ICES Experimental Economics Brown Bag Lecture

Estimating the Heritability of Economic Traits with Molecular Genetic Data

Thursday, March 21, 2024 12:00 PM EDT
Vernon Smith Hall (formerly Metropolitan Building), Room 5075

ICES Experimental Economics Brown Bag Lecture

The Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science (ICES) presents an ICES Brown Bag Lecture featuring:

Gareth Markel

George Mason University

Estimating the Heritability of Economic Traits with Molecular Genetic Data

 

 

 

Abstract

The extent to which genetics contributes to economic outcomes has been a subject of considerable study in the field of economics. Past research has relied mainly on pedigree methods, such as twin and adoption studies, to estimate heritability. However, these methods rely on potentially biasing assumptions, and the recent availability of molecular genetic data has allowed for alternative approaches. In this study, we use the data from many cohorts, including the UK Biobank (UKB), Estonian Biobank, Wisconsin Longitudinal Study (WLS), and Generation Scotland, which collectively include molecular genetic data on over 60,000 pairs of siblings, to estimate heritability for several economically relevant traits. Though imprecise, our estimates so far in the UKB and WLS data indicate that genetics accounts for an important share of the variation for a suite of traits, with heritability estimates of 0.36, 0.53, and 0.95 for drinking behavior, risk tolerance, and cognitive ability. Our heritability estimation method uses molecular genetic data to compute the genetic similarity of siblings, and then compares that similarity to their phenotypic similarity, and yields unbiased estimate of heritability that are free from environmental confounding.

 

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