Polygenic prediction of education and its role in the intergenerational transmission of education: cohort changes among Finnish men and women born in 1925–1989
Demography, 60:5, 1523–1547 (2023)
Major changes in the educational distribution of the population and in institutions over the past century have affected the societal barriers to educational attainment. These changes can possibly result in stronger genetic associations. Using genetically informed, population-representative Finnish surveys linked to administrative registers, we investigated the polygenic associations and intergenerational transmission of education for those born between 1925 and 1989. First, we found that a polygenic index (PGI) designed to capture genetic predisposition to education strongly increased the predictiveness of educational attainment in pre-1950s cohorts, particularly among women. When decomposing the total contribution of PGI across different educational transitions, the transition between the basic and academic secondary tracks was the most important. This transition accounted for 60–80% of the total PGI–education association among most cohorts. The transition between academic secondary and higher tertiary levels increased its contribution across cohorts. Second, for cohorts born between 1955 and 1984, we observed that one eighth of the association between parental and one's own education is explained by the PGI. There was also an increase in the intergenerational correlation of education among these cohorts, which was partly explained by an increasing association between family education of origin and the PGI.