Scholarly Culture and Academic Performance in 43 Nations

Jonathan Kelley, University of Melbourne and Brown University
Mariah Evans, University of Nevada, Reno
Joanna Sikora, Australian National University

Children growing up in cultured homes with many books perform much better in school than children from bookless homes. Data are from the OECD's PISA project with representative national samples in 43 nations with over 200,000 cases. We analyze the combined reading scale, highly correlated with science and mathematics achievement; it has a standard deviation of 100. Multi-level regression controlling reliable multiple-item measures of parents' education, occupational status, wealth, and cultural aspirations shows that a child from a family having 500 books would score 112 points higher than his or her peer from an otherwise similar home containing only one book. The standardized effect is .26, larger than parents' occupation (.17), wealth (.13), or education (.07). Books are significant in every country separately (at p<.01), with a gain of over 100 points in 21 countries and over 50 in all but 3.

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Presented in Session 21: Youth Educational Inequality