Statistician Sean McElwee Response to a NY Times Article on
School Districts Test-Scores, Income, IQ and Heritable

editor's comments in red


"Intelligence is Highly Heritable

We know from a large number of studies that general cognitive ability (sometimes referred to as GCA, CA, g, or intelligence) is heritable, which means that this phenotype (measured intelligence) varies within the population and that genetic factors explain a significant fraction of it.  You might think of heritability as a rigorous measure of the average marginal contribution of genetic factors to observed phenotype variance in a population.  It can vary some across time, populations, within populations, and so on, but it tends to be roughly consistent, especially in broadly comparable environments (i.e., environments with adequate food, nutrition, access information, etc).

Most estimates find that intelligence heritability increases linearly with age and that it is around 0.7 to 0.8 by young adulthood (which, fyi, is just a bit smaller than heritability estimates for adult height)."

About 64% of Intelligence can be accounted for by heritance. The remainder is shared and no shared environments explored below;



Measured Intelligence is a Strong Predictor of Achievement Test Scores



Observed Mobility Differences Between Groups are Consistent with Observed Academic Measurements

"Observed mobility differences between groups are consistent with observed differences in cognitive, academic achievement, GPA, and other measures.  Contrary to the belief of many that there is something unique to the low-income minority neighborhoods that produces a particular lack of mobility  (e.g., bad schools, concentrated poverty, etc) we find (1) general consistency across the entire SES spectrum and (2) that these gaps are quite consistent with observed differences in ability (especially in ordinal terms)."

Spending does about the same small change for any group regardless of family ability.


Great Britain's

 General Certificate of Secondary Education
Achievement Tests For Also Highly Heritable

"Although there is less data on the heritability of academic achievement, that which we do have is quite good and leads to very similar conclusions."

"Take this study on  the heritability of educational achievement in the UK.   It finds that the GCSE is approximately 62% heritable.  They also helpfully decomposes several other phenotypes and related factors that help predict achievement."

Shared envirnment accounts for about less than 30% with non shared envirnment making up the difference, In the US, SAT Coaching Found to Boost Scores -- Barely


Excerpts from Sean McElwe's 
important extensive conclusions

Leaders Educational Advise
on Related Topics

  "Some people will simply never be able to perform at a sufficiently high level to benefit from a rigorous education or get a job commensurate with their (nominal) education level.  There are also opportunity costs." Charles Murray in his 1994 book Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life. reinforced a meritocratic system with "HALF OF THE CHILDREN ARE BELOW AVERAGE, TOO MANY PEOPLE ARE GOING TO COLLEGE, AMERICA'S FUTURE DEPENDS ON HOW WE EDUCATE THE ACADEMICALLY GIFTED, ABILITIES VARY." Source
  "Changing behaviors can also have ripple effects.  For instance, if the low SES put significantly more effort into their school work (ignoring, for a moment, that their ROI is probably less), itís quite likely that some of this will eventually be offset by higher efforts still amongst the higher SES in the bid for admissions to competitive universities and the like."

 " The core problem is that there aren't enough jobs. If you help some people, you could help them get the jobs, but then someone else won't get the jobs. " Lawrence Summers, The Future of Work (2015) from Educational Observations Throughout History

  "Focusing on gaps between groups tends to be counter-productive.  We have more important, more tractable problems to worry about and yet we dedicate incredible resources to closing gaps and generally contort our education system with very little to show for it."  "All it (learning) requires is to make learners achieve. All it requires is to focus on the strengths and talents of learners so that they excel in whatever it is they do well."  But schools do not do it. They focus instead on a learner's weaknesses." The New Realities pages 236 and 237. Peter thinks that student who do poorly with math should not be let anywhere near algebra. T
  "...for every one of those (people with marginal ability who succeed) there are significantly more people that lose because they are not capable of attaining basic competency with the material, graduating, and (especially) obtaining work commensurate with the education."

Americas Lost Boys Why ARE Young Men Fail to  Grow-up "Psychologists blame the trend on a range of factors, from boys becoming disillusioned at high school to the rise and rise of video games and the internet." Mr Adler said the best thing parents can do is encourage their children to  set themselves small, achievable aims.

Walter Antoniotti editor

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