Published: September 13, 2021

Kettlewell, N. & Tymula, A. (2021). ‘The Australian Twins Economic Preferences Survey’, Life Course Centre Working Paper Series, 2021-17. Institute for Social Science Research, The University of Queensland.


Nathan Kettlewell and Agnieszka Tymula

Download: Life Course Centre Working Paper 2021-17

Non-technical Summary:

This paper describes a new survey of Australian twins – the Australian Twins Economic Preferences Survey (ATEPS). 1,120 Australian adult twins (560 pairs) completed the survey, making it one of the largest datasets containing incentivised preference measures of twins. As the survey was conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic, we also collected information on experiences related to the pandemic, along with a variety of questions on political attitudes and mental wellbeing. We hope that ATEPS can make a valuable contribution to social science and genetics research.
We discuss how twins were recruited into the study and the questions they answered. We elicited a wide range of preference and behavioural measures, including risk aversion, impatience, ambiguity aversion, trust and confidence. These were elicited using real monetary rewards.

There are two primary advantages of using samples of twins for research. First, twin pairs can serve as strong counterfactuals for each other, which can improve causal inference. Second, by utilising differences in genetic similarity between identical and fraternal twins, researchers can decompose variation in personal characteristics into genetic, family environment and unique environment effects. ATEPS will allow us to learn more about the heritability of economic preferences and other behaviours. This in turn can shed light on the intergenerational transmission of behaviours that are critical to life outcomes. For example, people’s willingness to bear risk will affect their labour market, health and investment behaviour, shaping the trajectory of their lives. Decomposing the variation in economic preferences is therefore critical to understanding heterogeneity in life outcomes and developing interventions to improve outcome equality.

A copy of the complete survey, and a codebook for the dataset, is available in the Supplementary Material. ATEPS is freely available to use for non-commercial research purposes by people affiliated with a valid research institution.