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Are some people born lucky? A UT psychologist argues inequality’s genetic roots

White woman, red background, Kathryn Paige Harden '03
Kathryn Paige Harden '03.
Book cover, Kathryn Paige Harden '03
Harden’s book is available September 2021.

Kathryn Paige Harden, a 2003 Furman University psychology alumna, has written a new book, “The Genetic Lottery: Why DNA Matters for Social Equality” (Princeton University Press). In it, Harden studies how our genes influence the way we think, feel, and act—a field known as behavioral genetics. She writes that some people are born lucky, with DNA containing variants that predispose them to academic achievement, stable jobs, higher incomes and greater well-being.

She argues people inherit variants more likely to lead to mental illness, addiction, and poverty, as well as a greater risk of homelessness. While acknowledging the roles our environment and experiences play in shaping our lives, Harden makes the case that social scientists who want to address the roots of inequality must reckon with genetics.

Learn more in a story appearing in The Texas Monthly.

Harden is professor of clinical psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, where she is director of the Developmental Behavior Genetics Lab and co-director of the Texas Twin Project. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Virginia.

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