Q&A: Ben Domingue on genetics and educational attainment

August 20, 2015

Domingue's new research finds a causal connection between genotypes and how far you go in school.

A new study by Ben Domingue, assistant professor at Stanford Graduate School of Education, finds that genetic differences between siblings is associated with how many years of education achieved.

The study, published Aug. 20 by AERA Open, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Educational Research Association, found that, within families, an adolescent with a higher “polygenic score” —which summarizes previously identified genome-wide associations for educational attainment—than her or his sibling tended to go on to complete more years of schooling.*

While the predicted difference in actual educational attainment between siblings was small—roughly one-third of a year of schooling—the study provides new evidence that recently discovered genetic factors actually do cause differences in educational outcomes, Domingue said.

“By examining siblings, this study was able to control for external social aspects, such as schools, neighborhoods, and level of parental education, to hone in specifically on the role of genes in this complex process,” said Domingue in a news release from the AERA. “The study provides strong evidence that genotype can predict educational attainment within families.”