Razib Khan in Nautilus:
A new paper, published in the American Journal of Human Genetics, highlights the fact that genes your parents didn’t transmit to you still matter—the phenomenon of “genetic nurture.” A team of researchers based in the United Kingdom conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of 12 studies with nearly 40,000 parent-offspring comparisons. The genetic nurture effect for years of education, they found, is about 50 percent of the value of direct genetic effects. “Empirical studies,” they write, “have indicated that genetic nurture effects are particularly relevant to the intergenerational transmission of risk for child educational outcomes, which are, in turn, associated with major psychological and health milestones throughout the life course.” Genetic nurture is clearly not a factor you can ignore.
How does it work? Some parents may have personalities that have them prioritizing the short-term over the long-term. Rather than investing in their offspring’s educational outcome, by investing in a college fund, say, they may prefer spending the money on vacations to Europe, which have a great deal of short-term utility. The child may have somewhat different preferences, but this would be irrelevant, as these sorts of decisions are usually made by parents. The same is true in the converse situation, where parents make decisions that would increase the likelihood of their offspring going to college. This is a situation where the offspring may not have inherited the gene (or cluster of genes) that gives their parents the long-term vision, but they themselves benefit from that disposition.