Monday, July 24, 2006

After the Bell Curve After the Bell Curve

After the Bell Curve - New York Times takes a look at some of the more recent findings in the nurture / nature controversy about IQ inheritance. The past studies of adopted identical twins have shown that, raised separately, their IQs are invariably within a point or two. That would seem to indicate that IQ is primarily inherited.

But there is an inherant problem with those twin studies, and is that adoption tends to work up the economic scale. Richer people adopt, and poorer people are much more likely to put their kids up for adoption. And, as a result, the vast majority of the identical twins tested were raised in upper middle class (or above) environments, where they had good schooling available.

This study attempted to correct for that, looking through a lot of French adoption records for identical twins where one of them was raised by less well-to-do parents. And the findings were interesting, that IQ differences there could be as high as 20 points.

Still, the bulk of IQ is inherited. Two bright parents are likely to have bright kids. Two dull parents are most likely to have dull kids. But the (intended?) social message is that schooling and environment do matter in optimizing a kid's IQ potential.

Of course, that is not to say that throwing more money at public education is the answer to this problem. It isn't. It just means squandering more money needlessly. The public school systems across this country are, for the most part, not truly accountable for their successes in educationg kids, and more money would just perpetuate this.

I am somewhat troubled by the fact that the elites in this country get to perpetuate themselves. They are smarter, and as a result, their kids are inherantly smarter. But then, the use their money to purchase superior education for them, and this just makes it worse, as these kids will make more money than their peers, so that they can perpetuate this. This wasn't really a problem until we entered the era of an educated meritocracy, where the smarter you were, and the more educated you were, the more your potential earnings were, on average - and this is getting ever more pronounced as the assembly line jobs dry up, being replaced by the engineering slots requiring advanced degrees, and that pay a lot more too.

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