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How much does education improve intelligence? A meta-analysis

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  • Stuart J Ritchie
  • Elliot M Tucker-Drob

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1358-1369
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number8
Early online date18 Jun 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Jun 2018


Intelligence test scores and educational duration are positively correlated. This correlation can be interpreted in two ways: students with greater propensity for intelligence go on to complete more education, or a longer education increases intelligence. We meta-analysed three categories of quasi-experimental studies of educational effects on intelligence: those estimating education-intelligence associations after controlling for earlier intelligence, those using compulsory schooling policy changes as instrumental variables, and those using regression-discontinuity designs on school-entry age cutoffs. Across 142 effect sizes from 42 datasets involving over 600,000 participants, we found consistent evidence for beneficial effects of education on cognitive abilities, of approximately 1 to 5 IQ points for an additional year of education. Moderator analyses indicated that the effects persisted across the lifespan, and were present on all broad categories of cognitive ability studied. Education appears to be the most consistent, robust, and durable method yet to be identified for raising intelligence.

    Research areas

  • intelligence, education, meta-analysis, quasiexperimental, open data

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