Wednesday, 18 November 2020

Sociology, Genetics and the Coming of Age of Sociogenomics

WZB Distinguished Lecture in Social Sciences by Melinda Mills, University of Oxford

Moderated by Jan Paul Heisig
Discussant: Michaela Kreyenfeld

Recent years have seen the birth of sociogenomics via the infusion of molecular genetic data. I briefly first chronicle the history of genetics, focusing particularly on post-2005 genome-wide association studies, the post-2015 big data era, and the emergence of polygenic scores. Understanding polygenic scores, including their genetic correlations with each other, causation, and underlying biological architecture, is vital. I show how genetics can be introduced to understand a myriad of topics such as fertility, educational attainment, intergenerational social mobility, well-being, addiction, risky behavior, and longevity. Here I focus on some recent discoveries in the area of fertility and reproductive choice. Although models of gene-environment interaction and correlation mirror agency and structure models in sociology, genetics is yet to be fully discovered by this discipline. I conclude with a critical reflection on the lack of diversity, nonrepresentative samples, precision policy applications, ethics, and genetic determinism. Sociogenomics can speak to long-standing sociological questions and sociologists can offer innovative theoretical, measurement, and methodological innovations to genetic research.

Melinda Mills is a Canadian and Dutch demographer and sociologist. She is the Nuffield Professor and Director of the Leverhulme Centre for Demographic Science at Nuffield College and the University of Oxford.

Michaela Kreyenfeld is Professor of Sociology at the Hertie School. Her research focuses on family behaviour, life course analysis, social policy and migration.

Jan Paul Heisig is head of the WZB Research Group Health and Social Inequality.


The lecture is part of the WZB Distinguished Lectures in Social Sciences.

No recording of this Lecture.