Effect of Family Income on a Student’s ACT, SAT Scores

Paper Info
Page count 7
Word count 1949
Read time 7 min
Subject Education
Type Essay
Language 🇺🇸 US


Education is one of the most important spheres of the social life of human beings. Education is the means of shaping intelligent personalities for the further development of society. Accordingly, if it is one of the spheres, it is integrally connected with others including political and economical ones. Drawing from this, the principles of the social stratification and wellbeing have always influenced educational opportunities and academic success of people. In the past, these relationships between economic wealth and educational opportunities of human beings were reflected in the absence of the overall access to education. The representatives of the higher social classes were educated in the best universities of the world, while the poor were left without education at all (Hubin, 2008).

In today’s society, the situation has changed drastically as all the layers of the population have the unconditional right to education. Access to this vital component of a person’s socialization is also free. However, there are certain conditions that limit this access or put the applicants for university or college admission in different conditions according to their wealth levels. The American society is especially subjected to these divergences, even despite the fact that democracy and equality of rights are its basic values. The American system of the admission to the higher educational establishments presupposes, among certain other assessments, the taking of either of the obligatory tests – SAT Reasoning Test (formerly also known as Scholastic Assessment Test) or ACT. The scores that students receive in those tests are of crucial importance for their admission and further academic success (Ary, D., Jacobs, L., Razayieh, A. & Sorensen, C., 2007). However, there is a tendency reported by numerous scholars, including Bracey (2001), Furr (2001), Leong (2005) and many others, that the wellbeing of families allow some students to get higher scores and put those from low-income students at disadvantaged and even discriminatory positions (Tierney, W. G., & Jun, A., 2001). Accordingly, the task of the proposed research is the work on finding out to which extent, if any, family income rates influence students’ scores in SAT or ACT exams. Moreover, the research will also try to offer certain ways to change the situation if this interrelation of income and academic success is proven.


Drawing from the facts presented in the previous passages, as well as from the literature considered for preparing this research proposal, the following research hypotheses can be made. First of all, the most generalized hypothesis is that the financial possibilities and overall wellbeing of a family provide for higher scores in SAT/ACT exams for a student. The grounds for such an assumption can be the opinions of numerous researchers who carried out considerable amounts of work in this field. For example, according to Leong (2005), “wealthy students have always had innumerable advantages in the college admissions process, ranging from good schools to private tutors to pricey test preparation courses” (Leong, 2005, p. 2135).

Accordingly, the next hypothesis of the present research is the assumption that higher SAT/ACT scores of the students from wealthy families are the results of their better educational opportunities including the above-mentioned preparatory courses, private tutors, etc. Scholars have also explored this viewpoint, stating that different educational levels result in changes in human psychology, which, in their turn, lead to the inability of low-income students to demonstrate high scores at SAT/ACT exams: “We know, for example, that historically students from low-income schools have received different curricula, different pedagogical methods, and different assumptions about learning than their counterparts in upper-class schools. The results have been that some students learned intellectually and implicitly that they were good enough to be in a trade school but not a university. They learned how to be plumbers, mechanics, or draftspersons rather than architects, engineers, or lawyers” (Tierney, 2001, p. 205).

The third hypothesis of the research assumes that the family conditions are rather important for the SAT/ACT scores and overall academic performance of students. In other words, the fact that a family is an intact one or a single-parent one impacts the financial wellbeing and income level of this family a lot. Accordingly, students from broken families have lower scores on SAT and ACTs because of their families being simply poorer (Bracey, 2001). Moreover, according to Furr (2001), there is a substantial dependency of SAT/ACT scores upon the governmental financial aids that a broken family receives: “…income from child support has been shown to have more positive effects on educational attainment than does income from other sources, such as welfare and maternal earnings” (Furr, 2001, p. 533)

Methods – Samples


According to the above-considered research hypothesis, the following methodology and sampling will be implemented during the research conduct. First of all, there is an obvious need for the use of the qualitative method of research. To prove this, the major aims of the research should be clearly understood. Thus, the research is aimed at finding out if a family income level influences a student’s SAT/ACT scores. Accordingly, there is a need of realizing the reasons for this question being answered either positively or negatively. In other words, to either prove or reject each of the research hypotheses, it is necessary to be aware of the social and economical factors that lead to this or that phenomenon (Ary, D., Jacobs, L., Razayieh, A. & Sorensen, C., 2007). Thus, qualitative method of research, as an analytical method, is the most fitting one for this kind of research. With the help of this method, and the further discussed instruments and research procedures, it will become possible not only to state facts but analyze their causes and make respective conclusions. Also, the possible recommendations, if necessary, will be made on the basis of the qualitative research data (Ary, D., Jacobs, L., Razayieh, A. & Sorensen, C., 2007). Also, a considerable help will be found in the usage of the quantitative research method to deal with the figures and other statistical data gathered during the research. For example, besides finding out why wealthy students are better in SAT/ACT scores and what can be offered to the low-income students to catch up with them, it will be necessary to see the extent to which this hypothesis is true. Accordingly, the quantitative method will be the best means to achieve this (Ary, D., Jacobs, L., Razayieh, A. & Sorensen, C., 2007).


As for the samples of the proposed research, they will be limited to two major groups which will be simultaneously subdivided into six smaller groups. Thus, the former two groups are the students with relatively high and relatively low SAT/ACT scores. The measurement of this level will be carried out on the basis of the average figures reported by the College Board for the period when the research will be carried out (College Board, 2009). Further on, the latter six smaller groups will be:

  1. students from high-income families;
  2. students from low-income families;
  3. students that took the preparatory courses, special classes, and private tutorials before SAT/ACT exams;
  4. students that did not take the preparatory courses, special classes, and private tutorials before SAT/ACT exams;
  5. students from intact families;
  6. students from broken or divorced families with a single parent.



