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Heritability of lifetime earnings, Hacker News

Heritability of lifetime earnings, Hacker News

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Using twenty years of earnings data on Finnish twins, we find that about 40% of the variance of women’s and little more than half of men’s lifetime labor earnings are linked to genetic factors. The contribution of the shared environment is negligible. We show that the result is robust to using alternative definitions of earnings, to adjusting for the role of education, and to measurement errors in the measure of genetic relatedness.


Earnings inequalityHeritabilityTwinsGenetics

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We would like to thank anonymous referees, Anders Björklund, Markus Jäntti, Jaakko Kaprio, Tomi Kyyrä, Tuomas Pekkarinen, Roope Uusitalo, as well as seminar participants at the Summer Meeting of the Finnish Economists (Jyväskylä), EALE Conference (Bonn), EEA Conference (Gothenburg), VATT (Helsinki), and SOFI (Stockholm) for useful comments. The usual caveat applies. We are thankful to Professor Jaakko Kaprio (University of Helsinki) for access to the twins data (Older Finnish Twin Cohort Study of the Department of Public Health in the University of Helsinki), to Statistics Finland for access to the register data (Finnish Longitudinal Employer -Employee Data FLEED), and to the Research Services unit of Statistics Finland for linking of the data sets. The Ethics Committee of Statistics Finland has given permission to use the data and all data work has been carried out following the terms and conditions of confidentiality of Statistics Finland.


Open access funding provided by Aalto University. This research has been financially supported by the Academy of Finland (project 127796), the Strategic Research Council (project Work, Inequality, and Public Policy, 293120), Jenny and Antti Wihuri Foundation, and Palkansaajasäätiö Foundation. The opinions expressed in the article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the funding sources.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material


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© The Author (s) 2019

(Open Access) This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author (s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ari Hyytinen
      (1) (2)
  • Pekka Ilmakunnas
      (2) (3)

    Email author

  • Edvard Johansson
  • (Otto Toivanen)
      (2) (5)
  1. 1.Department of EconomicsHanken School of EconomicsHelsinkiFinland
  2. 2.(Finland and Helsinki GSE)HelsinkiFinland
  3. Aalto University School of BusinessEspoo(Finland)

  4. 4.Faculty of Social Sciences, Business and EconomicsÅbo Akademi UniversityTurkuFinland
  5. 5.Aalto University School of BusinessHelsinkiFinland

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