June 19, 2019
2 min read

Childhood behaviors linked to future salary

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Childhood behaviors, especially inattention, among kindergarten students in Canada were associated with future earnings in adulthood, according to a longitudinal study published in JAMA Psychiatry.

“Early behaviors are modifiable, arguably more so than traditional factors associated with earnings such as IQ and socioeconomic status, making them key targets for early intervention,” Francis Vergunst, DPhil, from the Research Unit on Children’s Psychosocial Maladjustment, Université de Montréal, and colleagues wrote.

Researchers examined data from the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Kindergarten Children to determine whether childhood behaviors at age 6 years affected employment earnings in adulthood at age 33 to 35 years among individuals born in 1980 or 1981 in Quebec, Canada, and followed up from 1985 to 2015.

The data included inattention, hyperactivity, aggression, opposition, anxiety and prosociality when children were aged 5 or 6 years (as rated by kindergarten teachers) and 2013 to 2015 annual earnings on income tax returns when these same participants were aged 33 to 35 years. Analysis was adjusted for participant IQ and family adversity.

The study included 2,850 participants (51.6% were male and 2,740 were white).

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Analysis revealed that a one-unit increase in inattention score at age 6 years was linked to a reduction of US$1,271.49 (95% CI, –1908.67 to –634.3) for male participants and $924.25 (95% CI, –1424.44 to –425.46) for female participants in their annual earnings. In addition, aggression-opposition was tied to decreased earnings of $699.83 (95% CI, –1262.49 to –137.17) and a 1-unit increase in prosociality score was tied to increased earnings of $476.75 (95% CI, 181.53-771.96) among male participants only.

Vergunst and colleagues also found that theoretically, a reduced inattention score of 1-standard deviation would restore $3,077 per year among male participants and restore $1,915 per year for female participants. The amount restored over the course of a 40-year career would be $73,232 for men and $45,569 for women, they reported.

“Screening and preventive interventions in the early years that aim to improve economic participation should target inattention in addition to aggression-opposition,” the researchers wrote. “Support and prevention programs that target inattention and low levels of prosociality in elementary school–aged children can improve social integration and educational attainment and thus help close the achievement gap.” – by Savannah Demko

Disclosure: Vergunst reports no relevant financial disclosures. Please see the study for all other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.