Published: September 26, 2018

Children from more advantaged families are more likely to participate in extracurricular out-of-school activities such as sport, music lessons or debating.

More advantaged youths also participate in a greater variety of organised extracurricular activities, whereas disadvantaged youths are more likely to participate only in sports.

While this participation gap is mostly the result of parents’ economic differences, what impact do extracurricular activities have on socioeconomic outcomes later in life?

This is the question addressed by a new Life Course Centre Working Paper on the effect of extracurricular participation on outcomes such as high school grades and graduation, university attendance and gradation, and employment and earnings in early adulthood.

The Working Paper, ‘Enriching the Rich? A Review of Extracurricular Activities, Socioeconomic Status and Adolescent Achievement’, is authored by Elizabeth Baldwin and Martin O’Flaherty from the Institute for Social Science Research at The University of Queensland.
Despite the fact that extracurricular participation rates are lower among disadvantaged youth, the authors find little compelling evidence that this participation gap significantly contributes to differences in life outcomes.

Though extracurricular participation may positively affect grades, the study finds inconsistent evidence of its effect on high school and university graduation and labour market outcomes.

As well as economic differences, the paper also points to non-material differences playing a part in the extracurricular participation gap between advantaged and disadvantaged youths.

Poorer families may struggle to pay activity fees, lack access to transport, or be constrained by parents’ irregular work schedules or family responsibilities. Whereas more educated parents tend to place greater value on structured out-of-school activities, and are better placed to find and take advantage of such opportunities for their children.

You can read the full Working Paper here.