For Whom the Bell Curve Tolls: A Lineage of 400,000 English Individuals 1750-2020 shows Genetics Determines most Social Outcomes
Gregory Clark, University of California, Davis and LSE (March 1, 2021)
Economics, Sociology, and Anthropology are dominated by the belief that social outcomes depend mainly on parental investment and community socialization. Using a lineage of 402,000 English people 1750-2020 we test whether such mechanisms better predict outcomes than a simple additive genetics model. The genetics model predicts better in all cases except for the transmission of wealth. The high persistence of status over multiple generations, however, would require in a genetic mechanism strong genetic assortative in mating. This has been until recently believed impossible. There is however, also strong evidence consistent with just such sorting, all the way from 1837 to 2020. Thus the outcomes here are actually the product of an interesting genetics-culture combination.
Fisher, R. A. 1918. “The Correlation between Relatives on the Supposition of Mendelian Inheritance.” Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, 52: 399-433
(p.26) a recent study from the UK Biobank, which has a collection of genotypes of individuals together with measures of their social characteristics, supports the idea that there is strong genetic assortment in mating. Robinson et al. (2017) look at the phenotype and genotype correlations for a variety of traits – height, BMI, blood pressure, years of education - using data from the biobank. For most traits they find as expected that the genotype correlation between the parties is less than the phenotype correlation. But there is one notable exception. For years of education, the phenotype correlation across spouses is 0.41 (0.011 SE). However, the correlation across the same couples for the genetic predictor of educational attainment is significantly higher at 0.654 (0.014 SE) (Robinson et al., 2017, 4). Thus couples in marriage in recent years in England were sorting on the genotype as opposed to the phenotype when it comes to educational status.
It is not mysterious how this happens. The phenotype measure here is just the number of years of education. But when couples interact they will have a much more refined sense of what the intellectual abilities of their partner are: what is their general knowledge, ability to reason about the world, and general intellectual ability. Somehow in the process of matching modern couples in England are combining based on the weighted sum of a set of variations at several hundred locations on the genome, to the point where their correlation on this measure is 0.65.