Eriksson, Kimmo , Lindvall, jannika, Helenius, Ola & Andreas Ryve | 2022
Frontiers in Psychology
The number of books at home is commonly used as a proxy for socioeconomic status in educational studies. While both parents’ and students’ reports of the number of books at home are relatively strong predictors of student achievement, they often disagree with each other. When interpreting findings of analyses that measure socioeconomic status using books at home, it is important to understand how findings may be biased by the imperfect reliability of the data. For example, it was recently suggested that especially low-achieving students tend to underestimate the number of books at home, so that use of such data would lead researchers to overestimate the association between books at home and achievement. Here we take a closer look at how students’ and parents’ reports of the number of books at home relate to literacy among fourth grade students, by analyzing data from more than 250,000 students in 47 countries participating in 2011 PIRLS. Contrary to prior claims, we find more downward bias in estimates of books at home among high-achieving students than among low-achieving students, but unsystematic errors appear to be larger among low-achieving students. This holds within almost every country. It also holds between countries, that is, errors in estimates of books at home are larger in low-achieving countries. This has implications for studies of the association between books at home and achievement: the strength of the association will generally be underestimated, and this problem is exacerbated in low-achieving countries and among low-achieving students.