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Genes weakly linked to education level

Search of more than 2 million DNA locations finds small and hard-to-explain association with schooling

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11:53am, May 31, 2013

Genetic factors may exert a tiny influence on how much schooling a person ends up with, a new study suggests.

But the main lesson of the research, experts say, should be that attributing cultural and socioeconomic traits to genes is a dicey enterprise.

“If there is a policy implication, it’s that there’s even more reason to be skeptical of genetic determinism,” says sociologist Jeremy Freese of Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.

Published May 30 in Science by a group of more than 200 researchers, the study does mark the first time genetic factors have been reproducibly associated with a social trait, says Richard Ebstein, a behavioral geneticist at the National University of Singapore. “It announces to social scientists that some things they’ve been studying that make a difference to health and life success do have a base in genetics.”

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