Graduate Trainee, Case Western Reserve University
1 active project
Environmental Barriers Impacting Genetic Influences on Educational Attainment
Scientific Questions Being Studied
Researchers have identified a polygenic index, representing genetic propensity, that accounts for significant variance in educational attainment (EA). The educational attainment polygenic index (EA PGI) accounts about 16% of the variance in educational attainment. When the EA PGI was measured in samples of African ancestry, it accounts for disproportionately lower variance. Investigation into this identifies environmental barriers manifesting as repressive gene-environment correlations ; environments complimentary to one’s genome are less available to those of African ancestry. The breadth of available environments complimentary to one’s genotype varies across genetic ancestry because of systemic barriers. Therefore, the relationship between the EA PGI and EA may be moderated by an environment's “fit” with one’s genome, and the effect sizes of these moderators may vary across genetic ancestries. Quantitatively validating these barriers informs decisions aimed at supporting equity.
- Population Health
- Social / Behavioral
The data will be used to generate the polygenic index for educational attainment utilizing the 3,952 uncorrelated single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) reaching the significance threshold of p < 1 x 10-8 displayed in Okbay et al. (2022); these SNPs will be weighted and summed using standard polygenic index generation methodology. This polygenic index will be used to predict the amount of variance accounted for in the number of years of education completed by the participants in the sample. Measures of the environment included in the phenotype database will be used to test for moderators that impact the relationship between the EA PGI and measured educational attainment across ancestries.
This proposed project has two specific aims. Aim 1 is to demonstrate disproportionately less variance in EA accounted for by the EA PGI in an independent sample of participants of African ancestry when compared to samples of European ancestry. Additionally, this will replicate findings shown in Okbay et al. (2022) and Rabinowitz et al. (2019) with a notably larger sample. Aim 2 will seek to identify measured environmental influences , such as economic factors related to zip code or perceived stress from the environment, that moderate the relationship between the EA PGI and educational attainment across ancestries. Quantitatively validating the repressive effect of environmental disadvantage while controlling for individual differences in underlying genetic influences will provide valuable insight on the impact of these barriers, while additionally informing hypotheses and decisions aimed at minimizing societal barriers to equal opportunity and achievement.
Demographic Categories of Interest
- Race / Ethnicity
- Access to Care
- Education Level
- Income Level
Data Set UsedControlled Tier
- Alex Olejko - Graduate Trainee, Case Western Reserve University
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