Genes May Influence Whether Individuals Earn a College Degree

By Catherine Groux
Posted July 09, 2012 10:53 AM

Certain genes may influence whether people earn college degrees.
Certain genes may influence whether people earn college degrees.
Many factors influence whether an individual goes on to pursue a bachelor's degree after high school, but according to a study in the July issue of Developmental Psychology, certain genetic markers may have something to do with it. According to the study of thousands of Americans, three genes - DAT1, DRD2 and DRD4 - might be linked to behaviors like motivation, cognitive skills, attention regulation and intelligence, making them solid predictors of educational achievement.

While everyone possesses these three genes, the molecular differences, or alleles, within these genes varies from person to person. By studying thousands of individuals and their DNA, scientists were able to find that certain alleles are linked to higher levels of academic achievement.

Still, it is important to note that these alleles are only predictors, and cannot say for sure whether someone has earned a college degree or not.

"No one gene is going to say, 'Sally will graduate from high school' or 'Johnny will earn a college degree,'" said Kevin Beaver, the study's lead author and a professor at the College of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Florida State University. "These genetic effects operate indirectly, through memory, violent tendencies and impulsivity, which are all known predictors of how well a kid will succeed in school. If we can keep moving forward and identify more genetic markers for educational achievement, we can begin to truly understand how genetics play a role in how we live and succeed in life."

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