Using Genes to Explore the Effects of Cognitive and Non-cognitive Skills on Education and Labor Market Outcomes

Tinbergen Institute Discussion Paper 2021-088/I

66 Pages Posted: 18 Nov 2021

See all articles by Thomas Buser

Thomas Buser

University of Amsterdam - Amsterdam School of Economics (ASE)

Rafael Ahlskog

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Magnus Johannesson

Stockholm School of Economics - Department of Economics

Philipp Koellinger

University of Amsterdam

Sven Oskarsson

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: October 7, 2021

Abstract

A large literature establishes that cognitive and non-cognitive skills are strongly correlated with educational attainment and professional achievement. Isolating the causal effects of these traits on career outcomes is complicated by reverse causality and selection issues. We suggest a new approach: using within-family differences in the genetic tendency to exhibit the relevant traits as a source of exogenous variation. Genes are fixed over the life cycle and genetic differences between full siblings are random, making it possible to establish the causal effects of within-family variation in genetic tendencies. We link genetic data from individuals in the Swedish Twin Registry to government registry data and find evidence for causal effects of the genetic predispositions towards cognitive skills, personality traits, and economic preferences on professional achievement and educational attainment. Our results also demonstrate that education and labor market outcomes are partially the result of a genetic lottery.

Keywords: personality traits, economic preferences, cognitive skills, labor markets, education

JEL Classification: I26, J24, D91

Suggested Citation

Buser, Thomas and Ahlskog, Rafael and Johanneson, Magnus and Koellinger, Philipp and Oskarsson, Sven, Using Genes to Explore the Effects of Cognitive and Non-cognitive Skills on Education and Labor Market Outcomes (October 7, 2021). Tinbergen Institute Discussion Paper 2021-088/I, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3938154 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3938154

Thomas Buser (Contact Author)

University of Amsterdam - Amsterdam School of Economics (ASE) ( email )

Roetersstraat 11
Amsterdam, North Holland 1018 WB
Netherlands

HOME PAGE: http://sites.google.com/site/thomasbuser/

Rafael Ahlskog

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Magnus Johanneson

Stockholm School of Economics - Department of Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 6501
Sveavagen 65
S-113 83 Stockholm
Sweden
+46 8 736 9443 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.hhs.se/Faculty/showperson.htm?personid=198

Philipp Koellinger

University of Amsterdam ( email )

Spui 21
Amsterdam, 1018 WB
Netherlands

Sven Oskarsson

affiliation not provided to SSRN

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