Associations between an educational attainment polygenic score with educational attainment in an African American sample

Jill A. Rabinowitz, Sally I.C. Kuo, William Felder, Rashelle J. Musci, Amie Bettencourt, Kelly Benke, Danielle Y. Sisto, Emily Smail, George Uhl, Brion S. Maher, Anthony Kouzis, Nicholas S. Ialongo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Polygenic propensity for educational attainment has been associated with higher education attendance, academic achievement and criminal offending in predominantly European samples; however, less is known about whether this polygenic propensity is associated with these outcomes among African Americans. Using an educational attainment polygenic score (EA PGS), the present study examined whether this score was associated with post-secondary education, academic achievement and criminal offending in an urban, African American sample. Three cohorts of participants (N = 1050; 43.9% male) were initially recruited for an elementary school-based universal prevention trial in a Mid-Atlantic city and followed into young adulthood. Standardized tests of reading and math achievement were administered in first grade. At age 20, participants reported on their level of education attained, and records of incarceration were obtained from Maryland's Criminal Justice Information System. In young adulthood, DNA was collected and extracted from blood or buccal swabs and genotyped. An EA PGS was created using results from a large-scale genome-wide association study on educational attainment. A higher EA PGS was associated with a greater log odds of post-secondary education. The EA PGS was not associated with reading achievement, although a significant relationship was found with math achievement in the third cohort. These findings contribute to the dearth of molecular genetics work conducted in African American samples and highlight that polygenic propensity for educational attainment is associated with higher education attendance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere12558
JournalGenes, Brain and Behavior
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jun 2019


  • African Americans
  • academic achievement
  • criminal offending
  • educational attainment polygenic score
  • post-secondary education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Neurology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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