August 7, 2016

A growth mindset tempers the adverse effects of poverty on academic achievement

Socioeconomic background is an important predictor of academic performance. The extent to which this is so varies by country but generally the following is true: people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds tend to perform less well in school than those from higher socioeconomic backgrounds. This is due to, among other things, the following factors: the lower the socioeconomic background of a people is, the more likely it is that they will face certain extra obstacles such as reduced access to educational resources, higher levels of stress, poorer nutrition, and reduced access to healthcare.

Research: protective effect of a growth mindset 

Claro et al. (2016) investigated the effects of socioeconomic factors in relation to the mindset of students (read here what mindset is). To this purpose, they analyzed data of all high school students in Chile. A first finding was that the effect of socioeconomic background was roughly an equally strong predictor of academic achievement as mindset. Both factors were strong predictors of school performance. A second finding was that students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds have a lower chance of having a growth mindset (see the figure below).

But students from lower classes who did have a growth mindset, were to a large extent protected from the adverse effects of their low socioeconomic background. Growth Mindset students from the lowest 10% of the population (income-wise), ranked as well as fixed mindset students from the 80% income percentile.


Teaching a growth mindset is a good idea in general. But it seems to be particularly important for students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. Because by helping these students develop a growth mindset, we can help them overcome the additional barriers they face. This is not only important for these individuals but also for society as a whole because it may create more socioeconomic equality which makes societies more stable. 

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