Using new UK MCS longitudinal survey data, GCSE state exam
Cognitive ability and conscientiousness explained far more than SES measures
The influences on children’s success in education remain a profoundly important topic of enquiry. The dominant view is that socioeconomic background
(SES) is critical.
This study examines the influences on student performance in the General Certificate of School Education (GSCE) taken
at age 16 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland analysing data from the Millennium Cohort Study. The GSCE results of 8,303 students were converted to a numerical
2 psychological factors—cognitive ability and their level of conscientiousness—could explain almost as much of the variation in exam attainment as all measures,
and far more than a model of socio-economic factors.
The power of psychological traits in influencing key educational outcomes is underestimated.
[Keywords: SES Individual traits, intelligence,Conscientiousness, educational attainment]
Previous Mendelian randomization (MR) studies using population samples (population-MR) have provided evidence for beneficial
effects of educational attainment on health outcomes in adulthood. However, estimates from these studies may have been susceptible to bias from population
stratification, assortative mating and indirect
genetic effects due to unadjusted parental genotypes. Mendelian randomization using genetic association estimates derived from within-sibship models
(within-sibship MR) can avoid these potential biases because genetic differences between siblings are due to random
segregation at meiosis. Applying both population and within-sibship MR, we estimated the effects of genetic liability to
educational attainment on body mass index (BMI), cigarette smoking, systolic blood pressure (SBP) and all-cause mortality.
MR analyses used individual-level data on 72,932 siblings from UK Biobankand the Norwegian HUNT study and summary-level data from a
within-sibship Genome-wide Association Study including over 140,000 individuals. Both population and within-sibship MR estimates provided evidence that educational
attainment influences BMI, cigarette smoking and SBP. Genetic variant-outcome
associations attenuated in the within-sibship model, but genetic variant-educational attainment associations also attenuated to a similar extent. Thus,
within-sibship and population MR estimates were largely consistent. The within-sibship MR estimate of education on mortality was imprecise but consistent with a putative effect. These results provide evidence of beneficial
individual-level effects of education (or liability to education) on adulthood health, independent of potential demographic and family-level confounders.
Previous studies have found statistically-significant associations between estimated autozygosity—the proportion of an individual9s genome
contained in homozygous segments due to distant
inbreeding—and multiple traits, including educational attainment (EA) and cognitive ability. In one study, estimated autozygosity showed a stronger association
with parental EA than the subject9s own EA. This was likely driven by parental EA9s association with mobility: more educated parents tended to migrate further from
their hometown, therefore choosing more genetically diverse partners. We examined the associations between estimated autozygosity, cognitive ability, and parental
EA in a contemporary sub-sample of adolescents from the Adolescent Brain and Cognitive Development Study™ (ABCD
Study®) (analytic n = 6,504). We found a negative association between autozygosity and child cognitive ability consistent with previous studies,
while the associations between autozygosity and parental EA were in the expected direction of effect (with greater levels of autozygosity being associated with
lower EA) but the effect sizes were significantly weaker
than those estimated in previous work. We also found a lower mean level of autozygosity in the ABCD sample
compared to previous autozygosity studies, which may reflect overall decreasing levels of autozygosity over generations. Variation in migration and
mobility patterns in the ABCD study compared to other studies may explain the pattern of associations between
estimated autozygosity, EA, and cognitive ability in the current study.
Data analysed for 5 domains for children of the NLSY79 mothers study.
SES effects increase for only some domains and not substantially.
No increase in SES effects when considering mother’s or children’s prior ability.
Effects of child’s prior ability on test scores increase substantially with age.
SES effects are small net of mother’s ability.
Studies that investigate the effects of socioeconomic background (SES)on student achievement tend to
find stronger SES effects with age, although there is much inconsistency between studies. There is also a large
academic literature on cumulative advantage arguing that SES inequalities increase as children age, a type of Matthew
This study analysing data from the children of NLSY79 mothers (n ≈ 9,000, Obs ≈ 27,000)
investigates the relationship of SES by children’s age for 2 cognitive domains (Peabody Picture Vocabulary test and
digit span memory) and 3 achievement domains (reading
comprehension, reading recognition and math).
There are small increases in the SES-test score correlations for several domains, but there are more
substantial increases in the test score correlations with mother’s ability and prior ability. Regression analyses found linear increases in SES effects for all domains except digit memory. However, when considering mother’s ability, the substantially reduced
SES effects did not increase with children’sage. Much of the effects of SES
on children’s domain scores are accounted for by mother’s ability. The effects of prior ability also increase with age and SES effects are small.
Therefore, there is no evidence for cumulative socioeconomic advantage for these domains. Generally, increases in SES
effects on children’s cognitive development and student achievement are likely to be spurious because of the importance of parents’ abilities and their
transmission from parents to children.
A large literature establishes that cognitive and non-cognitive skills are strongly correlated with educational attainment and professional achievement.
Isolating the causal effects of these traits on career outcomes is complicated by reverse causality and selection issues.
We suggest a new approach: using within-family differences in the genetic tendency to exhibit the relevant traits as a source of exogenous variation. Genes are
fixed over the life cycle and genetic differences between full siblings are random, making it possible to establish the causal effects of within-family variation
in genetic tendencies.
We link genetic data from individuals in the Swedish Twin Registry to government registry data and find evidence for causal effects of the genetic
predispositions towards cognitive skills, personality traits, and economic preferences on professional achievement and educational attainment. Our results also
demonstrate that education and labor market outcomes are partially the result of a genetic lottery.
…We find strong evidence for a causal effect of the predisposition toward stronger cognitive skills on income, occupational status, and educational outcomes. We
also find evidence for statistically-significant effects of the predispositions toward several non-cognitive traits: individuals who tend to be more risk seeking,
mentally stable, and open tend to work in more prestigious occupations. The opposite is true for individuals with a tendency towards narcissism or discounting the
future. A tendency towards being open and forward-looking also increases educational attainment (EA). Finally, we document large causal effects of the general
genetic tendency towards higher EA on all the outcomes we study. This illustrates that success in education and professional careers is in part down to “genetic
luck”. We also investigate heterogeneity in these effects by gender and socioeconomic status (SES) of the parents.
We find some evidence of a stronger effect of the predisposition toward cognitive skills for high-SES individuals, in
particular on educational outcomes. We also find that the effects of the genetic tendencies on income tend to be stronger for women, implying that gender
differences in labor market outcomes are generally larger for less skilled individuals. The exception is the link between genetic tendencies and management
positions: our results suggest that cognitive and non-cognitive skills strongly increase the likelihood for men to work in a management position but that effects
are much weaker for women.
…The polygenic indices we use stem from the work of the Social Science Genetic Association Consortium (SSGAC)
(Becker et al 2021).
…2.4 Sample: For the full-sample analyses looking at educational outcomes, we will limit the dataset to genotyped individuals born between 1934
and 1995 (that is, individuals who have likely completed their education) whom we can link to their parents’ records for the construction of the socioeconomic
controls.13 This subsample contains 29,393 individuals. For the analyses looking at labor market outcomes, we will limit the dataset to individuals born
between 1934 and 1990 (that is, individuals who have likely completed their education and worked for a few years). This subsample contains 25,515 individuals. For
our causal analyses using within-family variation, we will limit the sample to complete sets of genotyped dizygotic twins. This sample contains 11,344 individuals
(5,672 twin pairs) for the education analyses and 9,594 individuals (4,797 twin pairs) for the income analyses.
…The scaled estimates in Figure 2 show that the magnitudes of the effects are economically meaningful. A one-standard deviation difference in the cognitive
performance PGI is
associated with a roughly 10 percentage points increase in the likelihood of having graduated from university. The effect of math skills is roughly 5 percentage
points. These 2 effects are estimated simultaneously, meaning that an individual with one-standard deviation higher cognitive performance and math skills is
around 15 percentage points more likely to graduate from university. The effects of the statistically-significant non-cognitive traits (openness, narcissism, and
time discounting as proxied by smoking) are similarly large. Finally, a one-standard deviation increase in the educational attainment PGI is associated with 0.4 to 0.6 additional years of education.
[Given the large sample size, it’d be better to skip the PGSes—which still capture so little of the genetics—and
usesibling IBD or RDR to establish estimates of total causal effects.]
Most studies on the relationship between students’ socioeconomic
status(SES) and student achievement assume that its effects are sizable and causal. A large variety of
theoretical explanations have been proposed. However, the SES-achievement association may reflect, tosome
extent, the inter-relationships of parents’ abilities, SES, children’s abilities, and student achievement.
The purpose of this study is to quantify the role of SES vis-à-vis child and parents’ abilities, and prior
Analyses of a covariance matrix that includes supplementary correlations for fathers and mothers’ abilities derived from the literature indicate that more
than half of the SES-achievementassociation can be accounted for by parents’ abilities. SES coefficients decline further with the addition of child’s abilities. With the addition of prior achievement, the
SES coefficients aretrivial implying that SES has little or no
These findings are not compatible with standard theoretical explanations for SES inequalities in
This study examined a model in which Conscientiousness is related to net worth through its relationship with future planning, and in which general
mental ability (GMA) moderates the effects of future planning on net worth. Data for this study were drawn from 1,135
participants in the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States. Results from an analysis of conditional indirect effects suggest that
conscientiousness shared a positive, indirect association with net worth through its relationship with future planning that was realized only for individuals
higher in GMA. In contrast,Conscientiousness had no indirect association
with net worth for those low in GMA. This study helps add to the understanding of how noncognitive (personality) and
cognitive (ability) traits affect individual-level economic outcomes and offers an explanation for both how and when conscientiousness influences
net worth. These findings may be particularly important given efforts to design interventions that help improve individual financial outcomes.
We show that genetic endowments linked to educational attainment strongly and robustly predict wealth at retirement. The estimated relationship is not fully
explained by flexibly controlling for education and labor income. We therefore investigate a host of additional mechanisms that could account for the gene-wealth
gradient, including inheritances, mortality, risk preferences, portfolio decisions, beliefs about the probabilities of macroeconomic events, and planning horizons.
We provide evidence that genetic endowments related to human capital accumulation are associated with wealth not only through educational attainment and labor
income but also through a facility with complex financial decision-making.
Despite a longstanding expert consensus about the importance of cognitive ability for life outcomes, contrary views continue to proliferate in scholarly and
popular literature. This divergence of beliefs among researchers, practitioners, and the general public presents an obstacle for evidence-based policy and
decision-making in a variety of settings. One commonly held idea is that greater cognitive ability does not matter or is actually harmful beyond a certain point
(sometimes stated as either 100 or 120 IQ points).
We empirically test these notions using data from 4 longitudinal, representative cohort studies comprising a total of 48,558 participants in the U.S. and U.K.
from 1957 to the present.
We find that cognitive ability measured in youth has a positive association with most occupational, educational, health, and social outcomes later in life. Most
effects were characterized by a moderate-to-strong linear trend or a practically null effect (mean R2 = 0.002 to 0.256). Although we detected several
nonlinear effects, they were small in magnitude (mean incremental R2 = 0.001). We found no support for any detrimental effects of cognitive ability and
no evidence for a threshold beyond which greater scores cease to be beneficial.
Thus, greater cognitive ability is generally advantageous—and virtually never detrimental.
