Poverty and InequalitySexual and Reproductive HealthFamily, Maternal & Child HealthMethodology

Education in time: cohort differences in educational attainment in African-American twins

TitleEducation in time: cohort differences in educational attainment in African-American twins
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsSzanton, SL, Johnson, B, Thorpe, RJ, Whitfield, K
JournalPloS one
ISBN Number1932-6203; 1932-6203
Accession Number19888338
KeywordsAdult, African Americans/genetics, Aged, Cohort Studies, Educational Status, Female, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Social Class, Social Environment, Socioeconomic Factors, Twins, Dizygotic/genetics, Twins, Monozygotic/genetics, Twins/genetics

OBJECTIVES: Educational opportunities for African-Americans expanded throughout the 20(th) century. Twin pairs are an informative population in which to examine changes in educational attainment because each twin has the same parents and childhood socioeconomic status. We hypothesized that correlation in educational attainment of older twin pairs would be higher compared to younger twin pairs reflecting changes in educational access over time and potentially reflecting a "ceiling effect" associated with Jim Crow laws and discrimination. METHODOLOGY AND PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: We used data from 211 same-sex twin pairs (98 identical, 113 fraternal) in the Carolina African-American Twin Study of Aging who were identified through birth records. Participants completed an in-person interview. The twins were predominantly female (61%), with a mean age of 50 years (SD = 0.5). We found that older age groups had a stronger intra-twin correlation of attained educational level. Further analysis across strata revealed a trend across zygosity, with identical twins demonstrating more similar educational attainment levels than did their fraternal twin counterparts, suggesting a genetic influence. DISCUSSION: These findings suggest that as educational opportunities broadened in the 20th century, African-Americans gained access to educational opportunities that better matched their individual abilities.