Does a Student's Social Class Affect Their Success?

Even with an excellent teacher, not all children have an equal chance at success.
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In an ideal world, all students would have an equal shot at success, and excellent schools and educators would have dedicated themselves to this goal. However, social class can greatly affect a student's success, and there is a correlation between low socioeconomic status and academic problems. These academic problems can lead to difficulties later on, including unemployment, dropping out of school and working at a low-wage job.

1 Parental Achievement

A child's first role models are usually her parents, and children take cues from the adults they live with about potential goals, keys for success and opportunities that might be open to them. According to the textbook "Child Psychology" by Robin Harwood and colleagues, children whose parents completed high school or graduated from college are more likely to do so themselves. Children with a relatively high social class tend to have parents who have achieved these milestones, while children in lower social classes are less likely to have parents who model these achievements.

2 Class and Environment

A higher social class correlates with access to resources such as tutors, private lessons, private schools and higher quality public schools. Conversely, children in lower socioeconomic classes may live in impoverished, stressful environments with fewer resources. A 2012 article in the journal "Youth and Society" emphasizes the ways in which decreased access to such programs can diminish academic achievement, decreasing opportunities for future success.

3 Correlations With Class

Low social class is correlated with other factors that can decrease a child's likelihood of success. For example, "Child Psychology" reports that children of lower social classes are more likely to be abused and neglected, more likely to be exposed to substance abuse and more likely to move frequently. The stress of these factors can interfere with a student's ability to do well academically, diminishing possibilities for future success. A 2012 article in the "American Journal of Community Psychology" found that children in lower social classes have higher rates of mental illness and criminal behavior.

4 Bridging the Gap

A child's social class doesn't predetermine her life, and children from poor backgrounds often succeed while children from wealthy backgrounds sometimes fail. The 2012 article in "Youth and Society" emphasized that access to community activities such as sports teams or after-school programs can decrease the risks associated with living in an impoverished area. Similarly, "Child Psychology" points out that stabilizing a child's environment — such as teaching a parent parenting skills, removing an abusive caregiver or ensuring adequate nutrition — can lower the risks associated with low socioeconomic class.

Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.