Absence from school, especially frequent or prolonged absence, is acknowledged as a potential factor in school dropout and suboptimal academic achievement. The issue of absence from school took on added significance in 2020 with the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, which resulted in schooling interruptions in several jurisdictions. However, there is little agreement in the literature on the exact relationship between absence and school outcomes as a function of socioeconomic status (SES). Using nationally representative pre-COVID longitudinal data of young Australians aged 12–13 and 14–15, this paper examines the relationship between absence from school on the one hand and school belonging and academic achievement (numeracy and reading test scores) on the other. The paper also examines whether SES intersects this relationship. Controlling for gender, prior educational achievement, computer access, and time spent doing homework, the study finds that absence impacts belonging, but that SES does not significantly influence this relationship. The effect of absence on reading is not significant either. However, absence is associated with numeracy outcomes, with the strongest associations among low SES young people at age 14. Policy implications of these findings are discussed.
- Survey data