The socio-economic gradient in children’s reading skills and the role of genetics

Anna Vignoles and John Jerrim, Institute of Education

John Jerrim

Co Authors
Anna Vignoles; Raghu Lingham; Angela Friend

Reading, Genes, Gene-environment interaction, ALSPAC

In this paper we investigate the role of three particular genes (and gene-environment interactions) in determining children’s reading skills. Our analysis focuses upon three of the most promising candidate genes (DCDC2, KIAA0319 and CMIP) available within the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) dataset. We find that whilst these genes are indeed correlated with reading outcomes, effect sizes are small and sensitive to the choice of test used and the sample selected. We find no evidence of gene-environment interactions. Rather our results suggest that the leading candidate genes can jointly explain just 2% of the socio-economic gap in children’s reading test scores. We conclude that the influence of these three genes on children’s reading ability is limited, and their role in producing socio-economic gaps even more limited still.