The Unz Review • An Alternative Media Selection$
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
 BlogviewJames Thompson Archive
Rising Sons
Every man has a lurking wish to appear considerable in his native place. Samuel Johnson.
Email This Page to Someone

 Remember My Information


Bookmark Toggle AllToCAdd to LibraryRemove from Library • B
Show CommentNext New CommentNext New ReplyRead More
ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
These buttons register your public Agreement, Disagreement, Thanks, LOL, or Troll with the selected comment. They are ONLY available to recent, frequent commenters who have saved their Name+Email using the 'Remember My Information' checkbox, and may also ONLY be used three times during any eight hour period.
Ignore Commenter Follow Commenter
Search Text Case Sensitive  Exact Words  Include Comments
List of Bookmarks

It is a commonplace of school reunions that ex-pupils make a furtive reckoning as to which of them has Done Well. Comparisons are odious, but all too human. How has it gone for you? Naturally, the actuarial odds are against personal success, since success, by definition, must be that which stands out from the crowd, and accrues to only a minority. 1 in 100 may be the first foothills of note, 1 in 1000 a greater peak more worthy of attention, but for eminence only those at the highest peak of 1 in 10,000 qualify for eminence. That was the requirement Galton set, but he no longer exists, so my reference to him is void for lack of meaning.

Looking at your peer group gives you a cross-sectional comparison, but for a longitudinal one a natural first step is to compare your personal achievements with those of your parents. A one generational change is within the span of apprehension, and has some emotional bite to it. It is probably best to set age 40 or thereabouts as the career midpoint for inter-generational comparisons. Have you risen or fallen? Some intrepid researchers have dared to find out what causes these differences.

The Contribution of Cognitive and Noncognitive Skills to Intergenerational Social Mobility.
Matt McGue, Emily A. Willoughby, Aldo Rustichini, Wendy Johnson, William G. Iacono, and James J. Lee
First Published June 30, 2020 Research Article

They say:

We investigated intergenerational educational and occupational mobility in a sample of 2,594 adult offspring and 2,530 of their parents. Participants completed assessments of general cognitive ability and five noncognitive factors related to social achievement; 88% were also genotyped, allowing computation of educational-attainment polygenic scores. Most offspring were socially mobile. Offspring who scored at least 1 standard deviation higher than their parents on both cognitive and noncognitive measures rarely moved down and frequently moved up. Polygenic scores were also associated with social mobility. Inheritance of a favorable subset of parent alleles was associated with moving up, and inheritance of an unfavorable subset was associated with moving down. Parents’ education did not moderate the association of offspring’s skill with mobility, suggesting that low-skilled offspring from advantaged homes were not protected from downward mobility. These data suggest that cognitive and noncognitive skills as well as genetic factors contribute to the reordering of social standing that takes place across generations.

The authors adroitly encapsulate the dilemma of social mobility studies:

A major challenge to a belief in meritocratic processes is that advantaged parents are much more likely to have advantaged children than are less advantaged parents (Cullen, 2003). Wealth, social capital, and involvement are all ways in which parents can create opportunities for their children that are not widely available to others (Breen & Goldthorpe, 2001). Yet unequal opportunity is not the only factor contributing to the intergenerational transmission of inequality. High-achieving parents also transmit to their children, genetically and environmentally, the skills that contributed to their own success (Swift, 2004).

Cognitive ability was assessed at 17 years of age and on the Wechsler which is excellent; occupational status in late 20s, which the authors admit is too soon (yet it favours the environmental rather than the genetic hypothesis, since parental contributions of money and contacts will be immediate, whereas any genetic contribution will take time to accumulate).

Incidentally, there is a slight problem with studying intergenerational status, which is that some of the measures change (they are not invariant). Formerly, few students went to college, and now a majority do. This alters the meaning of higher education measures, as the authors explain. I have concentrated on occupational level, which is less subject to those problems.

However, the main point of this paper is to study families, and to compare siblings within families. If wealth is the engine which provides children with good jobs, then all wealthy progeny will rise, and children of poor families will languish. This study uses families as their own controls, and looks at what sibling heterogeneity may contribute to life outcomes.

Gloriously, the authors cite Nettle (2003) and use his method of regressing each predictor variable on offspring–parent difference in attainment, parent level of attainment, and their interaction, separately for education and occupation. He made a good contribution to the debate and his paper should be known more widely.

Polygenic scores for intelligence are not yet good enough to explain a major part of intelligence, but one can at least check whether the equations point in the right direction. The authors say:

As expected, the polygenic score based on weights from an independent GWAS of educational attainment was associated with both educational and occupational achievement in both the parent and offspring samples (Fig. 1). Correlations (rs) ranged from .26 to .32 for educational attainment and from .19 to .24 for occupational attainment (Table S3).

Using these scores (not previously available to researchers of social mobility) they find:

Specifically, offspring who achieved a higher educational or occupational level than their parents tended to have higher polygenic scores than their parents. Conversely, children who fell short of their parents’ social achievements tended to have polygenic scores that were lower than their parents.

