Research Identifies Links Between Genetic Variants and Educational Attainment

Medical Xpress, May 30, 2013

A multi-national team of researchers has identified genetic markers that predict educational attainment by pooling data from more than 125,000 individuals in the United States, Australia, and 13 western European countries.

The study, which appears in the journal Science, was conducted by the Social Science Genetic Association Consortium (SSGAC), which includes researchers at NYU, Erasmus University, Cornell University, Harvard University, the University of Bristol, and the University of Queensland, among other institutions.

The SSGAC conducted what is called a genome-wide association study (GWAS) to explore the link between genetic variation and educational attainment—the number of years of schooling completed by an individual and whether he or she graduated college. In a GWAS, researchers test hundreds of thousands of genetic markers for association with some characteristics such as a disease, trait or life outcome.

Because the sample included people from different countries—where markers for schooling vary significantly—the research team adopted the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) scale, which is a commonly used method for establishing a uniform measure of educational attainment across cohorts.

Anticipating that very large samples would be required to credibly detect genetic associations, the SSGAC researchers assembled a total sample size more than 10 times larger than any previous genetic study of any social-scientific outcome. The team examined associations between educational attainment and genetic variants called single-nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs, which are tiny changes at a single location in a person’s genetic code.

The study found that the genetic markers with the strongest effects on educational attainment could each only explain two one-hundredths of a percentage point (0.02 percent). To put that figure into perspective, it is known from earlier research that the SNP with the largest effect on human height accounts for about 0.40 percent of the variation.

Combining the two million examined SNPs, the SSGAC researchers were able to explain about 2 percent of the variation in educational attainment across individuals, and anticipate that this figure will rise as larger samples become available.

“We hope that our findings will eventually be useful for understanding biological processes underlying learning, memory, reading disabilities and cognitive decline in the elderly,” said co-author Daniel Benjamin, a behavioral economist at Cornell who is a co-director of the SSGAC.

“Another contribution of our study is that it will strengthen the methodological foundations of social-science genetics,” said David Cesarini, an NYU assistant professor at the Center for Experimental Social Science and the Center for Neuroeconomics, who also co-directs the SSGAC. “We used 125,000 individuals to conduct this study. Previous studies used far smaller samples, sometimes as small as 100 individuals and rarely more than 10,000. These small samples make sense under the assumption that individual genes have large effects. However, if genes have small effects, as our study shows, then sample sizes need to be very large to produce robust findings that will reliably replicate in other samples.”

The researchers were careful to note that they have not discovered “the gene for education” or that these findings somehow imply that a person’s educational attainment is determined at birth.

“For most outcomes that we study as social scientists, genetic influences are likely to operate through environmental channels that are modifiable,” explained NYU sociologist Dalton Conley, one of the study’s co-authors who also serves on the Advisory Board of the SSGAC. “We have now taken a small but important first step toward identifying the specific genetic variants that predict educational attainment. Armed with this knowledge, we can now begin to examine how other factors—including public policy, parental roles, and economic status—dampen or amplify genetic effects and ultimately devise better remedies to bolster educational outcomes.”

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  • The__Bobster

    Once the results come out (and you know they won’t be politically correct), count on them to be buried.

    • So CAL Snowman

      I prefer the term “Richwined” – As in, Jerry was about to release the results of the IQ tests but at the last second his superiors Richwined him and Jerry was forced to resign.

  • bigone4u

    I was the first one in my family to graduate high school. From there I took a crooked, winding road that eventually led to a doctoral degree in economics. My family were dirt poor sharecroppers until my father and his brothers broke out of the grip of tradition and worked for wages. They all had to work as children since there was starvation facing them if they didn’t. You might think they were lacking the education gene, but that wasn’t it at all. So, my thinking is that genes are eventually only going to be shown to play a small role in educational attainment, while genes will be shown to play a large role in intelligence. My father and uncles had little formal education but they were readers and lifelong learners, which is something that is more difficult to measure than these scientists were doing.
    By the end of my academic career, the university has scoured the barrio looking to build enrollments (and thus administrator salaries). Many students lacked the motivation to go to college, but were kind of talked into it by university recruiters. Many were also lacking in intelligence. I had my first moron (dull, I think is the word scientists use), an affflete with an IQ that could not have been over 70 or so. Higher ed, at the urban and state university level, is now committed to “awarding” a degree to every minority kid in the USA. In my experience, even lowering standards below the already low standards is not going to work. Why? It’s the old, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink” arguement.

