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The Son Also Rises: Surnames and the History of Social Mobility
 
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The Son Also Rises: Surnames and the History of Social Mobility [Format Kindle]

Gregory Clark
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How much of our fate is tied to the status of our parents and grandparents? How much does this influence our children? More than we wish to believe. While it has been argued that rigid class structures have eroded in favor of greater social equality, The Son Also Rises proves that movement on the social ladder has changed little over eight centuries. Using a novel technique—tracking family names over generations to measure social mobility across countries and periods—renowned economic historian Gregory Clark reveals that mobility rates are lower than conventionally estimated, do not vary across societies, and are resistant to social policies. The good news is that these patterns are driven by strong inheritance of abilities and lineage does not beget unwarranted advantage. The bad news is that much of our fate is predictable from lineage. Clark argues that since a greater part of our place in the world is predetermined, we must avoid creating winner-take-all societies.

Clark examines and compares surnames in such diverse cases as modern Sweden, fourteenth-century England, and Qing Dynasty China. He demonstrates how fate is determined by ancestry and that almost all societies—as different as the modern United States, Communist China, and modern Japan—have similarly low social mobility rates. These figures are impervious to institutions, and it takes hundreds of years for descendants to shake off the advantages and disadvantages of their ancestors. For these reasons, Clark contends that societies should act to limit the disparities in rewards between those of high and low social rank.

Challenging popular assumptions about mobility and revealing the deeply entrenched force of inherited advantage, The Son Also Rises is sure to prompt intense debate for years to come.


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5.0 étoiles sur 5 A brilliant essay on a disturbing subject 14 mai 2014
Format:Format Kindle|Achat vérifié
Most books have to choose between demonstrating an argument and having a point. Authors tend to get either so much in love with their idea that they think it useless to even defend it or so absorbed by their demonstration that they forget to make their idea explicite.

It is not the case here. Greg Clark has written a brilliant essay, he presents a fantastically appealing interpretation of the world we live in and he defends it with immense talent. One of the best books of our times, no doubts, after that Piketty will feel like a tedious accountant.

His point is simple: people inherit much more than they make their own. And nothing appears to change that, no policy, no external event, no major period of growth. Stubbornly rich families stay rich and the poor stay poor.

To demonstrate his point Clark uses the prevalence of family names in the different classes of society. Simple, elegant and (relatively) easy to replicate, the mark of a truly great mind.

So many myths fall crumbling in this book that the world truly is divided between those that have read it and those that did not. No, our modern societies are not more meritocratic than 14th-century England, no, you are not more likely to become part of the elite in social-democrat Sweden than in liberal America, no, there are not such huge differences between Western and Oriental civilizations and yes there are bits of our societies that are best explained by genetic inheritance.

Buy it, read it and spread it around you. This book is made of pure intelligence.
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Hundreds of papers and books have been written, in which the authors are trying to prove by data on social mobility that human society is on the march to greater social equality. Most of these authors are not aware that their results are a function of their scaling of inequality. In order to measure social mobility you have to scale wealth, overall income, years of education, taxable income, social status or other appropriate variables none of which remained constant in the course of history. Because of random effects and imperfect scaling all these studies tend to overestimate intergenerational mobility. Already some researchers, who tried to scale recent and historical professions, jobs and social status according to underlying general intelligence to be successful, concluded that movements on the social ladder had changed little over the past centuries. This was substantiated by two books using samples of representative genealogical data covering several generations: La societe francaise au XIXe siecle: Tradition, transition, transformations (French Edition) and: Bevoelkerung Und Soziale Mobilitaet in Sachsen 1550-1880 (German Edition).

