Multigenerational mobility: does the Son Also Rise?

Written by: Stephen Hsu

Primary Source: Information Processing

The working paper below on multigenerational mobility arrives at smaller intergenerational correlations than Greg Clark obtained (e.g., 0.4 vs 0.7). I found Clark’s results hard to explain, at least in genetic terms, because estimates of assortativity in mating are much lower than required.

Related posts here and here. From the second link:

Correlations as high as 0.7 — 0.8 are implausible from genetic factors alone without highly assortative mating. Traits such as height and IQ have narrow sense heritabilities as large as h2 ~ 0.6, so fraction of variance accounted for is ~ 60%, and midparent-child correlation as high as ~ 0.8, but under even somewhat random mating the parental midpoint is significantly closer to average than the phenotype of the more exceptional parent. This would cause children to regress to the mean much faster in height and IQ than in social status as indicated in Clark’s data. It’s also important to note that social status itself is only imperfectly correlated to observable phenotypes such as IQ, Conscientiousness or Extraversion. See Intergenerational mobility: Bowles, Gintis, Clark for more.

Solon’s results seem to be consistent with Bowles and Gintis.

What Do We Know So Far about Multigenerational Mobility?

Gary Solon
Michigan State University

“Multigenerational mobility” refers to the associations in socioeconomic status across three or more generations. This article begins by summarizing the longstanding but recently growing empirical literature on multigenerational mobility. It then discusses multiple theoretical interpretations of the empirical patterns, including the one recently proposed in Gregory Clark’s book The Son Also Rises.

… contrary to Clark’s prediction, most group-average studies other than his own – including the surnames-based work by Chetty et al. – have estimated much smaller intergenerational associations.

Clark was recently interviewed on KQED Forum. Michael Krasny was willing to entertain Clark’s Social Darwinistic perspective ;-)

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Stephen Hsu
Stephen Hsu is vice president for Research and Graduate Studies at Michigan State University. He also serves as scientific adviser to BGI (formerly Beijing Genomics Institute) and as a member of its Cognitive Genomics Lab. Hsu’s primary work has been in applications of quantum field theory, particularly to problems in quantum chromodynamics, dark energy, black holes, entropy bounds, and particle physics beyond the standard model. He has also made contributions to genomics and bioinformatics, the theory of modern finance, and in encryption and information security. Founder of two Silicon Valley companies—SafeWeb, a pioneer in SSL VPN (Secure Sockets Layer Virtual Private Networks) appliances, which was acquired by Symantec in 2003, and Robot Genius Inc., which developed anti-malware technologies—Hsu has given invited research seminars and colloquia at leading research universities and laboratories around the world.
Stephen Hsu

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