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Income GWAS Critiqued

A study published earlier this week linking dozens of genetic loci to income has drawn criticism from researchers on Twitter.

The study, which was published in Nature Communications Monday, drew on UK Biobank data to conduct a genome-wide association study of income. The researchers, led by the University of Edinburgh's Ian Deary, tied about 150 genetic loci to income, including loci that had previously been linked to intelligence.

The study raised some eyebrows on Twitter with people noting there could be a number of confounding factors, including inherited wealth. 

In a thread, EMBL-EBI's Ewan Birney notes that the loci the researchers found only explain a small percentage — about 7 percent, which he argues is probably high — of variation in income and that "genetics has a very MODEST effect on income."

In another thread, Emory University's Cecile Janssens also raised concerns about the income data the researchers used. Namely, Janssens notes that income numbers used were self-reported household income, not individual, and that they were grouped in five unequal categories.

"UK Biobank is great, but not for every study," she notes in her Twitter thread