Educational sentences to ponder

Of course, poor kids can still soar in school, and rich ones can flunk out, but few would deny that money is a powerful influence on people’s futures. Now, consider that household income explains just 7 percent of the variation in educational attainment, which is less than what genes can now account for. “Most social scientists wouldn’t do a study without accounting for socioeconomic status, even if that’s not what they’re interested in,” says Harden. The same ought to be true of our genes.

And:

“Education needs to start taking these developments very seriously,” says Kathryn Asbury from the University of York, who studies education and genetics. “Any factor that can explain 11 percent of the variance in how a child performs in school is very significant and needs to be carefully explored and understood.”

The researchers are to the point:

What policy lessons or practical advice do you draw from this study?

None whatsoever. Any practical response—individual or policy-level—to this or similar research would be extremely premature and unsupported by the science.

Here is the story, via Michelle Dawson.  Here is the underlying paper, here are the FAQ.

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Smart people smart. Dumb people dumb. Smart people children smart. Dumb people children dumb. Everyone get to vote.

Also poor people are poor for a reason. Bad habits, lack of ambition and poor attitude. Is it any wonder that their children do not do well in school.

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To some extent, yes, dumb people have dumb kids. But I) we don’t define people wholly by how smart they are. And I) it ain’t all genetic. You can make “normal” children dumber. You can give them a horrible upbringing. The bourgeois virtues are s thing. A very good thing.

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Attainment defined as years of schooling. That’s interesting, and potentially an issue. I’m sure they address how/why they model in the paper.

FAQ link is broken Tyler.

Nytimes also had an op ed on this yesterday.

Throw in peer effects and we might hit adjusted r^2 of .5 in the next 5 years.

Vaguely terrifying in its implications.

The real test will be when a model can outpredict common sense for life achievement.

The real test will be when a model can outpredict common sense for life achievement.

Life is multidimensional, even if LeBron James is not good at academics, I'm sure he and his fan do not care much.
Remember those bumper stickers that said "My kid beat up your honor student." That's one that people should not brag about but it does illustrate the point that ability as school is not the only ability.

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Maybe they should look at geography. In the book "Little Soldiers" by American Lenora Chu describing her experience of enrolling her three year old son in an elementary Chinese school she quotes a cross-cultural research team on the math skills of first-graders in New York and Beijing: "Chinese children are superior to US children in every domain: number and operation, geometric shapes, problem solving, and reasoning."

Geography?

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I thought the story here was that the hukou system means Beijing schoolkids are way more self-selected than New York schoolkids. No?

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“Very significant.” We keep praying that one day Tyler will learn that low p does not equal high probability of H1 but that day, alas, seems increasingly less likely than a winning powerball ticket.

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Eugenics has a bright future, once it gets past that road bump.

In large part, it seems, because so many eugenicists consider that road bump merely a matter of PR, with many believing they will be able to avoid the mistakes of the past.

Further small steps toward designer babies

Gattaca

In 2118, when the average IQ of the under 30 year old U.S. population is 120, will Progressives consider the country closer or further away from their Utopian dream?

Dunno. I think .1% - 1% of the population will have it all - money, intelligence, lifestyle, plum positions, and they will control everything. Their subjects will toil to provide for the elites. Oh wait, aren't we already there?

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On the eugenics note, what about eugenic immigration policy? The US public already seems to have much more favorable views of immigrants who are highly educated (and whose kids are likely to be so as well) versus those who have very little formal schooling. Even Obama seemed to believe this, if the implied preferences of his policies are to be believed (pushing for "Dreamers", reforms to make the US more attractive to people who would hold H1b visas such as allowing their spouses to work, beefing up border enforcement, deporting Central Americans and denying them asylum in a more diplomatic way than Trump).

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'Now, consider that household income explains just 7 percent of the variation in educational attainment, which is less than what genes can now account for. “Most social scientists wouldn’t do a study without accounting for socioeconomic status, even if that’s not what they’re interested in,” says Harden. The same ought to be true of our genes.'

Now consider that smart parents on average have high incomes and migh pass their smart genes to their children, which many socialogists and psycholgists that cannot simultaneously have more than one idea at a time are conveniently or intentionally blinded to the facts that children are not started from blank sheets. The same ought to be true for our hand waving psychologists.

Now consider that smart parents on average have high incomes

In the US, people with high incomes are considered smart, being able to secure a high income is the most reliable index of intelligence. Anyone who isn't interested in maximizing their income is automatically considered stupid.

"being able to secure a high income was the most reliable index of intelligence."

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Nonsense. Securing a high income is taken to be a sign of high intelligence because high intelligence assists with being able to do so.

