Scottish Longitudinal Study
Development & Support Unit

Current Projects

Project Title:

Social Inequalities in Educational Attainment: An Investigation into the Mediating Role of School Absenteeism

Project Number:



Dr Markus Klein (University of Strathclyde)
Dr Edward Sosu (University of Strathclyde)

Start Date:

1st July 2018


The proposed study aims to investigate whether differences in school attendance can explain social inequalities in educational attainment and post-school destinations among pupils in Scotland. Due to differences in health-related behaviour, residential and school mobility, family structure, environment, and parental employment characteristics, children from lower socio-economic backgrounds may be more frequently absent from school than children from higher socio-economic backgrounds. In turn, missing out on important parts of the curriculum due to lower attendance, may result in lower performance in school exams and may decrease the likelihood of continuing school after compulsory schooling and opting for higher education. In addition we will investigate whether school absenteeism is more detrimental to pupils from lower socio-economic backgrounds than to pupils from higher socio-economic backgrounds as their parents lack the resources to compensate for missing out on school lessons. Our specific aims are as follows:

1) To contribute to the understanding of the mediating role of school absenteeism in social inequalities in educational attainment and post-school destinations in Scotland;

2) To evaluate a combination of theoretically informed hypotheses and exploratory analyses on the mechanism of school absenteeism on social inequalities in educational attainment and post-school destinations, and whether the effect of school absenteeism on these outcomes is moderated by family background;

3) To advance the use of more sophisticated statistical techniques within the field of education (e.g. causal mediation analysis, inverse probability weighting);

4) To contribute to policy recommendations on the interplay between family background, school absenteeism, educational attainment and post-school destinations.


Attwood, Gaynor, and Paul Croll. 2006. "Truancy in Secondary School Pupils: Prevalence, Trajectories and Pupil Perspectives." Research Papers in Education 21(4):467-84.

Brown, Jocelyn, Patricia Cohen, Jeffrey G. Johnson, and Suzanne Salzinger. 1998. "A Longitudinal Analysis of Risk Factors for Child Maltreatment: Findings of a 17-year Prospective Study of Officially Recorded and Self-reported Child Abuse and Neglect." Child Abuse & Neglect 22(11):1065-78.

Burkam, David T., Valerie Lee, E., and Julie Dwyer. 2009. "School Mobility in the Early Elementary Grades: Frequency and Impact from Nationally-Representative Data." Paper presented at the Workshop on the Impact of Mobility and Change on the Lives of Young Children, Schools, and Neighborhoods, Washington, DC.

Case, Anne, Darren Lubotsky, and Christina Paxson. 2002. "Economic Status and Health in Childhood: The Origins of the Gradient." American Economic Review 92:1308-34.

Currie, Janet. 2005. "Health Disparities and Gaps in School Readiness." Future of Children 15:117-38.

Currie, Janet, Eric Hanushek, Megan E. Kahn, and Steven Rivkin. 2009. "Does Pollution Increase School Absences?" The Review of Economics and Statistics 91(4):682-94.

Eaton, Danice K., Nancy Brener, and Laura K. Kann. 2008. "Associations of Health Risk Behaviors with School Absenteeism: Does Having Permission for the Absence Make a Difference?" The Journal of School Health 78:223-29.

Evans, Gary W. 2004. "The Environment of Childhood Poverty." American Psychologist 59:77-92.

Evans, Gary W., and Pilyoung Kim. 2007. "Childhood Poverty and Health: Cumulative Risk Exposure and Stress Dysregulation." Psychological Science 18:953-57.

Gilliland, Frank D., Kiros Berhane, Edward B. Rappaport, C. Duncan Thomas, Edward Avol, James W. Gauderman, Stephanie J. London, Helene J. Margolis, Rob McConnell, Talat K. Islam, and John M. Peters. 2001. "The Effects of Ambient Air Pollution on School Absenteeims due to Respiratory Illness." Epidemiology 12:43-54.

Han, Wen-Jui. 2005. "Maternal nonstandard work schedules and child cognitive outcomes." Child Development 76(1):137-54.

Hanushek, Eric A., John F. Kain, and Steven G. Rivkin. 2004. "Disruption Versus Tiebout Improvement: The Costs and Benefits of Switching Schools." Journal of Public Economics 88:1721-46.

Henry, Kimberly L., and David H. Huizinga. 2007. "Truancy’s effect on the onset of drug use among urban adolescents placed at risk." Journal of Adolescent Health 40(4):358.e59–58.e17.

Hirschfield, Paul J., and Joseph Gasper. 2011. "The relationship between school engagement and delinquency in late childhood and early adolescence." Journal of Youth and Adolescence 40(1):3-22.

Hughes, Dana C., and Sandy Ng. 2003. "Reducing Health Disparities Among Children." Future of Children 13:152-67.

London, Rebecca A. , Monika Sanchez, and Sebastian Castrechini. 2016. "The Dynamics of Chronic Absence and Student Achievement." Education Policy Analysis Archive 24(112):1-26.

Moonie, Sheniz A., David A. Sterling, Larry Figgs, and Mario Castro. 2006. "Asthma Status and Severity Affects Missed School Days." Journal of School Health 76:18-24.

Morrissey, Taryn W., Lindsey Hutchison, and Adam Winsler. 2014. "Family Income, School Attendance, and Academic Achievement in Elementary School." Developmental Psychology 50(3):741-53.

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