Family income and educational attainment: a review of approaches and evidence for Britain
It is widely recognised that, on average, children from poorer backgrounds have worse educational outcomes than their better off peers. There is less evidence on how this relationship has changed over time and, indeed, what exactly leads to these inequalities. In this paper we demonstrate that the correlation between family background (as measured by family income) and educational attainment has been rising between children born in the late 1950s and those born two decades later. The remainder of the paper is spent considering the extent to which these associations are due to the causal effects of income rather than the result of other dimensions of family background. We review the approaches taken to answering this question, drawing mainly in the US literature, and then present our own evidence from the UK, discussing the plausible range for the true impact of income on education. Our results indicate that income has a causal relationship with educational attainment.
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