I remember the first time I saw a session at a conference under the heading of Neuroeconomics. I thought it was some kind of joke. Well it certainly wasn’t a joke, it has turned out to be a big deal, bringing a new kind of data to economics. Genetic data is the next new kind of data and Genoeconomics is the newest non-joke.

Koellinger didn’t see it that way. Four year later, he is part of a group of young economists saying it’s time for their field to jump into the gene pool with both feet. In a series of papers, including one forthcoming in the Annual Review of Economics and another in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Koellinger, along with a team headed by Cornell economist Daniel Benjamin, David Laibson and Edward Glaeser from Harvard, Union College psychologist Christopher Chabris, Cesarini, and others, is heralding the arrival of a new discipline—“genoeconomics.” They say economists are missing something important by ignoring the genetics underlying things like risk-taking, patience, and generosity. If we could grasp how our genes influenced such economic traits, they argue, the knowledge could be transformative.

I saw David Cesarini last week present an introduction to Genoeconomics. From what I can tell Genoeconomics has made one major contribution already: demonstrating that so far there is no reliable statistical correlation between genes and economic behavior. The picture I got was some kind of Gresham’s law for p-values. Because there are so many genes, there is vast scope for data mining and so journals are insisting on significance levels of 1 – 10^{-some god awful exponent}.

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