Are poor kids usually bad at STEM subjects?

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Arran90
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Are children from poorer families usually bad at STEM subjects compared with non-STEM subjects or is it just popular opinion that they are bad at / not expected to do well at STEM subjects?
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-Eirlys-
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(Original post by Arran90)
Are children from poorer families usually bad at STEM subjects compared with non-STEM subjects or is it just popular opinion that they are bad at / not expected to do well at STEM subjects?
I've not heard of this or seen any evidence to suggest this is true.

If a child from a poor family isn't good at STEM, that could be for a large variety of reasons - you could even get down to the nitty gritty factors of having less food and so less nutrients to produce a healthy, fully functional brain or having a lower immune system due to poor living conditions. There are rich children who do not appreciate what they have and their education, so don't work hard at STEM, especially if they know their parents will fund their lifestyle. If anything, children from poorer families will work harder to try to get out of poverty.
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mintchocchip
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I’ve been good at maths since I could count. I’m aiming for 9s in maths physics biology and chemistry and have gotten straight 9s this year and last in biology and (almost) chemistry. We’re struggling and can only just about get dinner.
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artful_lounger
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As above, generally middle class to working class students tend to self select into STEM fields more than others; additionally, STEM fields tend to have higher proportions of 1sts than "arts" areas i.e. humanities and social sciences (at least at "top" universities offering courses in both areas).

While there is a great deal more nuance to the issue than presented above, that suffices to disprove your suggestion on face value...
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marupe
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Does anyone have actual statistics to present here
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Arran90
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(Original post by marupe)
Does anyone have actual statistics to present here
If reliable statistics existed then I would not have needed to raise the original question.

It relates to school age children rather than university.

The question specifically relates to children from poorer families but most published articles refer to children from deprived backgrounds. Deprivation and poverty are not synonymous with each other as deprivation is a function of many variables in addition to raw financial circumstances to the point where deprivation is actually nebulous.

Also do not conflate poor with working class because there is a cultural dimension to working class (like hobbies and preferred TV programmes) as well as financial circumstances.

Something I am aware of is that many secondary schools in poorer and economically depressed areas had a passion for channelling students towards soft subjects for GCSE like RS and food technology, and to a lesser extent art and drama, in order to boost the school's position in the league tables during the previous Labour government. This was a contributing factor towards Michael Gove's EBacc concept.
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Tolgash
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Yes, they do actually. All of my quotes are derived from this research (it does have some statistics on the matter as well): https://royalsociety.org/~/media/Roy...4294969756.pdf

For GCSE:
'At GCSE level, students from lower SES backgrounds are less likely to attain highly in science than those from higher SES backgrounds. This effect is seen in other subjects, but may be more persistent over time in science. | Nevertheless, the general link between attainment and SES as assessed by deprivation of area of residence appears to have declined between 2001/2 and 2005/6 across all subjects, but remained at the same level for science.'

For A-level:
'Since students at A-level or equivalent are generally selected on the basis of high prior attainment, by themselves and/or by their school or college, it is not surprising to find that those from low SES backgrounds are less likely to continue into science and/or mathematics at A-level than others.'
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Little Popcorns
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Yes less attention is paid to their education by their parents (not always but quite often) as they’re stressed out due to living in poverty and they don’t have the money to pay for extra support not provided by the school.
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Doones
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(Original post by Tolgarda)
Yes, they do actually. All of my quotes are derived from this research (it does have some statistics on the matter as well): https://royalsociety.org/~/media/Roy...4294969756.pdf

For GCSE:
'At GCSE level, students from lower SES backgrounds are less likely to attain highly in science than those from higher SES backgrounds. This effect is seen in other subjects, but may be more persistent over time in science. | Nevertheless, the general link between attainment and SES as assessed by deprivation of area of residence appears to have declined between 2001/2 and 2005/6 across all subjects, but remained at the same level for science.'

