October 26, 2018

Collaborative study featured in Nature Genetics identifies genetic variants associated with educational attainment

Posted October 26, 2018

Over 70 researchers, 23andMe, COGENT, and SSGAC came together to conduct one of the largest genetic studies on educational attainment using a sample of 1.1 million individuals. Their work identified 1,271 lead SNPs that are related to educational attainment and was published in Nature Genetics. Additionally, the polygenic scores developed from these SNPs explain 11-13% of the variance in educational attainment.

Findings from this study are monumental but interpreting the findings can be difficult for those not familiar with genomic work. For this reason SSGAC published an FAQ page dedicated to what the results mean and how they relate to education. Essentially, these results provide insight into educational attainment as a complex behavior. Social science and health researchers can utilize these polygenic scores in order to account for genetic variation in a similar fashion as socio-demographic variables are used. The Washington Post has already highlighted research using these polygenic scores to understand how wealth is associated with educational attainment.


For more information about this study and what the results mean, see the FAQ published by SSGAC.

The study was featured in NYTimes and The Atlantic.

Lead Authors:

  • James J. Lee, University of Minnesota
  • Robbee Wedow, University of Colorado, Boulder
  • Aysu Okbay, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Corresponding authors:

  • Peter M. Visscher, University of Queensland
  • Daniel J. Benjamin, University of Southern California

View the abstract or download the complete article from Nature Genetics.

Lee JJ, Wedow R, Okbay A, et al. Gene discovery and polygenic prediction from a genome-wide association study of educational attainment in 1.1 million individuals. Nature Genetics. 2018.