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, 28 (9), 1302-1310

Genetic Influence on Intergenerational Educational Attainment

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Genetic Influence on Intergenerational Educational Attainment

Ziada Ayorech et al. Psychol Sci.

Abstract

Using twin (6,105 twin pairs) and genomic (5,825 unrelated individuals taken from the twin sample) analyses, we tested for genetic influences on the parent-offspring correspondence in educational attainment. Genetics accounted for nearly half of the variance in intergenerational educational attainment. A genomewide polygenic score (GPS) for years of education was also associated with intergenerational educational attainment: The highest and lowest GPS means were found for offspring in stably educated families (i.e., who had taken A Levels and had a university-educated parent; M = 0.43, SD = 0.97) and stably uneducated families (i.e., who had not taken A Levels and had no university-educated parent; M = -0.19, SD = 0.97). The average GPSs fell in between for children who were upwardly mobile (i.e., who had taken A Levels but had no university-educated parent; M = 0.05, SD = 0.96) and children who were downwardly mobile (i.e., who had not taken A Levels but had a university-educated parent; M = 0.28, SD = 1.03). Genetic influences on intergenerational educational attainment can be viewed as an index of equality of educational opportunity.

Keywords: behavioral genetics; intergenerational educational attainment; polygenic score; twin studies.

Conflict of interest statement

Declaration of Conflicting Interests: The authors declared that they had no conflicts of interest with respect to their authorship or the publication of this article.

Figures

Fig. 1.
Fig. 1.
Results of the liability threshold models for downward mobility (left) and upward mobility (right); proportion of variance accounted for by additive genetic factors (A), shared environmental factors (C), and nonshared environmental factors (E). Downward mobility refers to the dichotomous variable for children from families with at least one university-educated parent; this model included the data from children who were either downwardly mobile (had not completed A Levels) or stably educated (had completed A Levels). Upward mobility refers to the dichotomous variable for children of parents without a university education; this model includes the data from children who were either upwardly mobile (had completed A Levels) or stably uneducated (had not completed A Levels). Error bars represent 95% confidence intervals.
Fig. 2.
Fig. 2.
Mean standardized genomewide polygenic scores (GPSs) for the four educational-attainment groups: (a) uncorrected means and (b) means corrected for grades on the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE). For each data bar, the sample size is shown. Error bars represent ±1 SE.

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