Poverty and Education from International Perspectives

Please read this abstract for a Presidential Invited Session at the American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting. This presentation chaired by Ercikan and colleagues will take place tomorrow. This abstract provides important international exemplars of the permeating effects of poverty.


The Role of Research in Understanding and Addressing Poverty: An International Perspective

International Relations Committee


AERA Presidential Session


Division D – Measurement and Research Methodology

Schedule Information:

Scheduled Time: Tue Apr 30 2013, 10:20 to 11:50am  Building/Room: Hilton Union Square, Ballroom Level – Continental 7
Title Displayed in Event Calendar: The Role of Research in Understanding and Addressing Poverty: An International Perspective

Session Participants:
ChairKadriye Ercikan (The University of British Columbia)
ParticipantDavid C. Berliner (Arizona State University)
ParticipantClyde Hertzman (The University of British Columbia)
ParticipantHans Dobert (German Institute for International Educational Research)
ParticipantLaura Perry (Murdoch University)

This symposium is organized by AERA Division D International Committee to highlight how research can help understand the role of poverty on educational outcomes and how it can guide policy and practice in addressing inequities created by poverty. Participants are accomplished researchers on inequity in their respective countries, Australia, Canada, Germany and the USA, as well as internationally.

Research has shown a clear relationship between poverty and a wide range of social outcomes, which starts at birth and continues throughout childhood, adolescence, and adult life. In childhood, this relationship is evident in higher rates of behavior problems, learning disabilities and problems in cognitive development for children from lower socio-economic backgrounds (SES). The effects of poverty continue and some claim increase, as children enter school, as demonstrated by lower achievement levels, lower levels of engagement in curricular and extra-curricular school activities and lower secondary education completion rates for these children. Adolescents from low SES backgrounds are more likely to be obese and to participate in risk behaviors such as smoking, drug use, and unsafe sexual practices which can ultimately compromise their health and well-being. In adulthood, accumulated societal and educational disadvantages jeopardize their success levels for finding and maintaining employment and access to higher education. These adults are more likely to experience mental and physical health problems, and ultimately die at a younger age.

International assessments of educational outcomes such as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) have played a key role in revealing and understanding inequities in dozens of countries participating in these assessments. The association between SES and educational achievement/outcomes is referred to as the socio-economic gradient. There is evidence that even though inequities exist throughout the world, some countries have much lower socio-economic gradients compared to others indicating lower levels of inequity in these countries. These comparative perspectives on inequity led to eye-opening insights in some countries, e.g., Germany and France, with high SES gradients which prompted changes in national policies and practices in education.

The four countries that are the focus in this symposium are all rich countries and have diverse immigrant populations with large proportions of students receiving education in a language different than their mother tongues. Yet, inequities in these countries vary greatly, with Canada and Australia with relatively lower inequities compared to the USA and Germany. The international perspective that will be presented in this symposium will contribute to understanding how societal contexts and education systems contribute to or alleviate inequities. Based on extensive bodies of research on inequity, the participants will provide insights on connections between poverty and education and engage AERA members in an informative and stimulating discussion about factors and mechanisms that lead to lower achievement levels for students from lower SES backgrounds and how research results can be used to inform and affect policy and practice to reduce inequities.


What responses do you have to the information in the abstract?

What questions do you have after reading the abstract?

3 thoughts on “Poverty and Education from International Perspectives

  1. It’s quite striking just how deep and various the effects of low SES are. The effects mentioned are behavioral, cognitive, physical, health-related, social, educational, psychological–I’m sure it could be argued that SES can effect every area of life and development. Additionally, low SES has an impact on people throughout each developmental stage even into late adulthood.

    How effective are the types of policy measures that this symposium looked at in changing peoples’ SES? How effective are they at mitigating the effects associated with low SES? Ultimately, my question is, are avenues other than policy more efficient at addressing such problems, or are policy and government-level matters at the heart of it all?

  2. wow I would love to learn more about this. I’m wondering if the funding for the school systems in Canada and Australia is tied to local property taxes like it is in America. I see this as one of the leading causes of our high socio-economic gradient. This system is fundamentally unequal and fosters greater inequality.

  3. I agree with Sarah that it is quite amazing how much socio-economic level effects such various areas of life. It is less surprising though if you think about how it factors into your day-to-day life.
    I am wondering what exact policies they are going to put into place to create a change and how fast they will be in actually effecting things. I think that to really create change we would need to remove the stigma there is towards people of different socio-economic levels, as well as the unspoken assumption that socio-economic level is tied to race, but most importantly make efforts to abolish the large wealth disparities within communities, within nations, and between countries. It is definitely a first step that people are acknowledging that it is a prominent factor and can effect school performance, because far too many teachers do not take socio-economic status into account when they are working with their students. I heard recently from a school that I visited that one student was on an IEP for behavioral issues and no one could manage to get him to improve, no intervention was working and then his mom got a job and things began to change.

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