Study: Student Achievement Impacted More by Family Income Than Race

Stanford University study finds that achievement gap between students from low- and high-income families is widening faster than that of race.

Posted: 12/02/2011 11:25 PM EST
Filed Under education

The rate of academic achievement between children from high-income and low-income families is growing and has eclipsed the achievement gap between white and Black students over the past five decades.


According to a new study from Stanford University, the income achievement gap — defined as the income difference between a child from a family of the top 90 percent of the family income distribution and a child from a family of the bottom 10 percent — is now about twice as large as the Black-white achievement gap of the past. “Fifty years ago, in contrast, the black-white gap was one and a half to two times as large as the income gap,” writes author Sean F. Reardon, associate professor of education and director of the Interdisciplinary Doctoral Training Program in Quantitative Education Policy Analysis at Stanford University.


The report uncovers several other findings: first, that the income achievement gap becomes evident when children enter kindergarten and doesn’t appear to change as the children advance through school. Secondly, rising family income over the past five decades is not the dominant cause for the disparities. Rather, parents appear to be investing more into their children’s education. Particularly, families above the median income level have shown to associate family income with their children’s achievement. On the other side, the study finds that the widening income achievement gap is not related to a disparity between children with highly and less-educated parents.


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