Health and social scientists have documented the hospital revolving-door problem, the concentration of crime, and long-term welfare dependence. Have these
distinct fields identified the same citizens? Using administrative databases linked to 1.7 million New Zealanders, we quantified and monetized inequality in
distributions of health and social problems and tested whether they aggregate within individuals. Marked inequality was observed: Gini coefficients equalled 0.96
for criminal convictions, 0.91 for public-hospital nights, 0.86 for welfare benefits, 0.74 for prescription-drug fills and 0.54 for injury-insurance claims. Marked
aggregation was uncovered: a small population segment accounted for a disproportionate share of use-events and costs across multiple sectors. These findings were
replicated in 2.3 million Danes. We then integrated the New Zealand databases with the four-decade-long Dunedin Study. The high-need/high-cost population segment
experienced early-life factors that reduce workforce readiness, including low education and poor mental health. In midlife they reported low life satisfaction.
Investing in young people’s education and training potential could reduce health and social inequalities and enhance population wellbeing.
Evidence from different countries suggests that non-cognitive skills play an important role in wage determination and overall social outcomes, but studies for
Canada are scarce. We contribute to filling this gap by estimating wage regressions with the Big Five traits using the Longitudinal and International Study of
Adults. Our results indicate that conscientiousness is positively associated with wages, while agreeableness, extraversion, and neuroticism are associated with
negative returns, with higher magnitudes on agreeableness and conscientiousness for females. Cognitive ability has the highest estimated wage return so, while
substantial, non-cognitive skills do not seem to be the most important wage determinant.
[Keywords: management, labour market, returns to skills, non-cognitive skill, cognitive skill, wage regressions, personality traits,
Recent research on the role of general mental ability (GMA) and specific abilities in work-related outcomes has
shown that the results differ depending on the theoretical and conceptual approach that researchers use. While earlier research has typically assumed that
GMA causes the specific abilities and has thus used incremental validity analysis, more recent research has explored the
implications of treating GMA and specific abilities as equals (differing only in breadth and not subordination)
and has used relative importance analysis. In this article, we extend this work to the prediction of extrinsic career success operationalized as pay, income, and
the attainment of jobs with high prestige. Results, based on a large national sample, revealed that GMA and specific
abilities measured in school were good predictors of job prestige measured after 11 years, pay measured after 11 years, and income 51 years later toward the
end of the participants’ work lives. With 1 exception, GMA was a dominant predictor in incremental validity
analyses. However, in relative importance analyses, the majority of the explained variance was explained by specific
abilities, and GMA was not more important than single specific abilities in relative importance analyses. Visuospatial,
verbal, and mathematical abilities all had substantial variance shares and were also more important than GMA in some of
the analyses. Implications for the interpretation of cognitive ability data and facilitating people’s success in their careers are discussed.
Recent advances have led to the discovery of specific genetic variants that predict educational attainment. We study how these variants, summarized as a linear
index—known as a polygenic score—are associated with human capital accumulation and labor market outcomes in the Health and Retirement Study (HRS). We present two main sets of results. First, we find evidence that the genetic factors measured by this score interact strongly
with childhood socioeconomic status in determining educational outcomes. In particular, while the polygenic score predicts higher rates of college graduation on
average, this relationship is substantially stronger for individuals who grew up in households with higher socioeconomic status relative to those who grew up in
poorer households. Second, the polygenic score predicts labor earnings even after adjusting for completed education, with
larger returns in more recent decades. These patterns suggest that the genetic traits that promote education might allow workers to better accommodate ongoing
skill biased technological change. Consistent with this interpretation, we find a positive association between the polygenic score and non-routine analytic tasks
that have benefited from the introduction of new technologies. Nonetheless, the college premium remains the dominant determinant of earnings differences at all
levels of the polygenic score. Given the role of childhood SES in
predicting college attainment, this raises concerns about wasted potential arising from limited household resources.
This paper estimates the effects of personality traits and IQ on lifetime earnings, both as a sum and individually by age.
The payoffs to personality traits display a concave life-cycle pattern, with the largest effects between the ages of 40 and 60.
The largest effects on earnings are found for Conscientiousness, Extraversion, and Agreeableness (negative).
An interaction of traits with education reveals that personality matters most for highly educated men.
The overall effect of Conscientiousness operates partly through education, which also has substantial returns.
This paper estimates the effects of personality traits and IQ on lifetime earnings of the men and women of the Terman study, a high-IQ U.S. sample. Age-by-age earnings profiles
allow a study of when personality traits affect earnings most, and for whom the effects are strongest. I document a concave life-cycle pattern in
the payoffs to personality traits, with the largest effects between the ages of 40 and 60. An interaction of traits with education reveals that personality matters
most for highly educated men. The largest effects are found for Conscientiousness, Extraversion, and Agreeableness (negative), where
Conscientiousness operates partly through education, which also has substantial returns.
[Keywords: Personality traits, Socio-emotional skills, Cognitive skills, Returns to education, Lifetime earnings, Big Five, Human capital,
Heterogeneity of household financial outcomes emerges from various individual and environmental factors, including personality, cognitive ability, and
socioeconomic status (SES), among others.
Using a genetically informative data set, we decompose the variation in financial management behavior into genetic, shared environmental and non-shared
We find that about half of the variation in financial distress is genetically influenced, and personality and cognitive ability are associated with financial
distress through genetic and within-family pathways. Moreover, the genetic influences of financial distress are highest at the extremes of SES, which in part can be explained by neuroticism and cognitive ability being more important predictors of financial distress
at low and high levels of SES, respectively.
