Genetic variation in health insurance coverage

  • George L. WehbyEmail author
  • Dan Shane
Research article


We provide the first investigation into whether and how much genes explain having health insurance coverage or not and possible mechanisms for genetic variation. Using a twin-design that compares identical and non-identical twins from a national sample of US twins from the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States, we find that genetic effects explain over 40% of the variation in whether a person has any health coverage versus not, and nearly 50% of the variation in whether individuals younger than 65 have private coverage versus whether they have no coverage at all. Nearly one third of the genetic variation in being uninsured versus having private coverage is explained by employment industry, self-employment status, and income, and together with education, they explain over 40% of the genetic influence. Marital status, number of children, and available measures of health status, risk preferences, and prevention effort do not appear to be important channels for genetic effects. That genes have meaningful effects on the insurance status suggests an important source of heterogeneity in insurance take up.


Health insurance Genetic variation Health determinants Risk taking 

JEL Classification

D1 D82 I10 I12 I13 

Supplementary material

10754_2018_9255_MOESM1_ESM.docx (18 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 18 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Health Management and PolicyUniversity of IowaIowa CityUSA
  2. 2.Department of EconomicsUniversity of IowaIowa CityUSA
  3. 3.Department of Preventive and Community DentistryUniversity of IowaIowa CityUSA
  4. 4.Public Policy CenterUniversity of IowaIowa CityUSA
  5. 5.National Bureau of Economic ResearchCambridgeUSA

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