The Impact of Participation in Extracurricular Activities on School Achievement of French Middle School Students: Human Capital and Cultural Capital Revisited
US : University of North Carolina Press
online - p.
education, France, middle school, extracurricular activities, school inequalities
The impact of participation in extracurricular activities on academic success has long been studied in the social sciences. This article aims at improving the measurement and understanding of this impact. Based on panel data regression models applied to a panel of French middle school students, it first provides a robust estimation of the impact of extracurricular activities on school outcomes (marks in French and Mathematics) and on a set of cognitive and non-cognitive skills. It finds a positive and significant impact on marks in French and Mathematics and scores on non-cognitive skills tests. No impact is found on cognitive skills. The article then investigates the underlying mechanisms of this impact. Its findings do not reinforce the transfer paradigm, according to which extracurricular activities provide students who participate in them with skills that they can reinvest in school life. Neither does it support the notion that such an impact may primarily be the result of students’ greater connivance with the cultural standards of teachers. Instead, it seems likely that what is mainly at stake in participation in extracurricular activities is families’ unequal capacity for extending the time of school supervision in their children’s free time. Therefore, insofar as the varying participation in these activities is strongly correlated to differences in students’ social and cultural background, participation in extracurricular activities would in itself contribute to reinforcing social inequalities in school achievement.