In the past it was not possible to buttress a genetic hypothesis with genomic analysis, but now polygenic risk scores afford that possibility. The authors are cautious in their interpretation, but it is pretty clear that we are moving towards (partial) causal explanations. This will change the social sciences in a profound way.

Some key points from their discussion section:

We found that a majority of individuals from the least advantaged homes achieved more educationally and occupationally than their parents, and conversely, a majority of individuals from the most advantaged homes achieved less. Our study implicated offspring–parent skill differentials as contributing to the considerable reordering of social standing that we observed across generations. Individuals rarely moved down and frequently moved up when they were more skilled than their parents.
We believe that a reasonable explanation of our findings is that the degree to which individuals are more or less skilled than their parents contributes to their upward or downward mobility.

Although offspring inherit all of their genes from their parents, they inherit a random subset of parental alleles because of meiotic segregation. Consequently, some offspring inherit a favorable subset of their parents’ alleles, whereas others inherit a less favorable subset. We found, as did previous researchers (Belsky et al., 2018), that the inheritance of a favorable subset of alleles was associated with an increased likelihood of upward mobility, whereas inheriting a less favorable subset was associated with an increased likelihood of moving down.

In summary, our analysis of inter-generational social mobility in a sample of 2,594 offspring from 1,321 families found that (a) most individuals were educationally and occupationally mobile, (b) mobility was predicted by offspring–parent differences in skills and genetic endowment, and (c) the relationship of offspring skills with social mobility did not vary significantly by parent social background. In an era in which there is legitimate concern over social stagnation, our findings are note-worthy in identifying the circumstances when parents’ educational and occupational success is not reproduced across generations.

Whatever your social background, if you are brighter than your parents, you generally rise; if less bright, you generally fall.

• Category: Science • Tags: Heredity, High Iq Fertility 
Hide 39 CommentsLeave a Comment
Commenters to FollowEndorsed Only
Trim Comments?
  1. It is a commonplace of school reunions that ex-pupils make a furtive reckoning as to which of them has Done Well.

    I went to an inner city school, so I’ve never felt much need to make such reckonings. If I made a furtive reckonings, it would definitely be from a distance

  2. dearieme says:

    Increasing economic inequality … they say but without citation. Is it in the category of “everyone knows that …”? Anyway, why would it matter? The topic is interesting of itself whether economic inequality is growing, shrinking. or doing a loop-the-loop.

    Cognitive ability was assessed at 17 years of age I’m puzzled – is the claim that they had access to historical records of the parents’ IQs? If so, well done them.

    I have concentrated on occupational level, which is less subject to those problems.
    “Less”: I dare say. But for baby boomers, for instance, there were obviously far more middle class jobs for them to get than there had been for their parents. Is any attempt made to allow for this?

    • Replies: @res
  3. Whatever your social background, if you are brighter than your parents, you generally rise; if less bright, you generally fall.

    Could the tail of the devil be in the definition of social achievement, it´s rise and fall? Could another akkefiet be the multi-generational aspect? Just guessing that the correlation between GWAS and Wesler says more about the value of GWAS as a tool then the conclusions of the authors about social mobility and genetic loads?

  4. Sean says:

    Are females less likely to exceed their parents’ IQ?

    • Replies: @Peripatetic Commenter
  5. anonymous[425] • Disclaimer says:

    wwebd said: Of that small sector of humanity that can be described as the one or two hundred now late middle-aged women who went to high school with me in the 70s, and who knew me well enough to remember me now (now being defined as close to half a century later), I cannot imagine more than one or two of them would not have hugely preferred spending the summer of 2020 with me, rather than with whoever else they are spending it with. Fortunately for most of them, they have had children with other men, and have forgotten me almost completely. As Pushkin said, Comfortable habits are given us from on high,they are our consolation for not being happy.

    Samuel Johnson was a witty fellow, but he never had, in his life, that fuel to inspiration that so many poets have known: having been fallen in love with by more than one beautiful woman.


    That being said, God loves us all, and God made man to love a woman, and made woman to love a man. I could go on and on with the details about how the specifics of that ideal have fallen short (trust me, you do not want to know what I know unless you have a heart that can take without failing an awful lot of intense information), but I won’t///

    Off topic, and I am not a bully so I am not gonna name names, I find it sad that there are people who “study math and statistics and probability” who think they understand the world better than others in a significant way because they are aware of the most recent studies that outperform, in a way that even poor little Kolmogorov (back to my summer allusions, his FAVORITE HOBBY WAS SWIMMING: can you guess why? I can, and trust me, I feel pity) would have conceded were marginally better than previous studies, (based, in their outdated ways, on his own view of the MATHEMATICAL WORLD) in Math, in Statistics, and in Probability (the poor little fellow!).