The educational, occupational, and creative accomplishments of the profoundly gifted participants (IQs ⩾ 160) in the Study of Mathematically Precocious
Youth (SMPY) are astounding, but are they representative of equally able 12-year-olds? Duke University’s Talent
Identification Program (TIP) identified 259 young adolescents who were equally gifted. By age 40, their life
accomplishments also were extraordinary: Thirty-seven percent had earned doctorates, 7.5% had achieved academic tenure (4.3% at research-intensive universities),
and 9% held patents; many were high-level leaders in major organizations. As was the case for the SMPY sample before
them, differential ability strengths predicted their contrasting and eventual developmental trajectories—even though essentially all participants possessed
both mathematical and verbal reasoning abilities far superior to those of typical Ph.D. recipients. Individuals, even profoundly gifted ones, primarily do
what they are best at. Differences in ability patterns, like differences in interests, guide development along different paths, but ability level, coupled with
commitment, determines whether and the extent to which noteworthy accomplishments are reached if opportunity presents itself.
A previous genome-wide association study
(GWAS) of more than 100,000 individuals identified molecular-genetic predictors of educational
We undertook in-depth life-course investigation of the polygenic score derived from this GWAS using the
4-decade Dunedin Study (N = 918). There were 5 main findings.
polygenic scores predicted adult economic outcomes even after accounting for educational attainments.
genes and environments were correlated: Children with higher polygenic scores were born into better-off homes.
children’s polygenic scores predicted their adult outcomes even when analyses accounted for their social-class
origins; social-mobility analysis showed that children with higher polygenic scores were more upwardly mobile than children with lower scores.
polygenic scores predicted behavior across the life course, from early acquisition of speech and reading skills through geographic mobility and mate choice
and on to financial planning for retirement.
polygenic-score associations were mediated by psychological characteristics, including intelligence, self-control, and interpersonal skill. Effect sizes were small.
Factors connecting GWAS sequence with life outcomes may provide targets for interventions to promote
population-wide positive development.
Individuals with lower socio-economic status (SES) are at increased risk of physical and mental illnesses and
tend to die at an earlier age. Explanations for the association between SES and health typically focus on factors
that are environmental in origin. However, common single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) have been found collectively
to explain around 18% (SE = 5%) of the phenotypic variance of an area-based social deprivation measure of
SES. Molecular genetic studies have also shown that physical and psychiatric diseases are at least partly heritable. It
is possible, therefore, that phenotypic associations between SES and health arise partly due to a shared genetic
We conducted a genome-wide association study (GWAS) on social
deprivation and on household income using the 112,151 participants of UK Biobank. We find that common SNPs explain 21% (SE = 0.5%) of the
variation in social deprivation and 11% (SE = 0.7%) in household income. 2 independent SNPs attained genome-wide
statistical-significance for household income, rs187848990 on chromosome 2, and rs8100891 on chromosome 19. Genes in the regions of these SNPs have been associated with intellectual disabilities, schizophrenia, and synaptic plasticity. Extensive genetic correlations
were found between both measures of socioeconomic status and illnesses, anthropometric variables, psychiatric disorders, and cognitive ability.
These findings show that some SNPs associated with SES are involved in the
brain and central nervous system. The genetic associations with SES are probably mediated via other partly-heritable
variables, including cognitive ability, education, personality, and health.
Policy-makers are interested in early-years interventions to ameliorate childhood risks. They hope for improved adult outcomes in the long run, bringing return
on investment. How much return can be expected depends, partly, on how strongly childhood risks forecast adult outcomes. But there is disagreement about whether
childhood determines adulthood. We integrated multiple nationwide administrative databases and electronic medical records with the four-decade Dunedin birth-cohort
study to test child-to-adult prediction in a different way, by using a population-segmentation approach. A segment comprising one-fifth of the cohort accounted for
36% of the cohort’s injury insurance-claims; 40% of excess obese-kilograms; 54% of cigarettes smoked; 57% of hospital nights; 66% of welfare benefits; 77% of
fatherless childrearing; 78% of prescription fills; and 81% of criminal convictions. Childhood risks, including poor age-three brain health, predicted this segment
with large effect sizes. Early-years interventions effective with this population segment could yield very large returns on
Background: Results from previous studies show that the cognitive ability of offspring might be irreversibly damaged as a result of their
mother’s mild iodine deficiency during pregnancy. A reduced intelligence quotient (IQ) score has broad economic and societal cost implications because intelligence
affects wellbeing, income, and education outcomes. Although pregnancy and lactation lead to increased iodine needs, no UK recommendations for iodine
supplementation have been issued to pregnant women. We aimed to investigate the cost-effectiveness of iodine supplementation versus no supplementation for pregnant
women in a mildly to moderately iodine-deficient population for which a population-based iodine supplementation programme—for example, universal salt
iodisation—did not exist.
Methods: We systematically searched MEDLINE, Embase, EconLit, andNHS EED for economic studies that linked IQ and income published in all languages until Aug 21, 2014. We took clinical data
relating to iodine deficiency in pregnant women and the effect on IQ in their children aged 8–9 years from primary research. A decision tree was developed to
compare the treatment strategies of iodine supplementation in tablet form with no iodine supplementation for pregnant women in the UK. Analyses were done from a
health service perspective (analysis 1; taking direct health service costs into account) and societal perspective (analysis 2; taking education costs and the value
of an IQ point itself into account), and presented in terms of cost (in sterling, relevant to 2013) per IQ point gained in the offspring. We made data-supported
assumptions to complete these analyses, but used a conservative approach that limited the benefits of iodine supplementation and overestimated its potential
Findings: Our systematic search identified 1361 published articles, of which eight were assessed to calculate the monetary value of an IQ
point. A discounted lifetime value of an additional IQ point based on earnings was estimated to be £3297 (study estimates range from £1319 to £11 967) for the
offspring cohort. Iodine supplementation was cost saving from both a health service perspective (saving £199 per pregnant woman [sensitivity analysis range –£42 to
£229]) and societal perspective (saving £4476 per pregnant woman [sensitivity analysis range £540 to £4495]), with a net gain of 1·22 IQ points in each analysis.
