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Wealth in the Genes?

People's financial decision-making know-how and accumulation of wealth may be influenced by their genetic make-up, Fortune reports.

A trio of three economists, including Johns Hopkins University's Nicholas Papageorge, drew on a longitudinal study of 4,400 Americans taking part in the Health and Retirement Study, as they write in their paper. They related economic data collected from the cohort to their results on a polygenic score that uses 74 markers to predict educational attainment. After controlling for their level of education, their parents' level of education, any inheritances, and earnings, the economists found that people with lower scores behaved differently than people with higher scores, Fortune says.

Papageorge and his colleagues write that people with lower scores were more likely to have "extreme beliefs" regarding the economy. That is, they thought events like a stock market boom or crash had either a zero percent or 100 percent chance of happening, indicating difficulty with probabilistic thinking, the researchers say. People then acted in accordance with their beliefs, they note.

Fortune writes that, if true, this suggests that increased education may not help some people make better financial decisions. However, it cautions that genes are only one part of the equation and that education and parental wealth are still important factors influencing a person's wealth.

"It would be really hard for me to look at your genes and predict your wealth," Papageorge tells Fortune. "But on average, people with higher scores have higher wealth."