Drawing links between economic status and education outcomes from ASER 2019

By M. Afzan Munir

Economic well-being affects a child’s education achievement in multiple ways. Studies have shown that a family’s socioeconomic status positively contributes not only towards a child’s educational attainment, but towards their academic performance as well.  ASER Pakistan 2019 survey has further explored this relationship in rural areas across Pakistan, collecting information on multiple education and household indicators. Using this data, an assets-based wealth index was generated using a Principal Component Analysis method to then break down the data  into four categories of socio economic status – or quartiles.

Image: Mohammad Abu Bakar
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Figure 1: Learning Levels (Highest Competency) by Wealth Status (ASER 2019)

This figure on the left shows that children in Pakistan from the richest families   (Wealth Quartile 4) outperformed children from the lower quartiles in all three subjects. The learning gaps are widest between children from the richest and the poorest households. On average, 40% of children from the richest but only and 22% of children from the poorest families are  able to read a story in Urdu;  38% of children from the richest but only 20% of children from the poorest are able to read English sentences, and 36% of children from the richest compared to 19% of the poorest can solve 2-digit division questions. Moreover, children from the same wealth quartile have been found to be performing better in reading Urdu relative to the assessment of other subjects.

This pattern continues for other higher-level competencies such as General Knowledge, Urdu Comprehension and Arithmetic Word Problems as well. Around twice as many children in Pakistan from the richest households answered all questions in respective domains correctly compared to children with lower socio-economic status as the next figure shows.


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Figure 2: Percentage of Children who have answered all questions correctly  (ASER 2019)
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Figure 3: Enrolment Status by Wealth Status

The same findings can be found when looking at the enrolment data from ASER 2019 Survey. As the figure on the right shows, a higher percentage of children from the richest households (80%) reported to be enrolled in education in comparison to just 68% of children from the poorest households.

Likewise, there were fewer out-of-school children in richer households relative to others. Exploring this further, the data showed that 57% among the poorest housholds and 54% among the second poorest reported it was due to poverty. This clearly shows the impact that economic status has on enrolment decisions for children.

Lastly, when we broke down the data on children who were enrolled in education by institute type, we found that, as the wealth status of a household improves, so does the rise of enrolment in private schools. Nonetheless, the majority of the students from all wealth quartiles are still enrolled in a government school, with 67% of children from even the richest families still in public education.

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Figure 4: Institute Type for Currently Enrolled Children by Wealth Status (ASER 2019)

To summarize, the data from the ASER 2019 survey lends support to the existing literature on the barriers posed to receiving a quality education for many of the poorest families. In this regard, the government should focus on devising targeted social security programs as a mechanism for facilitating equitable, quality and inclusive education for “All” children.


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