Molecular genetic contributions to socioeconomic status and intelligence

Riccardo E Marioni, Gail Davies, Caroline Hayward, Dave Liewald, Shona M Kerr, Archie Campbell, Michelle Luciano, Blair H Smith, Sandosh Padmanabhan, Lynne J Hocking, Nicholas D Hastie, Alan F Wright, David J Porteous, Peter M Visscher, Ian J Deary

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Education, socioeconomic status, and intelligence are commonly used as predictors of health outcomes, social environment, and mortality. Education and socioeconomic status are typically viewed as environmental variables although both correlate with intelligence, which has a substantial genetic basis. Using data from 6815 unrelated subjects from the Generation Scotland study, we examined the genetic contributions to these variables and their genetic correlations. Subjects underwent genome-wide testing for common single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). DNA-derived heritability estimates and genetic correlations were calculated using the 'Genome-wide Complex Trait Analyses' (GCTA) procedures. 21% of the variation in education, 18% of the variation in socioeconomic status, and 29% of the variation in general cognitive ability was explained by variation in common SNPs (SEs ~ 5%). The SNP-based genetic correlations of education and socioeconomic status with general intelligence were 0.95 (SE 0.13) and 0.26 (0.16), respectively. There are genetic contributions to intelligence and education with near-complete overlap between common additive SNP effects on these traits (genetic correlation ~ 1). Genetic influences on socioeconomic status are also associated with the genetic foundations of intelligence. The results are also compatible with substantial environmental contributions to socioeconomic status.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-32
Number of pages7
Issue number100
Early online date14 Mar 2014
Publication statusPublished - May 2014

Bibliographical note

Generation Scotland has received core funding from the Chief Scientist Office of the Scottish Government Health DirectoratesCZD/16/6 and the Scottish Funding CouncilHR03006. We are grateful to all the families who took part, the general practitioners and the Scottish School of Primary Care for their help in recruiting them, and the whole Generation Scotland team, which includes interviewers, computer and laboratory technicians, clerical workers, research scientists, volunteers, managers, receptionists, healthcare assistants and nurses. Genotyping of the GS:SFHS samples was carried out by the Genetics Core Laboratory at the Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Facility, Edinburgh, Scotland and was funded by the UK's Medical Research Council. The Quantitative Trait Locus team at the Human Genetics Unit is funded by the Medical Research Council. REM, GD, DL, ML, DJP, PMV, and IJD undertook the work within The University of Edinburgh Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology (MR/K026992/1), part of the cross council Lifelong Health and Wellbeing Initiative. Funding from the BBSRC and MRC is gratefully acknowledged. REM is an Alzheimer's Research UK Fellow (ART-RF2010-2).


  • Generation Scotland
  • Intelligence
  • Education
  • Socioeconomic status
  • Genetics


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