MONEY TRUMPS GENES

LEAST GIFTED CHIL­DREN OF WEALTHY PAR­ENTS GRAD­U­ATE FROM COL­LEGE AT HIGHER RATES THAN MOST-GIFTED FROM LOW-IN­COME FAM­I­LIES

The Gulf Today - Panorama - - SCIENCE - By An­drew Van Dam

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

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