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Rather Kills Socialism – Poor People Are Poor Because Their Parents Were Stupid

It is possible to discuss this matter in slightly less inflammatory words than that headline but the essential point being made isn’t far off. Poor people are poor because their parents were poor.

Of course, that doesn’t invalidate the socialist argument because that’s what they also claim. That rich people use their riches in this generation to insist that their children shall also be rich. Inherited privilege and Brothers, We Must Smash It!

Except this new finding is that it’s not through the environment, that purchase of privilege, that the intergenerational continuance of wealth happens. Rather, it’s largely genetic. Those same attributes which led to the parents being poor – or rich – are those which are inherited, not learnt, and which lead to the children being rich – or poor.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Using twenty years of earnings data on Finnish twins, we find that about 40% of the variance of women’s and little more than half of men’s lifetime labour earnings are linked to genetic factors. The contribution of the shared environment is negligible. We show that the result is robust to using alternative definitions of earnings, to adjusting for the role of education, and to measurement errors in the measure of genetic relatedness.[/perfectpullquote]

The crux being:

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Our main findings are as follows: Using accurate administrative data on twins’ prime
working-age work and capital income and standard behavioural genetics designs, we document that genes explain a reasonably high share of variation in the twins’ (age-adjusted) lifetime earnings (54% for men; 39% for women), whereas the shared environment explains very little. Our results thus echo those reported for Sweden by Benjamin et al. (2012), as they also find that the shared environment explains a small fraction of variation in long-term earnings.2 These findings are in line with the much broader literature on the relative importance of shared and non-shared environment in explaining variation in many kinds of complex traits (phenotypes), suggesting that environmental influence for most traits is typically nonshared.[/perfectpullquote]

There is that intergenerational privilege, sure there is. It’s just that it’s coming from the genes that produce success, not the privilege of upbringing.

Sure, it’s still possible to say that this is unfair, we shouldn’t have people predisposed to succeeding, all must be equal. But that’s rather to enter Harrison Bergeron territory, isn’t it?

Education only accounts for some 10% by the way. Those arguments over public schools and all that, they’re not the relevant point at all. Even if that’s where all the battles are, given that people tend not to want to talk about the above.

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5 years ago

I have long wondered how much mobility was driven by unacknowledged descendants of the more successful rising towards the level of their biological antecedents.
Perhaps if we can get the younger sons of the toffs fertilizing poor girls again we can revive social mobility, which appears to have slowed down of late.

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