Thom and Papageorge’s analysis builds on the findings of one of the biggest genome-wide studies yet conducted. Published by a separate team of a dozen authors in Nature Genetics in July, it’s the latest result of a lengthy, ongoing effort to bring genetic analysis to the social sciences.
The Nature Genetics team scanned millions of individual base pairs across 1,131,881 individual genomes for evidence of correlations between genes and years of schooling completed. They synthesized the findings into a single score we can use to predict educational attainment based on genetic factors.
Thom and Papageorge studied the team’s index after it was calculated for a long-running retirement survey sponsored by the Social Security Administration and the National Institute on Aging. About 20,000 of the survey’s respondents, born between 1905 and 1964, provided their DNA along with their responses, which allowed the economists to attach genetic scores individuals’ academic and economic achievements.
Previous attempts to separate academic potential from the advantages given to children of wealthy families relied on measures such as IQ tests, which are biased by parents’ education, occupation and income...Two people who are genetically similar can have strikingly different IQ test scores because the richer ones have invested more in their kids.