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People's life chances can be predicted by their neighborhoods. This observation is driving efforts to improve lives by changing neighborhoods. Some neighborhood effects may be causal, supporting neighborhood-level interventions. Other neighborhood effects may reflect selection of families with different characteristics into different neighborhoods, supporting interventions that target families/individuals directly. To test how selection affects different neighborhood-linked problems, we linked neighborhood data with genetic, health, and social-outcome data for >7,000 European-descent UK and US young people in the E-Risk and Add Health Studies. We tested selection/concentration of genetic risks for obesity, schizophrenia, teen-pregnancy, and poor educational outcomes in high-risk neighborhoods, including genetic analysis of neighborhood mobility. Findings argue against genetic selection/concentration as an explanation for neighborhood gradients in obesity and mental-health problems, suggesting neighborhoods may be causal. In contrast, modest genetic selection/concentration was evident for teen-pregnancy and poor educational outcomes, suggesting neighborhood effects for these outcomes should be interpreted with care.

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