After the statement of the research hypotheses and establishing the proper methodology for their consideration, it is obvious that specific instruments that the research will use should be clearly stated (Ary, D., Jacobs, L., Razayieh, A. & Sorensen, C., 2007). To begin with, there will be three major instruments with the help of which the information will be gathered, grouped and analyzed during the research. These instruments include a specially developed questionnaire for interviews with research respondents, statistical tables showing the relations between the income level and academic performance of the respondents, and, finally, graphs reflecting the change of the income – SAT/ACT score relation depending on every important factor (for more details see the Samples chapter).


The questionnaire used for the conduct of the proposed research will consist of three major blocks of questions. The first block will include various questions inquiring about the background of the person, their approximate annual income, social position, etc. The answers to these questions will be further used to consider the first hypothesis of the research. The second block of questions will deal with the preparatory activities, or their absence, before tests. The third block will deal with the family state of every respondent. Needless to say, privacy policy of the research will be assured as no names, addresses or other personal data will be required (Ary, D., Jacobs, L., Razayieh, A. & Sorensen, C., 2007).

Statistical Tables

As a next step in the research, the respective tables containing research criteria and gathered data will be compiled. The tables will consist of an indication of a certain research group (as defined above) and the received research data for this very group. In other words, the answers to the questionnaire inquiries will be put together and analyzed with the help of the quantitative research method allowing the researcher to understand the meaning of the figures received. On the basis of the tables, the respective graphs will be compiled to reflect the dynamics of various relations within the discussed groups.


As mentioned above, the graphs will reflect the dynamics of the phenomena studied. All the above-specified groups of research respondents will be represented by separate graphs, while after the comprehensive analysis of all the data obtained, the joint graph reflecting the full picture of the income influence upon the SAT/ACT scores will be created. However, the presence of all these instruments demands the clearly stated ways of their practical implementation, i. e. research procedures.


It goes without saying, that properly developed and accurately conducted research procedures assure half of the research’s success. Drawing from this, the proposed research will make use of such procedures as previous research works consideration, related literature study, study of the latest statistical data from the College Board and several universities and colleges as for the SAT/ACT scores their students receive. Moreover, as for the direct research activities, they will be concentrated around the survey of the above-specified student groups as for their income levels and SAT/ACT scores.

In more detail, the above-enumerated procedures will amount to the following activities. The consideration of the previous research on the topic of SAT/ACT and the influence of the students’ income levels upon their scores in those exams will be carried out prior to the survey. The major aim of this procedure lies in finding out the extent to which the topic has been highlighted by other scholars and in establishing the specific research directions (Ary, D., Jacobs, L., Razayieh, A. & Sorensen, C., 2007). Moreover, there will be an obvious necessity for the study of the related literature. This literature includes research papers and other works on topics close to the topic of this research. They include SAT/ACT implementation history and essence, differences in the populations of the American educational establishments according to the income level of their students, major social problems like divorces, single-parent families, poverty, and others, all in relation to the topic of the proposed research.

Finally, the study of the statistical data from the College Board and American colleges and universities will be carried out for the purposes of establishing the specific measures needed for grouping of the research samples and of understanding the latest trends in the relations of income levels and SAT/ACT scores received by students. After these procedures, the above-discussed research will be carried out through a survey of a limited number of students. The data of the survey will be analyzed and put into respective tables and graphs reflecting the dynamics of the situation development.


Ary, D., Jacobs, L., Razayieh, A. & Sorensen, C. (2007). Introduction to Research in Education. Wadsworth Publishing.

Bracey, G. W. (2001). Research – Test Scores in the Long Run. Phi Delta Kappan, 82(8), 637.

College Board. (2009). SAT Reasoning Test. Web.

Furr, L. A. (2001). Fathers’ Characteristics and Their Children’s Scores on College Entrance Exams: A Comparison of Intact and Divorced Families. Adolescence, 33(131), 533.

Hubin, D. (2008). “The Scholastic Aptitude Test: Its Development and Introduction, 1900–1948” A Ph.D. Dissertation in American History at the University of Oregon.

Leong, N. (2005). Beyond Breimhorst: Appropriate Accommodation of Students with Learning Disabilities on the SAT. Stanford Law Review, 57(6), 2135+.

Tierney, W. G., & Jun, A. (2001). A University Helps Prepare Low Income Youths for College. Journal of Higher Education, 72(2), 205.

Cite this paper


EduRaven. (2021, October 19). Effect of Family Income on a Student's ACT, SAT Scores. Retrieved from https://eduraven.com/effect-of-family-income-on-a-students-act-sat-scores/


EduRaven. (2021, October 19). Effect of Family Income on a Student's ACT, SAT Scores. https://eduraven.com/effect-of-family-income-on-a-students-act-sat-scores/

Work Cited

"Effect of Family Income on a Student's ACT, SAT Scores." EduRaven, 19 Oct. 2021, eduraven.com/effect-of-family-income-on-a-students-act-sat-scores/.


EduRaven. (2021) 'Effect of Family Income on a Student's ACT, SAT Scores'. 19 October.


EduRaven. 2021. "Effect of Family Income on a Student's ACT, SAT Scores." October 19, 2021. https://eduraven.com/effect-of-family-income-on-a-students-act-sat-scores/.

1. EduRaven. "Effect of Family Income on a Student's ACT, SAT Scores." October 19, 2021. https://eduraven.com/effect-of-family-income-on-a-students-act-sat-scores/.


EduRaven. "Effect of Family Income on a Student's ACT, SAT Scores." October 19, 2021. https://eduraven.com/effect-of-family-income-on-a-students-act-sat-scores/.