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Readings for 6 March 2007

Please note there are two readings for this week.

Economic, Neurobiological and Behavioral Perspectives on Building America┬┤s Future Workforce

A growing proportion of the U.S. workforce will have been raised in disadvantaged environments that are associated with relatively high proportions of individuals with diminished cognitive and social skills. A cross-disciplinary examination of research in economics, developmental psychology, and neurobiology reveals a striking convergence on a set of common principles that account for the potent effects of early environment on the capacity for human skill development. Central to these principles are the findings that early experiences have a uniquely powerful influence on the development of cognitive and social skills, as well as on brain architecture and neurochemistry; that both skill development and brain maturation are hierarchical processes in which higher level functions depend on, and build on, lower level functions; and that the capacity for change in the foundations of human skill development and neural circuitry is highest earlier in life and decreases over time. These findings lead to the conclusion that the most efficient strategy for strengthening the future workforce, both economically and neurobiologically, and for improving its quality of life is to invest in the environments of disadvantaged children during the early childhood years.

Paper One

The relative age effect in youth soccer across Europe

The potential asymmetries in the birth-date distributions of youth soccer players across ten European countries (2175 age citations) were considered. First, we examined the birth-dates of players representing national youth teams in international competitions. Second, the birth-dates of players representing professional club teams in international youth a tournaments were analysed. Kolmogorov-Smimov tests were used to assess differences between observed and expected birth-date distributions. Regression analyses were employed to examine the relationship between month of birth and number of players in the different samples. The results showed an over-representation of players born in the first quarter of the selection year (from January to March) for all the national youth selections at the under-15 (U-15), U-6, U-17 and U-18 age categories, as well as for the UEFA U-16 tournaments and Meridian Cup. Players with a greater relative age are more likely to be identified as "talented" because of the likely physical advantages they have over their "younger" peers. Some options for reducing the relative age effect are offered.

Paper Two

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