1970 British Cohort Study

The 1970 British Cohort Study (BCS70) is following the lives of around 17,000 people born in England, Scotland and Wales in a single week of 1970.

What’s in the study?

Over the course of cohort members’ lives, BCS70 has collected information on health, physical, educational and social development, and economic circumstances among other factors.

BCS70 has become a vital source of evidence on key policy areas such as social mobility, education, training and employment, and economic insecurity.

What has the study found?

This invaluable study has resulted in important findings at each stage of life.

Research based on BCS70 has shown the importance of reading for pleasure for children’s cognitive development, especially in vocabulary and spelling, but also in maths.

Findings from the cohort members’ school years continue to inform the education debates of today. The study has revealed that grammar schools have been no more successful than comprehensives at helping to ensure pupils gained a university degree.

Today, research using BCS70 has shown a strong link between childhood disadvantage and adult mental wellbeing for this generation.

Who funds the study?

BCS70 is core funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. The most recent sweep, at age 46, received additional funding from the Medical Research Council and and the British Heart Foundation.

BCS70 sweeps

Since the birth survey in 1970 there have been nine ‘sweeps’ of all cohort members. The most recent sweep was at age 46. We finished surveying cohort members for this in summer 2018 and the data we have collected will be available from spring 2019 . The next sweep will take place in 2020 when cohort members are age 50. Click on a sweep below to learn more about the information collected.


In addition to the main BCS70 sweeps there have been a number of sub studies. You can find out more about these on the following pages:

Latest from BCS70

18 Jun 2019

Inequalities in education and society: the home, the school and the power of reading

Professor Alice Sullivan talks about social class and gender differences in educational attainment and social mobility.

Degrees still boost household income for women, although returns to education are diminishing

25 October 2018 Higher education has been less lucrative for women of Generation X than it was for the Baby Boomers, new research reveals.

Cognitive achievement of second generation immigrants less likely to be restricted by social disadvantage nowadays, study finds

18 October 2018 Children born to immigrant parents tended to trail behind their peers in reading and maths in the 1970s and 1980s, largely due to their social background.

Religious background is more important than a faith school education for academic success, new study finds

12 September 2018 The academic advantages associated with a faith school education are short lived, and are mainly explained by home background, new research shows.

Degree subject matters more than university status if you want to become rich, new research shows

13 August 2018 Choosing the right field of study is more important than attending an elite university for those aiming to become top earners by middle age, according to new findings from the UCL Institute of Education.

Cohort profile

This cohort profile provides information about the background to the study as well as its sample size, content, and findings.

Elliott, J and Shepherd, P (2006)

Cohort Profile: 1970 British birth cohort (BCS70)
International Journal of Epidemiology, 35(4), 836-843

Read the full paper

Recent scientific publications

Sullivan, A, Parsons, S, Green, F, Wiggins, R.D and Ploubidis, G
Elite universities, fields of study and top salaries: Which degree will make you rich?
British Educational Research Jounal, 2018, Volume 44, Issue 4
Read the full paper
Matei, V.P., Mihailescu, A.I., Diaconescu, L.V., Purnichi, T, Grigoras, R and Popa-Velea, O
Depression in young adults diagnosed with cancer – an analysis of the outcomes of 1970 British Cohort Study
Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 2018, Volume 109, p118
Read the full paper

Special features of this study

Sample design

BCS70 follows the lives of all people born in England, Scotland and Wales in one particular week in 1970. Those born in Northern Ireland were included in the birth sweep, but were not followed up in any of the subsequent sweeps.

During the birth sweep, information was collected about 16,568 babies born in England, Scotland and Wales, and a further 628 born in Northern Ireland who were not followed up subsequently. At ages 5, 10 and 16, the sample was augmented with those who had been born overseas in the relevant week and subsequently moved to Great Britain. This resulted in 68 new recruits at age 5, 286 at age 10 and 46 at 16.

Biomedical data

The Age 46 sweep is collecting extensive information on health to support biomedical and biosocial research.

It includes objective measures of anthropometry (height, weight, body fat, waist and hip circumference), blood pressure/pulse, grip strength, balance, blood samples (for analysis of cholesterol and hba1c, storage for future analyses and DNA extraction). In addition, participants are wearing an ActivPal device for 7 days to measure physical and sedentary activity and completing an online web questionnaire about their diet.

Health has been a continual focus of BCS70, but the Age 46 sweep is the first time that objective measures of health have been collected since childhood. The data collected will provide a thorough assessment of health in mid-life, and when combined with data from previous sweeps will allow for detailed examinations of the predictors of mid-life health status. Cross cohort comparisons will be possible with the 1958 National Child Development Study biomedical sweep.

Children of cohort members

The Age 34 sweep had an emphasis on parenting and children, with cohort members’ own offspring taking part in the sweep.

At age 34, a randomly allocated 1 in 2 sample of cohort members completed an additional interview module and a paper self-completion questionnaire about each of their children.

Cohort members’ children aged over 10 also completed their own questionnaires and a series of cognitive assessments, which allows for the study of transfer of ability from one generation to the next.

Cognitive ability

BCS70 has measured cognition since childhood, allowing researchers to track cognitive development through life.

It is valuable for studying factors associated with differing levels of cognition, trajectories of cognitive ability, and the effect of cognitive ability on other aspects of life.

Cognition was first measured at age 5 and then throughout childhood at ages 10 and 16. In adulthood, basic skills assessments were conducted at age 34, and a vocabulary assessment was conducted at age 42. The Age 46 sweep includes assessments of memory, executive function and concentration.

Social mobility

BCS70 is a leading source of evidence on social mobility, with information on work and income across the life course.

During the childhood sweeps, information was collected about parental occupations and income. Cohort members have themselves provided detailed information about their own occupations and income during each adult survey, making BCS70 ideal for studying how people move up and down the social ladder.

Similar information collected in the other cohort studies gives researchers the opportunity to examine how social mobility has changed between generations.

Popular survey documentation

BCS70 Age 42 Self-Completion Questionnaire

Self-Completion questionnaire for BCS Age 42 Sweep

Authors: Centre for Longitudinal Studies
Date published: 1 May 2012
PDF: 433,6 KB


BCS70 Age 42 Main Stage Questionnaire

BCS Age 42 Paper representation of the main stage questionnaire with routing

Authors: Centre for Longitudinal Studies
Date published: 1 May 2012
PDF: 1,67 MB


Data access

We’ve published guidance to help users find out what’s in our data.

Most BCS70 data are available through the UK Data Service. Visit the UK Data Service study page for BCS70 [SN 200001].

Principal Investigator

Alice Sullivan Professor of Sociology and Principal Investigator of 1970 British Cohort Study

Phone: 020 7612 6661
Email: alice.sullivan@ucl.ac.uk

Alice leads the team responsible for developing the content, design and analysis of the 1970 British Cohort Study.  Her research interests are focussed on social and educational inequalities and the intergenerational transmission of advantage and disadvantage.

Contact us

Centre for Longitudinal Studies
UCL Institute of Education

20 Bedford Way
London WC1H 0AL

Email: clsfeedback@ucl.ac.uk