The Australian Educational Researcher

, Volume 44, Issue 2, pp 191–211 | Cite as

Is SES really that important for educational outcomes in Australia? A review and some recent evidence

  • Gary N. MarksEmail author


This paper demonstrates that the emphasis on students’ socioeconomic status (SES) in research and policy circles in Australia is unwarranted. The bivariate relationships between SES and educational outcomes are only moderate and the effects of SES are quite small when taking into account cognitive ability or prior achievement. These two influences have much stronger relationships with students’ outcomes than SES and their effects cannot be attributed to the influence of SES at earlier points of time. The theoretical explanations for socioeconomic inequalities in education (e.g. schools and cultural factors) are problematic and are not supported by empirical work. The much weaker than assumed effects of SES has implications for research and policy.


SES Family income Student achievement Educational outcomes 


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© The Australian Association for Research in Education, Inc. 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Government, Policy and Strategy, The Vice-ChancelleryAustralian Catholic UniversityEast MelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.FitzroyAustralia

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