Publication Date



Paper presented to the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago.


This paper examines the influence of SES on student achievement using data from the Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth (LSAY), a national program of research on the transitions young people make from school. LSAY encompasses data from earlier Australian longitudinal studies—Youth in Transition (YIT; 1978-2002), the Australian Longitudinal Survey (ALS; 1984-1987), and the Australian Youth Surveys (AYS; 1989-1997)—and earlier studies of student achievement—Australian Studies in School Performance (1975 ASSP), the Australian Studies in Student Performance (1980 ASSP). At present, there are two active cohorts: those who were in Grade 9 in 1995 (1995 LSAY) and those who were in Grade 9 in 1998 (1998 LSAY). A new cohort will be added in 2003, based on participants in the OECD’s Programme of International Student Assessment (PISA). All of the studies included in the LSAY program begin with extensive questionnaires that collect student background information, such as parents’ occupations, home language spoken, and student’s and parents’ birthplaces, in addition to the achievement tests administered. Only 14-year-old students were included in the present analysis. It is also important to recognise other changes in the educational and social landscape during the period in question. Between 1975 and 2002, the proportion of students attending non-government schools rose from less than 21.2 percent to 31.6 per cent, and the apparent retention rate increased from 34.1 to 75.1.1 State governments expanded their provision of selective high schools, particularly New South Wales, the most populous state, and relaxed restrictions on local school zones. Immigration increased from countries where English is not the main language spoken, especially from Asian countries after 1975. The socioeconomic map of the major metropolitan areas also changed, with some suburbs becoming more exclusive because of housing affordability and others becoming less desirable.