Explaining Economically Distressed Children’s Educational and Career Choices: The Role of Financial Resources, Motivation, and School Characteristics
Methods: The first study uses data from the Educational Longitudinal Study (ELS:2002/2006), which is divided into Low-to-moderate income (LMI) sample (N = 3,289; weighted 737,068) and moderate-to-high income MHI (N = 4,744; weighted 976,792). Simple logistic regression is used to test whether effort and ability are deciding factors for student success in school. The second study uses data from Ghana YouthSave baseline (n= 6,252) to test whether individual or school factors influence student’s math and english examination scores using hierachichal linear modeling. The third study tests the prediction that people are more likely to pursue their goals when relative uncertainty about the world and relative certainty about one’s own abilities are simultaneously accessible compared to other possible self-world certainty-uncertainty pairings. Participants were college students randomly assigned to condition (n = 102, n = 247, n = 84).
Results: 46% of college-bound LMI students fail to enroll in a four-year college after graduating high school compared to 26% of middle- to high-income (MHI) college-bound students. This is a gap of 20%. The average Math and English scores were 22.53 (9.65) and 23.04 (9.88), respectively. Thirty-seven percent of the variation in math and 32% of the variation in english scores are between schools. Compared to participants in the self-uncertainty condition, participants in the context-uncertainty condition generated more school-focused expected and feared possible selves (control condition participants were midway between the two uncertainty conditions.
Conclusions: Education is a means to economic mobility. However, in the current economy, it is hardly surprising that the world often feels uncertain, unstable, unpredictable, and even unfair. Despite this uncertainty, people often do not give up on pursuing important future goals. Policies that encourage and facilitate college savings may help students think about college as within reach.