Money Alone Can't Buy Positive Education Outcomes in China

By Liu, Shilin | Chicago Policy Review (Online), February 16, 2016 | Go to article overview

Money Alone Can't Buy Positive Education Outcomes in China


Liu, Shilin, Chicago Policy Review (Online)


For children and adolescents, academic attainment is an important tool for gaining economic advantages--more education often translates to a higher paying job and better later-life outcomes. Scholars in the education field are curious about how families impact educational attainment in a child's early years.

Broadly speaking, family resources can be categorized into monetary resources, such as parental income, and non-monetary resources, such as parental involvement. Which resources play a more significant role in children's academic performance? The answer to this question may vary depending on the social context. A recent research study by Airan Liu and Yu Xie shows that, in the Chinese context, among monetary resources that typically include a family's income, assets, and educational expenses, only parental income is associated with children's educational achievement--even after controlling for educational expenses. Conversely, all non-monetary resources, particularly parenting practices, significantly affect children's achievement regardless of family socioeconomic status. The study provides some evidence to help policymakers understand and explore effective ways to enhance students' academic achievement.

The researchers used data from the 2010 China Family Panel Study (CFPS) database, which is the only national database in China that measures adolescents' and adults' cognitive skills using standardized tests. The study examined 2,949 cases and measured the extent to which families' monetary and non-monetary resources correlate with children's vocabulary and reading scores (verbal ability), which was the researchers' chosen indicator for educational attainment.

The researchers considered three components of family monetary resources: income per capita, assets, and direct educational expenses. To illustrate non-monetary resources, the researchers used three measures: parents' academic expectations for children, level of parent involvement in a child's education, and the family environment (measured by interviewers' observations of how the environment reflects parents' interest in their child's education). By using different regression models, the study measures which resources, monetary or non-monetary, have the most significant effect on a student's verbal ability scores.

The analysis reveals several important findings: Among all monetary resource measures, which include educational expenses, only family income has a significant effect on children's verbal ability. By comparison, non-monetary factors are significantly and positively associated with children's academic achievement--especially parenting practices. …

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