For A-level:
'Since students at A-level or equivalent are generally selected on the basis of high prior attainment, by themselves and/or by their school or college, it is not surprising to find that those from low SES backgrounds are less likely to continue into science and/or mathematics at A-level than others.'
But does that report say that pupils from lower SES backgrounds do relatively better in arts & humanities? That's the actual question.

In other words, of course there's a correlation between socioeconomic status and educational attainment. I don't think that report says it's "worse" for STEM than for arts & humanities...
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Tolgash
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(Original post by Doonesbury)
But does that report say that pupils from lower SES backgrounds do relatively better in arts & humanities? That's the actual question.

In other words, of course there's a correlation between socioeconomic status and educational attainment. I don't think that report says it's "worse" for STEM than for arts & humanities...
I believe it does actually. It states that 'the general link between attainment and SES as assessed by deprivation of area of residence appears to have declined between 2001/2 and 2005/6 across all subjects, but remained at the same level for science.'

I would assume 'all subjects' includes arts and humanities, in which the link between SES background and attainment is no longer as prevalent since it has declined, but as the report mentions, this link remains for science subjects.
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Doones
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(Original post by Tolgarda)
I believe it does actually. It states that 'the general link between attainment and SES as assessed by deprivation of area of residence appears to have declined between 2001/2 and 2005/6 across all subjects, but remained at the same level for science.'

I would assume 'all subjects' includes arts and humanities, in which the link between SES background and attainment is no longer as prevalent since it has declined, but as the report mentions, this link remains for science subjects.
It also says: "Conclusive interpretation of data on SES is compromised by incomplete datasets, inconsistent definitions of variables and inadequate rigour in much reporting of analysis."

It's all a bit woolly really..
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Tolgash
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(Original post by Doonesbury)
It also says: "Conclusive interpretation of data on SES is compromised by incomplete datasets, inconsistent definitions of variables and inadequate rigour in much reporting of analysis."

It's all a bit woolly really..
Valid. However, it's the best I could really find on the topic of the original post. I'm actually quite surprised about the lack of concrete research on attainment in STEM regarding SES backgrounds, it's all really about gender.
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Doones
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(Original post by Tolgarda)
Valid. However, it's the best I could really find on the topic of the original post. I'm actually quite surprised about the lack of concrete research on attainment in STEM regarding SES backgrounds, it's all really about gender.
Yep, probably because SES is acknowledged to have an impact on general educational attainment. Perhaps no-one is that worried about it affecting STEM rather than Humanities (assuming it does, which appears unproven). Whereas people *are* concerned by the lack of females doing courses like engineering, largely because girls don't study A-level Physics.

As mentioned by the others, STEM courses at university tend to be relatively more popular than humanities with those from lower SES backgrounds.
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Tolgash
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(Original post by Doonesbury)
Yep, probably because SES is acknowledged to have an impact on general educational attainment. Perhaps no-one is that worried about it affecting STEM rather than Humanities. Whereas people are concerned by the lack of females doing engineering, because they don't do A-level Physics.

As mentioned by the others, STEM courses at university tend to be relatively more popular than humanities with those from lower SES backgrounds.
I see, thanks for that. I was ignorant of this.
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random_matt
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It's obvious that children who suffer material and maternal deprivation are far less likely to achieve in contrast to those who do not, regardless of subject.
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bestbarbar
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I would actually argue the exact opposite, that kids from poorer backgrounds can be even more likely to study STEM subjects than not.

Firstly, from experience during my undergrad, I had very few people doing maths with me from independent schools (I did maths). In fact they saw it as a trophy, that they did a hard degree from scratch and not been ‘taught’ to do it.

I think lots of people from less privileged backgrounds might choose stem cause they know there’s money at the end of it, or cause they found it ‘easier’ subjects than others, so laziness prevailed or they accidentally fell into it because it’s what they liked. Plus if ‘genius’ is identified in state schools, you could argue they’ll be encouraged to do stem more than others, particularly maths and medics.

