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Wastage of talent?: Social origins, cognitive ability and educational attainment in Britain

Abstract : The extent to which societies suffer ‘wastage of talent’ due to social inequalities in educational attainment is a longstanding issue. The present paper contributes to the relevant literature by examining how social origins and early-life cognitive ability are associated with educational success across three British birth cohorts. We address questions of over-time change, bringing current evidence up-to-date. Our findings reinforce the well-established trend that the importance of cognitive ability declined for cohorts born between 1958 and 1970, but we show that for a cohort born in the early 1990s this trend has reversed. We further show that the relative importance of family background has not seen a corresponding decline. In distinguishing between different components of social origins, we show that family economic resources have become somewhat less important for children’s educational success, while socio-cultural and educational resources have become more important. Even high ability children are unable to transcend the effects of their social origins. The problem of ‘wastage of talent’ remains; young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are still lacking the opportunity to fully realise their potential within the British educational system.
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Submitted on : Friday, June 17, 2022 - 10:54:13 AM
Last modification on : Saturday, June 18, 2022 - 3:46:22 AM

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Distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution - NonCommercial - NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

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Erzsébet Bukodi, Mollie Bourne, Bastian Betthäuser. Wastage of talent?: Social origins, cognitive ability and educational attainment in Britain. Advances in Life Course Research, Elsevier, 2017, 34, pp.34-42. ⟨10.1016/j.alcr.2017.09.003⟩. ⟨hal-03697678⟩

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