Understanding the Education Polygenic Score and Its Interactions with SES in Determining Health in Young Adulthood

Atticus Bolyard
Peter A. Savelyev, William & Mary

Abstract

We investigate the education polygenic score (PGS), an index based on genetic data that predicts years of formal education. Based on the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, we find that an education PGS has a beneficial effect on multiple health-related outcomes. In addition, we find that socioeconomic status (SES) moderates the relationship between the PGS and health outcomes in young adulthood so that individuals with particularly low SES typically do not experience health benefits from education PGS.We decompose the effect of the PGS with respect to education, early health, and cognitive and noncognitive skills and find that the beneficial effects of PGS mainly work through college education and a large unobserved channel. Finally, after controlling for detailed background controls, cognitive and noncognitive skills, education PGS, and unobserved heterogenity, we still find that education is associated with better health outcomes, which adds evidence to the debate about the causal link between education and health.