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Neighbourhood and family influences on the cognitive ability of children in the British National Child Development Study


  • McCulloch, Andrew
  • Joshi, Heather E.


This paper investigates the association between family poverty, the level of deprivation in electoral wards and children's cognitive test scores using data from the second generation in the 1991 sweep of the British National Child Development Study (1958 birth cohort). Family poverty has a significant association with lower test scores in children of all ages (4-18 years). Neighbourhood poverty has a significant association with lower test scores in children aged 4-5 years which, though somewhat attenuated, is independent of other socioeconomic indicators. Among children aged between 6 and 9 years, the association with neighbourhood deprivation is statistically accounted for by individual characteristics. Among children aged between 10 and 18 years, levels of neighbourhood deprivation were for the most part statistically insignificant. The family poverty -- test score association among children aged between 10 and 18 years was mediated by the home environment. Mediated effects were stronger for family poverty -- test score associations than for neighbourhood poverty. The use of a neighbourhood-level exposure related to the social environment leads to an understanding of the social determinants of children's outcomes that is more than the sum of individual and family-level measures. However, the size of the estimated effects of neighbourhood conditions is much smaller than the estimated effects of family-level conditions. Thus, it appears that families still should be viewed as the key agents in promoting positive development in children.

Suggested Citation

  • McCulloch, Andrew & Joshi, Heather E., 2001. "Neighbourhood and family influences on the cognitive ability of children in the British National Child Development Study," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 53(5), pages 579-591, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:53:y:2001:i:5:p:579-591

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    Cited by:

    1. Shortt, S. E. D., 2004. "Making sense of social capital, health and policy," Health Policy, Elsevier, vol. 70(1), pages 11-22, October.
    2. Christian Helmers & Manasa Patnam, 2014. "Does the rotten child spoil his companion? Spatial peer effects among children in rural India," Quantitative Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 5, pages 67-121, March.
    3. McCulloch, Andrew, 2006. "Variation in children's cognitive and behavioural adjustment between different types of place in the British National Child Development Study," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 62(8), pages 1865-1879, April.
    4. A. Tampieri, 2011. "Students' Social Origins and Targeted Grade Inflation," Working Papers wp801, Dipartimento Scienze Economiche, Universita' di Bologna.
    5. Farwick, Andreas, 2014. "Migrantenquartiere: Ressource oder Benachteiligung?," Forschungsberichte der ARL: Aufsätze,in: Räumliche Auswirkungen der internationalen Migration, pages 219-238 Akademie für Raumforschung und Landesplanung (ARL) - Leibniz-Forum für Raumwissenschaften.
    6. Calheiros, Maria Manuela & Graça, João & Patrício, Joana Nunes, 2014. "From assessing needs to designing and evaluating programs: Case study of a family support program in Portugal," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 36(C), pages 170-178.
    7. Reading, Richard & Jones, Andrew & Haynes, Robin & Daras, Konstantinos & Emond, Alan, 2008. "Individual factors explain neighbourhood variations in accidents to children under 5 years of age," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 67(6), pages 915-927, September.


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