Early Reading, Math Ability Could Indicate Future Socioeconomic Success
May 9, 2013

Childhood Aptitude At Reading And Math Linked To Better Job, Income In Adulthood

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Children who display aptitude in math and reading at an early age could reap socioeconomic benefits of those abilities later on in life, researchers from the University of Edinburgh claim in a new study.

Writing in the latest edition of the journal Psychological Science, psychological scientists Stuart Ritchie and Timothy Bates discovered that ability in those fields impacted an individual´s social class more than three decades later.

In fact, reading and mathematical abilities predicted future socioeconomic status during adulthood over and above associations with intelligence, educational level, and childhood socioeconomic levels, the researchers said.

Experts have recently been debating the impact that educational standards have on the lives of children — in particular whether or not skills in these core curriculum areas could affect pupils beyond their scholastic career, Ritchie and Bates said. Their work was funded by an Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) scholarship.

Using data from the National Child Development Study, a nationally representative study that followed more than 17,000 individuals from England, Scotland and Wales over a span of approximately 50 years, the Edinburgh researchers discovered that those with higher reading and math skills as children reaped many benefits.

Those individuals tended to have higher income levels, better housing, and better jobs as adults. For example, the data studied by Ritchie and Bates demonstrated that advancing one reading level at age seven was associated with an approximately $7,750 increase in income at age 42.

“We wanted to test whether being better at math or reading in childhood would be linked with a rise through the social ranks: a better job, better housing, and higher income as an adult,” Ritchie and Bates explained in a statement. “These findings imply that basic childhood skills, independent of how smart you are, how long you stay in school, or the social class you started off in, will be important throughout your life.”

When asked what might be the cause of this phenomenon, the researchers said that they believe that a person´s DNA could play a role. “Genes underlie many of the differences among children on all the variables we´ve looked at here,” Bates and Ritchie explained. “The genetically-controlled study using twins that we´re conducting now should allow us to separate out genetic and environmental effects.”