Genes, Education, and Labor Market Outcomes: Evidence from the Health and Retirement Study

TitleGenes, Education, and Labor Market Outcomes: Evidence from the Health and Retirement Study
Publication TypeReport
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsPapageorge, N, Thom, K
Series TitleNBER Working Paper Series
Document NumberNo. 25114
InstitutionNational Bureau of Economic Research
CityCambridge, MA
KeywordsEconomics, Education, Genetics, Labor force participation, Socioeconomic factors
Abstract

Recent advances have led to the discovery of specific genetic variants that predict educational attainment. We study how these variants, summarized as a linear index - known as a polygenic score - are associated with human capital accumulation and labor market outcomes in the Health and Retirement Study (HRS). We present two main sets of results. First, we find evidence that the genetic factors measured by this score interact strongly with childhood socioeconomic status in determining educational outcomes. In particular, while the polygenic score predicts higher rates of college graduation on average, this relationship is substantially stronger for individuals who grew up in households with higher socioeconomic status relative to those who grew up in poorer households. Second, the polygenic score predicts labor earnings even after adjusting for completed education, with larger returns in more recent decades. These patterns suggest that the genetic traits that promote education might allow workers to better accommodate ongoing skill biased technological change. Consistent with this interpretation, we find a positive association between the polygenic score and non-routine analytic tasks that have benefited from the introduction of new technologies. Nonetheless, the college premium remains the dominant determinant of earnings differences at all levels of the polygenic score. Given the role of childhood SES in predicting college attainment, this raises concerns about wasted potential arising from limited household resources.

URLhttp://www.nber.org/papers/w25114.pdf
DOI10.3386/w25114
Citation Key9838