Social and Genetic Influences of Educational Attainment and Their Variation According to Social Background.

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 16:30
Oral Presentation
Tina BAIER, Bielefeld University, Germany
Volker LANG, Bielefeld University, Germany

Genetically informed studies provide consistent evidence that genetic influences account substantially for individual differences in nearly all inequality-related outcomes. What is more, the empirical literature comes to the conclusion that the relative importance of genetic influences even exceeds the importance of shared family influences. Strikingly, educational attainment differs from this pattern as shared family influences are almost as important as genetic influences even in adulthood. So far mechanisms leading to this divergent finding are poorly understood. In this paper we examine whether this pattern for educational attainment replicates for Germany. Germany, represents an interesting case due to its highly stratified schooling system which is characterized by an early tracking system. Drawing on sociological theories on class-specific education decisions we hypothesize that the finding of a substantial role of shared family influences replicates. In contrast to previous studies we investigate whether the relative importance of shared family- and genetic influences varies by social background. In line with previous evidence that impoverished environments suppress genetic expressions we expect that the relative importance of genetic influences increases with social background. We test our hypotheses by estimating ACE-variance decompositions of educational attainment based on about 950 young adult twin pairs in their early 20s based on the novel German twin family panel study TwinLife. Preliminary results reveal a substantial impact of shared family influences for educational attainment in Germany and support the hypothesized larger share of genetic influences on educational attainment among higher social status families. Furthermore, our results indicate that more advantaged families provide family influences under which children can realize their genetic potential.