Genes and educational attainment

19 Nov

A paper published in the most recent issue of Psychological Science reports strong evidence of three single nucleotide polymorphisms that contribute to educational attainment. The effect of the each gene is small, but this is not very surprising. It has long been assumed that the genetic component of complex behavior traits would be the added effect of the actions of  many genes.

What makes this study more persuasive than earlier claims is the rigorous methodology, including a replication. Here is the abstract:

“A recent genome-wide-association study of educational attainment identified three single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) whose associations, despite their small effect sizes (each R 2 ≈ 0.02%), reached genome-wide significance (p < 5 × 10−8) in a large discovery sample and were replicated in an independent sample (p < .05). The study also reported associations between educational attainment and indices of SNPs called “polygenic scores.” In three studies, we evaluated the robustness of these findings. Study 1 showed that the associations with all three SNPs were replicated in another large (N = 34,428) independent sample. We also found that the scores remained predictive (R 2 ≈ 2%) in regressions with stringent controls for stratification (Study 2) and in new within-family analyses (Study 3). Our results show that large and therefore well-powered genome-wide-association studies can identify replicable genetic associations with behavioral traits. The small effect sizes of individual SNPs are likely to be a major contributing factor explaining the striking contrast between our results and the disappointing replication record of most candidate-gene studies. “

The paper itself is here  and you can read the supplemental material here.

One Response to “Genes and educational attainment”


  1. The Long and Short of it | Find Me A Cure - December 1, 2014

    […] Genes and educational attainment […]

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