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

Aline Jelenkovic, Janne Mikkonen, Pekka Martikainen, Antti Latvala, Yoshie Yokoyama, Reijo Sund, Eero Vuoksimaa, Esther Rebato, Joohon Sung, Jina Kim, Jooyeon Lee, Sooji Lee, Maria A. Stazi, Corrado Fagnani, Sonia Brescianini, Catherine A. Derom, Robert F. Vlietinck, Ruth J.F. Loos, Robert F. Krueger, Matt McGueShandell Pahlen, Tracy L. Nelson, Keith E. Whitfield, Ingunn Brandt, Thomas S. Nilsen, Jennifer R. Harris, Tessa L. Cutler, John L. Hopper, Adam D. Tarnoki, David L. Tarnoki, Thorkild I.A. Sørensen, Jaakko Kaprio, Karri Silventoinen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)832-837
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of epidemiology and community health
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding This work was supported by the Academy of Finland (grant #266592). The Australian Twin Registry is supported by a Centre of Research Excellence (grant ID 1079102) from the National Health and Medical Research Council administered by the University of Melbourne. The Carolina African American Twin Study of Aging (CAATSA) was funded by a grant from the National Institute on Aging (grant 1RO1-AG13662-01A2) to KEW. Since its origin the East Flanders Prospective Survey has been partly supported by grants from the Fund of Scientific Research, Flanders and Twins, a non-profit Association for Scientific Research in Multiple Births (Belgium). Data collection and analyses in Finnish twin cohorts have been supported by ENGAGE – European Network for Genetic and Genomic Epidemiology, FP7-HEALTH-F4-2007, grant agreement number 201413, National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (grants AA-12502, AA-00145, and AA-09203 to R J Rose, the Academy of Finland Center of Excellence in Complex Disease Genetics (grant numbers: 213506, 129680), and the Academy of Finland (grants 100499, 205585, 118555, 141054, 265240, 263278 and 264146 to J Kaprio). Anthropometric measurements of the Hungarian twins were supported by Medexpert Ltd., Budapest, Hungary. Korean Twin-Family Register was supported by the Global Research Network Program of the National Research Foundation (NRF 2011-220-E00006).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Article author(s).


  • birth weight
  • education
  • twins/genetics


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