Introducing "genoeconomics"

By Razib Khan | December 4, 2011 7:46 pm

A new paper (open access) in The Journal of Economic Perspectives, Molecular Genetics and Economics. The authors introduce the term “genoecomics.” They start out with the proposition that the intersection of genomics and behavioral economics suffers from 1) the study samples are way too small, 2) there’s a publication bias toward false results. It’s a good review of the past decade or so. If the following surprises you, you might gain from reading the paper:

…While genetic variation can statistically account for a moderate to large share of income in contemporary Western societies, this does not mean that it would be infeasible to use redistributive policies or policies that encourage human capital formation to change the distribution of income. Heritability is a
population parameter that depends on both the environmental effects operating in a specifific population at a certain point in time and on the genetic variation in that population. It says little about what would happen to the mean and variance of the trait were the environment to change….

I suspect that the caveats have to be stronger for “endophenotypes”.

  • Miley Cyrax

    “the intersection of genomics and behavioral economics suffers from 1) the study samples are way too small”

    I never really understood this issue when it comes to scientific research; it seems rather easily rectifiable: get more samples. I get that resources and funding are limited, but why bother to do a study at all if the sample size is going to be insufficient in the end?

    “…While genetic variation can statistically account for a moderate to large share of income in contemporary Western societies”

    That’s a strong statement. If true, genomics is coming along faster than I had thought. Looking forward to reading this paper if I have downtime at work tomorrow.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    I never really understood this issue when it comes to scientific research; it seems rather easily rectifiable: get more samples. I get that resources and funding are limited, but why bother to do a study at all if the sample size is going to be insufficient in the end?

    1) you don’t know this until you do the studies

    2) increasing sample size results in diminishing marginal returns to power

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    That’s a strong statement. If true, genomics is coming along faster than I had thought. Looking forward to reading this paper if I have downtime at work tomorrow

    this is standard behavior genetics reporting of heritabilities. if the result is surprising to you, you’d get something out of reading the review (as i said, it’s free).

  • Miley Cyrax

    @2 Razib

    “2) increasing sample size results in diminishing marginal returns to power”

    Like return on investment, “bang for the buck” so to speak?

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    yeah. i guess. i’m thinking more like diminishing marginal returns as you use up all your land input or something.

  • Antonio

    Hi, I haven’t had time to ready everything yet, so I’m sorry if I’m missing something. My impression is that this line of research – i.e. finding the “gene of X” – is the borest of all possible lines of intersection between genetics and social science. And, likely, one of the most fragile too. Here in this forum, we have been discussion much more interesting stuff. For instance, how our population history is marked in our genes – and what can be learned from that. Migrations, colonizations histories, how social groups were formed over time, etc. Genetics can also be used as baseline for comparison, for example, who are the “whites” or whatever in a given country and how to compare that people to others from other places, etc. There are so much more interesting stuff! I love the intersection between genetics studies and social science but I just think the line of research reviewed in this paper is among the less interesting and more routine types. It should not be focus of the next research. Cheers, Antonio.

  • ackbark

    If a small study turns up a result of about 100% in something that would give the researcher a great argument for more money for a bigger followup.

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Gene Expression

This blog is about evolution, genetics, genomics and their interstices. Please beware that comments are aggressively moderated. Uncivil or churlish comments will likely get you banned immediately, so make any contribution count!

About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com

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