    Like I said, I don’t like bullies. And trust me, if you think the fact you spent a few percent more hours – say 100 hours a month instead of 90 hours a month – on your little academic studies in humble pursuit of what the professors consider to be math, statistics, and probability, and if you think for that reason you can tell people who understand the world intuitively that they are imbeciles —– well think again… like I said, I don’t like bullies. And spending ten percent more time on the academic description of a real phenomenon that cannot be captured within any real accuracy, and then pointing to your one or two better percentage of accurate statements (as if a sailor thought he understood the sea better than another sailor because he had spent more time on a few more acres of open sea seawater than the other sailor) as proof that others are imbeciles and you are experts …..

    trust me, my friends, everything worth knowing can only be known by you when you are what God wanted to be if God had wanted you to be a genius.

    Don’t think for a second you have a right to bully other people because you are more successful among hoi polloi of the curious.

    Trust me on that. I know the price of rubies, and I know the worthlessness of ownership of jewels.

    And actually, while I say “I don’t like bullies”, I am also capable of seeing them, the sad creatures, the way their guardian angels see them. If you are a bully and are reading this, yes, there are many many people like me, and we all pity you. Let not your heart be troubled, though: and I say this as honestly as I can —– the world is a big place, and there is nothing easier than being a better person tomorrow than you were today. That which tends upward tends upward, that which tends to move in ellipses moves in ellipses, and there is nothing easier than the teleological version of your future —- a future in which you stop bullying people, stop thinking you were put in the world to argue and denigrate, and a future where you know that God created us all to UNDERSTAND.

    (I leave it to the reader to decide if I was kidding or not in the first paragraph). (I wasn’t, of course, but you might not agree. That is what communication is about – we don’t always have to agree in order to communicate). (if you are tempted to say: sir, this a Wendy’s – well I will laugh, and I won’t bother to tell you that I own the franchise – I do not bully anyone, ever)

    • Replies: @Kratoklastes
  6. Incidentally, there is a slight problem with studying intergenerational status, which is that some of the measure[s] change (they are not invariant).

    Is an ‘s’ missing from ‘measure’?

    • Replies: @James Thompson
  7. @Sean

    That is an interesting question.

    Since there are a lot of genes on the X chromosome that affect intelligence (it seems) and since females inherit one X from each parent, and since some portion of their X chromosomes is randomly inactivated it would seem females inherit roughly the average IQ of their parents.

    So, it would be interesting to see some data.

  8. res says:

    Cognitive ability was assessed at 17 years of age I’m puzzled – is the claim that they had access to historical records of the parents’ IQs? If so, well done them.

    From the paper.

    For offspring, cognitive and noncognitive skills were assessed in adolescence (i.e., at about age 17 years or earlier, prior to completing their education or attaining adult occupational level), and social outcomes were assessed in their mid- to late 20s (i.e., at either their age-24 assessment, n = 105, or age-29 assessment, n = 2,489). For parents, measures were obtained at a single in-person assessment in midlife.

    I have concentrated on occupational level, which is less subject to those problems.
    “Less”: I dare say. But for baby boomers, for instance, there were obviously far more middle class jobs for them to get than there had been for their parents. Is any attempt made to allow for this?

    Good point. I an curious why there is no graph for parents and offspring having similar IQ. It seems like that would provide a good baseline addressing your observation. If I understand correctly, the graphic in the blog post is a reworking of Figure 4 from the paper. Its caption is:

    Combined effect of offspring–parent differences in cognitive and noncognitive factors on intergenerational mobility. The graphs plot the proportion of offspring who either moved up or moved down relative to their parents according to whether they exceeded their parents’ cognitive and noncognitive scores by at least 1 standard deviation each or fell below their parents’ scores by at least 1 standard deviation on both. Error bars represent ±1 SE.

    Figure 4 has another panel for education change. It shows a version of your effect (current generation receives more education by default) pretty clearly.

    BTW, the Figure 4 caption says both cognitive and noncognitive factors are included. Is it accurate to only mention IQ in the graphic above? Or am I misunderstanding? One interesting wrinkle is that Table S.5 indicates the non-cognitive component is a better predictor of occupation than the cognitive component for the offspring, but the opposite is true for the parents. Any thoughts on that?

    • Replies: @dearieme
  9. dearieme says:

    a single in-person assessment in midlife

    To read their supplementary material I think I have to sign up to something or other. I am reluctant to do that. So: to anyone who has read that material, what exactly does the phrase in italics above mean?

    Did they trot round to see the parents and administer Wechsler tests on the spot?

    • Replies: @res
  10. res says:

    You can get the SM at

    I found their SM page a bit confusing. There are two files (a disclosure and the Word document linked above) and you have to click the right arrow in the viewer to get to the second.

    Here is the summary of the General Cognitive Ability (GCA) measure from Table S1.

