Social Class and Its Impact on Student Performance


Social class is a significant factor among all world populations. Social class is the grouping of people according to wealth, level of education, occupational prestige, income, and sometimes an individual’s social networks. The most common classification includes the upper class, middle class, and lower where the hierarchy stratifies from the richest to the poorest. In the United States, social class impacts many activities and social interactions among the citizens. For example, social classes influence employment, education, access to health care, individual income, transportation, and housing services. Although evidence shows that the rich have more advantages than the other social classes in all aspects, educational policymakers resist accepting that social classes influence academic achievements. Instead, they argue that teachers, learning institutions, and students’ self-drive are responsible for students’ performance. This essay discusses controversial issues regarding the impact of social class on students’ performance, such as economic status, societal expectations, and individual health, which influence students’ performance among minority ethnic groups and white Americans.

Definition and History

Students’ achievement gaps refer to the disparities in academic performance between different groups such as racial, gender, or ethnic communities. Education disparities have a long history in the United States between races and minority ethnic groups. Educational systems measure academic differences by determining achievement gaps by obtaining the average score from a standard test between different races, gender, or ethnic groups. Throughout the years, white students perform better in academics than their black American and Hispanic American counterparts. Research shows that the achievement gaps between Hispanics and blacks were huge in the 1970s, which increased immensely in the 1980s through the 1900s (North et al., 2019). However, in the late 1900s, the achievement gaps came to a stall and began declining considerably in math and literacy skills. Despite the decline, North et al. (2019) note that the percentage gaps are still high at a deviation of more than 40%, which causes a big problem in the education sector.

Impact of Social Classes on Achievement Gaps

Educational policymakers argue that teachers and schools are wholly responsible for a student’s performance. However, teachers claim that students learn cognitive and social skills from school and home environments, affecting their performance. Students learn through hard work and emulating their role models from their communities (North et al., 2019). For example, children from high and middle-class white societies get insight from their parent’s achievements, professions, and expectations which drive them to work harder and achieve the same status.

According to teachers, different social classes bring up their children differently, determining their behavior, life expectations, discipline, curiosity, and communication. Children from elite communities are more curious, self-driven, and open to gaining more practical knowledge than children from low-class communities resulting in higher performance.

On the other hand, children from low-class societies whose parents live on simple jobs are more likely to grow differently regarding life expectations and professionalism. Since most black and Hispanic parents work as unprofessional employees who follow instructions without questions, their children are likely to be less curious and self-driven in life (North et al., 2019), affecting their academic performance. However much the teachers may work toward filling the achievement gap between white and black students, social upbringings determine students’ outcomes academically. Therefore, social class plays a significant role in shaping a student’s personality and way of life, reflecting on their performance.

According to educational policymakers, poverty and low income do not impact a student’s performance. A student’s hard work and willingness to learn are enough to perform academically regardless of their financial status. Although this argument holds some truth, teachers argue that income and poverty levels affect students’ outcomes. Financial incapability manifests through inadequate healthcare, poor transport services, poor nutrition, and health hazards in areas of residence, which involve a student’s health. According to teachers, students with health problems have slow cognitive development, poor concentration, and absenteeism, significantly influencing their performance. Compared to white American healthy living environments, most blacks and Hispanics live in poverty-stricken areas that are hazardous to one health (North et al., 2019). Policymakers’ argument that students’ performance depends on teachers and institutions does not consider the effects of social classes on students’ health. Inadequate healthcare and illnesses cause absenteeism and cognitive problems, resulting in slower academic progress among disadvantaged groups, leading to high achievement gaps.

In their arguments, educational policymakers claim that students from black families who earn the same income as white families should register the same academic performance. White parents invest more in their children’s schooling and academics, which influences their performance. On the other hand, teachers argue that the same incomes do not determine parents’ financial status to provide equal student performance resources. North et al. (2019) state that black parents may earn the same as white parents but have different social and financial statuses due to more responsibilities and fewer external assets. Therefore, black parents offer limited resources such as advanced coursework programs and private tutoring to their children’s education than white parents who give their all, affecting students’ performance. Moreover, limited resources hinder admission to expensive and prestigious schools. As a result, black students attend local schools that are not keen on student expectations promoting achievement gaps between social classes.


Despite the controversial arguments, social class plays a significant role in students’ performance. Social classes define the financial status of students, determining their healthcare services, transport, living arrangements, and academic resources that impact their performance. Most white learners come from high and middle-class communities. In contrast, black Americans and Hispanics come from lower-class communities resulting in white students performing better than blacks and Hispanics. Although teachers play a substantial role in students’ performance, social class influences students’ academics and performance standards.


North, E. A., Ryan, A. M., Cortina, K., & Brass, N. R. (2019). Social status and classroom behavior in math and science during early adolescence. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 48(3), 597-608, Web.

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ChalkyPapers. "Social Class and Its Impact on Student Performance." June 21, 2023.