The Intergenerational Transmission of "Intelligence" : Down the Slippery Slope of the Bell Curve

by Janet Currie, Duncan Thomas


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Herrnstein and Murray report that conditional on maternal "intelligence" (AFQT scores), child test scores are little affected by variations in socioeconomic status. Using the same data, the authors demonstrate that their finding is very fragile. The authors explore the effect of adopting a more representative sample of children, including blacks and Latinos, allowing nonlinearities in the relationships, and incorporating richer measures of socioeconomic status. Making any one of these changes overturns their findings: Socioeconomic status and child test scores are positively and significantly related. Evidence is presented suggesting AFQT scores are likely better markers for family background than "intelligence."

Originally published in: Industrial Relations, v. 38, no. 3, July 1999, pp. 297-330.

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