It may seem hard to figure, but provocative new research suggests that an individual's math and reading skills in elementary school are key indicators of his/her socioeconomic status (SES) in adulthood.
In fact, the study -- conducted by a pair of researchers at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland -- showed that math and reading skills at age 7 are the most reliable predictors of SES at age 42.
Study co-author Stuart Ritchie, a doctoral student at the university, told The Huffington Post in an email that he was surprised by the findings.
“A lot of psychologists -- including us before we did the study! -- would have guessed that, since general intelligence is so important, specific skills like reading and math wouldn't have any extra effects on SES beyond it,” Ritchie wrote. “But we found that these effects do exist -- so no matter how smart people were … being better at reading and math at age seven was still significantly linked to SES aged 42.”
Timothy Bates, a professor at the university and the study's co-author, said the study highlights the importance of learned skills.
“There was no flattening off of the return to these skills at either end: So it is of value all the way from remedial intervention to the most gifted levels to raise these skills,” Bates said in an email to The Huffington Post. “Math and reading are two of the most intervention-friendly of topics: Practice improves nearly all children.”
The study followed 17,638 English, Scottish, and Welsh participants, and 920 immigrants, from birth until age 50. Data was collected at several points during the participants' lives, including at ages 7, 11, 16, and 42.
When participants were 7, researchers gauged their family’s socioeconomic background, as well as their reading and math skills. At age 11, researchers measured participants’ IQ, and at age 16, their academic motivation. When participants were 42, researchers measured their educational duration (how long they had attended school) and their SES -- how much money they made.
The study, “Enduring Links From Childhood Mathematics and Reading Achievement to Adult Socioeconomic Status,” was published in the May 2013 issue of the journal Psychological Science.