Variation in the heritability of educational attainment: An international meta-analysis

Amelia R. Branigan*, Kenneth J. Mccallum, Jeremy Freese

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

196 Scopus citations


To assess heterogeneity in the influence of genetic variation on educational attainment across environmental contexts, we present a meta-analysis of heritability estimates in fifteen samples and thirty-four subgroups differing by nationality, sex, and birth cohort. We find that heritability, shared environment, and unshared environment each explain a substantial percentage of the variance in attainment across all countries, with between-sample heterogeneity in all three variance components. Although we observe only meager differences in the total family effect by cohort or sex, we observe large cohort and sex differences in the composition of the family effect, consistent with a history of higher heritability of educational attainment for males and for individuals born in the latter half of the twentieth century. Heritability also varies significantly by nation, with the direction of variation specific by sample.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)109-140
Number of pages32
JournalSocial Forces
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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