Social Psychology of Education

, Volume 2, Issue 1, pp 7–23

Social Background and Achievement in Public and Catholic High Schools

  • Thomas B. Hoffer

DOI: 10.1023/A:1009684000915

Cite this article as:
Hoffer, T.B. Social Psychology of Education (1997) 2: 7. doi:10.1023/A:1009684000915


One of the more provocative findings from the 1980 – 1982 High School and Beyond comparisons of public and Catholic high school students was the apparent lower effects of social class and race on achievement test scores in Catholic schools. A number of changes in American society and public education since that time suggest that relationships may have changed either in the direction of greater or lesser Catholic school benefits for less-advantaged youth. The analyses presented here represent an update of the High School and Beyond public-Catholic comparisons using the 1988 – 1992 National Education Longitudinal Study (NELS:88). As in the early 1980s, results indicate that Catholic high schools in the early 1990s had positive effects on student achievement test score gains. Without adjusting for other public-Catholic background differences, Catholic school minority and lower-SES students finished high school with higher average test scores than their public school counterparts. When adjustments for the effects of prior achievement and other background variables are made, however, differential benefits of Catholic schools for minority and lower-SES students are not found. Instead, Catholic schools appear to confer roughly equal benefits to students from more- and less-advantaged social backgrounds.

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas B. Hoffer
    • 1
  1. 1.NORC at the University of ChicagoUSA

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