To measure social mobility in quite different countries and across centuries, Clark invented a novel technique: Tracking the frequency of surnames. Needed for such an approach are always data on the frequency of surnames in the general population and in the selected sample in the past and in the present. In a number of countries Clark and his coworkers were able to overcome these difficulties and to find or generate the databases necessary.
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Amazon.com: 4.2 étoiles sur 5  17 commentaires
46 internautes sur 48 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Fascinating, but the results need to be interpreted with caution 6 mars 2014
Par B. Foley - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Format Kindle|Achat vérifié
[major edit: I spent a couple days working through the math, and checking it with my own simulations, and have convinced myself that my earlier mathematical reservations were completely wrong. I've changed the review to reflect that]

The "Son Also Rises" was a fascinating read that seems likely to provoke controversy, but also to advance evidence-based discussions of equality and social mobility. Clark makes two major (somewhat separable) arguments in "Rises". First, that social mobility is much lower, and consistent across societies than anyone would have predicted. Second, that this low-mobility is biologically (in fact genetically) based. The first argument is better supported than the second. Clark's strong genetic conclusions seem rely on unassailable modelling (I tried) but some shakier genetic conclusions. They can't be dismissed entirely, however. Clark's evidence and reasoning is strong enough that the burden of proof is squarely on those who disagree with him. The implications the modern reader is left to draw are unsettling.

Clark's conclusions about the facts of mobility are astonishing. Typically, studies of mobility showed that intergenerational correlations (parent-offspring, typically father-son) in wealth are on the order of 0.4. This suggests ancestor-descendant correlations in wealth should be unobservable after about 4 generations. Across many cultures and times, and many different measures of status, Clark notes that identifiable elite or low-status groups regress to the mean at a rate between 0.75-0.85. This means that in fact differences in status persist for more than 10 generations.

Technically, Clark here models status as a single order Markov process, with three major components: time, [measurement] error, an underlying [latent] "social inertia" (my name) term. By this he emphasises we can model inheritance of social status from one's parents in exactly the same way we do height or eye color based on genetics. He notes that if we do so, we don't need to invoke any more complicated processes to explain the observed data (such as the status of extended family).

It turns out he's completely right about the models. I checked. If you model the inheritance process without the underlying latent term, you fail to match the data he's presented. If you model the process in the same way you would model additive genetic inheritance you get exactly the right answer. (I did this assuming a heritability of 0.4, parental-midpoint genotypes for the kids, renormalised mean and SD every generation, and a modelled range of assortative mating based on phenotype. I took beta and b vales from a number of the examples presented in the book.)

But here is where we begin to need to exercise caution. As a colleague is fond of quoting, "All models are wrong, but some are useful." We shouldn't let the simplicity of the model force us into a hasty overinterpretation of the underlying mechanisms. Clark jumps to a much less-cautious genetic interpretation of his results than almost any behavioural geneticist would (or at least should). Inheritance can be both genetic and epigenetic. Epigenetic is just a term that describes inheritance by any means but DNA (this isn't a magical thing: think language or religion). For instance, some primates and hyaenas inherit rank from their mothers. Fetal nutrition, maternal stress, early-life stress, and even languages and dialects, have effects on status and all have effects that are known to be transmitted across generations. Famously, maternal grooming in rats has profound (non-genetic) transgenerational effects on a range of personality measurements. It is extremely difficult to separate epigenetic and genetic effects when studying heritability.

Clark claims that because he can model inheritance of status as a first order Markov process, it actually is a first order Markov process based on transmitted characteristics inherent in the parents. Therefore, he claims, status is a deterministic product of a genetic "social competence" (his term). This is a strong claim. To his credit he discusses possible objections (such as inheritance of social networks). He also tries to quantify the non-genetic component of status in the best way possible, by examining adoption studies. Two studies, one on Korean adoptees in America, and another on adopted vs biological offspring in Sweden, seem to show a genetic heritabilty of income or education (here proxies for status) many times higher than conferred familial status.

The magnitude of these results is certainly far too high, as any number of factors (such as differences in the way parents and society treat adopted and biological children---see Hannah Williams) will bias these numbers. But at the very least we can find no reason to reject Clark's model, and I was persuaded that there is likely to be a higher effect of genetics on status metrics than I would ever have previously expected. Clearly more, and better, studies need to be conducted in this area.

At this point, any reasonable modern reader will be squirming. Raised under the spectre of the effects of early eugenics, racial determinism, and Manifest Destiny, we are rightly disturbed by attempts to reify social differences with biology. I'm reminded of the unproductive furor around "Sociobiology" and "The Bell Curve" (and Gould's error-filled attempt to rebut "The Bell Curve"). Clark spends much time demonstrating that there are no simplistic racial superiority claims to be taken from his data. His biologizing of hereditary class is inescapable, however. He tries to sugarcoat these interpretations with bland liberal prescriptions and platitudes, but they still rankle.

