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The effects of social origins and cognitive ability on educational attainment: Evidence from Britain and Sweden
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, The Swedish Institute for Social Research (SOFI).
2014 (English)In: Acta Sociologica, ISSN 0001-6993, E-ISSN 1502-3869, Vol. 57, no 4, 293-310 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In previous work we have shown that in Britain and Sweden alike parental class, parental status and parental education have independent effects on individuals’ educational attainment. In this paper we extend our analyses, first by also including measures of individuals’ early-life cognitive ability, and second by bringing our results for Britain and Sweden into direct comparative form. On the basis of extensive birth-cohort data for both countries, we find that when cognitive ability is introduced into our analyses, parental class, status and education continue to have significant, and in fact only moderately reduced and largely persisting, effects on the educational attainment of members of successive cohorts. There is some limited evidence for Britain, but not for Sweden, that cognitive ability has a declining effect on educational attainment, and a further cross-national difference is that in Britain, but not in Sweden, some positive interaction effects occur between advantaged social origins and high cognitive ability in relation to educational success. Overall, though, cross-national similarities are most apparent, and especially in the extent to which parental class, status and education, when taken together, create wide disparities in the eventual educational attainment of individuals who in early life were placed at similar levels of cognitive ability. Some wider implications of these findings are considered.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2014. Vol. 57, no 4, 293-310 p.
Keyword [en]
educational inequalities, social class, social status, cognitive ability, cohort studies
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-109190DOI: 10.1177/0001699314543803ISI: 000344691400002OAI: diva2:763437
Available from: 2014-11-14 Created: 2014-11-14 Last updated: 2014-12-16Bibliographically approved

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Erikson, Robert
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The Swedish Institute for Social Research (SOFI)
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