Sunday, August 4, 2019

From 2018: Genetic Endowments and Wealth Inequality

From 2018: Genetic Endowments and Wealth Inequality. Daniel Barth, Nicholas W. Papageorge, Kevin Thom. NBER Working Paper No. 24642, May 2018.

Abstract: We show that genetic endowments linked to educational attainment strongly and robustly predict wealth at retirement. The estimated relationship is not fully explained by flexibly controlling for education and labor income. We therefore investigate a host of additional mechanisms that could help to explain the gene-wealth gradient, including inheritances, mortality, savings, risk preferences, portfolio decisions, beliefs about the probabilities of macro economic events, and planning horizons. The associations we report provide preliminary evidence that genetic endowments related to human capital accumulation are associated with wealth not only through educational attainment and labor income, but also through a facility with complex financial decision-making. Our study illustrates how economic research seeking to understand sources of inequality can benefit from recent advances in behavioral genetics linking specific observed genetic endowments to economic outcomes.
Keywords: Wealth, Inequality, Portfolio Decisions, Beliefs, Education and Genetics

Genetic & environmental sources of individual differences in homophobic tendencies towards gay men: A large proportion of genetic factors (82%) contribute to individual differences in homophobia

Sources of Individual Differences in Sociopolitical Orientations: Findings from Combining Behavior Genetic with Multi-Rater Approaches. Alexandra Zapko-Willmes. Kumulative Dissertation zur Erlangung des akademischen Grades Dr. rer. nat. im Fach Psychologie, Universität Bielefeld. Oct 2018.

In the three studies constituting this dissertation, behavior genetic and multi-rater approaches were combined to contribute to the understanding of sources of interindividual differences in broad and narrow dimensions of sociopolitical orientations. For this purpose, all studies employed structural equation modeling designs based on cross-sectional twin family and multi-rater data from the Jena Twin Study of Social Attitudes (JeTSSA; studies 1 and 2) and the Study of Personality Architecture and Dynamics (SPeADy; study 3).

Study 1 was aimed at validating and extending previous self-report studies on genetic and environmental sources of individual differences in homophobic tendencies towards gay men across multiple rater perspectives. In line with our hypotheses, we found a large proportion of genetic factors (82%) to contribute to individual differences in homophobia, with unique environmental factors (18%) explaining the remaining variance. Moreover, we found variance specific for self-reports to be partially attributable to genetic factors (20%), confirming past findings that suggested that self-reports may underlie genetic influences. Results indicate the importance of univariate behavior genetic investigations.

Study 2 was conducted to examine, whether differences in experienced parenting affect present differences in twin sibling’s right-wing authoritarianism (RWA) via a “truly” environmental pathway as opposed to a genetic mediation. We integrated genetically informed and phenotypic multi-rater models to investigate whether and how the association is confounded due to shared genetic and environmental sources of both variables. We considered offspring’s, mothers’, and fathers’ retrospective ratings of two parenting dimensions and offspring’s self- and informant reports on their RWA. Our hypotheses were generally not confirmed. An evocative genotype-environment correlation likely explained the positive link between parental responsiveness and differences in offspring’s RWA. In other words, the offspring’s genetically influenced RWA score (and associated behavior) affected their experienced parental emotional warmth and support, with a higher RWA score associated with more highly experienced responsiveness. In contrast, we found an effectively environmental positive association between differences in experienced parental demandingness and differences in twin sibling’s RWA. Parental RWA, while not associated with parental responsiveness, partly explained the link between experienced demandingness and differences in offspring’s RWA.  Findings underlined the additional insight gained through multiple raters on the environmental as well as characteristic.

Finally, study 3 examined the convergence of basic value orientations and foci of moral concern as two abstract dimensions of sociopolitical orientations. We expected the dimensions to converge based on common underlying world beliefs. The value orientation towards conservation versus openness to change was expected to converge with a moral focus on organization versus opportunity due to the underlying belief in a dangerous world. The value orientation self-transcendence versus self-enhancement was expected to converge with a moral focus on social versus individual outcomes due to the underlying (lack of) belief in a competitive world. We combined multi-rater with twin family data to investigate four criteria of convergence (structural, age-related, source-related, and the link with a key personality trait). For both expected links, we found the dimensions to be systematically linked, but reflect distinct characteristics, suggesting that they reflect characteristics of different personality layers. We discussed the role of specific motives and environmental factors contributing to differences in foci of moral concern.