Base case results were robust to sensitivity analyses.
Interpretation: Iodine supplementation for pregnant women in the UK is potentially cost saving. This finding also has implications for the 1·88 billion
people in the 32 countries with iodine deficiency worldwide. Valuation of IQ points should consider non-earnings benefits—eg, health benefits associated with a
higher IQ not germane to earnings.
Cross-regional correlations between average IQ and socioeconomic development have been documented in many different countries. This paper presents new IQ
estimates for the twelve regions of the UK. These are weakly correlated (r = 0.24) with the regional IQs assembled by Lynn (1979). Assuming the two sets
of estimates are accurate and comparable, this finding suggests that the relative IQs of different UK regions have changed since the 1950s, most likely due to
differentials in the magnitude of the Flynn effect, the
selectivity of external migration, the selectivity of internal migration or the strength of the relationship between IQ and fertility. The paper provides evidence
for the validity of the regional IQs by showing that IQ estimates for UK nations (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) derived from the same data are
strongly correlated with national PISA scores (r = 0.99). It finds that regional IQ is positively related
to income, longevity and technological accomplishment; and is negatively related to poverty, deprivation and unemployment. A general factor of socioeconomic
development is correlated with regional IQ atr = 0.72.
One of the best predictors of children’s educational achievement is their family’s socioeconomic status (SES), but the
degree to which this association is genetically mediated remains unclear. For 3000 UK-representative unrelated children we found that genome-wide
single-nucleotide polymorphisms could explain a third of the variance of scores on an age-16 UK national examination of educational achievement and half of the
correlation between their scores and family SES. Moreover, genome-widepolygenic
scores based on a previously published genome-wide association meta-analysis of total number of years in education
accounted for ~3.0% variance in educational achievement and ~2.5% in family SES.
This study provides the first molecular evidence for substantial genetic influence on differences in children’s educational achievement and its association
with family SES.
Schools’ socioeconomic status(SES) has been claimed as an important influence on student performance and there are calls for a policy response. However, there is
an extensive literature which for various reasons casts doubt on the veracity of school-SES effects.
This paper investigates school-SES effects with population data from a longitudinal cohort of school students
which includes achievement measures in Years 3, 5 and 7.
Estimates for school-SES are unstable under differing model andmeasurement specifications.
School-SES effects are trivial controlling for student-level and school-level prior ability. Inconsistent with
theoretical explanations, school-SES effects were stronger with weakerSES measures. Furthermore, school-SES effects differ somewhat by achievement domain. Also
contrary to expectations, there were school-SES effects on Year 7 achievement in secondary school for the primary
schools students attended in Year 5. In each of 5 domains of achievement, fixed effect models show a small negative effect for school-SES and a small positive effect for school-level prior ability.
The large school-SES effects prominent in some research and policy literatures are statistical artefacts.
This study examines changes in returns to formal education and cognitive skills over the past 20 years using the 1979 and 1997 waves of the National
Longitudinal Survey of Youth. We show that cognitive skills had a 30%–50% larger effect on wages in the 1980s than in the 2000s. Returns to education were higher
in the 2000s. These developments are not explained by changing distributions of workers’ observable characteristics or by changing labor market structure. We show
that the decline in returns to ability can be attributed to differences in the growth rate of technology between the 1980s and 2000s.
Environmental measures used widely in the behavioral sciences show nearly as much genetic influence as behavioral measures, a critical finding for interpreting
associations between environmental factors and children’s development. This research depends on the twin method that compares monozygotic and dizygotic twins, but
key aspects of children’s environment such as socioeconomic status (SES) cannot be investigated in twin studies
because they are the same for children growing up together in a family. Here, using a new technique applied to DNA from
3000 unrelated children, we show significant geneticinfluence on family SES, and on its association with
children’s IQ at ages 7 and 12. In addition to demonstrating the ability to investigate genetic influence on between-family environmental measures, our
results emphasize the need to consider genetics in research and policy on family SES and its association with children’s
Youth identified before age 13 (n = 320) as having profound mathematical or verbal reasoning abilities (top 1 in 10,000) were tracked for nearly three
decades. Their awards and creative accomplishments by age 38, in combination with specific details about their occupational responsibilities, illuminate the
magnitude of their contribution and professional stature.
Many have been entrusted with obligations and resources for making critical decisions about individual and organizational well-being. Their leadership positions
in business, health care, law, the professoriate, and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics)
suggest that many are outstanding creators of modern culture, constituting a precious human-capital resource. Identifying truly profound human potential, and
forecasting differential development within such populations, requires assessing multiple cognitive abilities and using atypical measurement procedures.
This study illustrates how ultimate criteria may be aggregated and longitudinally sequenced to validate such measures.
[Keywords: cognitive abilities, creativity, human capital, intelligence, profoundly gifted, STEM]
Are the American elite drawn from the cognitive elite? To address this, five groups of America’s elite (total N = 2254) were examined: Fortune
500 CEOs, federal judges, billionaires, Senators, and members of the House of Representatives. Within each of these
groups, nearly all had attended college with the majority having attended either a highly selective undergraduate institution or graduate school of some kind. High
average test scores required for admission to these institutions indicated those who rise to or are selected for these positions are highly filtered for ability.
Ability and education level differences were found across various sectors in which the billionaires earned their wealth (eg. technology vs. fashion and
retail); even within billionaires and CEOs wealth was found to be connected to ability and education. Within the
Senate and House, Democrats had a higher level of ability and education than Republicans. Females were underrepresented among all groups, but to a lesser degree
among federal judges and Democrats and to a larger degree among Republicans and CEOs. America’s elite are largely
drawn from the intellectually gifted, with many in the top 1% of ability.