Secondly, while this is a very select view, it’s worth taking a look at Oxfords split between state and independent schools for each subject (page 17)
https://www.ox.ac.uk/sites/files/oxf...s%20Report.pdf

In fact it’s stem subjects which tend to do slightly better for state. I think it’s because when you’re at school from a more privileged background, pressure is put on to go to uni, but not ‘which’ Subject, so independent school kids will do what they either did average at or enjoy, like English, classics, geography. I think this is a ‘freedom’ element if privilidged, which is no matter what you do you’ll end up on your feet (don’t know what it is to struggle in the rat race of life/mum and daddy will always help) so just do what you enjoy. Those less privileged are powered by money, security and what they find easy.

Although at the other end of the spectrum, you’ll have poorer kids considering uni to be an achievement in general, and not care about the course, where they consider tourism at ‘steak-house technical college’ to be just as good as a top 10 Russel group for comp scI.

Summary: I think it depends.
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Doones
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(Original post by bestbarbar)
I would actually argue the exact opposite, that kids from poorer backgrounds can be even more likely to study STEM subjects than not.

Firstly, from experience during my undergrad, I had very few people doing maths with me from independent schools (I did maths). In fact they saw it as a trophy, that they did a hard degree from scratch and not been ‘taught’ to do it.

I think lots of people from less privileged backgrounds might choose stem cause they know there’s money at the end of it, or cause they found it ‘easier’ subjects than others, so laziness prevailed or they accidentally fell into it because it’s what they liked. Plus if ‘genius’ is identified in state schools, you could argue they’ll be encouraged to do stem more than others, particularly maths and medics.

Secondly, while this is a very select view, it’s worth taking a look at Oxfords split between state and independent schools for each subject (page 17)
https://www.ox.ac.uk/sites/files/oxf...s%20Report.pdf

In fact it’s stem subjects which tend to do slightly better for state. I think it’s because when you’re at school from a more privileged background, pressure is put on to go to uni, but not ‘which’ Subject, so independent school kids will do what they either did average at or enjoy, like English, classics, geography. I think this is a ‘freedom’ element if privilidged, which is no matter what you do you’ll end up on your feet (don’t know what it is to struggle in the rat race of life/mum and daddy will always help) so just do what you enjoy. Those less privileged are powered by money, security and what they find easy.

Although at the other end of the spectrum, you’ll have poorer kids considering uni to be an achievement in general, and not care about the course, where they consider tourism at ‘steak-house technical college’ to be just as good as a top 10 Russel group for comp scI.

Summary: I think it depends.
Indeed, according to that Oxford analysis CompSci has the highest share of Acorn 4&5 (ie the most socially disadvantaged) of any course at Oxford, while Classics has the lowest.

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morc13
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(Original post by Arran90)
Are children from poorer families usually bad at STEM subjects compared with non-STEM subjects or is it just popular opinion that they are bad at / not expected to do well at STEM subjects?
Dunno if it's even a popular opinion. However these are subjects that require a lot of expertise to teach well so if you don't have good teachers it's hard to do well in the exams.
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Arran90
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It's all a complicated situation and potentially a function of several variables - although the establishment may try to simplify things (for themselves) by looking only at one variable at a time.

Does gender and ethnicity play a large part? For example, are kids from poor families in certain ethnic groups more strongly encouraged to excel in STEM subjects (or actually excel in STEM subjects) over kids from other ethnic groups or white indigenous British kids are? Are girls from poor families in certain ethnic groups discouraged from excelling in STEM or families actually believe that girls should be bad at STEM subjects because they are deemed masculine? Are kids from poor families where English isn't their first language generally better at STEM subjects than humanities because of issues relating to language barrier? Is the reverse true for kids from poor families where English is the first or only language? Do certain identifiable groups have strengths and / or weaknesses in particular STEM subjects?
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Unknown-99
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I don't know exact statistics but just from my opinion it seems to me like it's the opposite way round. Poorer students work hard and go for the high paying degrees/jobs which are connected with STEM so that they can have a better life but the students who come from a better background tend to choose a broader range of courses or "more enjoyable" courses because they don't necessarily need to make so much money themselves as they have their family who can get them good jobs or work in the family business etc.
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