Until recently, the most extensive genome-wide association study in the social sciences involved about 10,000 individuals. A new study detailed in this week’s Scienceexamines the genomes of about 100,000 people across fifteen countries in order to identify genetic markers related to a person’s educational accomplishments.
The researchers have identified genetic mutations that are associated with two measures of a person’s educational attainment: their total number of years of schooling and their likelihood of finishing college. The researchers identified three single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs—genetic sequences where one nucleotide has been substituted with another—that predict these two measures of educational attainment. The SNP associated with an individual’s time in school explains a grand total of 0.022 percent of the observed variance in the population. The SNPs related to whether or not a person finished college aren’t much larger in their impact; the largest effect corresponds to a 1.8 percentage point increase in the likelihood of finishing college.