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An investigation of social class inequalities in general cognitive ability in two British birth cohorts

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    Rights statement: "This is the pre-peer reviewed version of the following article: Connelly, R. and Gayle, V. (2017), An investigation of social class inequalities in general cognitive ability in two British birth cohorts. The British Journal of Sociology, which has been published in final form at 10.1111/1468-4446.12343. This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving."

    Accepted author manuscript, 737 KB, PDF document

  • Download as Adobe PDF

    Rights statement: "This is the pre-peer reviewed version of the following article: Connelly, R. and Gayle, V. (2017), An investigation of social class inequalities in general cognitive ability in two British birth cohorts. The British Journal of Sociology, which has been published in final form at 10.1111/1468-4446.12343. This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving."

    Accepted author manuscript, 577 KB, PDF document

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)90-109
Number of pages28
JournalBritish Journal of Sociology
Volume70
Issue number1
Early online date19 Dec 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jan 2019

Abstract

The ‘Flynn effect’ describes the substantial and long-standing increase in average cognitive ability test scores, which has been observed in numerous psychological studies. Flynn makes an appeal for researchers to move beyond psychology's standard disciplinary boundaries and to consider sociological contexts, in order to develop a more comprehensive understanding of cognitive inequalities. In this article we respond to this appeal and investigate social class inequalities in general cognitive ability test scores over time. We analyse data from the National Child Development Study (1958) and the British Cohort Study (1970). These two British birth cohorts are suitable nationally representative large-scale data resources for studying inequalities in general cognitive ability. We observe a large parental social class effect, net of parental education and gender in both cohorts. The overall finding is that large social class divisions in cognitive ability can be observed when children are still at primary school, and similar patterns are observed in each cohort. Notably, pupils with fathers at the lower end of the class structure are at a distinct disadvantage. This is a disturbing finding and it is especially important because cognitive ability is known to influence individuals later in the lifecourse.

    Research areas

  • Social class, cognitive ability, longitudinal, cohort studies, social stratification, inequality

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