Being a star pupil in your class is great, but it’s not something you have control over entirely. In fact, how well you’d perform in school was already decided even before you were born.

A study at the University of York, investigating the major contributing factors behind academic success, found that both the parents’ socioeconomic status and child’s inherited DNA are powerful predictors of educational achievement. However, having parents belonging to high socioeconomic status outshines the benefit of inheriting the genes for school success.

“Genetics and socioeconomic status capture the effects of both nature and nurture, and their influence is particularly dramatic for children at the extreme ends of distribution,” explained Sophie von Stumm, lead author of the study. “However, our study also highlights the potentially protective effect of a privileged background. Having a genetic makeup that makes you more inclined to education does make a child from a disadvantaged background more likely to go to university, but not as likely as a child with a lower genetic propensity from a more advantaged background.”

“While the findings of our study are observational, they do suggest that children don’t have equal opportunity in education because of their different genetics and family backgrounds. Where you come from has a huge impact on how well you do in school.”

For the study, the team gathered and examined data of 5,000 children born between 1994 and 1996. Upon analyzing their results at crucial phase of their of their education and their parent’s socioeconomic condition, they found that only  47 percent of children with a strong genetic predilection for education but a poorer background attended university, while 62 percent with a much less genetic predilection for education and whose parents are wealthy and educated made it to university.

They also found that those endowed with both education-centric genes and affluent parents had the greatest benefit with 77 percent going to University, and those stripped of such genes and born to poor families had the hardest time, with only 21 percent making it to higher education.

 Your  educational achievement  is determined by your parents' socioeconomic status and  inherited DNA, new study suggests.
Your educational achievement is determined by your parents’ socioeconomic status and inherited DNA, new study suggests.

To specifically determine how the child’s inherited genes influence and predict their academic success, the researchers utilized a special technique called genome-wide polygenic scoring. They found that children with high polygenic score usually start to exhibit their superiority in academic performance at the tender age of 7.  The scores varies considerably from the children with low polygenic scores, and this “achievement gap” as the researchers indicate, only widens with time.

“More research is required, but we hope that this paper will stimulate discussion around the potential to predict if children are at risk for poor academic outcomes – the basis of these discussions goes beyond purely scientific criteria to issues of ethics and social values,” said Professor von Stumm.

“We hope that results like these can open doors for children, rather than close them, by stimulating the development and provision of personalised environments that can appropriately enhance and supplement a child’s education.”

Will your newborn be academically flourishing? Or will they be at risk of poor educational outcomes? The findings of this study will have you figure that out.

The study has been published in the journal Developmental Science.