Scientists have known for some time that because genetic differences affect cognitive abilities and personality traits that matter for school, those differences end up playing a role in how much formal schooling we complete.
By looking for these variations in the genomes of millions of people, scientists can predict, with a modicum of accuracy, whether the amount of time that an individual spends in school will be higher or lower than the average for the general population.
What does this mean for predicting the schooling potential for, say, your own child, or for any particular individual? Research on twins suggests that both the genes you inherit and your family environment play an important role in how far you are likely to go in school. By examining the influence of particular genetic variants, researchers can predict the level of education that an individual will achieve with about the same accuracy as if they made this prediction based on looking at the amount of education the individual’s parents’ received.
However, neither prediction is very accurate. While both matter, neither genes nor family environment determines our eventual level of education.