There have been notable failures in trying to increase social mobility (like Head Start in the US). But other recent studies have shown that good urban planning (access to public transport, and jobs, and good schools) can dramatically increase social mobility. Even if there is a genetic component to social status, Clark has almost certainly exaggerated it. Genetics certainly doesn't preclude other measures to increase social mobility. Then too, as Clark notes, inequality and mobility are different things, and we shouldn't confuse them.

In the end, "The Son Also Rises" was a thought provoking book, and one I'll read carefully again. I'd recommend it, as long as the reader doesn't accept any of the major conclusions without consideration.
23 internautes sur 26 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Intriguing ideas but I'm uncertain about its conclusions 7 mars 2014
Par Grue - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
In this book, Clark makes conclusions about the nature and mobility of social mobility and status by examining surname research, and, to a lesser extent, twin studies.

Surname research seems to be Clark's specialty and most of the book is devoted to it. Basically Clark picks rare family names (like Pepys) and combs through historical databases (such as lists of Oxford graduates, members of Parliament, or wills proved in court) looking for that surname. Because these records can stretch back hundreds of years, he is able to get a sense of the rise and fall of different families. He assumes, for instance, that a group family that has more Oxford graduates (or more licensed physicians per person, etc.) than average has above-average social status.

The surname research, pulled together from a number of different countries (US, Britain, China, Korea, Japan, India) all seems to suggest that families rise and fall at a slower rate than what other sociologists were assuming. He thinks the correlation between generations is generally around 0.75, meaning that it'll take about 10 generations for the effect of a family's current status to almost totally dissipate, instead of the 4 generations other researchers assume. According to Clark, the basic limitation of other research is that it failed to account for the fact that, conditionalizing on the income of the parents, the income of the grandparents and other relatives is still predictive of children's income.

The surname part of the book is pretty exhaustive, and in my opinion got a bit boring in parts. However I was glad he presented so much evidence for the people who want to delve deeper. The other part of the book cited twin studies and argued that the best explanation of this high correlation is genetic. Although adoptive parents do have a small effect on their children, children tend to become much more similar to their biological parents. Given the above according to Clark, if you want successful kids, all you need to do is closely scrutinize your spouse's family and make sure she has a distinguished pedigree! After that you can just coast, because your parenting style won't have a significant long-term effect.

Clark also thinks (and cites research to support) that this effect isn't because of discrimination. He thinks societies are pretty meritocratic in the long run. Although this line of thought could lead some to eugenics, the author is pretty liberal about the ramifications. For instance, Clark thinks this implies we should have a bigger safety net in society, because it's useless to punish people for the limitations of their genes.

Although this may be the big controversial opinion of the book, there are other intriguing ideas in it also. For instance, the author looks at the social fortunes of blacks (descendants of slaves) in the United States and finds they fit his overall equation. Thus we don't need discrimination to explain why they make less than average today---they are just genetically inferior. Clark stops a bit shy of putting it this way, but I believe that is his exact conclusion. He doesn't appear to be racist however; he thinks that African blacks in the US (presumably including Obama) are actually an elite subgroup in the US, presumably again because of their superior genes. Most US blacks would be inferior, according to Clark's theory, because they were a low-status group selected out of the general African population to be shipped to the US.

Compare blacks to a white group of Americans who have French surnames (e.g. Gagnon) and immigrated from Canada. This group is also genetically inferior, and has also made less than the US average for 100 years. In some sense they form the same kind of disadvantaged US ethnic group as blacks, but they were hitherto unnoticed because they don't have a distinctive skin color.

