One Year of School Comes with An IQ Bump

Summary: A new meta analysis study reveals a year of schooling not only boosts a person’s knowledge, it is also associated with a noticeable increase in IQ.

Source: APS.

A year of schooling leaves students with new knowledge, and it also equates with a small but noticeable increase to students’ IQ, according to a systematic meta-analysis published in Psychological Science.

“Our analyses provide the strongest evidence yet that education raises intelligence test scores,” says psychological scientist Stuart J. Ritchie of the University of Edinburgh. “We looked at 42 datasets using several different research designs and found that, overall, adding an extra year of schooling in this way improved people’s IQ scores by between 1 and 5 points.”

Research has long shown that years of education and intelligence are correlated but it has been unclear whether this is because education boosts intelligence or because individuals who start off with higher IQ scores are likely to stay in school for longer.

Many individual studies on this question have now been published, and Ritchie and coauthor Elliot Tucker-Drob of the University of Texas at Austin saw an opportunity to clarify the nature of the schooling-IQ relationship:

“We felt the time was right to do a meta-analysis, combining all the previous studies to come up with an overall result for how much education boosts intelligence,” Ritchie explains.

The researchers looked at three particular types of quasi-experimental studies from a variety of sources, including published articles, books, preprint articles, working papers, dissertations, and theses.

The first type of study includes data collected from individuals over time, including intelligence measurements obtained before and after individuals complete their education. This allows researchers to adjust for participants’ prior intelligence level when examining the association between years of school and later intelligence.

The second type of study takes advantage of “natural experiments” in the form of policy changes that result in individuals staying in school for different lengths of time. In one study, for example, researchers examined data from the 1960s when Norway gradually enacted a new policy that increased the basic education requirement by 2 years, testing whether IQ scores were higher for students who’d been given more compulsory schooling.

In the third study type, researchers use school-admission age cutoffs to compare children who are similar in age but who have different levels of schooling due to their specific birth dates.

To be included in the meta-analysis, each data set had to provide cognitive scores obtained from objective measurement with participants who were 6 or older and cognitively healthy. This yielded 42 data sets from 28 studies collected from a total of 615,812 individuals.

a classroom
The researchers looked at three particular types of quasi-experimental studies from a variety of sources, including published articles, books, preprint articles, working papers, dissertations, and theses. image is in the public domain.

In each of the three types of studies, the researchers found that an additional year of education was associated with an increase in IQ that ranged from 1.197 IQ points to 5.229 IQ points. In combination, the studies indicated that an additional year of education correlated with an average increase of 3.394 IQ points.

“The most surprising thing was how long-lasting the effects seemed to be, appearing even for people who completed intelligence tests in their 70s and 80s,” Ritchie says. “Something about that educational boost seemed to be beneficial right across the lifespan.”

The researchers note that each type of study has strengths and weaknesses, and the findings raise several new questions that future research will have to address. For example, does an additional year of school just make students better at taking tests or does it produce an underlying neurobiological change? What are the specific parts of the educational experience that are most responsible for the change? And what are the limits of education’s effect?

“A crucial next step will be to uncover the mechanisms of these educational effects on intelligence in order to inform educational policy and practice,” they conclude.

About this neuroscience research article

Funding: E.M. Tucker-Drob’s contribution to this study was supported by National Institutes of Health (NIH) Research Grant R01HD083613. The Population Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin is supported by NIH Grant R24HD042849.

Source: Anna Mikulak – APS
Publisher: Organized by
Image Source: image is in the public domain.
Original Research: Abstract for “How Much Does Education Improve Intelligence? A Meta-Analysis” by Stuart J. Ritchie, Elliot M. Tucker-Drob in Psychological Science. Published June 18 2018.

Cite This Article

[cbtabs][cbtab title=”MLA”]APS “One Year of School Comes with An IQ Bump.” NeuroscienceNews. NeuroscienceNews, 21 June 2018.
<>.[/cbtab][cbtab title=”APA”]APS (2018, June 21). One Year of School Comes with An IQ Bump. NeuroscienceNews. Retrieved June 21, 2018 from[/cbtab][cbtab title=”Chicago”]APS “One Year of School Comes with An IQ Bump.” (accessed June 21, 2018).[/cbtab][/cbtabs]


How Much Does Education Improve Intelligence? A Meta-Analysis

Intelligence test scores and educational duration are positively correlated. This correlation could be interpreted in two ways: Students with greater propensity for intelligence go on to complete more education, or a longer education increases intelligence. We meta-analyzed three categories of quasiexperimental studies of educational effects on intelligence: those estimating education-intelligence associations after controlling for earlier intelligence, those using compulsory schooling policy changes as instrumental variables, and those using regression-discontinuity designs on school-entry age cutoffs. Across 142 effect sizes from 42 data sets involving over 600,000 participants, we found consistent evidence for beneficial effects of education on cognitive abilities of approximately 1 to 5 IQ points for an additional year of education. Moderator analyses indicated that the effects persisted across the life span and were present on all broad categories of cognitive ability studied. Education appears to be the most consistent, robust, and durable method yet to be identified for raising intelligence.

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    1. Awesome answer, I came here to make the same comment; effective WORD knowledge increases IG, and can even change the DNA. Words are the small “1” and “0” ‘s that increase one ability to define the small and as such more readily and easily see the more complex. Such studies have already been done, notably in the 1930’s , I believe, by Johnson O’Conner institute. Also, the Russians have studied the effects of words on DNA, after all, presence is more like the substance of water and sound, it can take on the form of anything, it is how we learn to crawl and to talk and to walk, before a value system is absorbed from the parents and a public schooling system that is memorizing info in isolation of the environment, that in itself, by design builds a differentiating consciousness of separation from living experience, which means living self generating actual practice in reality. Just look at how so many of us lose spatial ability as we age. Just look at the growing cognitive dissonance, to understand most of what we are doing, is an effort to separate us from ourselves. This in itself demands GREAT distraction, like our media, and chill entertainment and promotion of following sport teams to live something vicariously, thereby never being the actual focus and doing by the self! Yet, this is a way to sell products, this is a way to by the soul of human resource in self interest. This has a consequence of destruction of earth, because it has no respect for life. If one learns the small, as the words, and the words have a direct relationship to living reality, instead of association to limited moralities, one remains in utilization of that natural presence, that is the stuff of genius, and the means to create a balanced and abundant, and thriving life on earth.
      Yet this was known, as that ancient word ABraCaDabra simply means to know the small to realize the more complex, it is saying as the acronym that it is, to KNOW your ABC’s! Language is a great tool to organize, it is also a great tool to manipulate. Yet, manipulations always polarize. That polarizing that creates elephants in the room of hyper inflated values, distracting at the expense of making the best choices, causing imbalance leading into fear, manifesting as self hate, shame, regret, blame, only-seeing-worst-case-scenarios, etc. This is a resonant mind consciousness separated from being present- also visible in a loss of being in awe of life.
      Lol, This article stated that the starting point for their measure was ” cognitively” healthy subjects. It is already understood that the more words a child knows by the time they are ready for school, the greater their chance of success. Of course they would increase in IQ! Yet, is that degree of improvement their real capacity? Overall, I would say this article is one that brings such generalities to make a point, it is in itself a form of dumbing down, by its focus and lack of telling the whole story.
      We are the words we effectively know. Master the small, realize the more complex. Simple. Chaos is done through pitting polarized values against one another, making things complicated, when in reality, the practical is always in plain sight.

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