Executive function mediates socio-economic and racial differences in early academic achievement
Although associations between socio-economic status, race, and academic achievement are well established, the specific mechanisms that underlie the relation remain incompletely understood. This longitudinal investigation, involving a sample of 206 children from economically and racially diverse backgrounds, examined the influence of executive function and expressive vocabulary assessed in kindergarten on academic achievement in Grade 1. The use of structural equation modeling revealed that both SES and race had indirect effects on achievement test scores through their effects on executive function, even when accounting for differences in expressive vocabulary. As expected, executive function was more strongly related to math than literacy achievement. The results provide support for the importance of targeting executive skills and intervening early in efforts to improve academic performance in young children. Moreover, the findings suggest that improving executive function may mitigate the impact of social risk factors on academic achievement.