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Rather than say that IQ is "half genetic" it would be more correct to say that IQ is subject to a genetic cap. IQ can be lowered by poor prenatal conditions or poor childhood nutrition, and other environmental causes. But given good prenatal conditions and good childhood nutrition, a person's adult IQ is highly correlated with his parents' IQ, statistically.

It is unfortunate that one never hears of politicians calling for more help for poor high-IQ children. It is probably due to society's general dislike for the notion of high-IQ people.


Also worth noting that IQ (or some more subtle measure of true intelligence) might have a large genetic component but still not be highly correlated with your parents IQ. For a really complex trait like intelligence, it's likely due to the interplay of so many alleles that it's not going to come out in a nice Punnett square. All the more reason to support the suggestion in your last paragraph for not allowing high-IQ lottery tickets to slip through the cracks of society -- regardless of parental IQ or social status.


Jason is right, correlations are on a group level, individual outcomes vary greatly.


There's another reason little effort is made to identify high-IQ children in poor families. Doing so would implicitly acknowledge that (1) not all brains are created equal, and (2) that the distribution of high IQs may vary among income groups and other demographic categories. Our egalitarian public education establishment doesn't want to go there. It's much easier to shoehorn everyone into a "college prep" curriculum and then ignore the high-IQ students in a low-income school who can't reach their potential because most of their classmates are being force-fed subject matter for which they have no interest or aptitude. (An interesting contrast is the effort devoted to identifying and developing promising athletes, particularly in "revenue" sports.) A modest proposal: No politician should be allowed to legislate about education before spending at least five years as a classroom teacher in a variety of public schools.

Terry Bennett

I agree with both Judge Posner and Observer that it is unlikely the U.S. government will make any serious effort to mine high-IQ candidates from the lower strata (anemic public school "gifted and talented" programs notwithstanding). However, this would be an excellent use of private wealth. Many a scholarship is slated for a "deserving" student from a means-tested background; it would be easy enough, if the political will of the donor were sufficiently fervent, to use IQ as the determinant and not merely assume that any lack of IQ is a self-fulfilling result of the economic disadvantage itself.

What you have equals what you are given plus what you work for. The top performers in any endeavor are those with an alignment of talent and passion. The arts are legendary for the struggles of practitioners filled with desire to create and yet devoid of talent; these people must work themselves to the bone just to attain mediocrity - and they do. Others find that it comes easy to them, but they are bored. Those with neither the talent nor the passion end up in some other field, as they should, and those with both talent and passion are ne plus ultra. The good news is that any talent at all, combined with hard work, can usually produce passable results. In other words, 25% talent and 75% work is quite likely to out-achieve 75% talent and 25% work. This is as it should be, because a meritocracy should reward the total, not merely the gift. Speaking as one copiously gifted and incorrigibly lazy individual, I assert that work is at least as laudable as talent.

Horacio C

Ideally, in order to maximize productivity, one would like the government to identify the high-IQ children in poor or lower middle class families and provide them with education and education-related services equivalent to those that wealthy families bestow on their usually high-IQ children. The need is acute in the United States because of our relatively quite low level of intergenerational mobility. Not much effort is being made to meet this need.

What's your justification for these assertions?

You need to show that providing additional educational resources to high-IQ children of lower class families will produce social utility in excess of the cost of those resources.

I'm not convinced that the marginal value of educational programs for poor children is greater than 1. There are plentiful resources for poor children with the drive and ability to excel. If we want to save more kids than we're saving right now, we need to fix the families of poor children. That's a different problem altogether.

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