    • a multiracial individual

      I am not sure what your age is, but in today’s society (a society of compulsory education) failure to graduate high school is probably HIGHLY correlated with low IQ. My German-American farmer/handyman grandfather was sharp as well. He graduated high school but did not go to college. At that time, few went to college.

      • bigone4u

        My father had to drop out of school at age 10 to pick cotton. That would have been 1929. The family was so poor that during the 30s when the Oakies were leaving for California, they left rural Alabama for Oklahoma. Even dust bowl Oklahoma looked like up to them. The only food they could eat came from raising it themselves and perhaps bartering. No welfare in those days. The brothers made it into the middle class because of unions. All of them could figure out solutions to just about anything due to their native intelligence. My mother was raised in orphanages and the only way out of that sex abusing hellhole system was to drop out of school and get a job, which she did in the 11th grade. Even in the mid-60s extended members of my family lived in shacks in rural areas with no windows and no doors and no bathrooms and no running water. The feds were even then providing blacks with what to my family seemed like lavish living circumstances, which provides some motivation for my hostility to Uncle Sam.

        • dd121

          Sounds similar to my family. During the depression they lived on the uncles farm. They raised all their own food and canned enough to carry over till next year. Slaughtered and smoked their own meat. Almost all who had a farm lost it and ended up working in in a factory. My daddy was smart and lucky. He went to law school and made a living that made my life easy. If it happened today, guess we’d all be getting a check and voting for democrats.

    • MBlanc46

      I always enjoy your reports from the academic front.

      • Tom_in_Miami

        I do too.

    • dd121

      Water is one thing but when the horse gets into the workforce it has to produce or is…set to pasture. That’s true except for a few pet EEO hires that decorate large corporations. The bright whites take up the slack, I know, I was one.

      • StillModerated

        Vice President of Human Resources!

    • me

      So much for the Marxist lies about “White privilege”, with all of the stories posted here.

  • APaige

    ‘Genetic variants’ are social constructs and educational attainment is a relative term-everyone obtains some education, it is wrong to judge the difference.

    • MBlanc46

      Well, except when there’s an achievement gap that we have to spend billions to close.

  • WR_the_realist

    Note that the parameter they’re measuring — number of years of schooling — is only weakly correlated with IQ. I suspect that they could get much higher correlations if they looked for the influences of genes on IQ directly, not on number of years of schooling. I grant that it’s much easier in a large study to get years of schooling than a consistent measure of IQ, so this has the flavor of looking for the lost keys under the lamp post because that’s where the light is.

    • IstvanIN

      Years of schooling mean nothing. I work with several hundred college edumacated blacks, some with masters, who can not put together a coherent thought. My father, a high school drop out, is a computer wiz, all self taught. Even at 74 he probably has a higher IQ than all the blacks put together.

      • WR_the_realist

        I agree that a black man with a masters in education is likely to have a lower IQ than a white high school graduate who went on to become a licensed electrician. (It is well known that the schools of education get the idiots of all races. That is one reason why our public schools are a disaster.) There is a positive correlation between IQ and years of schooling, but as I said, it’s a weak correlation. Indeed, the correlation has probably declined over time as our institutions of “higher learning” have dumbed down the curriculum so as to get more of that government (i.e. tax payer) guaranteed student loan money from as many warm bodies as possible.

        • DiversityIsDeath

          The trend nowadays is to herd EVERY student (including academically struggling minorities) towards college. The high schools push the college path on all the students, as if every kid is the scholarly type. The push is on to “prepare” every student to enter college. Some of these minorities (and White kids too) would be better off (and happier) entering a trade school of some sort. What’s the shame in it? Mechanics, electricians, plumbers, are rarely unemployed– even in hard times– and talented ones make 6, 7 figure salaries.

