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PROBLEM: So far as we're able to predict a child's likelihood of leading a successful life, it's no secret that the assets we're born with (intelligence) or into (socioeconomic status) are important. But to what extent do learned abilities, like basic academic skills, fit into that equation?
METHODOLOGY: This study defines success in terms of socioeconomic status. Stuart Ritchie and Timothy Bates, of the University of Edinburgh, used data from a cohort of over 17,000 residents of England, Scotland, and Wales who were followed from when they were born to the present day, over 50 years later. They looked at how different measures of success, at various points in the participants' lives, informed one another. Those measures were:
Socioeconomic class at birth: whether their parents owned or rented a home, how many rooms said home had, and their father's occupation (more telling, perhaps, in 1958 than it would be now).
- Reading and math skills at age seven: how they performed on tests and how their teachers rated their interest and ability in the subjects.
- Intelligence at age 11: their IQ score.
- Academic motivation at age 16: how strongly they agreed with statements such as, "School is a waste of time."
- Socioeconomic status at age 42: what kind of job they held, their income, and their homeowner status.