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More and more schoolchildren are using paid tutoring – especially those from middle-income households

Press Release of February 10, 2016

Proportion of tutored students nearly twice as high as 15 years ago – household income becoming a less influential factor – parental migration background no longer determines participation – nevertheless, educational inequalities persist

More and more schoolchildren in Germany are using private tutoring: 47 percent of the 17-year-olds who were interviewed between 2009 and 2013 reported enlisting the help of paid tutors at least once over the course of their school careers — a figure that is roughly 20 percentage points higher than it was 15 years ago. In 2013, 13 percent of all schoolchildren reported that they had received private out-of-school lessons within the previous six months: this figure amounted to six percent among primary school and 18 percent among secondary school students.

German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin)

The German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin) is one of the leading economic research institutions in Germany. Its core mandates are applied economic research and economic policy advice as well as provision of research infrastructure. As an independent non-profit institution, DIW Berlin is committed to serving the common good. The institute was founded in 1925 as Institut für Konjunkturforschung (Institute for economic cycle research). Since 1982, the Research Infrastructure SOEP (German Socio-Economic Panel Study), a long-term study, is affiliated to DIW Berlin. The institute has been headquartered in Berlin since its founding. As a member of the Leibniz Society, DIW Berlin is predominantly publicly funded.

These are the results of a new study conducted by the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin), released in the current DIW Economic Bulletin.

Using data from the German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) and its supplementary study Familien in Deutschland (Families in Germany, FiD), study authors Adrian Hille, C. Katharina Spieß, and Mila Staneva also found that the importance of household income for the use of private tutoring has decreased over the past 15 years: students from the highest-income households were the ones who previously received private out-of-school lessons most frequently. Now, middle-class students are the most frequent users.

A comparison over time also shows that the use of tutoring services saw a particularly strong increase among households receiving basic income for job-seekers (Hartz IV). “If we assume that there is a need for tutoring and that such offerings actually benefit students, this increase can be seen as a kind of ‘catching up’,” explains Spieß. Nevertheless, she urges caution: “Children from financially disadvantaged backgrounds still use private tutoring less frequently. In addition, they are generally disadvantaged already, because their parents have fewer financial resources to afford tutoring and other forms of costly educational services.”

Maternal employment status losing relevance  

In contrast to participation in sports and music lessons or the attendance of day care for very young children, the usage of paid tutoring is less dependent on socioeconomic factors such as household income, migration background and parental employment status. For example, among students surveyed between 2000 and 2003 in families where both parents have migration backgrounds, 20 percent had received tutoring at least once, compared to about 30 percent in families where neither or only one parent has a migration background. Fifteen years later, this difference was no longer observable: in this later period, almost half of all 17-year-olds reported having received tutoring at least once, regardless of their parents’ origin. Maternal employment has also become less relevant. Irrespective of whether the mother was working full-time, part-time, or whether she was only marginally employed or not working at all, the percentage of children who received tutoring ranged from 45 to 50 percent. Roughly 15 years earlier, these differences were much greater. Only among children whose mothers were registered unemployed has the proportion of students receiving tutoring shown hardly any increase.

Children from middle-income households most likely to receive private tutoring

Decreasing differences in tutoring usage are especially striking with respect to household income: Among middle-income households, the proportion of students receiving tutoring more than doubled — from 26 to 59 percent — during the observation period, and has become greater than among households with the highest incomes. Among children from households that receive basic income for job-seekers, 31 percent were tutored. Between 2000 and 2003, this figure was only roughly 12 percent. However, given that children from financially disadvantaged families still receive tutoring less frequently, on balance, educational inequalities persist.