The Wall Street Journal review of the book, The Life Project, caught my eye today. The book summarizes the 6,000 research papers and 40 books chronicling the 70,000 Brits born in 5 cohorts (1946, 1958, 1970, 1991, and 2001) tracked over the course of their lives by the British government.
“From the first cohort, scientists were struck by the effects of social class on life chances. … Inequality remains a major theme—and disappointment—in the cohort literature.
The 1944 Education Act…made education compulsory and free; the British government also introduced the “11-plus” test to locate promising kids at the end of elementary school. Policy makers…eventually increased funds for early childhood education.
If their efforts have created a more equal society, the cohort studies have yet to reveal it. … Performance gaps continue to emerge very early in life and even widen during the school years… In the 2001 cohort study, very young poor kids had smaller vocabularies… They were more hyperactive and had more emotional and learning problems. … Over 30% of them faced at least one…childhood risk… like domestic violence and parental alcoholism or depression.
[However,] the…studies found that parents with high aspirations for their children [who provided] “a good ‘learning environment’ at home”—reading to a child, singing songs, teaching the alphabet and numbers—was more significant than “parents’ job, education, or income.”