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The socio-economic gradient in children's reading skills and the role of genetics


  • John Jerrim

    () (Institute of Education, University of London)

  • Anna Vignoles

    () (Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge)

  • Raghu Lingam

    () (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University of London)

  • Angela Friend

    () (University of Colorado Boulder)


By the time children leave primary school there is a large socio-economic gap in their reading proficiency. There are a number of potential explanations for this socio-economic gap and in this paper we investigate the role of three particular genes and gene-environment interactions in determining children’s reading skills, using the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) dataset. We find that whilst these genes are indeed correlated with reading outcomes, effect sizes are small and sensitive to the choice of test used and the sample selected. Our results suggest that the leading candidate genes can jointly explain just 2% of the socio-economic gap in children’s reading test scores. We conclude that the influence of these three genes on children’s reading ability is limited, and their role in producing socio-economic gaps in reading ability is even more limited still.

Suggested Citation

  • John Jerrim & Anna Vignoles & Raghu Lingam & Angela Friend, 2013. "The socio-economic gradient in children's reading skills and the role of genetics," DoQSS Working Papers 13-10, Department of Quantitative Social Science - UCL Institute of Education, University College London.
  • Handle: RePEc:qss:dqsswp:1310

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Jere R. Behrman & Mark R. Rosenzweig, 2002. "Does Increasing Women's Schooling Raise the Schooling of the Next Generation?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(1), pages 323-334, March.
    2. Leon Feinstein, 2003. "Inequality in the Early Cognitive Development of British Children in the 1970 Cohort," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 70(277), pages 73-97, February.
    3. Petra E. Todd & Kenneth I. Wolpin, 2003. "On The Specification and Estimation of The Production Function for Cognitive Achievement," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 113(485), pages 3-33, February.
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    More about this item


    Reading; Genes; Gene-environment interaction; ALSPAC;

    JEL classification:

    • I20 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - General
    • I24 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Inequality

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