To summarize, the author using surname and twin research concludes that 1) genetics is the main driver of social status, 2) societies are meritocratic, and 3) the genes for over- or under-performance are straightforwardly passed down in families. Personally, his conclusions make me feel very uneasy, and are probably overstated, but his evidence cannot be dismissed. I look forward to reading what other experts on surname and twin studies think about this book.
12 internautes sur 12 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Witty Title with Great Primary Research 5 avril 2014
Par Stanley - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
Seven other reviews have preceded mine so I won't attempt to till plowed ground. Interestingly enough Clark begins his book by absolving the graduate students and paid research assistant who helped him in his research. Why do that? Here is the summary from book's end, "Most likely. . .the majority of status is actually genetically determined. You hit the jackpot in the great genetic casino or you go bust." In other words, the book is politically incorrect.

Some folks are familiar with Thomas Mann's Buddenbrooks, the novels that follow a family from shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations. Clark pretty much destroys this idea by following families with unique names in several distinct cultures, including communist China, Chile, England, Japan, and the United States. His null hypothesis is that over time families will regress to the mean in terms of status as measured by occupation and wealth. While his research shows a slight movement to the mean as generations come and go, for the most part those families who are on top stay there and those families not achieving stay at the bottom.

Clark comes up with some interesting tidbits. In Chile, for example, the leftist Allende government increased spending on education. The Pinochet government cut spending after taking power. Did the increase in education spending by the leftists have any effect on social mobility? Nope. None. What about the Cultural Revolution under Mao? Same story, the family names of those on top with the Nationalists stayed on top with the communists.

Now I don't believe Clark's hypothesis is all that new but his in depth research certainly has great merit. A book published in the early 1960's named The Geography of Intellect mentioned that families with the name Clark tended to have higher IQ's than the general population. The Clarks were medieval clerks. That should please the author and he notes the correlation on page 89..

Now for the negative. Clark has a conundrum. By going against the Standard Social Science Model (everybody is equal and all social traits are learned) Clark has to provide undeniable evidence or face ridicule. He does this with formulas and graphs. Unfortunately the book becomes something not for the general reader. Regression is easy enough to understand but when Clark gets in "first order Markov" I'm lost. And this may be my own ignorance and the fact that the last statistics class I sat in was over fifty years ago. Now Clark provides evidence for his hypothesis but in doing so leaves some folks (like me) in the dust.

Four stars for sure and a good book with an interesting conclusion. The difficult read in places costs it a five star rating.
9 internautes sur 11 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Empirically based social history of great originality 21 mars 2014
Par Volkmar Weiss - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
Hundreds of papers and books have been written, in which the authors are trying to prove by data on social mobility that human society is on the march to greater social equality. Most of these authors are not aware that their results are a function of their scaling of inequality. In order to measure social mobility you have to scale wealth, overall income, years of education, taxable income, social status or other appropriate variables none of which remained constant in the course of history. Because of random effects and imperfect scaling all these studies tend to overestimate intergenerational mobility. Already some researchers, who tried to scale recent and historical professions, jobs and social status according to underlying general intelligence to be successful, concluded that movements on the social ladder had changed little over the past centuries. This was substantiated by two books using samples of representative genealogical data covering several generations: La societe francaise au XIXe siecle: Tradition, transition, transformations (French Edition) and: Bevoelkerung und Soziale Mobilitaet in Sachsen 1550-1880 (German Edition).

To measure social mobility in quite different countries and across centuries, Clark invented a novel technique: Tracking the frequency of surnames. Needed for such an approach are always data on the frequency of surnames in the general population and in the selected sample in the past and in the present. In a number of countries Clark and his coworkers were able to overcome these difficulties and to find or generate the databases necessary. The originality of this research deserves high praise.

