Nature via Nurture: Using novel methods to shed new light on how gene-environment interactions shape social, economic and political attitudes and behavior

Why are some people more likely to be highly educated, end up in high status jobs, be healthier and live longer, be more politically engaged, and, in general, happier than others? Understanding the origins of such social, economic and political inequalities in life course outcomes between individuals is of fundamental importance for the social sciences. Recent interdisciplinary research suggests that complex human behaviors and life chances may be shaped by an intricate interplay between genes and environment. However, the knowledge of how these so called gene-by-environment interactions actually work is limited: what genetic factors interact with what social, economic and political factors, and how? The dearth of stable and reproducible progress in this area has in large parts been due to two severe problems: limitations in the available scientific methods and shortage of adequate data. In this project we intend to overcome these problems by making use of recent innovations in molecular genetics and methodological advances in the social sciences in combination with unique Swedish register data. Thus, the goal of the project is to investigate in a robust and credible way how gene-environment interactions shape social, economic, and political attitudes and behavior. In the end, a more solid foundation for the research on gene-environment interactions can also aid in developing more effective policies that deal with the social roots and consequences of inequality.

Principal Investigator: Sven Oskarsson (Department of Government) 

Period: 2018–2022

Funding: SEK 5 762 000 from the Swedish Foundation for Humanities and Social Sciences