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Environmental Bottlenecks on Children’s Genetic Potential for Adult Socioeconomic Attainments: Evidence from a Health Shock

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  • Jason Fletcher

    (University of Wisconsin–Madison)

Abstract

This paper explores gene-environmental interactions between family environments and children’s genetic scores in determining educational attainment. The central question is whether poor childhood family environments reduce the ability for children to leverage their genetic gifts to achieve high levels of educational attainments. The multigenerational information and genetic data contained in the Health and Retirement Study is used to separate two mechanisms of intergenerational transmission of socioeconomic status – genetic endowments and family environments. Using parental in utero exposure to the 1918/1919 influenza pandemic as a source of quasi-experimental variation to family environments (but not affecting children’s genetic endowments), this paper estimates interactions between parental investments and children’s genetic potential. The main finding suggests that girls with high genetic potential whose fathers were exposed to influenza face reduced educational attainments – a gene-environment interaction – but there is no similar effect for boys.

Suggested Citation

  • Jason Fletcher, 2018. "Environmental Bottlenecks on Children’s Genetic Potential for Adult Socioeconomic Attainments: Evidence from a Health Shock," Working Papers 2018-036, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.
  • Handle: RePEc:hka:wpaper:2018-036
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Nicholas W Papageorge & Kevin Thom, 2020. "Genes, Education, and Labor Market Outcomes: Evidence from the Health and Retirement Study," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 18(3), pages 1351-1399.
    2. Owen Thompson, 2014. "Economic Background and Educational Attainment: The Role of Gene-Environment Interactions," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 49(2), pages 263-294.
    3. Eric P. Bettinger, 2012. "Paying to Learn: The Effect of Financial Incentives on Elementary School Test Scores," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 94(3), pages 686-698, August.
    4. Jason M Fletcher, 2012. "Why Have Tobacco Control Policies Stalled? Using Genetic Moderation to Examine Policy Impacts," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 7(12), pages 1-6, December.
    5. Fletcher, Jason M., 2018. "The effects of in utero exposure to the 1918 influenza pandemic on family formation," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 30(C), pages 59-68.
    6. C. Justin Cook & Jason M. Fletcher & Angela Forgues, 2019. "Multigenerational Effects of Early-Life Health Shocks," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 56(5), pages 1855-1874, October.
    7. Bruce Sacerdote, 2007. "How Large are the Effects from Changes in Family Environment? A Study of Korean American Adoptees," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(1), pages 119-157.
    8. Fletcher, Jason M. & Lehrer, Steven F., 2011. "Genetic lotteries within families," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(4), pages 647-659, July.
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    Cited by:

    1. Atticus Bolyard & Peter Savelyev, 2021. "Understanding the Educational Attainment Polygenic Score and its Interactions with SES in Determining Health in Young Adulthood," Working Papers 2021-026, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    in utero exposure; gene-environment interactions; polygenic scores; intergenerational effects;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • J62 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Job, Occupational and Intergenerational Mobility; Promotion
    • J10 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - General
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity

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