Socioeconomic status modifies interest-knowledge associations among adolescents

Elliot M. Tucker-Drob, Daniel A. Briley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Researchers have recently taken a renewed interest in examining the patterns by which noncognitive traits and cognitive traits relate to one another. Few researchers, however, have examined the possibility that such patterns might differ according to environmental context. Using data from a nationally representative sample of approximately 375,000 students from 1300 high schools in the United States, we examined the relations between socioeconomic status (SES), interests, and knowledge in eleven academic, vocational/professional, and recreational domains. We found little support for the hypothesis that SES-related differences in levels of interest mediate SES-related differences in levels of knowledge. In contrast, we found robust and consistent support for the hypothesis that SES moderates interest-knowledge associations. For 10 out of 11 of the knowledge domains examined, the interest-knowledge association was stronger for individuals living in higher SES contexts. Moderation persisted after controlling for an index of general intelligence. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that low SES inhibits individuals from selectively investing their time and attention in learning experiences that are consistent with their interests.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9-15
Number of pages7
JournalPersonality and Individual Differences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Domain-specific knowledge
  • Interests
  • Investment theory
  • Socioeconomic status

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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