Who Makes the Grade? A Gene-Environment Analysis of the Mechanisms of Educational Attainment in the 21st Century

David Braudt , University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Although the role of social factors in the creation and maintenance of disparities in educational attainment has been the focus of decades of research, and nearly as much policy debate, doubt still remains as to the exact nature of the role of social-environmental factors due to a general inability to account for the association between genetic differences between individuals and educational attainment. Leveraging molecular genetic data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, this study investigates the differential role of social-environment factors net of genetics on educational attainment between three levels of parental education. Through a series of polygenic score analyses, genome-wide complex trait analyses, and behavior genetic analyses the results of this study depict a robust pattern in which social-environmental factors account for an increasing proportion of the total variance in educational attainment when individuals are born into more advantaged circumstances.

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