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Center for Policy Research

Working Paper

Genetic Risks, Adolescent Health and Schooling Attainment

Vikesh Amin, Jere R. Behrman, Jason M. Fletcher, Carlos A. Flores, Alfonso Flores-Lagunes & Hans-Peter Kohler

C.P.R. Working Paper No. 232

June 2020

Alfonso Flores-Lagunes

Alfonso Flores-Lagunes


The authors provide new evidence on the effect of adolescent health behaviors/outcomes (obesity, depression, smoking, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)) on schooling attainment using the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health. The authors take two different approaches to deal with omitted variable bias and reverse causality. Their first approach attends to the issue of reverse causality by using health polygenic scores (PGSs) as proxies for actual adolescent health. Second, they estimate the effect of adolescent health using sibling fixed-effects models that control for unmeasured genetic and family factors shared by siblings.

The authors use the PGSs as additional controls in the sibling fixed-effects models to reduce concerns about residual confounding from sibling-specific genetic differences. They find consistent evidence across both approaches that being genetically predisposed to smoking and smoking regularly in adolescence reduces schooling attainment. They find mixed evidence for ADHD. The authors' estimates suggest that having a high genetic risk for ADHD reduces grades of schooling, but they do not find any statistically significant negative effects of ADHD on grades of schooling. Finally, results from both approaches show no consistent evidence for a detrimental effect of obesity or depression on schooling attainment.

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