Nature-Nurture Interaction and Socioeconomic Status

There is increasing evidence that socioeconomic status (SES) is not determined by either nature or nurture, but rather, by the interplay of the two. However, social scientists have struggled to identify the empirical importance of nature-nurture interactions, because the relationship between SES and environmental circumstances is typically confounded by third factors (for example, individuals born to higher-SES parents may inherit wealth and family connections). In principle, one could overcome this problem by exploiting a natural experiment that generates exogenous variation in environmental circumstances. However, it is unlikely that one can find a natural experiment for which a large sample of genetic data is also available.

Economists Leandro Carvalho, Silvia Helena Barcellos, and Patrick Turley will investigate the extent to which the effects of schooling on SES depend on individuals’ genotypes. They will combine a natural experiment—the Raising of the School Leaving Age (ROSLA) Order of 1972 in England—with a rich dataset containing the genotypes of more than a half-million participants, using a polygenic predictor (or score) to study the interaction of nature and nurture.

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