    IQ based on four subscales (Vocabulary, Information, Block Design and Picture Arrangement) from either the Weschler Intelligence Scale for Children-Revised (younger cohort) (Wechsler, 1974) or Weschler Adult Intelligence Scale-Revised (older cohort) (Weschler, 1981)

    For the offspring this was administered during intake assessment. There were two cohorts and intake was at 11 and 17 years old for the younger and older cohorts respectively.

    Regarding “a single in-person assessment in midlife”, I’m actually not seeing any explicit details for the GCA portion of that in the SM (anyone?). I am also not seeing specific information about the GCA measure for the parents in the 2002 study they reference for the MTFS.

    But looking at that paper, I am guessing they used the same WAIS-R subset as they did for the older cohort. Does anyone know for sure? This seems like an odd thing to fail to be explicit about.

    From that paper.

    At study intake, the twins, together with their parents, travel from around the state to spend a day in our university laboratory. The day is split between interviews with all four family members and time in the psychophysiology laboratory. This procedure, with some variations, is repeated every three to four years.

    The 2002 paper lists the following measures for cognitive ability.
    Cognitive Ability: Wechsler IQ, spatial working memory, academic achievement, reading achievement

    So my best guess for “a single in-person assessment in midlife” is an on-site administration of the WAIS-R subtests at intake (note variability of parent ages in PS).

    BTW, for those asking about sex differences. From the SM.

    Prorated IQ scores were standardized to a mean of 0 and a standard deviation of 1 separately in the male and female samples and separately by cohort in the offspring sample (to account for any differences between the WISC-R and the WAIS-R).

    That also seems to imply the WAIS-R was used for the parents.

    P.S. Some useful information about the study at this site:

    For example, here is the distribution of IQ scores for all subjects.

    And the distribution of age at assessment.

    • Replies: @dearieme
  11. dearieme says:

    Many thanks.

    I wonder how much selection bias would be caused by requiring families to travel to a university site and give up a day of their time.

    This seems like an odd thing to fail to be explicit about.

    It does, which is why my antennae twitched in the first place.

    • Replies: @res
  12. res says:

    I wonder how much selection bias would be caused by requiring families to travel to a university site and give up a day of their time.

    The 2002 paper talks a fair bit bit about the selection process and references a 1999 paper for more details. The 1999 paper is available at this link, but I have not looked at it yet.

    Excerpt from the 2002 paper.

    Because we rely on publicly available Minnesota birth certificates to identify twins, only those born in Minnesota were eligible for study inclusion. This statewide sample is broadly representative of the Minnesota population. About 60% of the sample come from the seven counties that compose the Minneapolis-St. Paul urban area. The remainder live in smaller cities, towns and rural areas throughout the state and in towns in neighboring states that border Minnesota. Reflecting the ethnic composition of the state at the time they were born, almost all the twins are Caucasian (over 95%), with the majority having German and Scandinavian ancestry.

    At study intake, the twins, together with their parents, travel from around the state to spend a day in our university laboratory. The day is split between interviews with all four family members and time in the psychophysiology laboratory. This procedure, with some variations, is repeated every three to four years.

    Initially, the recruitment pool consisted of all male and/or female twins born in Minnesota during selected birth years spanning 1971–1985. From this effort, we located a total of 1695 male and 1729 female twin pairs, over 90% of the twins born in the state. We have successfully assessed in person 1,383 of these families, with about 17% of located families refusing to participate in the study. The remaining families were either ineligible to participate (e.g., lived more than a day’s drive from our labs), or not recruited for an in-person assessment. Comparisons of participants to nonparticipants indicated that MTFS families assessed in person are broadly representative of Minnesota families with adolescent twins (Iacono et al., 1999).

    Even if “broadly representative,” I share your concern. Especially concerning bias regarding cognitive and/or noncognitive traits.

    It does, which is why my antennae twitched in the first place.

    Thanks. My initial look at the paper was not careful enough for me to notice that.

    P.S. I’m kind of busy at the moment so not digging into this as much as I normally would. The current paper looks quite interesting and worthy of a closer look. I’m not familiar with the other authors, but I have a high opinion of Matt McGue and James Lee.

  13. dearieme says:

    Apropos nothing much, I saw a photo of Donald Trump’s mother the other day. Spitting image of my Aunt Ivy. Outer isles, you see. Not only is race not a social construct, distinctions on a much smaller scale aren’t social constructs either.

  14. @anonymous

    So people who use their numeracy to point out that others’ infatuations are unsupported by data, are ‘bullies’ in your taxonomy?

    Non-quants are often that way inclined: they are unhappy with the fact that once exposed to the data, their sophisms and charlatanry are exposed.

    • Replies: @anonymous
  15. anonymous[425] • Disclaimer says:

    wwebd said —— No, my young friend.

    Let us look at it this way: perhaps Someone who has studied probability and statistics and numbers for years understands, in a studious way, twice as much as someone who, with equal talent, has studied half as hard.

