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Heredity, Family, and Inequality

Heredity, Family, and Inequality: A Critique of Social Sciences

Michael Beenstock
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 482
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  • Book Info
    Heredity, Family, and Inequality
    Book Description:

    Empirical literature in disciplines ranging from behavioral genetics to economics shows that in virtually every aspect of life the outcomes of children are correlated to a greater or lesser extent with the outcomes of their parents and their siblings. In Heredity, Family, and Inequality, the economist Michael Beenstock offers theoretical, statistical, and methodological tools for understanding these correlations. Beenstock presents a comprehensive survey of intergenerational and sibling correlations for a broad range of outcomes--including fertility and longevity, intelligence and education, income and consumption, and deviancy and religiosity. He then offers a critique of the sometimes conflicting explanations for these correlations proposed by social scientists from such disciplines as developmental psychology, sociology, and economics. Beenstock also provides an axiomatic framework for thinking about the complex interplay of heredity, family, and environments, drawing on game theory, control theory, and econometrics. Chapters 1-7 discuss such topics as the important contributions of Francis Galton (1822--1911) to the statistical study of heredity, the family as an engine of inequality and diversity, and natural experiments designed to identify how environments, families, peer groups, and neighborhoods affect human outcomes. Chapters 8-10 present technical material on statistical, theoretical, and methodological tools used by the earlier chapters.Beenstock's goal is not to argue for either nature or nurture but to suggest more rigorous ways to assess the diverse contributions to this lively debate.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-30138-1
    Subjects: Economics, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Michael Beenstock
  4. 1 The Apple and the Tree: Galton Revisited
    (pp. 1-46)

    This book is about the roles of heredity, family, and social environment in the determination of outcomes among humans, including anthropometric, psychological, behavioral, and economic outcomes. Family here encompasses parenting and interactions between siblings; social environment encompasses cultural affiliation, peer groups, and other aspects of social intercourse that are outside the family. The specific outcomes, including health, longevity, fertility, personality, income, education, cognitive ability, and indeed almost the entire spectrum of human life, vary considerably. Chapter 2 reviews the extensive empirical literature, which shows that in virtually every aspect of life the outcomes of children are correlated with their parentsʹ...

  5. 2 Correlation within the Family
    (pp. 47-82)

    There are two main types of correlation within the family: the intergenerational correlation between parents and children and the intragenerational correlation between siblings. These correlations are obviously related, because siblings have common parents, common genes, and common environments. The relationship between the intergenerational and intragenerational correlation coefficient is discussed in detail in chapter 3. Here, note that if sibling outcomes are correlated only because siblings happen to have common parents, the sibling correlation should be equal to the square of the intergenerational correlation coefficient. Since, as we shall see, sibling correlations tend to be larger than the square of the...

  6. 3 Theory: What Explains the Intergenerational and Sibling Correlations?
    (pp. 83-142)

    This chapter critically reviews various theories that purport to explain intergenerational and sibling correlations. These theories have been developed in a variety of disciplines, including behavioral genetics, psychology, sociology, and economics. In short, most of the social sciences have been involved in one way or another in attempting to explain these correlations. Behavioral genetics is a completely dedicated discipline, exclusively concerned with explaining these correlations. The other disciplines have much broader agendas, covering a vast range of other issues. Indeed, in psychology, sociology, and economics these correlations are of significant although not of central interest. As was pointed out in...

  7. 4 Inequality, Diversity, and Family
    (pp. 143-176)

    Families induce inequality and diversity. Imagine a world in which humans are created spontaneously without parents. If you like, children are formed at Godʹs whim, perhaps to replace people who have died. So children have no biological parents. Suppose also that children have no caregivers and they raise themselves. The concept of the family doesnʹt exist. The genes of each child are determined by a random draw from the gene pool. Since these children will never become parents, they cannot pass on their genes to the next generation. In this bleak world, we should find that inequality and diversity do...

  8. 5 Empirical Methodology
    (pp. 177-222)

    Empirical hypothesis testing is conducted using two main types of data: experimental and observational. The former are generated under laboratory conditions by empirical investigators; the latter are generated spontaneously by nature or human behavior. Examples of observational data include planetary movements, meteorological data, economic data such as gross domestic product, demographic data such as fertility and population, and sociobiological data such as the behavior of animals and insects. In theory, empirical investigators using experimental data have complete control over their data because they are actively involved in constructing the data. In contrast, empirical investigators using observational data have no control...

  9. 6 Empirical Knowledge on the Causes of Correlations within the Family
    (pp. 223-274)

    In this chapter, I take stock of what we know and what we donʹt know about the causal mechanisms that underpin the correlation between the outcomes of parents and children and that induce correlation between the outcomes of siblings. There are potentially three types of mechanism that induce these correlations. The first is genetic: the outcomes of children and parents are correlated because of heredity. The second is behavioral: the behavior of parents induces intergenerational dependence. The third is behavioral too: parents and children may share environments. It should be abundantly clear by now that correlation doesnʹt tell us anything...

  10. 7 Where Do We Go from Here?
    (pp. 275-300)

    In chapter 6 I tried to take stock of what we have learned and what we have not learned about the effects of heredity, family, and neighborhoods on social and economic outcomes. Unfortunately, the balance is not impressive. Much of the empirical literature in developmental psychology and behavioral genetics is methodologically weak and tendentious. Indeed, this has been a constant theme of the book. It is often argued that if a similar result is obtained from a large number of studies, there must be a germ of truth in the result. This might be persuasive if the studies are based...

  11. 8 Statistics
    (pp. 301-340)

    A simple stochastic, or statistical, model is proposed for analyzing the relationship between the genetic endowments (genotypes) of parents and their children. The model is stochastic because genetic endowments are inherently probabilistic. At first the model is presented for the case of parents with a single child, i.e., there are no siblings. It is also assumed for simplicity that parents do not mate assortatively. Subsequently, the basic model is extended in a number of directions. First, the genetic endowments of grandparents are taken into account. Second, parents have more than one child, in which case account is taken of the...

  12. 9 Parenting Theory and Child Behavior
    (pp. 341-376)

    In chapter 1, I recalled the controversy over Wilsonʹs suggestion that the sociobiology of animals might be applicable to humans. Sociobiologists axiomatized the theory of animal behavior by assuming that animals seek to maximize survival. The suggestion that human behavior and sex roles may be understood in terms of survivalism was received with derision and contempt. Wilson was accused of reductionism, sexism, and even racism. Though Wilsonʹs suggestion attracted a great deal of criticism, economists entered the fray with virtual impunity. At approximately the same time that sociobiologists were developing their radical theories of animal behavior, Gary Becker and H....

  13. 10 Empirical Methodology
    (pp. 377-434)

    Data on outcomes for parents and children may contain measurement errors. For example, if the outcome happens to be schooling, the recorded data on years of schooling may not be accurate. Or the heights of parents and children may be over-recorded or under-recorded. As we shall see, misrecording of data on parents has much more serious statistical consequences than misrecording of data on children. Indeed, measurement error in outcomes for parents induces ʺattenuation biasʺ in both β and the intergenerational correlation coefficient. This creates the statistical illusion that β and the intergenerational correlation are smaller than they really are. In...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 435-448)
  15. Terms and Concepts
    (pp. 449-452)
  16. Variables, Subscripts, and Greek Letters
    (pp. 453-454)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 455-470)
  18. Index
    (pp. 471-474)