Early math, reading skills linked to future success

A higher reading level at age 7 can translate into more income decades later

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Every normal parent wants their children to succeed. Well, for those people there's some good news: Giving children strong math and reading skills at an early age is an excellent way to ensure their future success, according to researchers from the University of Edinburgh.

Psychological scientists Stuart Ritchie and Timothy Bates sought to determine whether early math and reading skills might have an impact that goes beyond the classroom.

"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 said.

Turns out they do, reports the Association for Psychological Science, which published the research in its journal, Psychological Science:

Math and reading ability at age 7 may be linked with socioeconomic status several decades later. The childhood abilities predict socioeconomic status in adulthood over and above associations with intelligence, education, and socioeconomic status in childhood.

Yet more evidence that a strong early education is a huge factor in helping children escape poverty.

The researchers used data from the National Child Development Study, a large, nationally representative study that followed more than 17,000 people in England, Scotland, and Wales over 50 years, beginning in 1958.

Ritchie and Bates found that participants' reading and math ability at age 7 were linked to their social class a full 35 years later. Participants who had higher reading and math skills as children ended up having higher incomes, better housing, and better jobs in adulthood. The data suggest, for example, that going up one reading level at age 7 was associated with a £5,000, or roughly $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," the researchers said.

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