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How well can we predict educational outcomes? Examining the roles of cognitive ability and social position in educational attainment

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)154-168
Number of pages15
JournalContemporary Social Science
Issue number2-3
Early online date23 Feb 2016
DateAccepted/In press - 3 Jan 2016
DateE-pub ahead of print - 23 Feb 2016
DatePublished (current) - 2 Jul 2016


Social inequalities in UK educational outcomes continue to persist despite improvements in recent years. However, studies that examine these inequalities fail to account for differences in prior cognitive ability. We seek to determine the influence of cognitive ability on educational outcomes and the extent of socio-economic disparities in education across a wide range of indicators while accounting for cognitive ability. Social inequalities exist whereby children from disadvantaged backgrounds systematically underperform compared to their advantaged peers regardless of cognitive ability; high ability children from disadvantaged backgrounds are disproportionately less likely to attain good grades compared to children from advantaged backgrounds. In addition, school effects operate to add to this inequality as children in fee-paying secondary schools outperform their state secondary school counterparts regardless of ability. Future UK policies should focus on reducing social inequality in education to ensure that all children are offered the same life chances regardless of background.

    Research areas

  • social inequality, education, schools, cognitive ability, ALSPAC

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    Rights statement: © 2016 The Author(s). Published by Taylor & Francis. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

    Final published version, 802 KB, PDF document

    Licence: CC BY


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