Association between birth weight and educational attainment: an individual-based pooled analysis of nine twin cohorts.


Journal Article

BACKGROUND:There is evidence that birth weight is positively associated with education, but it remains unclear whether this association is explained by familial environmental factors, genetic factors or the intrauterine environment. We analysed the association between birth weight and educational years within twin pairs, which controls for genetic factors and the environment shared between co-twins. METHODS:The data were derived from nine twin cohorts in eight countries including 6116 complete twin pairs. The association between birth weight and educational attainment was analysed both between individuals and within pairs using linear regression analyses. RESULTS:In between-individual analyses, birth weight was not associated with educational years. Within-pairs analyses revealed positive but modest associations for some sex, zygosity and birth year groups. The greatest association was found in dizygotic (DZ) men (0.65 educational years/kg birth weight, p=0.006); smaller effects of 0.3 educational years/kg birth weight were found within monozygotic (MZ) twins of both sexes and opposite-sex DZ twins. The magnitude of the associations differed by birth year in MZ women and opposite-sex DZ twins, showing a positive association in the 1915-1959 birth cohort but no association in the 1960-1984 birth cohort. CONCLUSION:Although associations are weak and somewhat inconsistent, our results suggest that intrauterine environment may play a role when explaining the association between birth weight and educational attainment.

Full Text

Cited Authors

  • Jelenkovic, A; Mikkonen, J; Martikainen, P; Latvala, A; Yokoyama, Y; Sund, R; Vuoksimaa, E; Rebato, E; Sung, J; Kim, J; Lee, J; Lee, S; Stazi, MA; Fagnani, C; Brescianini, S; Derom, CA; Vlietinck, RF; Loos, RJF; Krueger, RF; McGue, M; Pahlen, S; Nelson, TL; Whitfield, KE; Brandt, I; Nilsen, TS; Harris, JR; Cutler, TL; Hopper, JL; Tarnoki, AD; Tarnoki, DL; Sørensen, TIA; Kaprio, J; Silventoinen, K

Published Date

  • September 2018

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 72 / 9

Start / End Page

  • 832 - 837

PubMed ID

  • 29848580

Pubmed Central ID

  • 29848580

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1470-2738

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0143-005X

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1136/jech-2017-210403


  • eng