Briefing 40: Poorer children do worse in school because they are poorer

Studies show that increasing household incomes would reduce the school achievement gap between rich and poor children, regardless of school or parenting quality

The educational attainment gap between rich and poor would be reduced by raising the income of poorer families

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Explaining the data

Academics from the London School of Economics analysed over 30 different studies from across the world measuring the effects of income on children’s school achievement. They found an increase of between 5% and 27% of a standard deviation on a child’s ability to learn resulting from an increase in income of about £900. Even assuming the lower 5% improvement in cognitive ability per £900 spent, this suggests that increasing the income of Free School Meals children to the UK average (at a cost of around £6,000 per child) would halve the difference in Key Stage2 test results (aged 11) between Free School Meals children and the rest. To see the full report visit


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