Mainstream education research has devoted little attention to studying highly talented students. Though there exists an expansive specialized literature dedicated to the study of academic giftedness, no recent study has used a large, nationally representative sample to describe gifted American students and how they differ from their nongifted counterparts. Yet identification and management of intellectual talent is essential to maintaining high national standards of achievement in education, international economic competitiveness, and labor market efficiency, as well as to avoid ever-increasing social inequality arising from nonlinear returns to ability. This study uses both descriptive statistics and multivariate analytic techniques to explore correlates of academic giftedness for American eighth graders, using the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988 (NELS:88). Our findings indicate that students who are self-reliant and spend more time on homework assignments and leisure reading per week are much more likely to be academically gifted than other students. In addition, high levels of parental educational aspirations as well as high levels of family socioeconomic status are important predictors of academic giftedness.
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