    Now as we go through life, we all face many many unanswered questions. Some are answerable, some are not. Let us picture the universe of questions that we would like to be answered as being amenable to being mapped to an ideal portrait of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans, at a given moment in time, mapped in perfect detail (right down to the frothiness of the whitecaps and the millimeter differences between the small waves on the hot quiet days, and so on).

    All ambitious young intellectuals answer a few original questions that nobody else ever posed and that nobody else ever answered, just as all ambitious young artists who like to draw wind up drawing, at some point, a face or a tree or a dog or cat that has never been painted quite that way before us.


    Can we agree on that?

    Now, my point was not that there are not huge differences in understanding of hard problems, my point was that the hard problems that the smartest of us have a chance of solving are a miniscule portion of the real challenging problems that, with our human intuition, we can sense are out there.
    There is no point in being arrogant because out of the untold number of acres of ocean, you have knowledge of one or two more than some guy who has knowledge of only one or two. And trust me, very few people who have ever lived have knowledge of, say, a hundred acres of seawater when their mostly human neighbors have knowledge of only one or two such acres.

    Now here is a long sentence — read it a couple times, and you probably will agree with what I am saying, and understand why you misunderstood my previous comment —–.

    So … somebody who claims to be twice as smart as someone else, in a bullying way, because they can easily achieve the goal of being only half as inaccurate as the person they are bullying, may be making a correct claim, but the fact remains that the smartest of us, from the point of view of reason, logic, and comprehension of actual difficult problems that correspond not to our little universe of potentially solvable problems but that correspond to the actual universe with all its temporal and spatial and other immensities … the smartest of us, from that point of view, are, at best, just almost imperceptibly less easy to fall into error when trying to explain the universe than the people who they mock for being only half as smart as them.

    I do not have this problem, I understand intellectual humility. I know what I know and I know what I don’t know.

    Trust me, I am extremely persuasive in person. If I had an extra hour or two, I could make this comment really persuasive too. But I trust you are intelligent enough to understand what I am saying, and I do not need, at least not for your benefit, to spend that extraneous hour. Gracias por eso mi amigo!

    By the way, do you have any idea how awful your nom de plume sounds to those of us who are fluent in ancient Greek, or at least to those of us who have an easy reading knowledge (feet on the fender) of ancient Greek?
    Just asking.

    Oh, and if you want to say “word salad” you might tempt me to explain to you the almost infinite reserves of knowledge I have about recreational mathematics and similar topics that are, in the clear cold light of reality, exactly what they are. But like I said I think you are too smart not to understand what I am saying, and where you were mistaken in your previous rude comment.

    Vaya con Dios mi amigo.

    • LOL: botazefa
    • Replies: @dearieme
  16. Anonymous[338] • Disclaimer says:

    in a sample of 2,594 adult offspring and 2,530 of their parents

    I’m assuming that they tested all siblings and both parents whenever possible? That’s why the sample sizes are close?

  17. dearieme says:

    the whitecaps …

    Racist pig dog.

    • Replies: @anonymous
  18. ruralguy says:

    IQ is a broad quantitative measure of 13 different cognitive and memory functions, in the most popular IQ test. What’s not necessarily measured in that composite number is the ease of those “functions” in the real world.

    Many of my siblings don’t function very well in society, although all are financially successful. Yet, all of my siblings have high IQ scores. Ironically, I know the scores are high, because many of my siblings were forced to take the IQ tests, when they were involuntarily committed to mental hospitals. I’ve worked as an engineer in many corporations, often earning the highest technical performance score of all engineers, but I also typically scored at the bottom in the social score. I learned the hard way, that success requires more social skills than cognitive skills. Those IQ statistical graphs you show might be true, but success needs a component that measures “ease” of functioning in the world.

    • Agree: Philip Owen
  19. anonymous[405] • Disclaimer says:

    wwebd said —– Amusingly enough, I am a deeply humble person, who has been befriended by many dogs, and, while it is a lot harder to get a pig to be your friend than it is to get a dog to be your friend (trust me on that – I have hundreds of anecdotes on the subject), my best guess is that the next time you mosey down the boulevard, you will not come across many folk who are considered by the pigs of the world to be a better friend to the pigs of the world than I am. Trust me on that, I have had friends who were hog farmers, and there are other details of my life that are relevant, but you, whoever you are, have probably lived a long time too, and maybe you too are what I am – a true friend to pigs.

    So I have the dogs and pigs on my side – they are fond of humble people like me.

    As far as being a racist – well, I am not rich, not handsome, and not all that tall, but women love me, and i guarantee you that you will rarely find anyone as appreciative as I am of the differing charms of the lovely women of all races. If that makes me what is called on the shores of the Cam a racist, well, so be it.

    God loves us all, and I plan to enter Heaven with many dog friends at my side, and a few pig friends too. Sad to say, while I would have loved to have spouses of many races in my long life, I believe the 10 commandments – marry one woman, love her, and envy not the wife or donkey of your neighbor – to contain good advice, so my natural born admiration for women of all races is sort of unimportant, from the point of view of how many women of how many races I will enter into heaven with as if they had been my wife. Just one woman, just one race.

