Researchers uncover East Asian genetic link to educational attainment
By Ryan General
January 9, 2024
A new study has found a link between educational attainment and the genetics of East Asians, challenging previous studies largely focused on Western populations.
About the study: The study, conducted by Korean medical researchers in collaboration with a Taiwanese team, involved a genome-wide association study, a technique that searches for links between genetic variations and specific traits within the DNA. For the study, the researchers analyzed DNA samples from 176,400 individuals in Korea and Taiwan.
About the findings: The results, published in Nature Human Behaviour, identified 102 genome locations strongly associated with educational attainment. The findings mirror those of previous European studies, emphasizing shared genetic traits across ethnic groups.
Other factors to consider: While the study unveiled a genetic link, the researchers caution against using these variants to predict an individual’s educational achievement, emphasizing the influence of social and environmental factors. Led by Professor Won Hong-hee and team, the scientists highlighted the limited heritability explained by these genetic factors, estimating it at only 10% of the variance in total educational attainment.
Study’s implications: The researchers note that their findings open avenues for understanding the genetic architecture of East Asians. The researchers also emphasize the importance of diversity in genetic studies, as evidenced by the cross-population analysis.
“These findings can be used to study how educational attainment is associated with various diseases, such as dementia and mental disorders, and to identify ways to prevent and treat these diseases,” said co-author Professor Myung Woo-jae of Seoul National University Bundang Hospital.
Asian Americans by the numbers: In the U.S., over half of Asian American adults (51%) hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, exceeding the national average of 32%, a study by Pew Research found last year. However, educational attainment varies widely among Asian-origin groups. Indian Americans top the list with 72% college graduates, followed by Koreans (56%) and Chinese (55%). Meanwhile, Japanese (50%), Filipinos (45%) and Vietnamese (33%) have lower rates.
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