However, to use surnames in such a way is not as new as Clark believes. About 1940 Karl Valentin Müller used frequencies of surnames of Czech and German origin to investigate their contribution to the upper stratum of cities in Bohemia. - Crow, J. F. and A. P. Mange published: Measurement of inbreeding from the frequency of marriages between persons of the same surname. Eugenics Quarterly 12 (1965) 199-203. Crow and Mange founded with this seminal paper a new branch of population genetics. Surnames can be understood as alleles of one genetic locus, and surname distribution and evolution can be analyzed by the theory of neutral mutations in finite populations. One may describe the genetic structure of a human population in terms of the inbreeding within its subpopulations and the extent of the sharing of genes among them. In the following decades, instead using marriage data, surname frequencies were also extracted from directories or census data. By applying these methods, the application of surname genetics was extended to measure genetic distance and historical changes within subpopulations and social strata, see, for example: Inbreeding and genetic distance between hierarchically structured populations measured by surname frequencies. Mankind Quarterly 21 (1980). And for an even wider outlook see: Familiennamenhäufigkeiten in Vergangenheit und Gegenwart als Ausgangspunkt für interdisziplinäre Forschungen von Linguisten, Historikern, Soziologen, Geographen und Humangenetikern. Namenkundliche Informationen 31 (1977) 27-32. However, 30 years ago, the databases for such an empirical approach were still lacking.

Outgoing from the medieval practice of giving surnames based on ones profession Günther Bäumler suggested a genetic-social theory of assortative distribution of traits of body build such as height, weight, and stature in a population of men called `Smith' (German: Schmied) and`Tailor' (German: Schneider). From this the hypothesis was deduced that among the top ranking athletes of the `heavy weight' branches of athletics, which require body strength and body height, there are relatively more persons that go by the name of Schmied than in the `light weight' branches of athletics, where more persons go by the name of Schneider. The hypothesis was empirically supported. See: Psychology Science 45 (2003) 254-262.

In the modern world we have a general negative relationship between the number of surviving children and the social status of their parents, in sharp contrast to the preindustrial world, where more children of the rich survive. Oded Galor and Moav Omer in their paper "Natural Selection and the Origin of Economic Growth" (2002) came to the conclusion that before 1850 the upper and medium stratum of society must have been more surviving children than the poor. Indeed, as a byproduct of his research with rare surnames Clark confirms that this turning point in differential fertility was in England already about 1850 (in Germany three or four decades later). Despite Clarkes conclusion that the most probable variable underlying social status and hence social mobility is the inheritance of general cognitive ability he dares not to cite the book IQ and the Wealth of Nations, supporting in such a way his argument on a global scale.

On some pages Clark seems to foster the belief that regression to the mean is a force equalizing any society in the long run. On other pages he is stating clearly that at the same time the random counterforce of segregation of genes is always creating new inequality in each new generation. Genetically pure lineages regress only to the mean of the line and not to the mean of the overall population. It is possible not only to study the decay of a social upper stratum by surname frequencies, but also its rise and creation in the course of some generations. In 1869 Francis Galton was the first to replace mere speculation on the inheritance of talent with statistical data. 100 highly gifted and very successful men had 26 fathers, 47 brothers, 60 sons. 14 grandfathers, 16 uncles, 23 nephews, 14 grandsons, 5 uncles of parents and 16 first cousins with similar giftedness and accomplishments. Astounding similar frequencies were found in other studies in different countries.

One can be sure that Clark will find followers studying the distribution and frequencies of French, Italian (Venice!), Dutch, German and other surnames in the respective countries.
2 internautes sur 2 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Nature Over Nurture Suggested By Novel Means: Family Surnames 26 avril 2014
Par Ronald E. Parsons - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
Gregory Clark's research into social-mobility-progress as shown by family surnames is comprehensive and convincing. While <The Son Also Rises> is not a book for the general reader, those who have "good" surnames should have no trouble navigating through it. The book's premise is that long-estabnlished, good surnames correlate well with worldly success. To an equal degree "low caste" surnames of long history seem to condemn their bearers to the opposite. Many studies have shown that worldly success correlates strongly with high intelligence. Mr. Clark seems to argue that society on the whole would be better off if more social mobility existed -- Such expanded social mobility over the long term bringing increased numbers of the disadvantaged into better circumstances via the hereditary phenomenon of regression to the mean. He cites the Nordic populations as examples.

Mr. Clark also brings up methods that societies might use to offset social differences between the mobile and non-mobile. Among them are cutting the "merit" requirement for entry to university, a progressive income tax, and direct subsidies to the lower orders, all three are well known to American taxpayers.

Overall <The Son Also Rises> is an interesting book that is well organized. It contains much detail that this review does not necessarily indicate. Discriminating readers should find the book well worth the time it takes to read.
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