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.
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.
Markus Klein, Edward Sosu and Shadrach Dare. The intersection of socioeconomic status and pupil absenteeism in academic achievement: Is there a cumulative risk? Under review.
Markus Klein and Edward Sosu. Is school absenteeism associated with students’ post-school destinations? Evidence from the Scottish Longitudinal Study. In preparation for submission.
Markus Klein, Edward Sosu and Esme Lillywhite. Systematic review of the effect of interventions on school absences. Research underway.