Socioeconomic Status During Childhood and Academic Achievement in Secondary School

Anita van Zwieten, Armando Teixeira-Pinto, Suncica Lah, Natasha Nassar, Jonathan C. Craig, Germaine Wong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Secondary education has lifelong implications for well-being. We evaluated associations between the timing and duration of low socioeconomic status (SES) during childhood and academic achievement in secondary school. Methods: Cohort design. The structured modeling approach was used to evaluate life-course models for associations between the duration and timing of low SES (across ages 4–5, 6–7, 8–9, 10–11 years) and Grade 7 (median age 12.5 years) reading and numeracy achievement. Linear regressions were fitted for 4 critical period models (each including low SES at 1 age), 1 sensitive period model (including low SES at all ages), and 2 strict accumulation models (including low SES duration in linear/categorical form). Results: Of 3734 children, 1718 (46.1%), 1749 (48.6%), 1797 (49.3%), and 1779 (49.8%) experienced low SES at 4 to 5, 6 to 7, 8 to 9, and 10 to 11 years, respectively. For reading, the sensitive period model fitted best. Reading z-score coefficients for low SES (reference: high SES) at 4 to 5, 6 to 7, 8 to 9, and 10 to 11 years were: −0.20, −0.18, −0.02, and −0.22. For numeracy, the categorical strict accumulation model, with SES-by-sex interaction, fitted best. Numeracy z-score coefficients for 1, 2, 3, and 4 periods of low SES (reference: 0 periods) were: −0.38, −0.42, −0.54, and −0.77 for boys, and −0.23, −0.34, −0.42, and −0.54 for girls. Conclusions: Low SES at all ages studied except 8 to 9 years has cumulative associations with poorer Grade 7 reading. Longer duration of low SES from 4 to 11 years is associated with poorer Grade 7 numeracy, with stronger associations for boys than girls. Academic interventions should be targeted toward children with persistently low SES.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
JournalAcademic Pediatrics
Early online date27 Oct 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27 Oct 2020


  • adolescence
  • educational outcomes
  • numeracy
  • reading
  • socioeconomic disadvantage

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