The Role of Socioeconomic Status in SAT-Grade Relationships and in College Admissions Decisions

Paul R. Sackett, Nathan R. Kuncel, Adam S. Beatty, Jana L. Rigdon, Winny Shen, Thomas B. Kiger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


This article examines the role of socioeconomic status (SES) in the relationships among college admissions-test scores, secondary school grades, and subsequent academic performance. Scores on the SAT (a test widely used in the admissions process in the United States), secondary school grades, college grades, and SES measures from 143,606 students at 110 colleges and universities were examined, and results of these analyses were compared with results obtained using a 41-school data set including scores from the prior version of the SAT and using University of California data from prior research on the role of SES. In all the data sets, the SAT showed incremental validity over secondary school grades in predicting subsequent academic performance, and this incremental relationship was not substantially affected by controlling for SES. The SES of enrolled students was very similar to that of specific schools' applicant pools, which suggests that the barrier to college for low-SES students in the United States is a lower rate of entering the college admissions process, rather than exclusion on the part of colleges.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1000-1007
Number of pages8
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Paul R. Sackett serves as a research adviser to the College Board, and this research was supported by a grant from the College Board to Paul R. Sackett and Nathan R. Kuncel. Beyond this, the authors declared that they had no conflicts of interest with respect to their authorship or the publication of this article.

Copyright 2015 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • educational measurement
  • individual differences
  • socioeconomic status
  • test validity

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