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In the field of sociogenomics, there is a growing body of studies focusing on whether and how the genetic effect (i.e., G) on educational attainment is moderated by the socio-economic status of the family of origin (i.e., SES). Does a genetic predisposition for education matter more for the educational attainment of high or low-SES students? The results of studies that address this question are mixed and inconclusive. We wish to contribute to this literature by introducing the notion of “educational outcome selectivity.”

We argue that different patterns are observed in the GxSES interaction depending on the selectivity of the educational outcome considered. In doing so, we expand previous research that has mainly been guided by the Scarr-Rowe hypothesis, building on theories of compensatory and boosting advantage from social stratification research. These theories stress the role of family resources and parental aspirations to avoid downward social mobility in moderating the effect of an adverse/favorable previous event for a later outcome.

Using the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health) for the U.S., we investigate outcomes characterized by different levels of selectivity: high school completion, college enrollment, college completion, graduate school completion. Our results are largely in line with the hypotheses that patterns of compensatory advantage are expected in the case of non-selective outcomes, such as high school completion, while patterns of boosting advantage are to be found in the case of selective outcomes, such as graduate school completion.