PhD project Genes, Policy, and Social Inequality at Erasmus School of Economics

PhD project Genes, Policy, and Social Inequality at Erasmus School of Economics

Published Deadline Location
22 Mar 1 May Rotterdam

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PhD Project within ERC Starting Grant at Erasmus School of Economics. Apply via

Job description


The reduction of inequalities is of crucial importance for achieving a better and more sustainable future for all, as formulated in the tenth sustainable development goal of the United Nations. Many important indicators of socio-economic status (such as one’s level of education, occupation, and income) have been shown to be moderately heritable, meaning that a part of the variation in social status can be explained by genetic differences across population members. This PhD project (which is part of the ERC Starting Grant project “Genes, Policy, and Social Inequality”) aims to (i) show theoretically how heritability studies –despite earlier firm rejections of this position – can be informative for policies aiming to reduce socio-economic inequalities, and (ii) analyze empirically how policy changes can ameliorate socio-economic inequalities in terms of education, occupational status, and income. For this purpose, this project will draw on a unique combination of administrative data from Statistics Netherlands.


Applied Econometrics; Behavior genetics; Economics; Genes; Gene-environment interaction; Genoeconomics; Microeconomics; Policy; Social inequality; Social science genetics


The overall ERC Starting Grant project has two main objectives:

  1. Showing how heritability studies can be informative for policies aiming to reduce social inequalities.
  2. Assessing the critique that genoeconomics attributes effects to genes that should be attributed to environments through which these genes operate, by:
  • Extending existing methodology to quantify the incremental explanatory power of genes over environmental factors in explaining variations in social status.
  •  Developing a solution for the endogenous inclusion of environmental factors in polygenic risk scores which impacts the validity of gene-by-environment studies.

Work packages are linked to the objectives and are also defined by the three main types of genetic data used in genoeconomics. Work Package 1 (WP1) focuses on genes as latent factors in family data, Work Package 2A (WP2A) draws on dense scans of genetic variants in population data (Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms, so-called “SNPs”), and Work Package 2B (WP2B) makes use of polygenic risk scores (PRSs) in population data. As a result, Work Packages are also defined by their central methodology. The stratification by both type of genetic data and central methodology, makes that the three Work Packages described below can be executed in parallel and that the researchers involved will become experts on the respective type of data and methodology. The PhD student for this project will work on Work Package 1.

Work Package 1 is organized around extended versions of the classical twin study (Knopik et al., 2016). In this Work Package, largely scale administrative data from monozygotic and dizygotic twins are interacted with exogenous changes in the environment (changes in educational and economic policy), to analyse variation in the three main indicators of social status: Educational attainment, occupational status, and income. For example, in 2015 the Netherlands decided to transform student grants into loans. Many stakeholders have raised concerns about the fairness of this change for students with low-income parents. Heritability studies will be able to show whether genes and the family environment have become more important for accessing higher education after this policy change.


  • Dr. C. A. (Niels) Rietveld
  • Prof. dr. J. L. W. (Hans) van Kippersluis

Depending on the candidate, additional supervisor(s) could be added.


Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR)


PhD candidate profile

Potential PhD candidates are expected to have: 

  • A (Research) Master’s degree in a discipline relevant to the PhD project 
  • Excellent study results  
  • Strong and explicit interest and motivation for scientific research 
  • Strong background in economics, econometrics, or behavioural genetics.
  • Excellent command of English (minimum CEFR C1) 
  • Candidates are selected on the basis of their CVs, motivation, academic references, and interview(s) with potential supervisors.  

Conditions of employment

Fixed-term contract: Temporary, 4 or 5 years.

Our PhD projects are fully funded salaried positions with a duration of 4 or 5 years (depending on pre-education), meaning that appointed PhD candidates are employees of the Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR). Salary and benefits are in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities (CAO-NU). The salary for a PhD-employee (promovendus) starts at €2.395,- gross per month in the first year, increasing up to €3.061,- in the last year. In addition, the EUR pays an 8% holiday allowance and an end-of-year bonus of 8.3%, along with 41 paid leave days in case of full-time employment.

Our university offers an attractive fringe benefits such as child care and excellent sports facilities. Additionally, the flexible Employment Conditions Selection Model allows you to put together your own personal package.  Depending on the type of appointment, EUR also provides opportunities for personal development by offering short courses in addition to the scientific courses.

Moreover, we offer a Dual Career Programme (DCP) to assists spouses in their search for a job on the Dutch labour market through an intensive three-step programme with a personalised approach that will suit each individual's unique needs by providing support, training and hopefully creating enjoyment around your spouse’s job search. Furthermore it provides possibilities to get in touch with other internationals and spouses at Erasmus University Rotterdam and in the region through workshops and network events. 

The candidate's performance is evaluated after 18 months and after a sufficiently satisfactory assessment, the contract is extended for the remainder of the project.

The preferred starting date of PhD appointment is September 1, 2021.


Erasmus University Rotterdam

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) is an internationally oriented university with a strong social orientation in its education and research. Our scientists and students work in close collaboration with internal and external parties to solve global, social challenges, inspired by the always dynamic and cosmopolitan Rotterdam. Our mission is therefore "Creating positive societal impact". Our academic education is intensive, active and application-oriented. Our research increasingly takes place in multidisciplinary teams, which are strongly intertwined with international networks. With our research impact and thanks to the high quality of education, EUR can compete with the top European universities. The Erasmian values ​​function as our internal compass and make Erasmus University recognizable to the outside world: engaged with society, world citizen, connecting, entrepreneurial and open-minded.

Visit for more information.


Erasmus School of Economics

Erasmus School of Economics offers university-level bachelor’s and master’s programmes in Dutch and English. Our research focuses on a variety of economic issues and is affiliated in part with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. What makes economists trained in Rotterdam stand out is their effectiveness, drive and commitment. We not only devote attention to the issues of today, but we also focus on possible solutions to the problems of tomorrow.

Graduate school

Applicants for this project need to pass ERIM’s or the Tinbergen Institute’s admission requirements before they can be considered for a PhD position at Erasmus School of Economics.
Note that the graduate schools require valid GRE General Test results from all applicants. More information about the GRE test is available at the GRE website. Be aware that available seats for this test fill up very fast so book your test well in advance. Please contact the GRE program for specific questions about the GRE test.


  • PhD
  • Economics
  • max. 40 hours per week
  • €2395—€3061 per month
  • University graduate
  • ESE/PhD/20210322


Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR)

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