ICES Seminar in Experimental Economics and Game Theory

Sources of Inequality at Birth:  the Interplay Between Genes and Parental Socioeconomic Status

Friday, February 18, 2022 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM EST
Online Location, Zoom Meeting

ICES Seminar in Experimental Economics and Game Theory

The ICES Seminar in Experimental Economics and Game Theory of the Spring 2022 semester will feature:

Pietro Biroli

University of Zurich

Sources of Inequality at Birth:  the Interplay Between Genes and Parental Socioeconomic Status

 

Please contact ICES Office Manager (sbahabib@gmu.edu) for Zoom link.

 

Abstract

The start of a human’s life can be characterized by two lotteries: that of your genes (nature) and that of the family you were born into (nurture). These lotteries set in motion a trajectory, from birth onward, in health and human-capital formation. Genetic factors are implicated in virtually any human trait, and early-life experiences strongly influence long-term outcomes, with children born into high socio-economic status (SES) families generally in better health and of higher SES in later life. Leveraging three longitudinal social-science data sets, the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study (WLS), and the English Longitudinal Study of Aging (ELSA), containing rich genotypic and phenotypic information, we systematically analyze the relationship between an individual’s genetic predisposition towards a trait (genotype), their actual trait in adulthood (phenotype), and the social and economic status of the families they grew up in. We proxy the individual’s genetic predisposition to a trait by a polygenic score (PGS) and the SES of the families they were born into by a latent factor of parental SES, constructed from parental education and the father’s (former) occupational status. We then investigate how genetic predispositions, socioeconomic background, and their interaction contribute to later-life outcomes, across a range of forty-five socioeconomic, anthropometric, health, behavioral, and personality traits. We find strong genetic and socio-economic associations but no evidence for sizeable interactions between them. We discuss several possible implications of this result.

 

For more information about the Seminar Series, please visit the Seminar Schedule homepage.

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