Theoretical Models of Addiction and Their Applications
Since the advent of affordable genome-wide association studies (GWAS), scientists have had the opportunity to investigate the genetic architecture of many human traits. GWAS on obesity (Locke et al. 2015), smoking (Liu et al. 2010), and education (Rietveld et al. 2013) provide economists with the ability to connect genetic variation with health. Health behaviors are significant sources of the pronounced disparities in health and mortality outcomes across socioeconomic status (SES) groups. An established literature highlights the importance of SES in moderating the effects of health events. Currie (2009) finds that while there are non-trivial differences in the incidence of health shocks experienced by children across SES groups, there are even larger gaps in the extent to which these insults limit their activities. These differences in health become more pronounced as children age (Case et al. 2002; Currie & Stabile, 2003) and the widening of health disparities can be observed until about age 60 (Case et al. 2002). Given credibly estimated relationships between genetic variants and risky health behaviors, it is important to explore whether SES moderates these associations. In this session we present an economic theory of the relationship between genes, SES, health, health behavior and longevity as well as several related empirical analyses of gene by SES interactions in unhealthy behaviors. The session presents evidence of substantial protective effects of SES for those who possess detrimental genetic endowments. The theory serves to interpret such results and to better understand potential mechanisms underlying observed relations.