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Genetics of educational attainment in Australian twins: Sex differences and secular changes

Abstract

The relative effects of genetic and environmental factors in producing individual differences in educational achievement are compared across women and men and over birth cohorts. In a large sample of Australian twin pairs, the heritability of self-reported educational attainment did not vary among women and men born before and after 1950. In a “psychometric” model of twin resemblance, based on separate self-reports in 1981 and 1989, genetic factors explained 57% of the stable variance in educational achievement, while environmental factors shared by twins accounted for 24% of the variance. Corrections for phenotypic assortative mating for educational level, however, suggested that estimated common-environmental effects could be entirely explained by the correlation between additive genetic values for mates. Taking this into account, heritability of “true” educational attainment in Australia may be as high as 82% with the remaining variation being due to individual environments or experiences. Unlike previous studies in Scandinavian countries, results in Australia suggest that factors influencing educational success are comparable between women and men and for individuals born at different points during this century.

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Correspondence to Laura A. Baker.

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Baker, L.A., Treloar, S.A., Reynolds, C.A. et al. Genetics of educational attainment in Australian twins: Sex differences and secular changes. Behav Genet 26, 89–102 (1996). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02359887

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Key Words

  • Educational attainment
  • Australian twins
  • sex differences
  • secular changes