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Being rich and successful is in your DNA

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Scientists have found social mobility is partially written into our genes, which can make us high-flyers or high-earners.

A study of more than 20,000 people in the UK, US and New Zealand found those with certain genetic variations earned more money, had better careers and got further in education.

Regardless of which class they came from, their genes could help them do better in life than their parents before them. 

The study lends weight to the theory that nature rather than nurture largely determines how well people get on in their lives.

A team of researchers from Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, North Carolina, undertook a genome-wide association study (GWAS) on more than 20,000 individuals from Britain, New Zealand, and the United States who were followed from childhood into adulthood.

The GWAS looked for thousands of tiny changes in genetic code in the individuals that previous studies have linked with success at school. 

Unsurprisingly, they found that men and women with ‘genes for education’ – or high polygenic scores – did better academically.

Those with a high polygenic score did better in terms of education, occupation, and wealth, compared with their parents and siblings, regardless of the individuals’ familial social class as children.

Lead author, Department of Population Health Sciences, Duke University Dr. Daniel Belsky, said: “Findings from these analyses show that education-linked genetics may provide clues to biological processes in human development that influence success in school, at work, and in the accumulation of wealth across life.”

The authors say our genes explain only roughly four per cent of differences in social mobility. 

People with a high genetic score for education also tend to come from more affluent homes. 

But even when parents’ social class is taken into account, the study found genes still have an effect.

A mother’s genetic score could even predict her child’s educational achievement, suggesting someone’s genes could even improve the success of the next generation by changing their own behaviour.

One explanation for the connection between education-linked genetics and social class is that a person’s education-linked genetics influence their development of traits and behaviours that, in turn, contribute to their success.

For example, education-linked genetics could influence brain development in ways that affect behaviour, leading to differences in achievement in school and beyond. 


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