February 11, 2012


The greatest predictor of a child’s academic success, even more than economic class, is still their parents’ education level. But among adults, education and income are becoming more and more intertwined. College graduates couple off and use their resources to raise children who will also go on to succeed academically. When he ran the numbers, Reardon actually found that parental education couldn’t explain the entire growth the academic gap between classes. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a factor.

Even if we still have to tease out the reasons why, we appear to have reached a point where the children of the rich end up better educated, and more likely to succeed, simply because they’re children of the rich.

The buried assumption here, however, is that this could be changed with money. But it’s just as likely that the higher incomes are the result of a better genetic endowment — higher intelligence, more self-discipline, ability to defer gratification, etc. — that is likely to be passed on to kids. This seems particularly likely in light of Bryan Caplan’s conclusion that parental “investment” doesn’t make as big a difference as people think.

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