KiDLAB studies the role of children’s self-views in achievement inequality. Why do children from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds often have unrealistically negative views of themselves and their abilities? How do these self-views, over time, undercut their academic achievement? And how can we create environments in which all children can develop positive self-views and succeed?

Achievement inequality is a defining challenge of our time. Around the world, children from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds have lower academic achievement than other children, even when their ability is the same. At 15, the gap is so large that children from disadvantaged backgrounds are seven times more likely to underperform in school—a gap that equals three years of schooling. This represents an enormous loss of potential and perpetuates harm into adulthood. Our work shows that children from disadvantaged backgrounds often have more negative self-views than their peers. These self-views emerge, in part, because children from disadvantaged backgrounds are exposed to denigrating messages about their ability, even when their achievements are equal to those of their peers. Their self-views, in turn, undermine academic achievement, reinforcing achievement inequality. We study these phenomena across cultures (e.g., the Netherlands, the United States, Kyrgyzstan, Bulgaria, and Romania) and we aim to develop novel solutions to reduce inequality at scale.

This work received support from the Dutch Research Council (NWO), Jacobs Foundation, and CIFAR.

Key publications

Hofer, S., Heine, J. H., Besharati, S., Yip, J., Reinhold, F., & Brummelman, E. (2024). Self-perceptions as mechanisms of achievement inequality: Evidence across 70 countries. npj Science of Learning, 9, Article 2. doi:10.1038/s41539-023-00211-9
[open data, open materials]

Brummelman, E. (2023, October). Children face unequal treatment in the classroom—with devastating consequences. Scientific American.

Brummelman, E., & Sedikides, C. (2023). Unequal selves in the classroom: Nature, origins, and consequences of socioeconomic disparities in children’s self-views. Developmental Psychology, 59(11), 1962–1987. doi:10.1037/dev0001599
[English infographicDutch infographicEditor's choice]

Schoneveld, E., & Brummelman, E. (2023). “You did incredibly well!”: Teachers’ inflated praise can make children from low-SES backgrounds seem less smart (but more hardworking). npj Science of Learning, 8, Article 31. doi:10.1038/s41539-023-00183-w
[preregistered, open data, open materials: Study 1, Study 2]

Brummelman, E., & Ziemer, K. L. (2023, June). Teaching self-confidence can backfire and perpetuate inequality. Psyche Magazine.