Equality in Educational Policy and the Heritability of Educational Attainment
Tornero-Gómez, María J.
Sánchez-Romera, Juan F.
Ordoñana, Juan R.
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AbstractSecular variation in the heritability of educational attainment are proposed to be due to the implementation of more egalitarian educational policies leading to increased equality in educational opportunities in the second part of the 20th century. The action of effect is hypothesized to be a decrease of shared environmental (e.g., family socioeconomic status or parents’ education) influences on educational attainment, giving more room for genetic differences between individuals to impact on the variation of the trait. However, this hypothesis has not yet found consistent evidence. Support for this effect relies mainly on comparisons between countries adopting different educational systems or between different time periods within a country reflecting changes in general policy. Using a population-based sample of 1271 pairs of adult twins, we analyzed the effect of the introduction of a specific educational policy in Spain in 1970. The shared-environmental variance decreased, leading to an increase in heritability in the post-reform cohort (44 vs. 67%) for males. Unstandardized estimates of genetic variance were of a similar magnitude (.56 vs. .57) between cohorts, while shared environmental variance decreased from .56 to .04. Heritability remained in the same range for women (40 vs. 34%). Our results support the role of educational policy in affecting the relative weight of genetic and environmental factors on educational attainment, such that increasing equality in educational opportunities increases heritability estimates by reducing variation of non-genetic familial origin.