When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Log in .

You've reached your limit of one free article.

Get unlimited access to Worldcrunch

You can cancel anytime .


Exclusive International news coverage

Ad-free experience NEW

Weekly digital Magazine NEW

9 daily & weekly Newsletters

Access to Worldcrunch archives

Free trial

30-days free access, then $2.90
per month.

Annual Access BEST VALUE

$19.90 per year, save $14.90 compared to monthly billing.save $14.90.

Subscribe to Worldcrunch

How Our 'Education Genes' Decline While Collective IQ Rises

Modern education in Maharashtra
Heading in the right direction?
Julia Haase

BERLIN Is our intelligence determined by our genes? That's the question driving genetic and psychological research ever since these scientific disciplines were born. But to this day, the question has yet to be answered. Our cognitive skills are determined by our genes, yes, but they are also influenced by the environment around us.

But what we do know now is that genes determining whether we are able to achieve a higher level of education have been in decline for the last 80 years. Scientists speculate this process is part of natural selection.

People who study for more years and those who consider education important tend to have fewer children. Geneticists in Iceland conducted a study that found that people who possess genes that contribute to a higher level of education have fewer children. This means that these hereditary traits are becoming rarer within the genetic pool, with the result that the average IQ declined by 0.04 points per decade. If all genetic factors responsible for educational development are taken into account this decline could reach 0.3 IQ points per decade.

"It is interesting to see that the genetic factors that are connected to spending more time in the education system are becoming rarer within the gene pool," says Kari Stefansson, CEO of the Icelandic genetics company Decode.

Ready to learn — Photo: North Charleston

The study also highlights that genes responsible for education also influence fertility. Those who have more "education genes' tended to have fewer children. This means that people who are genetically predisposed to have a higher level of education are also predisposed to have fewer children.

The study's researchers analyzed the genetic make-up of more than 100,000 people in Iceland who were born between 1910 and 1990 and noted their level of education.

Are intelligent people on their way to becoming extinct?

Don't worry, this does not mean that mankind is becoming increasingly stupider. There are mechanisms that compensate for the loss of these genes. After all, more people now have access to education than ever before. Even if less intelligent people have more offspring, non-genetic factors such as schools and other educational establishments can counteract the downward spiral. But if that's not the case, the decline of these "education genes' could have a dramatic influence on our culture, researchers say.

"If this trend were to continue for centuries, the consequences would be far-reaching," says Stefansson.

The Icelandic study has demonstrated for the first time that genes regarding intelligence are measurable but they have comparatively little influence on our educational level. Despite the fact that our genetic make-up has been proven to follow a trend of declining "education genes," the average IQ in industrialized countries has been rising steadily.

"If we continue to improve the availability and quality of educational institutions, we will probably also improve the levels of education within society as a whole. Only time will tell, if the decline of a genetic tendency for higher levels of education will have a significant impact on human society," Stefansson concludes.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War

Two-State v. One-State Solution: Comparing The Two Options For A Palestinian Homeland

For decades, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been left unresolved. Hamas's recent attack has forced politicians to confront facts: the conflict needs a definitive solution. Here's a primer on the two possible scenarios on the table.

Two-State v. One-State Solution: Comparing The Two Options For A Palestinian Homeland

At a art event in Gaziantep, Turkey, aimed at expressing solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza.

Samy Magdy

CAIRO — The Israel-Hamas war in Gaza has once again focused the world’s full attention on the Palestinian cause.

For the latest news & views from every corner of the world, Worldcrunch Today is the only truly international newsletter. Sign up here.

Beyond the outrage and anger over the toll of Israel’s war in Gaza and the Hamas attack of October 7, there is a quieter international consensus that has been revived about forging a lasting settlement that includes the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside the Israeli one.

Naturally, there are the eternal (though largely resolvable) details of how that settlement could be achieved. Yet the so-called two-state solution is very much back in the conversation of international diplomacy.

At the same time, there is another scenario for the Palestinians to have a homeland: to share in a single state with Israelis — the one-state solution. There are supporters and opponents of the two solutions on both sides.

Here’s a look at what’s on the table:

Keep reading...Show less

The latest