Genetic correlates of social stratification in Great Britain

Abdel Abdellaoui, David Hugh-Jones, Kathryn E. Kemper, Yan Holtz, Michel G. Nivard, Laura Veul, Loic Yengo, Brendan P. Zietsch, Timothy M. Frayling, Naomi Wray, Jian Yang, Karin J. H. Verweij, Peter M. Visscher

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126 Citations (Scopus)


Human DNA polymorphisms vary across geographic regions, with the most commonly observed variation reflecting distant ancestry differences. Here we investigate the geographic clustering of common genetic variants that influence complex traits in a sample of ~450,000 individuals from Great Britain. Of 33 traits analysed, 21 showed significant geographic clustering at the genetic level after controlling for ancestry, probably reflecting migration driven by socioeconomic status (SES). Alleles associated with educational attainment (EA) showed the most clustering, with EA-decreasing alleles clustering in lower SES areas such as coal mining areas. Individuals who leave coal mining areas carry more EA-increasing alleles on average than those in the rest of Great Britain. The level of geographic clustering is correlated with genetic associations between complex traits and regional measures of SES, health and cultural outcomes. Our results are consistent with the hypothesis that social stratification leaves visible marks in geographic arrangements of common allele frequencies and gene–environment correlations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1332–1342
Number of pages11
JournalNature Human Behaviour
Publication statusPublished - 21 Oct 2019

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