Socioeconomic and Genomic Roots of Verbal Ability

Guang Guo , University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Meng-Jung Lin
Kathleen Mullan Harris, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Cognitive ability is one of the most potent and contentious human traits. Many issues surrounding cognitive ability especially those related to heredity is highly charged. Yet, all of the discussion on heredity has been based on non-DNA evidence. In this article, we report findings from a study that uses data from Add Health with genomic measures or polygenic scores (PGS) on cognitive ability. A social-science model including a rich set of SES measures predicts verbal ability well yielding an R2 of 23.5%. Adding a PGS for education and a PGS for intelligence increases this R2 by 1.0%. The effects of SES context and the two PGSs are largely independent. Family, school, and neighborhood remain important to verbal ability after an early measure of verbal ability is included as a predictor. Although the influence from the genome is evident, the influences of social environment are critical and cannot be dismissed.

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 Presented in Session 32. Genetic and Social Factors in the Production of Cognitive and Educational Advantages