Polygenic Influence on Educational Attainment: New Evidence From the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health

Published in:
August 20, 2015

Benjamin W. Domingue, Stanford University
Daniel W. Belsky, Duke University
Dalton Conley, New York University
Kathleen Mullan Harris, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Jason D. Boardman, University of Colorado, Boulder


Recent studies have begun to uncover the genetic architecture of educational attainment. We build on this work using genomewide data from siblings in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health). We measure the genetic predisposition of siblings to educational attainment using polygenic scores. We then test how polygenic scores are related to social environments and educational outcomes. In Add Health, genetic predisposition to educational attainment is patterned across the social environment. Participants with higher polygenic scores were more likely to grow up in socially advantaged families. Even so, the previously published genetic associations appear to be causal. Among pairs of siblings, the sibling with the higher polygenic score typically went on to complete more years of schooling as compared to their lowerscored co-sibling. We found subtle differences between sibling fixed-effect estimates of the genetic effect versus those based on unrelated individuals.