Educational Attainment Influences Levels of Homozygosity through Migration and Assortative Mating

A. Abdellaoui, J.J. Hottenga, G. Willemsen, M. Bartels, C.E.M. van Beijsterveldt, E.A. Ehli, G.E. Davies, A. Brooks, P.F. Sullivan, B.W.J.H. Penninx, E.J.C. de Geus, D.I. Boomsma

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Individuals with a higher education are more likely to migrate, increasing the chance of meeting a spouse with a different ancestral background. In this context, the presence of strong educational assortment can result in greater ancestry differences within more educated spouse pairs, while less educated individuals are more likely to mate with someone with whom they share more ancestry. We examined the association between educational attainment and F<inf>roh</inf> (= the proportion of the genome consisting of runs of homozygosity [ROHs]) in ∼2,000 subjects of Dutch ancestry. The subjects' own educational attainment showed a nominally significant negative association with F<inf>roh</inf> (p =.045), while the contribution of parental education to offspring F<inf>roh</inf> was highly significant (father: p < 10-5; mother: p = 9×10-5), with more educated parents having offspring with fewer ROHs. This association was significantly and fully mediated by the physical distance between parental birthplaces (paternal education: p<inf>mediation</inf> = 2.4 × 10-4; maternal education: p<inf>mediation</inf>= 2.3 × 10-4), which itself was also significantly associated with F<inf>roh</inf> (p = 9 × 10-5). Ancestry-informative principal components from the offspring showed a significantly decreasing association with geography as parental education increased, consistent with the significantly higher migration rates among more educated parents. Parental education also showed a high spouse correlation (Spearman's? =.66, p = 3 × 10-262). We show that less educated parents are less likely to mate with the more mobile parents with a higher education, creating systematic differences in homozygosity due to ancestry differences not directly captured by ancestryinformative principal components (PCs). Understanding how behaviors influence the genomic structure of a population is highly valuable for studies on the genetic etiology of behavioral, cognitive, and social traits.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0118935
Number of pages14
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Cohort Studies

  • Netherlands Twin Register (NTR)


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