Shared Environment Estimates for Educational Attainment: A Puzzle and Possible Solutions

Jeremy Freese*, Yu Han Jao

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Classical behavioral genetics models for twin and other family designs decompose traits into heritability, shared environment, and nonshared environment components. Estimates of heritability of adult traits are pervasively observed to be far higher than those of shared environment, which has been used to make broad claims about the impotence of upbringing. However, the most commonly studied nondemographic variable in many areas of social science, educational attainment, exhibits robustly high estimates both for heritability and for shared environment. When previously noticed, the usual explanation has emphasized family resources, but evidence suggests this is unlikely to explain the anomalous high estimates for shared environment of educational attainment. We articulate eight potential complementary explanations and discuss evidence of their prospective contributions to resolving the puzzle. In so doing, we hope to further consideration of how behavioral genetics findings may advance studies of social stratification beyond the effort to articulate specific genetic influences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)79-89
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Personality
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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