Socioeconomic status modifies the sex difference in spatial skill

Psychol Sci. 2005 Nov;16(11):841-5. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2005.01623.x.


We examined whether the male spatial advantage varies across children from different socioeconomic (SES) groups. In a longitudinal study, children were administered two spatial tasks requiring mental transformations and a syntax comprehension task in the fall and spring of second and third grades. Boys from middle- and high-SES backgrounds outperformed their female counterparts on both spatial tasks, whereas boys and girls from a low-SES group did not differ in their performance level on these tasks. As expected, no sex differences were found on the verbal comprehension task. Prior studies have generally been based on the assumption that the male spatial advantage reflects ability differences in the population as a whole. Our finding that the advantage is sensitive to variations in SES provides a challenge to this assumption, and has implications for a successful explanation of the sex-related difference in spatial skill.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sex Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Space Perception*