Nobody imagines that your average lottery winner has suddenly become brighter after they win, nor is Bill Gates any dumber after he sells stock to donate cash. You're mistaking a heuristic for the qualities that are actually the target.

In a world of individuals, it's certainly the case that not all of them, even the intelligent ones, are consumed by the quest for material gain. There have been intelligent paupers. The idea that being able to accumulate riches is a positive measure of intelligence, or "smartness" is bullshit.

"it's certainly the case that not all of them, even the intelligent ones, are consumed by the quest for material gain."

Certainly smart people who are Socialists living in a Capitalistic society are rarely wealthy but inevitably envious of others wealth.

A smart person wouldn't be a Socialist.

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It is too bad that most GWAS papers are limited to populations of european ancestry. It would be extremely interesting to see whether or not similar results hold for a society as diverse as the US. The explanatory power of GWAS in socioeconomic areas is probably greater in Denmark or Finland than it is in the US.

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"On Monday, scientists published a study in Nature Genetics that analyzed the genes of 1.1 million people of European ancestry, including over 300,000 23andMe customers. Over 99 percent of our DNA is identical in all humans, but researchers focused on the remaining 1 percent and found thousands of DNA variants that are correlated with educational attainment. This information can be combined into a single number, called a polygenic score. In Americans with European ancestry, just over 10 percent of people with a low polygenic score completed college, compared with 55 percent of people with a high polygenic score. This genetic disparity in college completion is as big as the disparity between rich and poor students in America."

That's the lead in an essay in today's NYT. The author of the essay takes a different approach to the findings in the study: rather than focus on the lucky ones, she would focus on the unlucky ones: "The eventual development of a polygenic score that statistically predicts educational outcomes will allow researchers to control for genetic differences between people, so that the causal effects of the environment are thrown into sharper focus. Understanding which environments cause improvements in children’s ability to think and learn is necessary if we want to invest wisely in interventions that can truly make a difference." Thus, rather than objecting to genetic research, progressives should embrace genetic research. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/24/opinion/dna-nature-genetics-education.html

Next from progressives, a demand to focus coaching on the physically inept to “truly make a difference”.

Everyone should go to college, everyone should play college sports - regardless of ability.

Seems doable. We'll probably need to put some heavy weights on people who are born naturally strong, though. So that everyone has a fair outcome.

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Non cognitive skills might have the biggest impact on academic and financial success. High IQ individuals often fail to reach their potential. People with an IQ slightly above average, and strong non cognitive skills, will often have greater success.

It seems much easier to screw up a person with academic potential through a poor environment.

Schools often seem to try to teach non cognitive skills but perhaps there is a genetic basis for that also. Some people just lack, or fail to acquire, these skills. A potential area of research in this area may hold a key to academic success.

I am worried about all the people who do not fit into traditional education tracks. The anomalies who can make significant contributions to society, but don’t fit into our current system. Academic success is not the only path to a successful life. But lacking non cognitive skills does seem to be a greater barrier

It seems to me that the high IQ person ought to define "reaching one's potential" for herself. She might quickly realize that she can live an idyllic life by marrying well, working a few hours a week, raising wonderfully high-IQ children, and doing community service. She might figure out that spending her life solving the puzzles of the universe through octonions will leave her friendless and alone in her old age. Or she might find that all other considerations fade to insignificance in the face of solving octonions. Let her figure it out.

I doubt the world much cares either way. Plus why bother picking up non cognitive skills if you can just slide through life. It’s a choice. Just hope the husband doesn’t decide he wants a new more interesting partner and you discover you lack the skills to be independent. Good luck your choice

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Genes explain a lot more than 10% of the variance in educational attainment. It's just that we've now identified *specific genes* that explain the variance. And that number is likely to climb much higher.

A brain scan and a genetic test could eventually supplant standardize testing, though the science (and public opinion) would have to advance significantly.

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Isn't the trend to abolish standardized testing in favor of "holistic" factors?

I don't think anybody will even touch Pakistani cousin marriage, much less observing that schooling is useless for a third of people beyond age 14, and for another third after age 16.

@ant1900

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Maybe at the Ivies, but not Cal Tech (or Calcutta Tech).

And depending on how the litigation against Harvard goes, they could be a lot more Cal Tech in the future.

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10 percent meh. Plus what those genes are doing is not clear either.

Just appoint me kommissar of the schools and not only will I get rid of the obesity "epidemic" (the single dumbest epidemic of all time) but I will also max the academic abilities of your students.

Education is not difficult although there are a lot of incentives to make it appear that way.

The Chinese and Americans study mathematics very differently. One method works, and one doesn't. Students in America are still taught to multiply right to left instead of left to right. This is rank idiocy.

Hasn't AT pointed out how poor teaching methods in America are?

