MONEY TRUMPS GENES
LEAST GIFTED CHILDREN OF WEALTHY PARENTS GRADUATE FROM COLLEGE AT HIGHER RATES THAN MOST-GIFTED FROM LOW-INCOME FAMILIES
The least-gifted children of high-income parents graduate from college (university) at higher rates than the most-gifted children of low-income parents, according to new research.
The revolution in genomics which is creeping into economics, therefore allows us to say something we might have suspected, but could never confirm: money trumps genes.
Using one new genome-based measure, economists found genetic endowments are distributed almost equally among children in low-income and high-income families. Success is not.
The least-gifted children of high-income parents graduate from college (university) at higher rates than the most-gifted children of low-income parents.
First, consider the people whose genome scores in the top quarter on a genetic index the researchers associated with educational achievement.
Only about 24 per cent of people born to low-income fathers in that high-potential group graduate from college.
That is dwarfed by the 63 per cent college graduation rate of people with similar genetic scores who are lucky enough to be born to high-income fathers.
Contrast that with a finding from the other end of the genetic scoring scale: about 27 per cent of those who score at the bottom quarter of the genetic index, but are born to high-income fathers, graduate from college. That means they are at least as likely to graduate from college as the highest-scoring low-income students.
The application of genetics to economics is in its infancy. Limitations abound. Most notably, researchers are forced to focus on white people. The world’s genomic data comes overwhelmingly from people of European descent and genetic comparisons across races can produce bizarre results.
But it can already begin to expose truths about the economy. The figures above come from a new genome-based study of economic data which aims straight at the heart of the popular conception of America as a meritocracy.
“It goes against the narrative that there are substantial genetic differences between people who are born into wealthy households and those born into poverty,” said Kevin Thom, a New York University economist and author of a related working paper released recently by the National Bureau of Economic Research.
“If you don’t have the family resources, even the bright children — the children who are naturally gifted — are going to have to face uphill battles,” Thom said.
“Their potential is being wasted. And that’s not good for them, but that’s also not good for the economy,” his collaborator, Johns Hopkins