By the age of three, children from disadvantaged homes are up to a year behind in their learning than those from more privileged backgrounds.
The Millennium Cohort Study also found large differences between children living in families above and below the poverty line.
The poorest children were 10 months behind their wealthier peers in tests of their grasp of shapes, numbers, letters and colours known as "school readiness" tests. And they were five months behind their wealthier peers in vocabulary tests.
One of the researchers, Professor Heather Joshi, said: "The advantaged children tended to be way ahead of the average and the disadvantaged children were lagging behind. If you look at the front-runners and the runner ups - there's almost a year's worth of differences."
These results will not be a surprise to education experts or government policy advisers [ Nor a surprise to the members of the Socialist Party either ] who have long known that parents' educational achievement and family income are indicators of a child's educational success.
An earlier BBC report describes that little progress has been made to close the achievement gap between rich and poor pupils . Children from poorer homes (eligible for free school meals ) are almost half as likely to get good GCSE results as pupils from richer homes .
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