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The Mediating Role of Academic Achievement in the Socioeconomic Dropout Gap: Evidence from São Paulo, Brazil

Marotta, L
Year of Publication: 

Executive summary

In this document I summarize the results of exploratory data analysis about socioeconomic inequalities in high school dropout. I describe the gap in dropout rates between lower and higher income students enrolled in state high schools from São Paulo. I also investigate the role of academic performance in explaining this dropout gap. The key findings of this analysis are:

  • For students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, the odds of dropping out of high school are 1.76 times larger than the odds for higher income students.
  • The performance of students in classroom exams declines gradually for a few years prior to the actual dropout. This gradual academic disengagement is similar between dropout students from lower and higher social backgrounds.
  • In relative terms, dropout students tend to have lower academic performance than non-dropout students. In absolute term, the academic achievement of dropout students is not necessarily low: most dropout students—about 67 percent—score above the Basic achievement level in the São Paulo standardized test.
  • For students who scored below the Basic achievement level, the odds of dropping out of high school were 2.22 times larger than for students performing above the Basic achievement level. The odds ratio is larger for high income students (2.32) than for low income students (1.88).

Only 18 percent of the relationship between social background and dropout seems to be associated with primary effects—that is, unequal performance among students with differing social origins