          • IBWHITE

            “Mechanics, electricians, plumbers, are rarely unemployed– even in hard times– and talented ones make 6, 7 figure salaries.”

            And most are not saddled down with huge amounts of debt generated from student loans. My wife will be paying on her student loan well into her 50’s. Add to that the anti-White climate you have to live in while attending college and it’s no wonder why someone would prefer a trade school.

      • Anonymous By Necessity

        I’m a college dropout. Not because I found my Electrical Engineering major to be particularly hard, but because I found that at the time (early 80’s) computers were making big inroads into businesses and people were willing to pay me comparatively large sums of money to make them sing and dance to the corporate tune, even without a degree. Any young man would find that hard to resist. I, and many people I’ve worked with over the years have shared the same experience; trading our college careers for ones in IT because we could make money right away rather than spending more years in school.

      • MBlanc46

        Grade inflation has sure enabled a lot of blacks to attain advanced degrees when their actual achievement is only what ought to be the standard at a mediocre high school. I also have known blacks with advanced degrees who can’t frame a grammatical sentence.

  • JohnEngelman

    It is taking too long, but the walls of political correctness are being breached by scientific evidence. In the foreseeable future a DNA test will offer nearly as accurate a prediction of a child’s chances in life as an IQ test.

    • David Ashton

      Slow progress is partly because of continual lying propaganda, such as Eugenics=Holocaust. Only today I obtained a booklet just published on “Railways and the Holocaust” (another angle to keep waning interest going), with Rabbi Walter Rothschild as editorial consultant, which features an introductory section attacking English and American geneticists, including a large photo of Sir Francis Galton rather than railway pioneer James Stephenson (hardly less inappropriate).
      Numerous books and articles hammer away at this theme, with high-IQ Jews taking a leading role, John Glad being a welcome and notable exception.

      • JohnEngelman

        David Ashton,

        Hi IQ Jews err in imagining that their decency and intelligence is more common than it is. The injustices they have suffered over the centuries should engender a more pessimistic appraisal of human nature and human potential.

        • DiversityIsDeath

          As a kid I learned that Ashkenazi jews have highest IQ of all races, but when I got older and investigated this issue I was shocked to find that historically they have made relatively little contribution to civilization. (And the same with East Asians). Even with slightly lower IQ, it has been almost exclusively White Christian men who have moved civilization forward in every area of life, no? The White Euro of non-jewish ancestry seems to have a unique ingenuity and creativity— combined with a high intelligence — that no other race has demonstrated historically.

          • JohnEngelman

            It has only been since nineteenth century that Ashkenazi Jews have been able to make many contributions to Western Civilization. Before then they were discriminated against.


            Ashkenazi Jews have the highest IQ of any ethnic group known.
            They average around 112-115, well above the European norm of 100…

            Their numbers among prominent scientists are roughly ten times greater than you’d expect from their share of the population in the United States and Europe. Over the past two generations they have won more than a quarter of all Nobel science prizes, although they make up less than one-six-hundredth of the world’s
            population. Although they represent less than 3 percent of the U.S. population they son 27 percent of the U.S. Nobel prizes in science…

            American Jews are also over represented in other areas, such as business (where they account for about a fifth of CEOs) and academia (where they make up about 22 percent of Ivy league students).

            – Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending, from “The 10,000
            Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution,” Chapter 7:
            “Medieval Evolution: How the Ashkenazi Jews Got Their Smarts,” pages
            188, 189, 190.


          • Tom_in_Miami

            If Jews currently make up 22 percent of Ivy League students, what percentage would they represent in the absence of AA which admits lesser qualified minorities ahead of many of the Jews?

          • JohnEngelman

            Affirmative action benefits blacks and Hispanics, and jeopardizes everyone else. Without affirmative action there would be fewer blacks and Hispanics at prestigious universities and more Orientals, Jews, and white Gentiles.

