If you want to see which kids will grow up to be the most successful adults, visit their second-grade classroom, new research suggests.
A study by researchers at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland discovered that math and reading ability at age 7 are linked with socioeconomic status several decades later. The researchers found that such childhood abilities predict socioeconomic status in adulthood over and above associations with intelligence, education and socioeconomic status in childhood.
The study was based on data from the National Child Development Study, a nationally representative study that followed more 17,000 people in England, Scotland and Wales over a span of about 50 years, from when they were born in 1958 to present-day.
The researchers found that participants who had higher reading and math skills as children ended up having higher incomes, better housing and better jobs in adulthood. The data found, for example, that going up one reading level at age 7 was associated with a $7,750 increase in income at age 42.
"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," said the study's authors, Stuart Ritchie and Timothy Bates.
The researchers believe genes may play a role in the study's results.
"Genes underlie many of the differences among children on all the variables we've looked at here," Ritchie and Bates said.
The study, which was supported by an Economic and Social Research Council scholarship, was recently published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.