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Trends in the Academic Achievement Gap Between High and Low Social Class Children: The Case of Brazil

Martin Carnoy, Leonardo Rosa, and Alexandre Simões
Year of Publication: 

In every country of the world for which we have test scores, students from lower social class families average lower academic achievement in school than students with higher social class background (for example, OECD PISA, 2016). The reasons for the relationship between social class and achievement are complex, and the magnitude of the achievement gap between rich and poor appears to depend on several factors, including the degree of social inequality and social segregation in the society, how social class is measured, whether mediating variables such as race and location (rural/urban, for example), are accounted for in estimating the relationship, the level of schooling in which achievement is measured, and how schooling resources are distributed among students from different groups (for a review of this literature, see Sirin, 2005; Rothstein, 2005). Despite these complexities, there is considerable evidence that much of the achievement gap between higher and lower social class children is in place before children enter formal schooling (Jencks and Phillips, 1998; Rothstein, 2005), and that, at least in developed countries, differences in school resources may not contribute much to increasing or decreasing social class achievement gaps (Rothstein, 2005; Alexander et al. , 2007 ).

Educational Policy