August 28, 2015 features Add Health research linking genes and educational attainment

Summary: Using genome-wide data from siblings in Add Health, the research team of Benjamin W. Domingue, Daniel W. Belsky, Dalton Conley, Kathleen Mullan Harris, and Jason D. Boardman discovered that adolescents’ genes were linked to how far he or she went in school (educational attainment). Researchers found that adolescents who had a higher “polygenetic score” – meaning their genes were linked to educational attainment – than his or her sibling were more likely to complete more years of school. This finding supports previous research showing that genes can influence educational attainment.

Read the story: Study finds causal connection between genotypes and years of education achieved

Excerpt from “…’the results of this study demonstrate that pioneering efforts such as the Human Genome Project are beginning to bear fruit in terms of genetic insight.’

‘Eventually, this type of research will help us better understand, across broad groups, the complex relationship between genetics, environments, and traits and behaviors, as well as help us better understand why school or government policies may or may not be generating desired objectives,’ said Domingue.”


  • Ben Domingue, Assistant Professor in the Graduate School of Education at Stanford University
  • Daniel Belsky, Assistant Professor at Duke University School of Medicine and Social Science Research Institute
  • Dalton Conley, University Professor at New York University
  • Kathleen Mullan Harris, Director and Principal Investigator of Add Health, James E. Haar Distinguished Professor of Sociology, and Adjunct Professor of Public Policy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Jason Boardman, Professor of Sociology at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Read coverage on this study from other media outlets at Inside Higher Ed and Education Week.

The Carolina Population Center posted a related announcement here.

Scholarly source: Domingue BW, Belsky DW, Conley D, Harris KM, Boardman JD. Polygenic Influence on Educational Attainment: New Evidence from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health. AERA Open 2015; 1(3):1-13. Article available online.