Having a high class ranking as early as third grade impacts how much Texans make when they’re starting their career, according to a new study by the University of Texas. The study tracked 3 million students from 1993 to 2008 and tracked how they performed throughout their academic careers and immediately after.
It found that students who ranked in the top 25 percent of their class in third grade later outperformed other students who had identical test scores, but happened to rank in the bottom 25 percent of their class at a different school.
During check-ins, the students in the top 25 percent in third grade also did better in eighth grade, were more likely to choose advanced placement classes in high school, were more likely to attend college, and ultimately were more likely to earn $1,500 per year more between the ages of 23-27.
The study says this effect is particularly strong for non-white and low-income students.
“One explanation is about student self-concept, how they think about themselves,” said the study’s author, University of Texas Assistant Economic Professor Richard Murphy. “Maybe these students are particularly impacted by their peers and their academic environment.”
In addition to parental income and race, the researchers also looked for data differences based on gender.
The impact of class rank had a similar impact on both male and female students.
However, having a high class ranking doesn’t wipe out all of the benefits of going to an elite school where a student may rank lower in his or her class.
Researchers have actually attempted to quantify it, saying about 40 percent of the benefits of going to top-performing schools are wiped out if the student has a lower class rank.
“When you’re thinking about what school to send your kid to, think not just about the average achievement of all the kids who go there, but how good is the school at bringing up the grades of the kids that go to that school,” Murphy said.