Gene-environment interplay in education: the impact of school quality and tracking

This project was co-financed by ODISSEI in the 2019 MAG call for proposals.
Researchers: Dr. Antonie Knigge (Utrecht University), Prof. Dr. Ineke Maas (Utrecht University / VU Amsterdam), Kim Stienstra, MSc (Utrecht University)

Because education is the key predictor for income, health, and other crucial life circumstances, virtually everyone agrees that access to education should be independent of socioeconomic background. However, (educational) inequality has been increasing. Research show that children in the Netherlands that are equally smart do not have equal chances to do well in school.

With conventional sociological models, it is difficult to test in which school environments educational outcomes depend more on ability and less on family background. The reason is that it is not easy to measure “ability” and “family background” and separate the two from each other. This project takes a different approach and uses twin methods to get around this problem. By deriving information from same-sex and opposite-sex twin pairs, it is possible to disentangle genetic and shared environmental influences.

The researchers will use CBS microdata that covers the educational careers of twins who got their secondary school advice between 2006 and 2018 and the socioeconomic characteristics of their parents. They will supplement these data with information on the school environment, as obtained from the Dutch Inspectorate of Education (Onderwijsinspectie) and the Dutch Education Executive Agency (DUO). This way, they will answer the question how school quality and standardization of track advice influence the impact of genes and family background on the educational outcomes of Dutch children.

Image: Onderwijsgek for Wikimedia via CC BY-SA 3.0