    I am in a good mood tonight, so I am gonna say this. You, reading this, might be like me, or might not be. Maybe you are female, maybe you are male.

    Whoever you are —- may God be so kind to you as God was to me. God loves us all, and I plan to enter Heaven with many dog friends at my side, and a few pig friends too. Sad to say, while I would have loved to have spouses of many races in my long hard bitter life (verb. sap. sufficit), I respect the 10 commandments – marry one woman, love her, and envy not the wife or donkey of your neighbor.

    As charming as Eve was, in those innocent days of the Garden of Eden, and as happy as Adam was to be her husband …… I was luckier than Adam.

    No, my friends, whatever they tell you about me, don’t think for a second that I have anything in common with racists. Moab was my washpot, as we used to say, ceteris paribus, but I was beloved among the few just people in Moab, and I was lucky enough to be beloved by one of the most loveable of their daughters. Yes, I was more fortunate than Adam.

  20. The current COVID-19 Freakout has redefined success. Are you grilling steaks in the backyard, or waiting in line at the Food Bank?

  21. “Whatever your social background, if you are brighter than your parents, you generally rise; if less bright, you generally fall.”

    Not really. I’d suggest that for any level of IQ a British child born in the 1940s or 1950s will have (barring stuff like medical advances) a better life than one born in the 1990s.

    Our 40s child grew up in a non-diverse UK which was still pretty proud of itself, in which living standards and real wages were rising, when tertiary education was free, when final salary, index-linked pensions existed, when house prices were around 3.5 times a single person’s salary.

    By now he’ll be retired at 60 or 65, living in a house worth more today than he could possibly afford during his working life, with a pension that’s increasing faster than the average wage.

    Our 90s child will grow up being told at school that heroes are Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, not Scott or Hillary. He’ll leave university with a debt of anything up to £60,000, to find he’s competing with half the world for jobs which pay less in real terms than they did in 1997*. He’ll find that housing is now amazingly expensive.

    By his early 30s our 1940s child could afford his own home, perhaps terraced or maybe a 3-bed semi, in either of which he could raise a family without a second income -and with zero or little help from parents.

    If our 1990s child is bright and lucky (and outside London), by his early 30s he might afford a two-bed flat if Mum and Dad help, but is just as likely to still be renting. He’ll have no final salary pension, five figure student debt, he’ll retire at maybe 70 or 75. If he’s partnered (and they both work, mum and dad help) they might just manage a new house, with smaller rooms than the 1940s guy could afford on his own – but that’s certainly not the experience of Mr Average.

    Who has the better life, a 120-IQ child born in 1945 or a 140-IQ child born in 1995?

    * go here

    and compare the median male wage, adjusted for inflation since May 1997**, against the May 1997 median male wage

    ** use the BoE Inflation Calculator, and ponder that house prices aren’t included.

    • Replies: @dearieme
  22. But then the Cecils. Proto Prime Minsters for Elizabeth and James I. Allegedly the family choose wives for intellect ever since. They provided another Prime minister in the 19th C (Lord Salisbury), a professor at Cambridge and the current head of the family was recently head of the Tory party in the Lords. Is their success breeding or an environment structured to produce great political influence?

  23. dearieme says:

    It’s most amusing how such a case can be made simply by omitting pertinent considerations.

    For example many baby-boomers grew up in a world where they expected to have to give financial support to their parents, and in-laws, in old age. Since their parents probably didn’t own property they commonly wouldn’t expect much of an inheritance.

    By contrast their children, conscious of Mum and Dad’s defined benefit pensions, are free of all worry about funding them in retirement. And, of course, have high hopes of a jolly good inheritance from their property-owning parents.

    Still, omitting pertinent considerations is a key part of Guardianista-like journalism aimed at London-dwelling … what’s the term? … young tossers.

  24. @dearieme

    When things change there are winners and there are losers.

    It is interesting to contemplate who the winners are.

  25. @dearieme

    All things being equal, a child brighter than their parents will do better, no doubt.

    But all things aren’t equal.

    In the inflationary 1970s pensioners were poor as wage rises outstripped pension increases. Now pensioners are (as a group) well off.

    The Guardian likes to point this out, frequently and vehemently. What they never point out is that this is the last well-off pensioner generation, as cheaper (for the employer) money purchase schemes take over from final salary ones. Future generations will have been poorer all their lives, weighed down with student debt, retire later, won’t have so many houses to sell.

    Methinks the tipping point was around 2005, when my then employer

    a) closed the final salary scheme to new entrants
    b) replaced it with money purchase
    c) outsourced around a third of staff to a company with no final salary scheme

    What else happened around then, I wonder? Did something happen that caused employees to become less valued?

