DEC Colloquium

How family background affects children’s differences in school performance

Practical information
14 November 2023

ENS, Jaurès, 29 rue d'Ulm, 75005 Paris


Children’s differences in school performance have pervasive long-term influence on their education, health, and wellbeing. Children’s differences in school performance are evident from the first day of primary school and are relatively stable throughout the years of compulsory education. The major source of children’s differences in school performance is family background, not schools. Understanding why and how family background inequalities produce differences in children’s education is key for designing effective interventions that improve children’s life outcomes. 

In this talk, I will focus on the role of the gene-environment interplay in the transmission of family background inequality in education, which has often been ignored in previous research. Yet, children select, modify, and create their environments according to their genetic propensities, which in turn become drivers of children’s complex, reciprocal transactions and interactions with the environment that produce their educational differences.

Bio: Sophie von Stumm is 2023-2024 Paris Institute for Advanced Study Fellow and Professor of Psychology in Education at the University of York, where she directs the Hungry Mind Lab ( Sophie's research focuses on the causes and consequences of individual differences in learning, and she integrates theories and methods across the disciplines psychology, education, sociology, epidemiology, and genomics. Her studies address how family background, early life experiences, and education opportunities inform children’s cognitive development and their educational outcomes.

The Cognitive Science Colloquium series is the most attended event of our department, hosting monthly talks by world-renowned experts in various fields of cognitive science, including neuroscience, psychology, linguistics, philosophy and anthropology.

Sophie von Stumm