Educational attainment might have more to do with genes than was previously thought, according to researchers who studied the link between schooling levels and genetic variants.
The study, published Monday in Nature Genetics, found a noteworthy relationship between certain genetic factors and levels of education attainment. The researchers conducted their study using a sample of approximately 1.1 million individuals and identified 1,271 genetic factors that affect how much schooling participants attained.
The researchers gathered their results by analyzing 71 data sets, which included over a million participants from 15 different countries. The participants all had European ancestry and were 30 years or older.
“Even variants with the largest effects predict, on average, only about three more weeks of schooling in those who have those variants compared to those who don’t,” said one of the study’s authors, Daniel Benjamin, according to USC News. Benjamin is also a University of Southern California (USC) associate professor for the Center for Economic and Social Research. “When we analyze the combined effects of many genetic variants … they can predict the length of a person’s formal education as well as demographic factors.”
By the study’s conclusion, the researchers had identified a number of genetic factors allowing them to explain between 11 and 13 percent of the variance in education attainment.
“We found that many of the genes associated with educational attainment are influential in virtually all stages of brain development and in neural communication within the brain,” study author Peter Visscher said, USC News reported. Visscher is a professor at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia.
While degrees in education are largely determined by social and environmental factors, genes also influence levels of education, the authors concluded.