Opposite Sides of the Same Coin? Exploring the Connections between School Absenteeism and Student Mobility

Richard O. Welsh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Mobile students and absent students are important subsets of at-risk students in schools and districts nationwide. As such, student mobility and school absenteeism are two challenges in K-12 education with significant policy and equity implications. Although both issues are at the nexus of schooling and society and there is an apparent overlap in the attributes of these student subgroups, school absenteeism and student mobility are often discussed in separate conversations. This article connects the two disparate literatures in hopes of forging stronger ties that may benefit policymakers, researchers, educators, and students. The limited empirical evidence is mixed but suggests that school absenteeism and student mobility are correlated and absenteeism plays a small mediating role in the relationship between student mobility and student outcomes. The reasons underlying student mobility and student absenteeism are interrelated but not all reasons are common. The overlapping causes of student mobility and chronic absenteeism indicate that economic and social circumstances are important underlying factors. In particular, poverty is a key shared reason for missing or switching schools. Although both phenomena contribute to disparities in educational opportunities, experiences, and outcomes, this study posits that changing schools and missing school provide instructive examples of how inequality in society may be reproduced in districts and schools. Recommendations to address both phenomena and directions for future research are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)70-92
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Education for Students Placed at Risk
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Apr 3 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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