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Exploring the factors associated with youths' educational outcomes: the role of locus of control and parental socio-economic background

16 Jan 2009
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Using unique information for a cohort of Australian youth, this paper explores the association between youths' perception of control (i.e. locus of control) and three educational outcomes: (i) Year 12 completion, (ii) whether youth obtained an Equivalent National Tertiary Entrance Rank (ENTER) score, and (iii) the actual ENTER score. By using a measure of socio-economic status based on 12 years of parental income support histories, the paper also investigates the association between growing up in a socio-economically disadvantaged household and subsequent educational outcomes. Additionally, the paper considers the hypothesis that disadvantage has an indirect effect on youths’ educational outcomes through its effect on locus of control. The results suggest that youths with a more internal locus of control (e.g. those who believe their actions determine their future outcomes) are more likely to complete Year 12, more likely to obtain an ENTER score, and obtain better ENTER scores. The evidence is also consistent with a negative relationship between disadvantage when growing up and youths’ educational outcomes. Even after controlling for demographic and family characteristics, youths who grew up in socio-economically disadvantaged households are up to 10 per cent less likely to complete Year 12 and up to 20 per cent less likely to obtain an ENTER score. There is however no evidence of an indirect effect of being disadvantaged on educational outcomes through the effect of disadvantage on locus of control once other characteristics are accounted for. Although highly disadvantaged youths obtain ENTER scores that are four points lower than those of non-disadvantaged youth, locus of control shows only a small association with actual ENTER scores.

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2009
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