Bad metrics for Social Mobility

I see a lot of articles on social mobility. Most look something like this. They compare the proportion of low background children to high background children who do well in life and conclude that society is unfair and biased. This is wrong.

The logic seems to be that if there is an inequality of outcome between two groups, that means unfairness/discrimination. There’s no evidence given that that this is the case. It is possible that there are differences between groups which lead to differential outcomes, even in perfectly fair systems. A few such possible differences:

  • IQ. IQ is highly heritable. People in professional/high-class jobs tend to have higher IQ’s. Hence their children are likely to be smarter and hence do better even if society is completely fair.
  • Culture, specifically norms around education. Culture is highly heritable. Good norms around education, knowledge and work are heritable. If high class families have better norms then high class children are likely to have similar better norms leading to better life outcomes.
  • Family. Broken families lead to worse outcomes for children. Higher class families are less likely to be broken.

The more I read popular media, the more disappointed I am.

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