    • Replies: @James Thompson
  26. @YetAnotherAnon

    I was referring to between family outcomes, not between era outcomes.
    However, there is a strong case that the current generation of youngsters are much wealthier than we were at their age. Inter-generational wealth comparisons are pretty tricky, since one aspect of technology is that it makes good things cheap. When I was young, encyclopedias were very expensive, and were generally bought on quota systems.

    • Replies: @YetAnotherAnon
  27. @James Thompson

    “When I was young, encyclopedias were very expensive”

    Yes, one sign of the middle-class household was the Britannica set. I can’t remember what we had, but it sure wasn’t Britannica.

    “a strong case that the current generation of youngsters are much wealthier than we were at their age”

    I’d strongly disagree. It’s true that the phone in my pocket is probably more powerful than the PDP-11 at my 1975 university, and that a lot of young people have holidayed where once only the rich could have gone*, but it wasn’t my 1975 transistor radio and stereo from Comet that made me better off than my parents (and that’s discounting WW2) with wind up gramophones and valve radios – it was leaving university when wages were rising but house prices weren’t. Even people in poorly-paid jobs were buying. Real wages have been falling since at least 1997 while house prices have rocketed.

    How wealthy will someone who goes to Thailand or India every year, and has the latest iPhone, feel when they’re pushing 40 and still flat-sharing?**

    * but those who chose to travel on the cheap to 1960s Spain, Morocco or the East will have seen those countries before mass tourism changed them forever.


    “It was February 2009 and, at 44-and-a-half, she had left a bad long-term relationship and moved into a grotty London flat. “I was standing by the window, watching the rain make dusty tracks down the glass, when the traffic in the street below seemed to go silent, as if I’d put it on ‘mute’. In that moment, I became acutely aware of myself, almost as if I were an observer of the scene from outside my body. And then it came to me: it’s over. I’m never going to have a baby.””

    • Replies: @James Thompson
  28. @YetAnotherAnon

    I will put the prospective post on my to do list.

    • Replies: @YetAnotherAnon
  29. dearieme says:

    “When I was young, encyclopedias were very expensive”

    We had a thing called The Children’s Encyclopedia. It received great praise but I remember it as being dire. I’d consult it only if it was so wet that I didn’t want to walk or cycle to the public library.

    Lots of things are wildly overrated, for instance museums. When you want to pick something up and inspect it, you can’t. Bah! And some just tell you lies – the worst I’ve experienced in that regard was the Smithsonian. The best museum visit of my life was to a little local museum where we fell into conversation with the curator whose enthusiasm and knowledge were a delight.

    Of the things intelligent boys are meant to take an interest in, what else is overrated? Greek and Roman mythology, astronomy, bloody dinosaurs, … (I’m cheating a bit on the last one because dinosaur mania seems to have happened after my time.)

    I can remember getting fed up with “You’re a clever boy so you must be interested in xyz ….” I can’t remember summoning the cheek to say “Because I’m a clever boy I am not remotely interested in xyz.” But I probably should have done.

    • Replies: @James Thompson
  30. Maciano says:

    It wasn’t exactly hard for me to rise beyond my parents, or wider family for that matter, but I still don’t think it’s that great, or at potential. Then again, it could still move up considerably.

  31. @James Thompson

    “I was referring to between family outcomes, not between era outcomes.”

    We’re in agreement on that, sorry if I mistook your meaning. But differences in political/social/cultural/economic environments may well mean a child brighter than his parents can have a worse life, or a child dimmer than his parents can have a better one (especially if he was born in 1940 and his brighter parents were born in 1895).

    I used to argue with a gene absolutist (Razib?) that genes aren’t everything. A Greek child taken by the Ottomans to join the Janissaries would have a very different set of outcomes to his twin brother, out in the woods when the recruiters came, even if they might scratch their noses the same way. Same if one of twins was snaffled to join the Lords Resistance Army.

    @dearieme – was that Arthur Mee’s Children’s Encyclopedia?

    • Replies: @dearieme
  32. dearieme says:

    I think that must be it. I notice that your link also mentions his The Children’s Newspaper. We used to get that until we persuaded my father to cancel it. Terrible tosh.

    A while later Dad started taking New Scientist. That was more like it. Though I later realised it was distinctly biased politically there was lots of stuff in it to interest a thirteen or fourteen year old. Even before that age The Reader’s Digest seemed pretty good though it palled as I got older. I saw National Geographic occasionally but thought it dull and preachy.

    Joke of the era: “I was at the dentist’s yesterday. Did you know the Titanic has sunk?”

    • Replies: @YetAnotherAnon
  33. @dearieme

    Reader’s Digest was IMHO pretty good reading for a young mind, always something interesting to get your mental teeth into.

    Read New Scientist for decades but I’m sure it’s become much more PC in the last 20 years, not bought one for ten.

    Nat Geo under its new editor is just unbearable, despite good pieces like the sea-wolves of the North-West US. Their edition on ‘Putin’s Russia’ could have come straight from the Economist – zero geography in it, just a hit-piece. In my innocence I’d thought it would be about Arctic melting and pollution in the Gulf of Ob.

