Monday, February 24, 2014

Economic History in the News

Gregory Clark of UC Davis describes the results of his recent research in the Sunday New York Times. He uses a large amount of evidence on family names and economic status o show that reversion to the mean takes place, but it takes a long time. I thought his story seemed pretty persuasive. On the other hand, at the end he concludes that adoption studies, "along with studies of correlations across various types of siblings (identical twins, fraternal twins, half siblings) suggest that genetics is the main carrier of social status." I don't find this conclusion nearly as persuasive. The problem with adoption studies is that adoptable children are not selected at random from the population, making it difficult to say how for results can be generalized. I would like to see more direct evidence that people do not treat people with high status names differently.

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