What’s the key to success: Your intelligence? Your kindness? The power of your will? Your determination and hard work? Unfortunately, it looks like your success in education is most likely decided on the size of your parent’s bank account.
A working paper in the September edition of The National Bureau of Economic Research has brought genetic data into the debate about educational attainment and the socioeconomic status of a child’s family, as first reported by The Washington Post.
First up, they found that raw genetic variants associated with the potential to achieve in education were spread relatively evenly across people from socioeconomic backgrounds, from low-income families right up to high-income families. In theory, “natural ability” to do well in education is not associated with your parent’s wealth. However, in practice, the higher socioeconomic status of the person’s family was more likely to predict higher rates of college graduation.
In the simplest terms possible, the least smart children of wealthy parents are more likely to graduate from college than most smart kids from low-income families.
Of course, there is no single “smart gene”. Intelligence is governed by hundreds and hundreds of genes, combined with their fiddly interactions with each other and the environment. All of this becomes even more complicated when you consider that it’s virtually impossible to control a person’s environment, so it’s hard to separate where the role of genetics end and experience begins.
To combat this, the researchers used a “weighted sum of individual genetic markers” developed by geneticists in 2016. While taking into account the interplay between environment and genetics, they managed to gather genome-wide data from over a million individuals from the biotech ancestry company 23andMe and identified over 1,200 genetic variants associated with how much education an individual completes.
The application of huge amounts of genetic data to economics and other social science is still in its infancy. However, with data-gathering ancestry companies such as 23andMe and the like making this feat easier than ever, we can expect to see more and more of these types of studies springing up in the future.
[H/T: The Washington Post]