According to an old saying and etiquette rule1, one should avoid conversations about political topics, alluding to the inevitably ensuing disputes fueled by individual differences in social and political views. When viewed through historic and current events, these interindividual differences may have major individual-level, group-level, societal, and even global consequences beyond mere heated disputes. Individual preferences regarding social and political issues, subsumed under the term sociopolitical orientations, have been linked to various forms of prejudice (Altemeyer, 1996; Asbrock, Sibley, & Duckitt, 2010; Duckitt & Farre, 1994; Ekehammar, Akrami, Gylje, & Zakrisson, 2004; Hodson & Dhont, 2015), support for radical right parties (Aichholzer & Zandonella, 2016; Cornelis & Van Hiel, 2015; but see also Dunn, 2015), endorsement of human rights and associated behavior (Cohrs, Maes, Moschner, & Kielmann, 2007), and post-9/11 attitudes (Crowson, DeBacker, & Thoma, 2005, 2006), to name a few. Furthermore, its impact could be recently observed in the context of political participation and voting behavior in the Brexit referendum (Golec de Zavala, Guerra, & Simão, 2017) as well as the US presidential election (Choma & Hanoch, 2017; Womick, Rothmund, Azevedo, King, & Jost, 2018).

These findings corroborate the importance of research on the factors that contribute to individual differences in sociopolitical orientations. An important piece of this puzzle is the identification of the biological and environmental roots of these characteristics. These roots have long been regarded as being essentially – even exclusively – environmental; Genetic explanations were largely disregarded in favor of socialization explanations (e.g., Adorno, Frenkel-Brunswik, Levinson, & Sanford, 1950; Altemeyer, 1988). However, behavior genetic studies (e.g., Eaves & Eysenck, 1974; Eaves et al., 1999; Kandler, Bleidorn, & Riemann, 2012; Martin et al., 1986) have shown that environmental factors shared between twin siblings (which would reflect a large portion of the argued socialization) are not as crucial as previously assumed, and that genetic and idiosyncratic environmental effects are substantial. After decades of neglecting genetic explanations, there is no longer a “nature versus nurture” debate when it comes to sources of individual differences in sociopolitical orientations, as well as other personality characteristics2 and virtually all complex human dispositions (Polderman et al., 2015). Rather, nature and nurture are agreed to be interwoven with each other (Plomin, DeFries, & Loehlin, 1977; Scarr & McCartney, 1983). 

In this work, I sought to contribute to the understanding of the sources of interindividual differences in sociopolitical orientations. Sociopolitical orientations were studied at various levels of content-related abstraction (Section I), ranging from specific dimensions (i.e., homophobia; study 1), to broad, less specific dimensions that capture individual global social and political preferences (i.e., right-wing authoritarianism; study 2) to even more abstract motivational and affective-cognitive dimensions (i.e., value orientations and foci of moral concern; study 3). I employed both behavior genetic and multi-rater models to overcome methodological limitations (Section II) of past univariate (study 1) and multivariate (study 2) behavior genetic research, and to gain insight into the convergence of two conceptually related dimensions of sociopolitical orientations (study 3).

Homosexual consumers show negative responses to heterosexual imagery; doesn't happen in the opposite direction

Consumer Responses to Homosexual Imagery in Advertising: A Meta-Analysis. Martin Eisend & Erik Hermann. Journal of Advertising, Jul 17 2019. 

Abstract: Rising support for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community, paired with the considerable buying power of this group, has triggered increasing interest from marketers in the gay and lesbian market. Many companies have developed advertising with homosexual imagery to better target this group as well as the mainstream market. The findings on the persuasive effects of homosexual imagery are mixed and do not provide insights on whether and when homosexual imagery in advertising supports persuasion. To resolve the inconsistencies in findings of prior research, this article presents a meta-analysis on the effects of homosexual imagery. The integrated effect size suggests that the net persuasive effect between homosexual and heterosexual imagery does not differ. We find, however, that homosexual consumers show negative responses to heterosexual imagery. Furthermore, the moderator analysis suggests that incongruence between imagery, consumer characteristics, cultural values, explicitness of imagery, endorser gender, and product type results in unfavorable responses to homosexual advertising imagery. These findings provide guidelines for future research and implications for advertisers who intend to address consumers of various sexual orientations.