We analyze the effects of cognitive abilities [AFQT] on two examples of consumer financial decisions where suboptimal behavior is
well defined. The first example features the optimal use of credit cards for convenience transactions after a balance transfer and the second involves a financial
mistake on a home equity loan application. We find that consumers with higher overall test scores, and specifically those with higher math scores, are
substantially less likely to make a financial mistake. These mistakes are generally not associated with nonmath test scores.
We analyze whether IQ influences trading behavior, performance, and transaction costs. The analysis combines equity return, trade, and limit order book data
with two decades of scores from an intelligence (IQ) test administered to nearly every Finnish male of draft age. Controlling for a variety of factors, we find
that high-IQ investors are less subject to the disposition effect, more aggressive about tax-loss trading, and more likely to supply liquidity when stocks
experience a one-month high. High-IQ investors also exhibit superior market timing, stock-picking skill, and trade execution.
Traditional economic theories stress the relevance of political, institutional, geographic, and historical factors for economic growth. In contrast,
human-capital theories suggest that peoples’ competences, mediated by technological progress, are the deciding factor in a nation’s wealth.
Using 3 large-scale assessments, we calculated cognitive-competence sums for the mean and for upper-level & lower-level groups for 90 countries and compared the
influence of each group’s intellectual ability on gross domestic product. In our cross-national analyses, we applied different statistical methods (path analyses,
bootstrapping) and measures developed by
different research groups to various country samples and historical periods.
Our results underscore the decisive relevance of cognitive ability—particularly of an intellectual class with high cognitive ability and accomplishments in
science, technology, engineering, and math—for national wealth. Furthermore, this group’s cognitive ability predicts the quality of economic and political
institutions, which further determines the economic affluence of the nation. Cognitive resources enable the evolution of capitalism and the rise of wealth.
This paper estimates the internal rate of return (IRR) to education for men and women of the Terman sample, a 70-year long prospective cohort study of high-ability individuals. The Terman
data is unique in that it not only provides full working-life earnings histories of the participants, but it also includes detailed profiles of each subject,
including IQ and measures of latent personality traits.
Having information on latent personality traits is important as it allows us to measure the importance of personality on
educational attainment and lifetime earnings.
Our analysis addresses two problems of the literature on returns to education: First, we establish causality of the treatment effect of education on earnings by
implementing generalized matching on a full set of observable individual characteristics and unobserved personality traits. Second, since we observe lifetime
earnings data, our estimates of the IRR are direct and do not depend on the assumptions that are usually made in
order to justify the interpretation of regression coefficients as rates of return.
For the males, the returns to education beyond high school are sizeable. For example, the IRR for obtaining a
bachelor’s degree over a high school diploma is 11.1%, and for a doctoral degree over a bachelor’s degree it is 6.7%. These results are unique because they
highlight the returns to high-ability and high-education individuals, who are not well-represented in regular data sets.
Our results highlight the importance of personality and intelligence on our outcome variables. We find that personality traits similar to the Big Five
personality traits are statistically-significant factors that help determine educational attainment and lifetime earnings.
Even holding the level of education constant, measures of personality traits have statistically-significant effects on
earnings. Similarly, IQ is rewarded in the labor market, independently of education. Most of the effect of personality and IQ on life-time earnings arise late in
life, during the prime working years. Therefore, estimates from samples with shorter durations underestimate the treatment effects.
We provide the first joint evidence on the relationship between individuals’ cognitive abilities, their personality and earnings for Germany.
Using data from the German Socio-Economic Panel
Study, we employ scores from an ultra-short IQ-test and a set of measures of
personality traits, namely locus of control, reciprocity and
all basic items from the five-factor Personality Inventory.
Our estimates suggest a positive effect of so-called fluid
intelligence or speed of cognition on males’ wages only. Findings for personality traits are more heterogeneous. However, there is a robust wage penalty for an
external locus of control for both men and women.
[Keywords: cognitive abilities, personality traits, Five Factor Model, locus of control, reciprocity, wages]
For decades, spatial ability assessed during adolescence has surfaced as a salient psychological attribute among those adolescents who subsequently go on to
achieve advanced educational credentials and occupations in STEM.
Results: solidify the generalization that spatial ability plays a critical role in developing expertise in STEM and suggest, among other things, that including spatial ability in modern talent searches would identify many adolescents
with potential for STEM who are currently being missed.
[The graph is based on data from Project TALENT, a study of a representative sample of about 400,000 high
school students in the 1960s and which continued for 11 years after their high school graduations. The students were divided into 9 groups according to the field
in which they earned a college or graduate degree. These fields are arranged (from left to right) in order of the average overall IQ for degree earners in each
field. They are education, business, arts, social science, humanities, biological science, math and computer science, physical science, and engineering. The
overall IQ (“General Ability Level”) is listed as z-scores, which means that every 0.1-unit increment in the graph is equal to 1.5 IQ points.
Therefore, the average IQ for a person who earned an education degree was about 108. In the social sciences, it was 112. In physical sciences and engineering,
the average IQ is about 119. Because most of these students self-selected into college majors, it seems that some areas of study are attracting very smart students
and others . . . are not so much.
But overall IQ is not the whole story. (It rarely is in education.) The 3 dots connected by lines within each group indicate the pattern of broad abilities:
verbal, spatial, and mathematical ability. Notice how different disciplines have different patterns of ability. Education, social sciences, and humanities tend to
attract people with spatial abilities that are much lower compared to their verbal and math abilities. For math and computer science, physical science, and
engineering, mathematical abilities tend to be highest and verbal abilities are lowest (though still well above the general population’s average).]
