Social and Genetic Influences on Education: Testing the Scarr-Rowe Hypothesis for Education in a Comparative Perspective

Tina Baier
Kieron Barclay, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research
Dalton Conley, New York University (NYU)
Thomas Laidley, New York University (NYU)
Volker Lang, University of Bielefeld
Torkild Hovde Lyngstad, University of Oslo
Michael Gr├Ątz, Swedish Institute for Social Research (SOFI), Stockholm University

The Scarr-Rowe hypothesis claims that impoverished environmental settings suppress gene expression, while enriched social settings enhance the realization of genetic potential. We investigate whether the relative importance of genes for school grades and educational attainment varies by family socioeconomic status. We argue that welfare regimes can moderate socioeconomic differences in the effects of genes on education. We test this prediction using data from four advanced, industrialized societies which vary in their institutional settings. We use survey data for Germany (TwinLife) and the United States (Add Health) as well as register data for Norway and Sweden. Results based on ACE variance decomposition models provide evidence for the Scarr-Rowe hypothesis for Germany and to a lesser extent for Sweden. For the US, however, we find that genes are less important for education in high than in low status families. We conclude that both individual-level characteristics and macro-structural conditions shape individuals chances for gene expression.

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