Strong maths skills at school add up to higher earnings in later life, study finds

Maths lessonChildren who are good at maths generally earn more in later life, according to a new report commissioned by the Department for Education (DfE).

Researchers from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) have reached this conclusion after analysing data from the 1970 British Cohort Study. They found that children in the top 15 per cent for maths at age 10 earned 7 per cent more on average (equivalent to an extra £2,100 a year) at age 30 than those who achieved middle-ranking scores.

The link between maths skills and pay remained the same at ages 34 and 38, even after other factors, such as gender and qualifications, had been taken into account.

The study revealed that reading skills at age 10 also affected earnings in later life, but less so than maths attainment.

Children in the top 15 per cent for reading at age 10 earned nearly 2 per cent (or £550) more per year at age 30 than otherwise identical children who achieved average reading scores.

The report suggests employers seem to value candidates with strong maths skills more highly and are willing to reward them with higher wages, indicating that there may be a shortage of such skills.

Claire Crawford, one of the report’s authors, underlines the importance of supporting children to develop their maths skills from a young age.

“Our research shows that maths skills developed during primary school continue to matter for earnings 20-30 years down the line,” she says.

“Moreover, they seem to matter more than reading skills, and over and above the qualifications that young people go on to obtain. This highlights the importance of investing in skills, particularly maths skills, early.”

The Government has announced plans to overhaul the national curriculum followed by primary and secondary schools in England, including changes to the way maths is taught from September 2014.

Under the proposals, more emphasis will be placed on arithmetic and calculators will be banned from the Standard Assessment Tests (SATs) taken by 11-year-olds. Pupils will be expected to know their times tables up to 12×12 by the age of 9, and should be able to make simple additions and subtractions by age 7.