Peer-reviewed journal articles

Dräger, J., Klein, M., & Sosu, M. (2024). The long-term consequences of early school absences for educational attainment and labour market outcomes, British Educational Research Journal, 00, 1–19. https://doi.org/10.1002/berj.3992

Abstract: School absences can negatively impact a child’s schooling, including the loss of teacher-led lessons, peer interactions, and, ultimately, academic achievement. However, little is known about the long-term consequences of school absences for overall educational attainment and labour market outcomes. In this paper, we used data from the 1970 British Cohort Study to examine long-term associations between school absences in late childhood and individuals’ educational attainment, social class, unemployment and earnings at age 42 while adjusting for a comprehensive set of confounders. Our findings show that school absences are associated with lower educational attainment but are not associated with social class destination except for increasing the likelihood of being out of the labour force after adjusting for confounders. Individuals who missed five days of school at age 10 were 5.2% more likely to have obtained no qualifications and 4.1% more likely to be out of the labour force. However, we did not find a significant association between school absences and individuals’ earnings or duration of unemployment. Our findings suggest that the detrimental consequences of school absences persist beyond schooling into adulthood. Overall, this study highlights the importance of addressing school absenteeism to promote educational and labour market participation over the life course.

Klein, M., & Sosu, M. (2024). School absences, academic achievement, and adolescents’ post-school destinations. Oxford Review of Education, DOI: 10.1080/03054985.2024.2308520

Abstract: Most research on the consequences of school absenteeism has focused on academic achievement but not post-school outcomes. Using the Scottish Longitudinal Study (n = 2,941), we investigated the link between overall absences, truancy, sickness-related absences, and upper secondary school leavers’ post-school destinations. We also examined how upper secondary school achievement explains these associations. Overall school absences during the first year of upper secondary schooling decreased the likelihood of continuing further and higher education, but increased the likelihood of being employed, or not being in education, employment, or training (NEET). Sickness absences and truancy also reduced the likelihood of pursuing further and higher education. Truancy did not significantly increase the risk of NEET, but sickness absences did. Both absence types did not significantly influence the likelihood of being employed. Academic achievement mediated 78%-100% of the link between overall absences, sickness absences or truancy and entry into further and higher education versus being employed. While achievement explained 38%–55% of the link between all absences and further and higher education versus NEET, it did not explain the link between absences and NEET versus being employed. The study emphasises the necessity of reducing both unexcused and excused school absences and mitigating their effects.

Klein, M., & Sosu, M. (2024). School attendance and academic achievement: Understanding variation across family socioeconomic status. Sociology of Education, 91(1), 58-75

Abstract: Studies consistently show detrimental effects of school absences on pupils’ achievement. However, due to an accumulation of multiple risks, school absenteeism may be more harmful to achievement among pupils from lower socioeconomic status (SES). Using a sample of upper secondary students from the Scottish Longitudinal Study (n = 3,135), we investigated whether the association between absences (overall, sickness, and truancy) and achievement in high-stakes exams varied by family SES dimensions (parental education, class, free school meal registration, and housing). When considering overall absences and truancy, results show no statistically significant differences across SES groups. However, sickness absences were more harmful to lower than higher SES students’ achievement. Differences between the most and least disadvantaged groups were found on all SES dimensions except for parental education.

Klein, M., Sosu, E. M., & Dare, S. (2022). School Absenteeism and Academic Achievement: Does the Reason for Absence Matter? AERA Open, 8, 23328584211071115.

Abstract: Studies consistently show associations between school absences and academic achievement. However, questions remain about whether this link depends on the reason for children’s absence. Using a sample of the Scottish Longitudinal Study (n = 4,419), we investigated whether the association between school absenteeism and achievement in high-stakes exams at the end of compulsory and postcompulsory schooling varies with the reason for absence. In line with previous research, our findings show that overall absences are negatively associated with academic achievement at both school stages. Likewise, all forms of absences (truancy, sickness absence, exceptional domestic circumstances, and family holidays) are negatively associated with achievement at the end of compulsory and postcompulsory schooling. First difference regressions confirm these negative associations, except for family holidays. These findings suggest that, in addition to lost instruction, other mechanisms such as behavioral, health-related, and psychosocial pathways may account for the association between absenteeism and achievement. The findings have implications for designing tailored absenteeism interventions to improve pupils’ academic achievement.

Sosu, E. M., Dare, S., Goodfellow, C., & Klein, M. (2021). Socioeconomic status and school absenteeism: A systematic review and narrative synthesis. Review of Education, 9(3), e3291.

Abstract: School absenteeism is detrimental to life course outcomes and is known to be socioeconomically stratified. However, the link between socioeconomic status (SES) and school absence is complex given the multidimensional nature of both family SES (e.g., income, education, occupational status) and absenteeism (e.g., truancy, sickness, suspension). Despite the vast literature on socioeconomic inequalities in school attendance, no systematic review on SES and school absenteeism exists. This study systematically reviewed and provides a narrative synthesis of journal articles (n = 55) published between 1998 to 2019 on the association between SES dimensions and forms of absenteeism. The majority of studies from high-income contexts found an association between SES and absenteeism in the expected direction, albeit on average with small effect sizes. Studies largely confirmed these findings among populations at risk of school absence and those from low- and middle-income countries. There was greater evidence for an association between absenteeism and SES measured at the family than the school level. Studies using SES measures of financial resources (e.g., free or reduced-price lunch) provided more evidence for this association than studies measuring sociocultural resources (e.g., parental education). There is limited evidence that socioeconomic achievement gaps in absenteeism vary by the reasons for absence. Research on the mediating pathways between SES and absenteeism is sparse. A key implication is that attempts to address inequalities in educational outcomes must include tackling SES gaps in school attendance.

Klein, M., Sosu, E. M., & Dare, S. (2020). Mapping inequalities in school attendance: The relationship between dimensions of socioeconomic status and forms of school absence. Children and Youth Services Review, 118, 105432.

Abstract: In this article, we investigated whether and to what extent various dimensions of socioeconomic background (parental education, parental class, free school meal registration, housing status, and neighbourhood deprivation) predict overall school absences and different reasons for absenteeism (truancy, sickness, family holidays and temporary exclusion) among 4,620 secondary school pupils in Scotland. Students were drawn from a sample of the Scottish Longitudinal Study comprising linked Census data and administrative school records. Using fractional logit models and logistic regressions, we found that all dimensions of socioeconomic background were uniquely linked to overall absences. Multiple measures of socioeconomic background were also associated with truancy, sickness-related absence, and temporary exclusion. Social housing and parental education had the most pervasive associations with school absences across all forms of absenteeism. Our findings highlight the need to consider the multidimensionality of socioeconomic background in policy and research decisions on school absenteeism. A more explicit focus on narrowing the socioeconomic gap in absenteeism is required to close the inequality gap in educational and post-school outcomes.

Work in progress

Jascha Dräger, Markus Klein, Edward Sosu. School absences trajectories and their consequences for educational achievement. Under review. A preprint can be accessed here.

Jascha Dräger, Markus Klein, Edward Sosu. Does the impact of pupil absences depend on their timing?. In progress.

Jascha Dräger, Markus Klein, Edward Sosu. The psychosocial pathways betweeen school absenteeism and academic achievement. In progress.

Jascha Dräger, Markus Klein, Edward Sosu. Socioeconomic status, school absences, and academic achievement - A causal mediation analysis. In progress.

Markus Klein, Edward Sosu, Kenvil Souza, and Samara Marta. A systematic review of interventions to reduce school absences. In progress.