Babies are born with equal intelligence no matter what their class or race is, research has found.
The idea that race or class determines brain power has been dealt a killer blow after a seven-year global study found babies can thrive regardless of their background.
All children born to healthy parents in clean environments develop at approximately the same rate, with genes accounting for as little as 10 per cent of the process.
The research, by the University of Oxford, used data from more than a thousand children worldwide to try and settle the nature versus nurture debate for good.
Most children in England and Wales are born to parents at the wealthier end of official socio-economic status measures. The scale runs from one to eight, with parents in category one in the highest paying jobs and those in category eight never working. In 2017, 403,037 babies were born to families in the four best-paid job categories, according to the ONS
Researchers from Oxford University carried out the INTERGROWTH-21st Project over the course of seven years and included children from around the world (stock image)
Professor Stephen Kennedy, the co-director of the Oxford Maternal and Perinatal Health Institute, told the Telegraph: ‘At every single stage we’ve shown that healthy mothers have healthy babies and that healthy babies all grow at exactly the same rate.
‘It doesn’t matter where you are living, it doesn’t matter what the colour of your skin is, it doesn’t matter what your race and ethnicity is.
‘Receiving decent medical care and nutrition is the key.’
The INTERGROWTH-21st Project, which took seven years to complete, tracked nearly 60,000 mothers and babies in the womb, then followed more than 1,300 to age two.
The first 24 months of a baby’s life are believed to be some of the most crucial in their brain development, with the organ reaching two-thirds of its adult weight.
INTERGROWTH-21st is the world’s first study of its scope and size and produces hard-hitting evidence that how a child is raised is the biggest factor in its intelligence, researchers say.
Mothers who were in good health and living in clean urban areas were selected from the UK, Italy, Kenya, India and Brazil for the final 1,300.
‘UP TO 40 PER CENT OF A CHILD’S INTELLIGENCE IS INHERITED’
A study by the University of Queensland in Australia, published in 2013, claimed as much as 40 per cent of a child’s intelligence could come from their parents.
The finding from what was then the largest ever study of childhood intelligence used genetic data and IQ scores of thousands of six to 18-year-olds from the UK, Netherlands, Australia and the US.
They found that between 20 and 40 per cent of the variation in childhood IQ was due to genetic factors.
And previous research had suggested this figure was even higher – 40 to 50 per cent.
Dr Beben Benyamin, from the University of Queensland, told ABC: ‘This estimate from DNA information is lower than family studies, but it is consistent with the conclusion childhood intelligence is heritable.’
Results showed that as well as the speed of physical growth being approximately equal regardless of race, so was babies’ behaviour and brain development.
Conditions found to affect brain development were the baby’s living conditions, the food they ate and the education they were given.
The study is expected to help settle the debate over the role of genetics in determining intelligence and flies in the face of controversial assumptions about differences between races.
James Watson, a pioneer of understanding DNA and now 90 years old, was last week shunned by the Cold Spring Harbour Laboratory in New York because of his comments on race.
Mr Watson, who discovered double-helix structure of DNA with Francis Crick, has suggested genes cause differences in the average IQ test scores of black and white people.
Cold Spring Harbour Laboratory slammed his comments as ‘unsubstantiated and reckless’.
Oxford’s Professor Kennedy added: ‘There’s still a substantial body of opinion out there in both the scientific and lay communities who genuinely believe that intelligence is predominantly determined by genes and the environment that you’re living in, and that your parents and grandparents were living in, and their nutritional and health status are not relevant.
‘Well, that’s clearly not the case.’
James Watson, a pioneer of understanding DNA and now 90 years old, was last week shunned by the Cold Spring Harbour Laboratory in New York because of his comments on race
Professor Kennedy and Professor Jose Villar, who led the research, say race does not affect how a baby’s brain develops and all who are born healthy and in safe and nurturing environments have, in theory, the same potential to succeed (stock image)
Professor Kennedy and Professor Jose Villar, who co-authored the INTERGROWTH-21st project – hope the data will be used by global health officials.
They believe it marks such a milestone it should be used by the World Health Organization alongside its baby growth charts.
Although the research has not tracked children beyond their second birthdays, university attendance is one measure of intelligence for adolescents.
In the UK white people have the lowest proportion of state-educated 18-year-olds going to university (29.3 per cent), according to data for 2017.
Asian teenagers (45.8 per cent) and Chinese young people (63 per cent) are most likely to attend higher education, alongside 40.4 per cent of black adolescents.
The rate among mixed race 18-year-olds is 34 per cent, while it is 40.1 per cent for those who identify their ethnicity as ‘other’.
Fewer than a third of white 18-year-olds in England and Wales go to university after finishing school, according to Government data from 2017, compared to 40.4 per cent of black teens
Ethnically Chinese teenagers in England and Wales have the highest rates of undergraduate study, with 63 per cent of them going to university, alongside 45.8 per cent of Asians
Mixed race teenagers have the second lowest rate of university attendance at age 18, with 34 per cent of them going into higher education, while that figure is 40.1 per cent among people who list their ethnicity as ‘other’
A majority of babies in the UK are born to relatively well-off parents – in 2017, 403,037 babies were born to families in the four best paid job categories.
Births are recorded on a scale of socio-economic status – which loosely translates to how wealthy people are – which ranks from one to eight.
Category one is the highest, with parents working as lawyers, doctors and chief executives, with class eight the lowest – the long-term unemployed.
According to the Office for National Statistics, in 2017 only 20 babies were born to people who have never worked.
The most births happen in class two, which includes people in jobs such as social workers, nurses and teachers.
This category had 196,449 births in 2017, while there were 69,952 births in category six – semi-routine occupations including receptionists and care workers.
|Socio-economic classification||Number of babies born 2017|
|1 (for example, lawyers, doctors, executives)||130,515|
|2 (social workers, nurses, teachers)||196,449|
|3 (military or police – below sergeant, paramedic, bank staff)||76,073|
|4 (farmers, shopkeepers, taxi drivers)||67,511|
|5 (mechanics, chefs, electricians)||50,779|
|6 (receptionists, care workers)||69,952|
|7 (bar staff, cleaners, lorry drivers)||48,173|
|8 (never worked or permanently unemployed)||20|