GEIGHEI: Gene-Environment Interplay in the Generation of Health and Education Inequalities

About the project

This project examines how Genes and the Environment (GxE) interact to generate inequalities in education and health over the life course. The project goes beyond the old nature versus nurture debate by testing two novel hypotheses: 1) children born into advantaged environments are better able to reach their genetically conditioned education potential, and 2) a privileged environment protects against genetic susceptibility to risky health behaviour. Both hypotheses propose a GxE interplay that influences the transition from early childhood to adulthood in periods that are critical to the generation of inequalities.


The team ensured access to four additional datasets (AddHealth, FFS, Lifelines, Understanding Society), is digitizing infant mortality rates for almost 40 cohorts and ~1500 districts of the United Kingdom, organized two conferences (one in Rotterdam, one in Bristol) to discuss research ideas and present preliminary work, supervised six bachelor theses, five MSc theses, produced four publications, started work on nineteen projects, and contributed to two podcasts to disseminate the work.

First results

A few preliminary punchlines of ongoing research projects include:

  • An advantageous early-life environment (as measured by low infant mortality rates) is able to mitigate genetic susceptibility to heart disease
  • Genetic advantage does not cushion babies against the effect of maternal smoking on birthweight
  • Individuals with high genetic propensity towards alcohol consumption concentrate into areas with a higher density of pubs in the UK.
  • When hit by a negative health shock, individuals with a low genetic propensity to smoke stop smoking at a higher rate
  • Children with lower genetic propensity for educational attainment are hampered more by being later-born


Project links

Research team

Dr J.L.W. van Kippersluis
Erasmus University Rotterdam

Dr P. Biroli
Universität Zürich

Dr S. Von Hinke
University of Bristol

The University of Tartu is Cooperation Partner to this project.