Samuel Bowles, Herbert Gintis

Paper #: 01-01-005

The perpetuation of a family's position in the distribution of income from parents to children reflects the genetic and cultural transmission of individual traits, as well as the inheritance of group memberships and income-earning assets. We show that the extent of intergenerational economic status transmission is considerably greater than was thought to be the case a generation ago, the genetic inheritance of traits contributing to the cognitive skills measured on IQ and related tests explains very little of the intergenerational transmission of economic status, even if the heritability of IQ is quite high, and the combined genetic and cultural inheritance processes operating through superior wealth, cognitive levels, and educational attainments of those with well-off parents, while important, do not fully explain the intergenerational transmission of economic status. We identify some overlooked individual traits that enhance economic success that are transmitted across generations.