The interplay between cognitive ability and social origin in explaining educational attainment: do twins and non-twin siblings differ?


Recently we found that especially children of high-status parents succeed in obtaining a high education, even if they have relatively low cognitive ability. This is an indication of resource compensation: resources of the family compensate a low cognitive ability of the child. This result was obtained by analyzing twin data. These data have great advantages because they allow to take social and genetic differences between children into account and thus approximate causal effects. It is, however, an open question whether these results can be generalized to the total population. In this project we ask whether the interplay between cognitive ability and social origin differs between twins and singletons. Our hypothesis is that high-status parents more likely compensate for the low cognitive ability of one twin (compared to the other twin) then for the low cognitive ability of a singleton. We will use a large sample of twins and their siblings from the German TwinLife Study. We estimate the interaction effect of cognitive ability and parents’ SES on educational attainment in models that consecutively take sources of variation into account (between families, between siblings, between non-identical twins, and between identical twins) to investigate the robustness of the finding of resource compensation.





Prof. dr. W.A.F. Maas

Verbonden aan

Universiteit Utrecht, Faculteit Sociale Wetenschappen, Departement Maatschappijwetenschappen


01/06/2019 tot 31/05/2020