In progress Integrating genetics into economics

Reference:
ERIM PhD 2016 ESE RT PG AH PK

Abstract

Due to recent and spectacular breakthroughs in genetics research, the future of economics will be heavily influenced by insights into genetic determinants of behaviour and life outcomes. Erasmus University Rotterdam is at the forefront of these new developments. In this PhD project, the candidate will take the next step attempting to integrate genetic insights into economics.

First, the candidate will analyse to which extent different socio-economic behaviours and outcomes can be explained using genetic factors, and whether tahey are related on the genetic level. Next, the candidate will include genetic factors in existing economic models to analyse the value added for economists of taking into account genetic differences between individuals. Lastly, the candidate will attempt to use genetic variants as instrumental variables in existing economic models to infer causality.

The candidate will work with data from many different sources, such as the Health and Retirement Study, the Rotterdam Study and the UK Biobank. The outcome of the project will consist in a number of research papers that will form the contents of the PhD dissertation.

The candidate is a member of EURIBEB, the Erasmus University Rotterdam Institute for Biology and Economic Behaviour (http://www.euribeb.nl).

EURIBEB conducts interdisciplinary and collaborative research on the intersection of biology and (economic) behaviour. Its research has been published in high-impact journals such as Science, Nature and PNAS. EURIBEB has prominent affiliated researchers from different EUR faculties (such as Economics, Erasmus MC and Social Sciences) and other universities (such as the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Stockholm School of Economics, and University of Southern California).

Keywords

Behaviour; Economics; Genetics; DNA; Mendelian randomization; Socio-economic behaviour; Socio-economic outcomes

Time frame

2016 - 2020

Topic

Genoeconomics is a newly emerging research field that investigates the molecular genetic architecture of economic preferences (e.g. risk preferences, time discounting) and important economic outcomes (e.g. education, income, happiness). This research could be transformative for the social sciences by identifying novel genetic causes of behaviours and outcomes.

The goal of this PhD project is to develop a number of empirical applications that integrate genetic insights into economic research. The thesis will build upon the results of empirical work in our group that investigates the genetic architecture of various economic preferences and outcomes.

First, the candidate will analyse to which extent different socio-economic behaviours and outcomes can be explained by genetic factors, and whether these different behaviours and outcomes are related on the genetic level. Next, the candidate will include genetic factors in existing economic models to analyse the value added for economists of taking into account genetic differences between individuals. Lastly, the candidate will attempt to use genetic variants as instrumental variables in existing economic models to infer causality.

State-of-the-art methods will be used for analyses, such as Genome-Wide Association Studies (Visscher et al., 2012), GREML (Yang et al., 2010), Polygenic Risk Score analysis (Purcell et al., 2009), and LD-Score regression (Bulik-Sullivan et al., 2015). Good computer skills and knowledge of programming languages are an advantage. Furthermore, curiosity and an interest to work in an interdisciplinary environment are regarded as assets. The necessary skills for using the appropriate statistical methods can be learned during the first year of employment.

Supervisory Team

Patrick Groenen
Professor of Statistics
  • Promotor
Roy Thurik
Professor of Economics and Entrepreneurship
  • Promotor