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Twin Res Hum Genet. 2011 Dec;14(6):509-15.

Returns to education: what do twin studies control?

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Department of Psychology/Elliott Hall, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA.


The current article examines the assumptions of the MZ co-twin control method that has been applied in attempts to gain more accurate estimates of the returns to education by naturally 'controlling' for individual differences on which MZ twins are matched. The current study examined 1738 MZ and 926 DZ twins from Minnesota, including 133 pairs of MZ and 101 pairs of DZ twins discordant for university attendance. They were assessed prospectively on personality, intelligence, GPA, and academic motivation; a subset also has reported income at age 29. MZ twins discordant for university attendance differed significantly and prospectively on verbal IQ, personality traits, and GPA. While MZ co-twin control studies can provide more accurate estimates of the returns to education than analyses of single individuals, these studies do not entirely obviate the need to control for differences between university students and non-students that predate university attendance and might account for income differentials and even non-monetary outcomes.

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