Essays on the Intersection of Economics and Biology Defended on Thursday, 2 October 2014

Economists have always been adept at integrating ideas and concepts from other scientific fields into their own research agenda. This thesis adopts a perspective in which individual economic choices and outcomes are connected to individual biological characteristics. Thus, this thesis contains research on the intersection of economics and biology, an interdisciplinary field that is called ‘biological economics’.

Knowledge about biological predispositions to economic choices and outcomes improves our understanding of the causes and consequences of individual differences. Biological measures known to be associated with economic choices and outcomes could be used in (otherwise non-biological) empirical work as control variables or instrumental variables. Information about economic predisposition to biological states and outcomes may result in targeted interventions to prevent undesired outcomes.

This thesis finds that genetic variants explain an important part of the population variance in educational attainment, cognitive function, subjective well-being and entrepreneurship. Moreover, specific genetic variants associated with educational attainment, cognitive function and entrepreneurship are identified. This thesis finds also that entrepreneurs are generally healthier than wage-workers, and that the selection of comparatively healthier individuals into entrepreneurship accounts for the positive cross-sectional association. Finally, it provides empirical evidence that dyslectic and left-handed individuals are not more likely to be(come) entrepreneurs than non-dyslectic and right-handed individuals.


biology, dyslexia, economics, educational attainment, entrepreneurship, genetics, genome-wide association study, health, heritability, laterality, self-employment, subjective well-being

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