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Socioeconomic Status and Education

Socioeconomic Status and Education

The relationship between education and socioeconomic status (SES) is a critical subject for scholarly research today. Researchers typically conceptualize SES as the class position or relative social standing of an individual or group. Social scientists have identified a number of variables that are correlated with SES-including:

  • Income
  • Occupation
  • Wealth
  • Power
  • Lifestyle

Still, numerous studies have shown education to be one of the most important correlates of socioeconomic status.

Education and Class

In general, higher levels of education tend to be linked to higher SES. Moreover, the two variables appear to be mutually reinforcing:

  1. People born into higher-SES families tend to receive better American educations, which in turn serves to further boost their SES.
  2. Children born into lower-SES families tend to grow up in homes where learning is poorly reinforced, to live in communities where education is devalued, and to attend schools with poor record of educational achievement in American society.

Thus, the connections between education and socioeconomic status tend to be reinforced over generations.

Indeed, Stanford University's Center for Education Policy Analysis reports that the achievement gap between American children from low-SES versus high-SES families has increased significantly in recent decades. Americans were once proud to live in a society where one's life chances were not determined by the class into which one happened to be born. Unfortunately, a growing research literature suggests that there is limited justification for such rosy presumptions today.

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