This paper studies the effect of cultural capital on teachers’ ratings of children’s oral and math ability. Cultural reproduction theory hypothesises that, holding everything else constant, children who possess cultural capital are more likely to be perceived by teachers as gifted than children who do not possess cultural capital. This paper uses extremely rich longitudinal data that provides a better basis than previous studies for holding ‘everything else’ constant. In addition to children and parents’ cultural capital, I control for children’s actual academic ability, physical appearance, health impairments, social behaviour, antenatal influences, and many family background characteristics. My analysis shows, first, that both children and parents’ cultural capital have independent effects on teacher ability ratings. Second, for oral ability I find that parents’ cultural capital ‘protects’ children from very low ability ratings and that children’s cultural capital is particularly useful for obtaining very high ability ratings.
Mads Meier Jæger