The role of improved schooling, a central part of most development strategies, has become controversial because expansion of school attainment has not
guaranteed improved economic conditions. This paper reviews the role of cognitive skills in promoting economic well-being, with a particular focus on the role of
school quality and quantity. It concludes that there is strong evidence that the cognitive skills of the population—rather than mere school attainment—are
powerfully related to individual earnings, to the distribution of income, and to economic growth. New empirical results show the importance of both minimal and
high level skills, the complementarity of skills and the quality of economic institutions, and the robustness of the relationship between skills and growth.
International comparisons incorporating expanded data on cognitive skills reveal much larger skill deficits in developing countries than generally derived from
just school enrollment and attainment. The magnitude of change needed makes clear that closing the economic gap with developed countries will require major
structural changes in schooling institutions.
I show that in a conventional Ramsey model, between one-fourth and one-half of the global income distribution can be explained by a single factor: The effect of
large, persistent differences in national average IQ on the private marginal product of labor. Thus, differences in national average IQ may be a driving force
behind global income inequality. These persistent differences in cognitive ability—which are well-supported in the psychology literature—are likely to be somewhat
malleable through better health care, better education, and especially better nutrition in the world’s poorest countries. A simple calibration exercise in the
spirit of Bils and Klenow (2000) and Castro (2005) is conducted. I show that an IQ-augmented Ramsey model can explain more than half of the empirical relationship
between national average IQ and GDP per worker. I provide evidence that little of the IQ-productivity relationship
is likely to be due to reverse causality.
Human capital plays an important role in the theory of economic growth, but it has been difficult to measure this abstract concept. We survey the psychological
literature on cross-cultural IQ tests and conclude that intelligence tests provide one useful measure of human capital. Using a new database of national average
IQ, we show that in growth regressions that include only robust control variables, IQ is statistically-significant in 99.8% of these 1330 regressions, easily
passing a Bayesian model-averaging robustness test. A
1 point increase in a nation’s average IQ is associated with a persistent 0.11% annual increase in GDP per
In this study we quantify economic benefits from projected improvements in worker productivity resulting from the reduction in children’s exposure to lead in
the United States since 1976. We calculated the decline in blood lead levels (BLLs) from 1976 to 1999 on the basis
of nationally representative National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data collected during 1976through 1980, 1991 through 1994, and 1999. The decline in mean BLL in 1- to 5-year-old U.S. children from
1976–1980 to 1991–1994 was 12.3 microg/dL, and the estimated decline from 1976 to 1999 was 15.1 microg/dL. We assumed the change in cognitive ability resulting
from declines in BLLs, on the basis of publishedmeta-analyses, to be
between 0.185 and 0.323 IQ points for each 1 g/dL blood lead concentration. These calculations imply that, because of falling BLLs, U.S. preschool-aged children in the late 1990s had IQs that were, on average, 2.2–4.7 points higher than they would have been
if they had the blood lead distribution observed among U.S. preschool-aged children in the late 1970s. We estimated that each IQ point raises worker productivity
1.76–2.38%. With discounted lifetime earnings of $723,300 for each 2-year-old in 2000 dollars, the estimated economic benefit for each year’s cohort of 3.8 million
2-year-old children ranges from $110 billion to $319 billion.
This paper explores the effects of peers, friends, family, IQ and academic performance, observed in the last year of high school, on earnings at ages 35 and 53.
All statistically-significantly affect earnings at both ages. The effects of IQ are much smaller than asserted in, for example, The Bell Curve, and badly
overstated in the absence of controls for family, wider context or academic performance. Aspirations appear to be very important. Socialization and role models may
be as well, but not ability spillovers. Feasible increases in academic performance and education can compensate for the effects of many cognitive and contextual
deficits. [This paper exemplifies the fallacy of controlling for intermediate variables—as if all those “controls” had nothing to do with IQ causing earnings!
Personnel selection research provides much evidence that intelligence (g) is an important predictor of performance in training and on the job, especially in
higher level work. This article provides evidence that g has pervasive utility in work settings because it is essentially the ability to deal with
cognitive complexity, in particular, with complex information processing. The more complex a work task, the greater the advantages that higher g confers
in performing it well. Everyday tasks, like job duties, also differ in their level of complexity. The importance of intelligence therefore differs systematically
across different arenas of social life as well as economic endeavor. Data from the National Adult Literacy Survey are used to show how higher levels of cognitive
ability systematically improve individual’’s odds of dealing successfully with the ordinary demands of modern life (such as banking, using maps and transportation
schedules, reading and understanding forms, interpreting news articles). These and other data are summarized to illustrate how the advantages of higher g,
even when they are small, cumulate to affect the overall life chances of individuals at different ranges of the IQ bell curve. The article concludes by suggesting
ways to reduce the risks for low-IQ individuals of being left behind by an increasingly complex postindustrial economy.
Studies of brothers and twins have shown that about 50% of the variance in educational achievement and 40% of the variance in occupational status reflects between-family variance. About half of the
between-family variance for educational achievement and even more for occupational status is due to genetic effects and the
remainder is due to sharing the same environment.
With data on 35 pairs of male twins reared apart and 56 pairs reared together we investigated the extent to which genetic variancein SES can be attributed to genetic variance for cognitive abilities. For both educational achievement and occupational status there was statistically-significant genetic
variance both in common with and independent of genetic variance for cognitive
Thus, there are genetic effects contributing to familial similarity for SES that are not the same as those of
importance for cognitive abilities. Candidate traits that may account for this remaining genetic variancein
SES are personality, interests, or talents not represented in standard cognitive tests.
