Does the language of 11-year-olds predict their future?

Background

For this project the research team used machine learning tools to explore whether essays written by 11-year-olds in 1969 provided clues to their economic status, physical activity, health, and cognitive function in later life.

Research details

Project title

Does the language of 11-year-olds predict their future?

Project lead

Alissa Goodman

Themes

Employment, income and wealth

Expectations, attitudes and beliefs

Family and social networks

Mental health and wellbeing

Dates

February 2016 – January 2018

Funder

ESRC

Summary

In 1969, more than 10,000 11-year-olds taking part in the National Child Development Study wrote an essay imagining what their lives would be like by the time they were 25.

Fast forward 50 years, and a team of researchers from the Centre for Longitudinal Studies in London, Stonybrook University in New York, and University of Melbourne has been undertaking a major project to analyse the content of these essays to see how the language of children can provide vital clues to their future lives.

Using machine learning tools, and drawing on other data collected from the study members over the decades, the researchers have been looking at the predictive power of the words and concepts in the children’s essays. They have explored the extent to which the language used points to their economic status, their physical activity, physical and mental health and cognitive function in middle age.

This is the first time this type of analysis has been done on open responses collected from a large national birth cohort study.

A key part of the project was to digitally transcribe all 10,000 plus essays written in 1969. The essay transcriptions are now available to the wider research community for the first time, from the UK Data Service.

Researchers

Alissa Goodman Director of CLS, Professor of Economics and Principal Investigator of the National Child Development Study

Phone: 020 7612 6231
Email: alissa.goodman@ucl.ac.uk

Alissa is Director of the Centre for Longitudinal Studies, leading the work of the Centre across all of its scientific and operational teams. Alissa is also Principal Investigator of the 1958 National Child Development Study (NCDS), leading the team responsible for developing its content, design and analysis.

Alissa is an economist whose main research interests relate to inequality, poverty, education policy, and the intergenerational transmission of health and well-being.  In her previous employment, she served as deputy director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

Peggy Kern University of Melbourne

View Peggy’s biography on the University of Melbourne website here.

Andrew Schwartz Stony Brook University

View Andrew’s biography on the Stony Brook University here.

Relevant studies

Contact us

Centre for Longitudinal Studies
UCL Institute of Education

20 Bedford Way
London WC1H 0AL

Email: clsfeedback@ucl.ac.uk