Effort and dynamics of educational inequality: Evidence from a laboratory study among primary school children
May 20, 2022, 10:00 h
Eﬀort is often seen as one of the main pillars of academic achievement. In this paper, our aim is to study the impact of students’ eﬀort on school-ing and educational inequalities. Using an inno-vative research design, eﬀort is captured through two measures: students’ own cognitive eﬀort and teacher-perceived eﬀort. Following the literature, we expect that both measures will be positively associated with school grades. Moreover, we in-vestigate two potential mechanisms that might contribute to the reproduction of inequalities through eﬀort, derived from Compensatory Ad-vantage theory and Cultural Reproduction the-ory, respectively.
Data stems from a lab experiment carried out with 380 5th grade students from primary schools in the metropolitan area of Madrid, Spain, during the school year 2019/2020. Students carried out three real-eﬀort tasks adopted from economics and psychology (i.e. the Simon, AX and Slider tasks). We estimate a hierarchical two-level linear probability model with random inter-cept and random eﬀort slope to account for the heterogeneity between school classes.
Results show that both measures of eﬀort are positively and signiﬁcantly associated with higher grades in math and Spanish. Notably, the eﬀect size is larger for teacher-perceived eﬀort than for student eﬀort measured in the lab. Fur-thermore, our ﬁndings reveal diﬀerential beneﬁts of (perceived) eﬀort by social background. While much is known about how structural circum-stances shape individual achievement, the study contributes novel insights into the processes via which eﬀort translates into educational out-comes.