Can 2nd Grade Math, Reading Skills Predict Adult Salaries?

A study shows that reading and math skills at age seven can predict how much money an adult will make, reports Lindsay Abrams at The Atlantic.

This surprising discovery was even unexpected by one of the lead researchers Stuart Ritchie, reports Rebecca Klein at the Huffington Post:

 “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.”

The study was lead by Stuart Ritchie and Timothy Bates of the University of Edinburgh. They wanted to what degree academic skill played into the overall equation for a successful life.

They looked at different measures of success at various points in the lives of over 17,000 residents of England, Scotland and Wales who were followed for 50 years after their birth. The measures focused on five different points in the participants lives. The first was socioeconomic class at birth, and researchers looked at the parent’s occupation and whether they owned or rented a home and what size it was.

The second measure was reading and math skills at age seven and how interested students seemed to be in learning subjects. The third measure was intelligence at age eleven and participants’ IQ scores. The fourth was academic motivation at age sixteen — specifically, they looked at how strongly participants agreed with statements such as “School is a waste of time”.

Finally the researchers looked at the students’ adult socioeconomic status at age 42. This included occupation, income and homeowner status.

The results showed that how much money people made at midlife was predicted by math skills at age seven, with a grade level boost in reading corresponded with a salary $7,750 higher at age 42.

Early reading ability proved to also be an indicator, but only girls. The good news is that according to Bates:

 “Math and reading are two of the most intervention-friendly of topics: Practice improves nearly all children.”

The study, titled “Enduring Links From Childhood Mathematics and Reading Achievement to Adult Socioeconomic Status,” is available in Psychological Science via SAGE Journals.