Structural Impacts on Individual Outcomes: How National Characteristics Influence Student Learning
Sociology and Latin American Studies Tulane University New Orleans, LA, USA
This work attempts to quantify the extent to which societal and social environmental factors associated with schools and families influence the learning process. A sample of 155,457 students in 6029 schools in 29 countries from the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) data is examined to determine how much variation in the reading literacy of students is associated with factors at the student, school, and country level. This paper first focuses on variation in and of itself by considering both the differences in reading literacy across countries and the variation of ability within countries. In addition, it explores the nature of this variation by testing the hypothesis that the influence of socioeconomic status on student learning varies systematically on a cross-national basis; this is achieved by comparing the strength of the influence of two measures of socioeconomic status ? family social status and parental education ? on reading ability. Findings of a strong effect of socioeconomic status on student outcomes establish the existence and illustrate the importance of variation in these slopes as indicators of the varying influence of socioeconomic status on outcomes cross-nationally. In addition, they confirm that the distribution of opportunities to learn varies across nations for students.