While sophistication in public health research has been increasing substantially in the past few decades, sophistication in decision making about public health
and environmental issues has not been increasing in parallel. Measures that are inexpensive tend to be implemented and measures that are expensive tend not to be
implemented by makers of public policy. That is often independent of the degree of public health protection afforded by the measures. Understanding and addressing
this pattern is crucial to the control of lead exposure of critical populations. People are still exposed to lead in our society not because anyone believes that
exposure is good, but because reducing exposure costs money. Maintaining exposure also has its costs, however. It is more difficult to measure them, and they are
often ignored in decision making—but they are not small, and attempts to measure them have been made. The high cost of reducing lead exposure of critical
populations is the reason that progress in reducing lead-paint exposure has been minimal in the 18 years since the passage of the Lead-Based Paint Poisoning
Prevention Act and that it took from the time of the initial proposal in 1973 until 1986 before lead was substantially eliminated from gasoline. In its 1986
rule making, the EPA estimated that the elimination of lead from gasoline would cost more than $1,431$5001986 million
per year. Removing leaded paint is estimated to cost billions of dollars. The difference is that the EPA promulgated its
rule of removing lead fromgasoline, whereas HUD has had little success in removing leaded paintfrom
housing. One reason that the EPA was successful in implementing such an expensive regulation was that it provided
detailed estimates of the health and welfare benefits that would accrue and the monetary value of some of the benefits. The EPA cost-benefit analysis demonstrated that the monetary benefits of its regulation far exceeded the costs. That neutralized the
cost issue and focused the debate over the regulation on questions of timing. A detailed benefit analysis of reducing lead in drinking water has caused the
EPA to consider tighter water lead standards than initially envisioned. Despite years of concern about the consequences
of leaded paint poisoning, children continue to be poisoned by leaded paint because it will cost billions of dollars to abate the hazard, and demand for these
dollars has lost out to competing needs. As long as attention focuses on the costs of lead-paint abatement and ignores the costs of not abating and as long as
people add up the costs of removing paint but not the costs of medical care, compensatory education, and school dropouts, substantial action is unlikely. It is
possible that a detailed benefit analysis of lead-paint removal will not show that benefits exceed the costs, but we think it unlikely, given the large benefits
estimated for other programs that reduce lead exposure, that a cost-beneficial removal strategy cannot be found. If no attempt is made to estimate the benefits,
this strategy is less likely to be adopted. This paper cannot reasonably estimate the costs and benefits of the many measures that are available to reduce lead
exposure of critical populations. It can, however, describe the methods that have been used and present a prototypical analysis that can readily be adapted to
develop analyses specific to individual actions.
Scores of occupational status, educational attainment, and IQ were obtained for 507 monozygotic and 575 dizygotic male twin pairs born 1931–1935 and
A multivariate genetic analysis with statistics from different cohorts showed heterogeneity between cohorts, and analyses were performed in 4 separate
The only set of results which departed clearly from the rest was found for the group born 1931–1935, where the ratio of environmental to genetic effects
exceeded those of the other groups. Typical heritability values in the 3 youngest groups (weighted means) were 0.43, 0.51, and 0.66 for occupation, education, and
IQ, respectively. The values in the oldest group were 0.16, 0.10, and 0.37, but this sample is small and the estimates are unstable. Genetic variance influencing
educational attainment also contributed approximately 1⁄4th of the genetic variance for occupational status and
nearly half the genetic variance for IQ. The values for the between-families variances (reflecting family environment and
assortative mating) varied from 2% to 35% in the 3 youngest groups but were higher for education (62%) and IQ (45%) in the
oldest groups. All the between-families variance was common to all 3 variables. For educational attainment and IQ, the bulk
of this between-families variance is probably genetic variance due to assortative
mating. The common-factor environmental within-family variances were generally small, and the specific estimates seemed to contain mainly measurement error.
It is well-known that some workers in scientific research laboratories are enormously more creative than others.
If the number of scientific publications is used as a measure of productivity, it is found that some individuals create new science at a rate at least 50×
greater than others. Thus differences in rates of scientific production are much bigger than differences in the rates of performing simpler acts, such as the rate
of running the mile, or the number of words a man can speak per minute. On the basis of statistical studies of rates of publication, it is found that it is more
appropriate to consider not simply the rate of publication but its logarithm. The logarithm appears to have a normal distribution over the population of typical
research laboratories. The existence of a "log-normal distribution"
suggests that the logarithm of the rate of production is a manifestation of some fairly fundamental mental attribute.
The great variation in rate of production from one individual to another can be explained on the basis of simplified models of the mental processes concerned.
The common feature in the models is that a large number of factors are involved so that small changes in each, all in the same direction, may result in a very
large [multiplicative] change in output. For example, the number of ideas a scientist can bring into awareness at one time may control his ability to make an
invention and his rate of invention may increase very rapidly with this number.
The distribution of intelligence as measured by recognized scales supplemented by other information conforms closely to the normal curve of error, while that of
personal income presents a highly skewed J-shaped curve. Reconciliation of this apparent discrepancy can be made by regarding income as dependent mainly on output,
which in turn is related to the contributing abilities by some special function. Confirmation of this theory appears in the fact that in many intellectual fields
the distribution of output approaches the J-shaped curve. The inequality in personal income is largely, though not entirely, an indirect effect of the inequality
in innate intelligence. Yet mental output and achievement are undoubtedly influenced by differences in social and economic conditions. This is instanced by the
fact that in assessing the influence of innate ability and parental income upon entrance to the universities, it appears from statistical analysis that of the
ex-elementary (non-fee-paying) group about 40% of those possessing the necessary intelligence fail to obtain a university education. On the other hand, an equal
number of children whose parents pay for their early instruction receive a university education for which their innate abilities alone scarcely equip them.