  34. @dearieme

    You are bolder than I am. I assumed my lack of interest in Greek mythology was a personal failing.

    • Replies: @anonymous 389
  35. dearieme says:

    A couple of points.


    ‘Average inheritance for people born in the 1980s is twice that of those born in the 1960s, as baby boomers pass on the benefits of property price rises to their children, says the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS).

    The think tank found the median inheritance has risen from £66,000 for those born in the 1960s, to £107,000 for those born in the 1970s, and £136,000 for those born in the 1980s. …

    David Starrock, senior research fellow, said the trend resulted from a combination of the property boom and stagnation in earnings growth.

    “If you look at the parents of those born in the 1980s versus the 1960s, they are more likely to own homes and more likely to have a second home and have experienced the big property price boom through the 1990s and 2000s,” he said.’


    ‘Social mobility is the norm, not the exception, with two thirds of those born to working class parents upwardly mobile, according to a new study.

    The report, by think tank Civitas, challenges claims that social mobility is stagnating with data showing it is “more unusual” today for someone to remain in their parents’ social class than to move out of it, whether up or down.

    Some 65 per cent of people born to working class parents have moved up in social class, while 40 per cent of those born to professional-managerial parents have moved down, according to data from the Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) Labour Force Survey.

    Of the working class children, a third (34 per cent) had leapfrogged the intermediate class for clerical, sales and service staff and jumped into the top tier of professional and managerial positions.

    “This does not look like a static, rigid, closed society; it looks more like a remarkably fluid and open one,” said Sussex University sociology professor Peter Saunders, who produced the report for Civitas.’

    • Replies: @YetAnotherAnon
  36. @dearieme

    I love Civitas, and Peter Saunders must be one of the very few non-lefty sociologists out there (and at Sussex, too!), but either we are talking about the Boomers, who were indeed socially mobile (mostly upwards as the middle class expanded), or we are talking about people born later who may be doing jobs thought of as middle class (i.e. working on an office environment) , but without the pay and pensions that earlier generations of office staff could expect.

    For my sins I spent a time at a big outsourcing company who did very well in the Blair/Brown years, and it was always slightly disheartening to find young people with 2-1s from Russell Group unis earning £14k in Customer Services. Not to mention the guy checking claims calculations a tad shakily, with a 2-1 from Cambridge (admittedly in history, where maths has never been a requirement).

    No matter the job title and whether it’s ‘middle class’ or not, the grads of the last ten years, excepting the top few percent headed for finance, will find that the expectations of even a working class family in the 60s or 70s – a house of your own, a family, a pension – are beyond the reach of many in “middle class jobs”. If they want to frighten themselves about their futures, they should be reading A.J. Cronin’s poverty novels of the 20s and 30s, not the submission porn fantasies of Margaret Atwood.

    A slight digression/illustration – the Guardian sometimes features a young lady called Rhiannon Lucy Coslett, who has a more interesting backstory than the usual private school/Oxbridge Guardian writer – she cared for a severely autistic younger brother (along with her single mum) for six years before going to uni.

    At the age of 30, living in London and writing for the Guardian, she wrote this – children or career? before making her choice

    Now she’s 33, and has a new addition to the family (lives with boyfriend – in my experience sharing a room is almost the only way you can afford rent now in London) – a cat.

    But it was this aside in the cat comments that struck me

    I too suffer from low “life esteem” after a succession of rented houses and over 25 housemates in 15 years. But my cat and I have been together for 14 years

    As I’ve said before, a succession of rented houses might be fun in the student years, or even the 20s, but it must surely start to pall in the 30s, and by the 40s must be well nigh unbearable. Is that the new middle-class life?

    (Apologies, James, for clogging up your comments with my hobby-horses)

  37. Interesting examples.

  38. @James Thompson

    To revive your interest in astronomy, I recommend a work that is long out of copyright called “Star Names Their Lore and Meaning.”

    The stars are up there every night when there are not too many clouds. That fact alone makes them interesting.

    Greek mythology is kind of a bore unless you approach it from, well, an almost divine perspective, and how many of us are capable of that? I know I am not capable of that.

    “Dinosaurs” are what they are, but I seriously recommend, if you ever visit some of my favorite parts of the world, getting a good handle as to what people mean when they talk about “gator wrassling” —
    depending on your age, a good knowledge of that subject might lead to romantic and other successes of which you might not have dreamed that first time you looked through some boring little book with badly drawn tyrannosaures and pterodactyli and the rest of that long faded crew.

Current Commenter

Leave a Reply -

 Remember My InformationWhy?
 Email Replies to my Comment
Submitted comments have been licensed to The Unz Review and may be republished elsewhere at the sole discretion of the latter
Commenting Disabled While in Translation Mode
Subscribe to This Comment Thread via RSS Subscribe to All James Thompson Comments via RSS