Gene-Environment Interaction in the Intergenerational Transmission of Health: The Case of Asthma

Owen Thompson, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

I investigate how the importance of genetic health transmission mechanisms vary by environmental conditions in the case of pediatric asthma, a highly prevalent chronic condition with documented long term socioeconomic effects. Specifically, I study how reductions in the strength of asthma transmission among adoptive versus biological families differ by SES, and find that the importance of genetic transmission mechanisms is much larger in high SES families. For instance among parent-child pairs where the parent is a college graduate, asthma transmission is approximately 75% weaker among adoptees than among a matched sample of biological children, implying a dominant role for genetic transmission. In contrast among parent-child pairs where the parent does not have a college degree, asthma transmission rates are virtually identical across biological and adoptive children, implying a negligible role for genetic transmission.

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 Presented in Session P5. Adult Health and Mortality