"Students in America are still taught to multiply right to left instead of left to right. "

This might be some poor communication. Because this shouldn't matter at all. Furthermore, I (an American) was taught to multiply from least significant digit to most significant digit. Which would actually be left to right. But again, it doesn't whether you start at the left or the right. It's how you prioritize the significant digits that matter.

And frankly, there's no reason you couldn't go from most significant to least significant. That's how most people actually do it if they aren't using a pencil and paper.

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I mentioned Byron Caplan's The Case Against Education to my 23-year-old daughter, who has been in school since age 5, and will complete her bachelor of science in business management during the coming year. She ordered it on the spot. There is hope for the millennials.

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Have you ever taught children not related to you? Especially children who are not already motivated to learn? Just curious.

It's not really about the methods with math, it's about motivating the children to pay attention and practice.

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The poor should be more motivated.

So the question is why and how do wealth effects exceed motivation?

I've made some money and I struggle with the idea of giving it to children while they are young and can enjoy it, but I do not want to kill there motivation and I want them to feel like they have accomplished something.

When our daughter wanted to spend some months travelling we offered to gift her £1 for every £2 she earned and saved towards the trip. That worked pretty well. It was most invigorating to see her doing three jobs: day job, evening job, weekend job.

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Does this paper (or similar papers) have good family background controls? Key to identifying the genetic effect would be seeing within family variation in educational outcomes. The concern being that genes may in part be having an effect in part by identifying membership in old established founder population families. Note that genes ~= family background, since you only have 50% overlap with your sibling in genes, but 100% in family background. Any papers out there that do this for within family genetic effects? (Sorry, just skimming...)

This seems like the key question to understand. How many of the variants are functional differences, and how many simply identify extended families (who may share some unseen functional variants)? Random links about this I had in another tab:

http://faculty.washington.edu/tathornt/SISG2015/lectures/assoc2015session06.pdf

http://www.ukbiobank.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/UKBiobank_genotyping_QC_documentation-web.pdf

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IQ is the new phrenology, that magic woo that becomes the "just-so" story explaining how the elites remain elite.

But don't bother asking why IQ never seems to explain actual real world events or outcomes, or why, if it is hereditary, we don't see a continuing Darwinian emergence of a super intelligent breed of human, or why the societies with the highest average IQ seem to be struggling in the race for power and dominance.
IQ is like those predictions by Nostradamus, which, with the proper amount of massaging, are eerily accurate in hindsight.

if it is hereditary, we don't see a continuing Darwinian emergence of a super intelligent breed of human

I think we do: farmers > hunter-gatherers. And so far, the people within the Hajnal lines are history's winners. Did the Anglo and Dutch colonists "assimilate" to native norms in Africa and Asia? Of course not, and unlike the Spanish and Portugese, they brought their wives with them.

IQ is very strongly correlated with positive life outcomes, at the individual and societal levels. But there's probably a sweet spot in the range for capacity to relate and empathize.

If the Anglo society has higher IQ then wouldn't worries about current immigration be unwarranted, since the inferior culture of the African immigrants would be overwhelmed by the superior one?

Certainly, Darwinian theory is that when inferior species are introduced alongside superior ones, they quickly die out.

Does natural selection take place, such that traits are “punished” or “rewarded”? And, quantity can overwhelm quality... so the fear is is of being culturally swamped?

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Chip, Darwinian theory is not about better in some moral sense. It simply says that living things that have relatively more descendants who survive and themselves have descendants will become more common in a population. Survive and reproduce, survive and reproduce.

Low IQ people in a rich country are not going to starve to death. Nor will their children. Governments will see to that. They will survive. Sex is free and fun. Birth control can be annoying. Kids are cute, at least when they're young. If you're not dedicating years to school or building a career, having babies is easy.

On the other hand, high IQ people probably are dedicating years to things other than pregnancy and child rearing. They are more willing to keep track of contraception. And by the time they want kids, they are probably thinking of quality over quantity--and may have no choice as fertility declines with age.

In a situation like this, biologists say that low IQ people are "fitter" because they leave more descendants who leave more descendants.

Hunter gatherers are not comparable to colonists. Assimilation is an immigrant characteristic and not a colonial characteristic.

If you think about IQ in the internet age, it is like most other traits, such as loyalty or strength. There are diminishing returns--as this blog post shows of marginal revolution. "Accidents" or "inventions" play a larger role.

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But isn't that the point, that not only do low IQ people reproduce more, they somehow are capable of establishing a cultural hegemon and overrunning the other cultures.
Or to put it another way, what benefit does IQ bring, either on an individual or societal level, if it is so fragile and incapable of withstanding competition?

