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 summer 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.

Sub studies

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

11 Jul 2019

Introduction to the 1970 British Cohort Study Age 46 Sweep

Listen to the recording of this webinar introduction to the BCS70 age 46 data, covering data collection, content and emerging findings.


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

22 August 2019 Professor Alice Sullivan gave her inaugural professorial lecture at the UCL Institute of Education earlier this summer, summarising the highlights of her academic career so far. This blog outlines her presentation.

Research round-up – April to June 2019

2 August 2019 Are boys more sensitive to the state of the local job market when choosing their GCSE subjects? And why are migrant and ethnic minority mothers at increased risk of mental ill health? Researchers have been using CLS study data to tackle these and other key questions.

CLS to present latest survey methods research at international conference

15 July 2019 CLS will present its latest research on survey methods at the European Survey Research Association (ESRA) conference this week (15-19 July 2019).

The UK’s unique scientific versions of the 7-Up series

6 June 2019 With the 7-Up children returning to our TV screens this week at age 63 (4 June), Professor Alissa Goodman reflects on the importance of the show and the longitudinal studies she manages at CLS.

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 79 new recruits at age 5, 294 at age 10 and 65 at 16.

Biomedical data

The Age 46 sweep has collected extensive information on health to support biomedical and biosocial research.

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

Health has been a continual focus of BCS70, but the Age 46 sweep was 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 included 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