Parents’ socioeconomic status linked to young people’s study success

4 Oct 2019

According to a recent study, social inequality has increased at an alarming speed in Finland during the last two decades. In their Academy-funded research, Professor Katariina Salmela-Aro from the University of Helsinki and Professor Anna Katyn Chmielewski from the university of Toronto studied how the parents’ socioeconomic status affects the study success of children and young people. The findings indicate that there is a clearly growing divide between the study success of young people with different social backgrounds in Finland. The high socioeconomic status of their parents promotes the students’ achievement, whereas lower socioeconomic status reduces the prospects of success in school.

According to Salmela-Aro, the results show two clearly discernible trends. The first trend shows a continuous decrease in the importance of parents’ socioeconomic status for the study success of young people who started school during 1957–2000. It seems that among other factors, the basic education reform of the 1970s diminished the importance of parents’ socioeconomic status. A contrary trend can be seen in young people who started school after the year 2000.

”This growing trend shows how year by year the parents’ socioeconomic status becomes increasingly important to the study success of young people. The same results can be observed if the parents’ socioeconomic status is measured based on their education or profession,” says Salmela-Aro.

The research covers a wide dataset of results from 18 international studies measuring key competences: FIMS (1960), SIMS (1980), FISS (1970), SISS (1984), FIRCS (1970), RLS (1991), TIMSS (1999, 2011 and 2015), PIRLS (2011) and PISA (2000–2015).

The research article will be published in the volume Socioeconomic inequality and student outcomes – Cross-national trends, policies and practises. The publishing event will be organised at the European Commission on 14 October 2019. The Commission has emphasised that the Finnish results are highly interesting.

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