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

We will examine how Genes and the Environment (GxE) interact to generate inequalities in education and health over the life course. We will go beyond the old nature versus nurture debate by testing two novel hypotheses: (i) children born into advantaged environments are better able to reach their genetically conditioned education potential, and (ii) a privileged environment protects against genetic susceptibility to risky health behaviour. Both hypotheses propose a GxE interplay that influences the transition from early childhood (theme 1) to adulthood (theme 2, 3) in periods that are critical to the generation of inequalities.

We innovate by combining methods from genetics and social science. Building on the discovery of genetic variants that exhibit robust associations with behavioural outcomes and the recent availability of large datasets with information on both environments and genes, we will grasp unprecedented opportunities to fill the gap in knowledge about the combined role of genes and environments in causing inequality. By taking account of the endogenous, multifaceted and dynamic nature of the environment, the research promises a sustained impact by identifying policy interventions that ameliorate inequalities. For example, we will test whether high-quality child care can overcome genetic disadvantage in educational attainment.

Four young core researchers with emerging track records in advancing understanding of inequalities in education and health will supervise junior researchers, and benefit from the committed support of world-leading experts in (i) the genetics of education, (ii) genetic epidemiology, (iii) (neuro-)biological psychology, (iv) socioeconomic health inequalities and (v) econometrics.

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.