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Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Son Also Rises: Part 4

This post is a continuation from HERE.

By now, I have reached the end of the book. It turns out that the author makes a convincing case for genetics being by far the larger determinant of socio-economic status. This is not surprising because at least 3 out of the 4 Elements of Ethos (mentioned in Part 4) can only be activated if there is sufficient IQ in the family. IQ is mostly genetically determined (though a good education can increase IQ to some extent).

The correlation between family socio-economic status hundreds of years ago and today is a whopping 0.9 in some countries and 0.8 in others. Gregory Clark believes that it is determined by your genes.

When Singapore was a new country of immigrants, people who arrived on our shores all had nothing, no matter what their socio-economic status back in the countries they had fled. As such, you had the rags to riches stories. In America, there are also many rags to riches stories. These can be explained by the new immigrants (such as Andrew Grove) finding their own true level in American society.

Gregory Clark believes that there is little you can do about social mobility. If a society is stable and at peace, people will settle into their various levels as determined by their ancestry (like a mixture of oil, vinegar and sand).

I don't like to believe this and I have learnt that research can be quite tentative in its conclusions. After all, we grew up believing that eating fat and salt was bad for health but it turns out that the real culprit is carbs. In fact, fat satiates and prevents us from over eating carbs. If you take less than 3g of salt a day, you actually increase your chances of a heart attack.

So, I shall refuse to believe it.

Nonetheless, IF Gregory Clark is right, then how should we approach social engineering?

Assortative Mating
People tend to marry those who have equal socio-economic status. However, in a society like Singapore's, this does not always happen. People marry up or marry down. Given that Mothers are the main caregivers of children, it makes sense for low status males to marry up in order to give their progeny the best chance to reach a high status in life. The child who inherits both the Mother's IQ and benefits from the Mother's ethos conditioning will go up in the world. I think that this often happens with foreign brides. Singaporean men who cannot find Singaporean girls resort to foreign brides. These girls may not be the elite in their own country, but they would be of relatively higher status in their own country than these Singaporean men are here. Their kids will do well in school and life.

A young lady did in-depth interviews with 6 mother-child pairs whose families earned less than $950 but whose children score at the top of their cohorts. I wonder if all 6 mothers foreign brides. I do know that a couple are. It is telling however, that in the entire database of the ST Pocket Money Fund, there were only these 6 children who scored at the top in school... and there are foreign-born mothers therein, even though foreign brides are NOT a large proportion of our poorer population.

Reduce Social Inequality
You cannot do anything about how people settle into layers relative to each other. Gregory Clark actually thinks that the millions poured into levelling the playing field for school going kids from disadvantaged homes is somewhat futile in the long run. Even worse, is the policy of giving them monetary handouts. These kids settle back into their own layer of society no matter the money and resources that went into helping them.

Instead, it is better to reduce social inequality so that the gap between levels is small enough such that the differences between the highest level and the lowest does not engender envy.

Oh well... for what it is worth, I am done with this series of musings. Read but believe nothing. There is no rigour in this and it is written for fun as a sort of exteriorised interior monologue.


Anonymous said...


Its difficult I think, for a man to marry up. Girls these days are smarter so that is quite unlikely to happen.

Petunia Lee said...

Ya lohhhhh

Ivana said...

Very interesting Dr Pet! A bit depressing if you believe it though. So I will refuse to believe it too. :)

Petunia Lee said...

I don't believe it and I think I am right.

Anonymous said...

I've enjoyed all 4 parts of your musings. Thanks for sharing!

Petunia Lee said...

Ya... haha! Silly musings!