Educational attainment goal widens. Education Next, 15(2). Retrieved from http://educationnext.org/one-parent-students-leave-school-earlier/