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Interpreting estimates of heritability – A note on the twin decomposition

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  • Stenberg, Anders

Abstract

While most outcomes may in part be genetically mediated, quantifying genetic heritability is a different matter. To explore data on twins and decompose the variation is a classical method to determine whether variation in outcomes, e.g. IQ or schooling, originate from genetic endowments or environmental factors. Despite some criticism, the model is still widely used. The critique is generally related to how estimates of heritability may encompass environmental mediation. This aspect is sometimes left implicit by authors even though its relevance for the interpretation is potentially profound. This short note is an appeal for clarity from authors when interpreting the magnitude of heritability estimates. It is demonstrated how disregarding existing theoretical contributions can easily lead to unnecessary misinterpretations and/or controversies. The key arguments are relevant also for estimates based on data of adopted children or from modern molecular genetics research.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Economics & Human Biology.

Volume (Year): 11 (2013)
Issue (Month): 2 ()
Pages: 201-205

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Handle: RePEc:eee:ehbiol:v:11:y:2013:i:2:p:201-205

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Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/622964

Related research

Keywords: Genes; Environments; Twin studies; Gene–environment interaction; Adoption studies;

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References

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  8. Goldberger, Arthur S, 1978. "The Genetic Determination of Income: Comment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 68(5), pages 960-69, December.
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  11. Lundborg, Petter & Stenberg, Anders, 2010. "Nature, nurture and socioeconomic policy--What can we learn from molecular genetics?," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 8(3), pages 320-330, December.
  12. Jonathan P. Beauchamp & David Cesarini & Magnus Johannesson & Matthijs J. H. M. van der Loos & Philipp D. Koellinger & Patrick J. F. Groenen & James H. Fowler & J. Niels Rosenquist & A. Roy Thurik & N, 2011. "Molecular Genetics and Economics," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 25(4), pages 57-82, Fall.
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Cited by:
  1. Cook, C. Justin & Fletcher, Jason M., 2014. "Interactive effects of in utero nutrition and genetic inheritance on cognition: New evidence using sibling comparisons," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 13(C), pages 144-154.
  2. Terhi Maczulskij, 2012. "Employment sector and pay gaps: genetic and environmental influences," ERSA conference papers ersa12p755, European Regional Science Association.
  3. Maczulskij, Terhi, 2013. "Employment sector and pay gaps: Genetic and environmental influences," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(C), pages 89-96.

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