July 15, 2015

Add Health featured in Social Forces

Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, François Nielsen and J. Micah Roos evaluated the influence of genetics and environment on educational attainment for respondents 24-32 years old. Educational attainment, defined as the highest degree an individual has earned, was examined across six different types of sibling pairs, ranging from genetically identical (monozygotic twins) to non-related siblings. Researchers found that shared family environment accounted for more of the variance found in educational attainment than genetics, although genetics still play a role. Shared family environment was also a larger factor in educational attainment than previously seen among older cohorts, suggesting that family resources are increasingly more important in earning an education in the United States and that educational opportunities have become less equal for families with fewer resources, especially given the rising financial cost of higher education.

View the abstract or download the complete article in Social Forces


  • François Nielsen, Department of Sociology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • J. Micah Roos, University of California, Berkeley and Oklahoma State University, Stillwater

Nielsen F, Roos JM. Genetics of Educational Attainment and the Persistence of Privilege at the Turn of the 21st Century. Social Forces 2015.