A new global study has highlighted the link between genes and formal education.
The global study, reported in The Atlantic this week, was led by associate professor Daniel Benjamin from the Center for Economic and Social Research at the University Southern California and published in Nature Genetics.
Since 2013, associate professor Benjamin and an international team of researchers have been identifying variations in the human genome that are associated with how many years of formal education people receive.
After analyzing the DNA of 1.1 million people at the onset of their study, the researchers found just three of these genetic variants. In 2016, they identified 71 more after tripling the size of their study.
However, having now scanned the genomes of 1.1 million people of European descent, the team has a much larger list of 1,271 education-associated genetic variants. The team also found hundreds of variants associated with math and cognitive skills.
However, the researchers stress that this doesn’t mean that staying in school is necessarily “in the genes.”
The team created a “polygenic score”, which accounts for variants across a person’s entire genome. This predicts how much formal education they’re likely to receive and can explain 11% of the population-wide variation in years of schooling.
Associate professor Benjamin told The Atlantic that when it comes to predicting education outcomes, the score’s method of prediction is comparable to classic factors such as household income or how educated your parents are.
“Within social science, that’s basically unheard of. We can explain education as well with saliva samples as with demographics,” he said.