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Genetic and environmental influences on economic preferences and outcomes

Societal Implications of Genomics Research
Genome Centre(s):
Ontario Genomics
Project Leader(s):
Jonathan Beauchamp (University of Toronto)
Fiscal Year Project Launched: 
Project Description: 

For the past few decades, economists have studied the relative influences of genetic and environmental factors on economic preferences and outcomes, debating the possible implications for economic mobility and public policy. Recent technological advances have made it possible to use larger data sets to examine specific genetic variants and their relative impact on economic traits.

This project, led by Dr. Jonathan Beauchamp of the University of Toronto, has two goals.  The first is to identify specific genetic variants associated with a suite of economic preferences and outcomes, such as educational attainment, risk tolerance and various measures human capital.

The second objective is to study whether economic policy and the economic and family environment have effects that vary across individuals, depending on their genes. To achieve this goal, the team will analyze data on individuals affected by comprehensive school reforms that took place decades ago, to see whether effects of the reforms vary by the individuals’ genes. The team will also analyze a sample of adoptees in the United States to see how genetic variants interact with the adoptive family variables to affect outcomes.

The results of this project will be a better understanding of interactions among genes and economic, policy and family environment, which could eventually lead to more effective and targeted policy interventions and insights into human development and intergenerational mobility. This research will also enrich our knowledge and perception of the human species by speaking directly to the age-old debate about the nature and nurture of human economic behavior, and about how nature and nurture interact.