Genetic Risks, Adolescent Health and Schooling Attainment

Working paper number: 
2020-49
Paper Abstract: 
We 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. We take two different approaches to deal with omitted variable bias and reverse causality. Our first approach attends to the issue of reverse causality by using health polygenic scores (PGSs) as proxies for actual adolescent health. Second, we estimate the effect of adolescent health using sibling fixed-effects models that control for unmeasured genetic and family factors shared by siblings. We use the PGSs as additional controls in the sibling fixed-effects models to reduce concerns about residual confounding from sibling-specific genetic differences. We find consistent evidence across both approaches that being genetically predisposed to smoking and smoking regularly in adolescence reduces schooling attainment. We find mixed evidence for ADHD. Our estimates suggest that having a high genetic risk for ADHD reduces grades of schooling, but we 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.