Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Slightly Hilarious Stuff: Douthat on Abortion, Surnames and Inequality, And Finnish Words

Ross Douthat talks abortion with guys.  That's all I want to say about that piece.

A study argues that genetics determines inequality of income and wealth because of that surname (last name) correlation:
To a striking extent, your overall life chances can be predicted not just from your parents’ status but also from your great-great-great-grandparents’.

We came to these conclusions after examining reams of data on surnames, a surprisingly strong indicator of social status, in eight countries — Chile, China, England, India, Japan, South Korea, Sweden and the United States — going back centuries. Across all of them, rare or distinctive surnames associated with elite families many generations ago are still disproportionately represented among today’s elites.
The notion of genetic transmission of “social competence” — some mysterious mix of drive and ability — may unsettle us. But studies of adoption, in some ways the most dramatic of social interventions, support this view. A number of studies of adopted children in the United States and Nordic countries show convincingly that their life chances are more strongly predicted from their biological parents than their adoptive families. In America, for example, the I.Q. of adopted children correlates with their adoptive parents’ when they are young, but the correlation is close to zero by adulthood. There is a low correlation between the incomes and educational attainment of adopted children and those of their adoptive parents.

The problems I see with that study are at least threefold.  First, surnames don't necessarily correlate with genetics.  How they are determined depends on the country one looks at, and I don't think one can assume the genetics without demonstrating it.  Second, it's not only genetic transmission that one inherits.  One also inherits manor houses, castles, fields, old-boy networks, political power within old famous families and so on.  Third, it omits the female lines altogether, at least in countries where women didn't get to keep their surnames at marriage.

Finally, this explains why I write so long in English.