The Declining Relative Importance of Ability in Predicting Educational Attainment
Most countries seek to reduce inequality by encouraging educational attainment, particularly by striving for better outcomes for able individuals from poor backgrounds. We analyse whether this has been a feature of Britain’s substantial expansion of education during the past several decades. We use two unique longitudinal studies to test whether these improvements have been associated with changes in the role of cognitive ability and parental background in determining educational achievement. We find a decline in the importance of ability in explaining educational performance, in part because low ability children with high economic status experienced the largest increases in educational attainment.
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