I'm not sure. If Cleveland and Detroit have lower IQ scores than New York City, does that mean the people who worked repetitive manufacturing jobs overran a culture? IQ is a static test of intelligence not of prowess or know-how, just ask Hannah Gadsby, the part autistic, part ADHD, off the charts IQ show of America the third world.

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What benefit does IQ bring? It brings all the comforts that separate us from monkeys, the more IQ the more comforts.

It seems that high IQ is inversely correlated with the desire to reproduce. This may make high-IQ less "fit", but classic Darwinian fitness is not what normal humans care about. Few would look at a village inhabited by a small number of people living in ever-increasing comfort and then willingly replace it with the maximum possible number of barely-surviving agents. But if you in particular really just want more organisms, praise Moloch I guess.

And at risk of distracting from the main point, I think that high-IQ society has yet to show whether it is really fragile. Humans coordinate. This very discussion is part of the survival mechanism of high-IQ society. The Anglos may sponsor their faster-reproducing neighbors into powerlessness, or they may coordinate and suppress them before their high-IQ society breaks. The jury is still out.

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"IQ is the new phrenology, that magic woo that becomes the "just-so" story explaining how the elites remain elite."

The story is about genetics, not IQ. It's quite possible to have a high IQ but to be a poor student. Your genetics might lead to a very poor attention span that is a far greater liability than the IQ can compensate for.

Many of us know high IQ 'yours to lose' individuals whose neuroticism and egotism or parents misguided generosity, pushed them to descend the ladder of possible success. A fixated envy of others success can also hurt ones prospects.

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What we know from biology is that evolutionary success has never depended on any one factor like height, strength, intelligence, or manual dexterity.
Successful organizations, armies, or nations have relied upon a wide range of human aspects like social skills, spiritual and emotional resilience, group identity and so on.

Intelligence, like most other factors, has an optimum range beyond which it just doesn't deliver any further benefit because the world we face has always demanded more of us than merely the ability to solve abstracted problems.

because the world we face has always demanded more of us than merely the ability to solve abstracted problems.

Such as, what? You don't have to evolve dark skin and lean body mass for the African sun if you can invent air conditioning and wear clothing. Likewise, you don't have to be short and thickset and be able to live off whale blubber if you figure out how to drill for oil and sell it
in exchange for food.

Maybe there'll be a time in the future when success will again go to the greatest spear-thrower but I doubt it.

The modern version of the Creationists are people who think evolution only occurs from the chin down.

Apologies for not closing the tag.

so you think all men are created equal? And that some races tanned over time?

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"What policy lessons or practical advice do you draw from this study?

None whatsoever. Any practical response—individual or policy-level—to this or similar research would be extremely premature and unsupported by the science."

What a cop out. We already know, through decades of experience, that not everyone is going to finish college (most people won't) and that not everyone is going to have a white collar desk job (most people won't). This is further evidence that should solidify our expectations that most people in the future will not finish college and will not do white collar work. The obvious policy level response is that we need to create a country, culture, and economy that works well for people without college degrees, because it is overwhelmingly likely that most, or a very large minority of people, will not finish college.

Furthermore, even if most people did finish college, would that change the underlying structure of the economy? No, so we would still need policies, and a culture, that works well for people who aren't working in white collar jobs.

In other words don't just do something, stand there.

The low hanging fruit is the congenital and neo-natal problems. Vitamin and mineral vitamin additives are a huge and under-appreciated step. It would also help if we lowered barriers to affordable family formation so we get younger eggs and sperm.

Once that's picked, there are moral and practical strictures on what you can do. We can still strive for giving the broadest spectrum of intelligences a dignified life. But the tabula rasa, egalitarian nonsense has to go. It's actually counter-productive.

“But the tabula rasa, egalitarian nonsense has to go. It's actually counter-productive.”

In what way? My concerns are that blank slatism leads to progressive fanaticism, yes. But really my concern is that blank slatism isn’t true.

In the event you go back hunting for this comment:

Pounding square pegs into round holes is harmful. We should help people find their own level, not insist that everybody is college material and therefore if you don't make it, it must be some personal moral failing or, depending on your victim-status, racism or sexism.

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Poorer countries have turned out educated people and many of them attend U.S. universities. It will be interesting to see how the internet influences education. We will also find out how effective Common Core programs are.
I thought I read somewhere that smart people produce more autistic and Asperger's syndrome offspring. So much for eugenics.
All I know is that a little formal education produced minds such as Abe Lincoln. There must be a simpler way to teach children. After all, schools have been around for centuries.
As I tell my children. If you have the best teachers and do not apply yourself, you will not learn. If you have the worst teachers and a desire to learn, nothing will stop you. Find the spark, feed the fire, and anyone can be illuminated.

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