Social inequality generally stems from two possible factors: circumstances and effort. For example, children from poorer family backgrounds have access to fewer qualified teachers and they live in households with limited resources. Since these circumstances are beyond the child’s control, they are considered to be unfair. On the other hand, it is believed that children are in control of how hard they try at school. Thus, any resulting differences in school grades and achievement are usually considered to be fair. However, what if effort also depends on the child’s socioeconomic background?


The aim of the EFFORT project is to measure cognitive effort in children and understand how it relates to their socioeconomic background. Do children from less fortunate families try harder than more privileged children, or vice versa? To carry this out, different methodologies of measuring cognitive effort are conducted, ranging from real-effort tasks to psychophysiological techniques like pupillometry, for a large sample of school-age children. This triangulation of carefully chosen methodologies will produce the first reliable evidence on socioeconomic differences in effort. The experiments are first conducted in Madrid and later replicated in Berlin. The findings will provide valuable insights for educational practitioners and help design policies aimed at improving the equality of opportunity.


EFFORT is funded through a Starting Grant by the European Research Council (ERC).