            Just yesterday I watched a video that said that 40 percent of students are Berkeley are Orientals, and that only 3 percent are blacks. There was no mention of Jews, but I am sure they are present in numbers far out of proportion to their numbers in the population.

          • Jefferson

            I am sure Jews are vastly overrepresented in all American zip codes where the median household income is over $100 thousand dollars a year.

            While African Americans and Hispanics are vastly underrepresented in all American zip codes where the median household income is over $100 thousand dollars a year.

            The only way to increase the percentage of African Americans and Hispanics in affluent zip codes is to flood these areas with Section 8 housing folks.

            I am sure left wingers would love that. They can call it residential affirmative action.

          • DiversityIsDeath

            The “great jewish contributions to civilization” you cited– winning Nobel prizes and being grossly overrepresented statistically in business and academia– are proof of jewish tribal allegiance and nepostism. Also, those things can be negotiated for, or bought. No, the jewish contributions you mentioned are simply not comparable to the accomplishments of DaVinci, Franklin, Ford, Tesla, Westinghouse, Bell, Wright brothers, Edison, Pasteur, etc.

          • JohnEngelman

            The Norwegian Nobel Committee selects Nobel Prize winners. The current members are Thorbjørn Jagland, Kaci Kullmann Five, Berit Reiss-Andersen, Gunnar Stålsett

            Those do not seem to be Jewish names.

            Jewish achievement has been won despite antisemitic prejudice and discrimination. It has been won honestly by Jewish talent. No one who claims to be a race realist should claim otherwise.

            Attributing the stellar record of Jewish achievement to “tribal allegiance and nepotism” is like attributing the disappointing record of black achievement to white racism.

          • DiversityIsDeath

            Oh no, the power of jewish collectivism cannot be underestimated. Even liberal “shabbos goy” gentile lackeys– like those on the Norwegian Nobel Committee– work to further the interests of jews. It is truly amazing. This phenomenon is painstakingly researched and documented at webzine “Occidental Observer”. (And I don’t hate jews. I rather like them on a personal, individual level. But I do hate what the jews are DOING to White Euro Christians. They will suffer for it, too. I simply cannot believe that jews– who know the best quality, and who have an appreciation of beauty– will find much to admire or respect in the ever-darkening world they are engineering.)

          • JohnEngelman

            What don’t you understand about the advantages of having an average IQ of 112?

          • Jefferson

            The advantages of having an I.Q of 112 is that on average you are less likely to end up in prison and less likely to live in poverty.

  • dd121

    These results are shocking! Shocking I say.

  • josh316

    Yes, but if something as abstract and contrived as ‘education attainment’ can be partly pinned down to genes, then ‘intelligence’ has a very good chance.

  • guest

    Burn the witch!

    But eventually there will be too many witches to burn them all, and maybe some of them will be angry about all the witch-burning.

  • thoughtcrime

    LIES LIES LIES!!! Well…ok maybe not lies but RUDE RUDE RUDE!!!

    We shouldn’t be truthful…we should be nice. All those pickaninnies will get all upset if they knew that they simply were NOT capable…then again they really don’t care or comprehend it anyhow. Education is the worst thing ever for blacks, it helps them realize they are inferior. I mean they are violent enough, why stir the pot by rubbing in their flat nosed faces that they are retards and will never measure up! So please, evil racist white devils, STOP with this type of research! Didn’t a recent peer reviewed science journal call for all research of this kind to be banned? Isn’t sparring the feelings of the subhumans, erm I mean brown and black cheerin reason enough to NOT continue with this line of thought?

  • StillModerated

    Only 2% of the variation in educational attainment? What makes up the other 98%? Laziness and shiftlessness? Fear of acting White? I’ll take the results with a grain of salt given that major northeast colleges are involved. The numbers have probably been fudged because no African schools took part in the survey.

  • DiversityIsDeath

    Why was my rather mild reply to JohnEngelman deleted? What kind of a “pro White” website is this where it is verboten to mention the well documented involvement of the jews in the global attack on Western Civilzation and on White Christian people?