Trollope and the IFS study on the impact of childhood poverty on future success

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has published a report on the impact of poverty on the performance of children in education.

The research found that there is a marked trend for those who are identified as academically above average in tests at age 11 to under-perform if they are from socially deprived backgrounds when compared with children of lower academic ability but from more affluent backgrounds.  The measures of success used included subsequent attainment of university places while the measures of social deprivation included the levels of dependency on benefits in the area in which the child is brought up.

I wonder how Trollope might have been recorded had he been included in this survey.  His family was middle-class with aristocratic pretensions and he attended public schools but, as he famously noted in his Autobiography, they were constantly on the brink of financial ruin owing to his father’s incompetence with money and business matters.

Ultimately, of course, Trollope would have been counted as an academic failure according to the measures used in the IFS research, but, crucially, he was the author of his own subsequent good fortune through his literary efforts. He might therefore have been somewhat sceptical about the conclusions drawn by the IFS which implicitly equate academic success with success in life generally.


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