Social and Genetic Pathways in Multigenerational Transmission of Educational Attainment

TitleSocial and Genetic Pathways in Multigenerational Transmission of Educational Attainment
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsLiu, H
JournalAmerican Sociological Review
Date Published04/2018
ISSN Number0003-1224
KeywordsEducation, Genetics, Genome, Multigenerational

This study investigates the complex roles of the social environment and genes in the multigenerational transmission of educational attainment. Drawing on genome-wide data and educational attainment measures from the Framingham Heart Study (FHS) and the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), I conduct polygenic score analyses to examine genetic confounding in the estimation of parents’ and grandparents’ influences on their children’s and grandchildren’s educational attainment. I also examine social genetic effects (i.e., genetic effects that operate through the social environment) in the transmission of educational attainment across three generations. Two-generation analyses produce three important findings. First, about one-fifth of the parent-child association in education reflects genetic inheritance. Second, up to half of the association between parents’ polygenic scores and children’s education is mediated by parents’ education. Third, about one-third of the association between children’s polygenic scores and their educational attainment is attributable to parents’ genotypes and education. Three-generation analyses suggest that genetic confounding on the estimate of the direct effect of grandparents’ education on grandchildren’s education (net of parents’ education) may be inconsequential, and I find no evidence that grandparents’ genotypes significantly influence grandchildren’s education through non-biological pathways. The three-generation results are suggestive, and the results may change when different samples are used.

Short TitleAm Sociol Rev
Citation Key9545