Functional connectivity shows age-related increases within resting-state networks & age-related decreases between them; genetic influences on functional connectivity remain stable throughout adolescence

Genetic and environmental influences on functional connectivity within and between canonical cortical resting-state networks throughout adolescent development in boys and girls. Jalmar Teeuw et al. NeuroImage, August 3 2019, 116073.

• We studied resting-state networks in a longitudinal adolescent twin-sibling sample.
• Functional connectivity shows age-related increases within resting-state networks.
• Functional connectivity shows age-related decreases between resting-state networks.
• Reliability modelling improves sensitivity to detect familial influences.
• Genetic influences on functional connectivity remain stable throughout adolescence.

Abstract: The human brain is active during rest and hierarchically organized into intrinsic functional networks. These functional networks are largely established early in development, with reports of a shift from a local to more distributed organization during childhood and adolescence. It remains unknown to what extent genetic and environmental influences on functional connectivity change throughout adolescent development. We measured functional connectivity within and between eight cortical networks in a longitudinal resting-state fMRI study of adolescent twins and their older siblings on two occasions (mean ages 13 and 18 years). We modelled the reliability for these inherently noisy and head-motion sensitive measurements by analyzing data from split-half sessions. Functional connectivity between resting-state networks decreased with age whereas functional connectivity within resting-state networks generally increased with age, independent of general cognitive functioning. Sex effects were sparse, with stronger functional connectivity in the default mode network for girls compared to boys, and stronger functional connectivity in the salience network for boys compared to girls. Heritability explained up to 53% of the variation in functional connectivity within and between resting-state networks, and common environment explained up to 33%. Genetic influences on functional connectivity remained stable during adolescent development. In conclusion, longitudinal age-related changes in functional connectivity within and between cortical resting-state networks are subtle but wide-spread throughout adolescence. Genes play a considerable role in explaining individual variation in functional connectivity with mostly stable influences throughout adolescence.

Keywords: LongitudinalTwinsHeritabilityAge effectsSex effects

A Decline in Propensity Toward Risk Behaviors Among US Adolescents

Borodovsky, Jacob and Krueger, Robert F. and Agrawal, Arpana and Grucza, Richard, A Decline in Propensity Toward Risk Behaviors Among US Adolescents (June 14, 2019). Available at SSRN,

Purpose: Over the past two decades, substance use, delinquent behaviors, and promiscuous sexual activity have declined substantially among U.S. adolescents. We aimed to determine the extent to which these trends represent declines in a general propensity to engage in risk behaviors (i.e., declines in a latent factor).
Methods: We used Youth Risk Behavior Survey data (1999-2017) (n=147,800) and examined trends in substance use (e.g., alcohol) delinquency (e.g., fighting), and sexual activity (e.g., number of partners). We conducted two types of analyses stratified by grade (9th/10th vs. 11th/12th) and sex: (1) estimation of year-specific prevalence of each behavior and modeled prevalence changes over time; (2) factor analysis and application of alignment methods to determine changes in the mean of the latent factor over time while correcting for measurement non-invariance.
Results: A single factor explained 53% (girls 11th/12th grade) to 62% (boys 9th/10th grade) of the variance in risk behaviors. Average relative annual declines in the prevalence of each behavior—except for weapon carrying—ranged from 1-6%. The structure of the latent factor was mostly unchanged over time, with notable exceptions related to differential changes in prevalence for cigarette and cannabis use. Between 1999 and 2017, the mean of the latent factor declined by between 0.54 and 0.73 standard deviations.
Conclusions: Results suggest that much of the decline in the prevalence of substance use, delinquent, and sexual behaviors among American youth from 1999-2017 reflect an approximately two-thirds standard deviation decline in the mean of a latent risk behavior factor.