Genes and Background Can Predict Academic Success: Study
Sat, April 17, 2021

Genes and Background Can Predict Academic Success: Study

Academic success is important because it helps decide the positive outcome of the students after graduation / Photo by: Dmitrii Shironosov via 123RF

 

Academic success is important because it helps decide the positive outcome of the students after graduation. Previous studies have shown that adults who are academically successful have higher self-esteem, more socially inclined, are more likely to be employed, earn higher salaries, are less dependent on social assistance, less likely to engage in criminal activity, happier, and healthier. 

Whether or not kids will be successful academically can be predicted by their genes, so revealed by a new study led by the University of York.

 

Genes for Academic Success

According to the researchers, the inherited genes of children is a powerful predictor of educational achievement but not as beneficial as the combination of parents’ socioeconomic status and genes. This means that kids born to parents who are wealthy and highly educated have a higher genetic propensity to be successful academically compared to kids from a poorer background.

According to the researchers, the inherited genes of children is a powerful predictor of educational achievement but not as beneficial as the combination of parents’ socioeconomic status and genes / Photo by: Vlad Kochelaevskiy via 123RF

 

Use of Polygenic Scoring in Studying the Subjects’ DNA

The researchers studied the data of about 5,000 children in the United Kingdom born between 1994 and 1996. The study involved analyzing the test results of these kids at the key stages of their education and their parents' occupational status and educational level. Moreover, the team utilized polygenic scoring (also called genome-wide scoring), which is a technique that adds the DNA variant effect. The test helped determine how the inherited genes predict the educational success of the children.

The result showed that kids with a high polygenic score significantly differed in educational achievement when they reach seven years old compared to those with low polygenic scores.  The educational achievement gap then widened throughout the school years that led to an equivalent difference by the time kids took their General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE).

They added that only 47% of the kids in the research sample had a high genetic propensity for academic success that came from a poorer background, but those who came from well-educated and wealthy family backgrounds had the advantage with 77% of them reaching the college level. On the other hand, only 21% of the subjects who came from families with a low genetic propensity for academic success and low socioeconomic status reached higher education levels.

The researchers believe that their findings may help pinpoint kids that are most at risk of having poor academic results.

Socioeconomic Status and Genetics

Professor Sophie von Stumm, the study lead author and from the University of York’s Department of Education, said that both socioeconomic status and genetics capture the nurture and nature effects. The two factors also have a dramatic influence on kids who come from a poor family.

In a separate statistics provided by Child Trends, a research organization focused on improving the lives of children and youth, it revealed that slightly less than 1 in 5 kids lived in families with incomes below the poverty line in 2017. Such a record is the lowest level ever since the economic downturn called the Great Recession between 2007 and 2009.

In 2017, children in poverty by ethnicity were at their highest among Hispanics and black children (25% and 29%, respectively) compared with white children (11%). Kids who lived in families headed by a single mom were more likely to be poor compared to those living in families headed by a married couple. Other studies have also shown that there is no level playing field between the rich and the poor because while rich kids can be enrolled in a dance class, poor kids couldn’t even afford the shoes and clothes are expensive for them too, thus the difference in their dance grades. There are also home assignments that require internet access and in-home computer.

Professor Sophie von Stumm, the study lead author and from the University of York’s Department of Education, said that both socioeconomic status and genetics capture the nurture and nature effects / Photo by: Mayuree Moonhirun via 123RF

 

Protective Effect of Being Born From a Privileged Background

Von Stumm also said via science and technology platform Phys.org that their study showed the protective effect of kids born from a privileged background. She explained that having genes that make a child more included in academics paved the way for them to reach university-level education despite coming from a disadvantaged background. The chance is even higher if the child comes from a more advantaged background despite having a low genetic propensity for education. 

The professor hopes that their study will open doors of opportunity for kids instead of closing them. This can be achieved by stimulating their development or having personalized environments that will help supplement and enhance the child’s education.

Previous research published in the Journal of Happiness Studies moreover suggested that children perform better at school if they are happy. This can mean they feel connected with the other kids and their teachers and they receive good grades for their efforts.

The University of York’s findings can serve as a motivation for parents and society as a whole to identify kids in need of interventions. Educators can also take notice of how they can adopt practices and policies that encourage both achievement and efforts, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds.