Doubling down


Jason Collins


May 13, 2014

First, from Andrew Leigh, discussing Gregory Clark’s work showing that low social mobility persists across countries and policy environments:

How do we break the pattern? Part of the answer must lie in a fair tax system, a targeted social welfare system, effective early childhood programs, and getting great teachers in front of disadvantaged classrooms. We need banks willing to take a chance on funding an outsider, and it doesn’t hurt to maintain a healthy Aussie scepticism about inherited privilege.

As an aside, it appears Leigh (with Mike Pottenger) is finding the same low mobility in Australia as Clark has found elsewhere.

In contrast, from Arnold Kling:

For libertarians, the implications of Clark’s finding of strong heritability of social status are ambiguous. On the one hand, his findings argue against extensive efforts at social engineering that try to achieve parity across groups. … Attempts to engineer different outcomes tend to produce perverse results. …

On the other hand, his findings argue against the need to create strong incentives to succeed. If some people are genetically oriented toward success, then they do not need lower tax rates to spur them on. Such people would be expected to succeed regardless. The ideal society implicit in Clark’s view is one in which the role of government is to ameliorate, rather than attempt to fix, the unequal distribution of incomes.

Kling’s approach to Clark’s argument seems preferable to doubling down on measures that don’t appear to increase social mobility. That is, of course, if increased social mobility is what we should be chasing.