Journal of Economic Perspectives: Vol. 25 No. 4 (Fall 2011)


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Genes, Eyeglasses, and Social Policy

Article Citation

Manski, Charles F. 2011. "Genes, Eyeglasses, and Social Policy." Journal of Economic Perspectives, 25(4): 83-94.

DOI: 10.1257/jep.25.4.83


Someone reading empirical research relating human genetics to personal outcomes must be careful to distinguish two types of work: An old literature on heritability attempts to decompose cross-sectional variation in observed outcomes into unobservable genetic and environmental components. A new literature measures specific genes and uses them as observed covariates when predicting outcomes. I will discuss these two types of work in terms of how they may inform social policy. I will argue that research on heritability is fundamentally uninformative for policy analysis, but make a cautious argument that research using genes as covariates is potentially informative.

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Manski, Charles F. (Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern U)

JEL Classifications

D78: Positive Analysis of Policy-Making and Implementation
A12: Relation of Economics to Other Disciplines


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