Independent effects of bilingualism and socioeconomic status on language ability and executive functioning

Cognition. 2014 Mar;130(3):278-88. doi: 10.1016/j.cognition.2013.11.015. Epub 2013 Dec 25.


One hundred and seventy-five children who were 6-years old were assigned to one of four groups that differed in socioeconomic status (SES; working class or middle class) and language background (monolingual or bilingual). The children completed tests of nonverbal intelligence, language tests assessing receptive vocabulary and attention based on picture naming, and two tests of executive functioning. All children performed equivalently on the basic intelligence tests, but performance on the language and executive functioning tasks was influenced by both SES and bilingualism. Middle-class children outperformed working-class children on all measures, and bilingual children obtained lower scores than monolingual children on language tests but higher scores than monolingual children on the executive functioning tasks. There were no interactions with either group factors or task factors. Thus, each of SES and bilingualism contribute significantly and independently to children's development irrespective of the child's level on the other factor.

Keywords: Bilingualism; Executive functioning; Language ability; Socioeconomic status.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Executive Function / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Language*
  • Male
  • Multilingualism*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Social Class*