Category Archives: Middle Class

Parenting: Socio-Economic vs IQ – The Bell Curve

In considering the many ills that face society, there has been a large focus on the socio-economic status of the family or of the individual in the desire to explain the condition at hand.  For example, if a child grows up to become a criminal, we ask, “what was the socio-economic condition of that child or his parents?”

The idea behind this, of course, is that if we can isolate the failure to the economic inequality of society, then we can begin to “fix it” through governmental programs bent on promoting “equality.”

But what if there was another reason why people did the things they do?  In this section, I speak about Parenting as discussed in the book, “The Bell Curve.”

In the chapter regarding parenting, the first condition discussed is low birth weight babies.  Previously I have shown data that suggests that the SES status of the mother has little bearing on the determination of that condition in children.

But IQ:


As mentioned, the impact of the socio-economic status of the mother is nominal; the IQ of the mother is not.  A low IQ has a major impact on the chance of a baby being born with a low birth weight; SES – not as much.

After being born, the child must face life.  Specifically the prospect of being poor.  Initially, the authors held all variable constant and displayed the prospects of a child remaining poor in the fist 3 years of life based on the mother’s SES.  It didn’t look good.  But what happens if we include IQ:

No change.  The poverty rate of the child is equally determined by the SES and the IQ of the mother.  With the data showing such an exact match as both SES and IQ moved from low to high, I suspect that there is a case where one is determined by the other.

Again, following the sections in this chapter, the topic switches to the Home Index:

The Home Observation for Measurement of the Environment (HOME) Inventory is designed to measure the quality and extent of stimulation available to a child in the home environment. The Infant/Toddler HOME Inventory (IT-HOME) comprises 45 items that provide information from the child’s perspective on stimuli found to affect children’s cognitive development. Assessors make observations during home visits when the child is awake and engaged in activities typical for that time of the day and conduct an interview with a parent or guardian. The IT-HOME is organized into six subscales: (1) Responsivity: the extent of responsiveness of the parent to the child; (2) Acceptance: parental acceptance of suboptimal behavior and avoidance of restriction and punishment; (3) Organization: including regularity and predictability of the environment; (4) Learning Materials: provision of appropriate play and learning materials; (5) Involvement: extent of parental involvement; and (6) Variety in daily stimulation. For the IT-HOME, 18 items are based on observation, 15 on interview, and 12 on either observation or interview.

This index was applied to the population in the study and the result showed that the socio-economic status of the mother played a role in the HOME Index rating.  However, IQ played an even more significant role:

As you can see, a lower IQ is more devastating than a poor mother while I high IQ is more beneficial than a wealthy mother.

As the child grows, the development of the child can be impacted by the  conditions of the home, poverty and parenting skills are, of course, two of those conditions.  In an attempt to measure this development, the authors conducted a survey of 4 developmental indicators and if a child scored in the bottom decile for any of the 4, they scored a “Yes” on the “development index.”  If not, they scored a no.

The results:

The pattern is again, presented.  IQ at the low end is more detrimental than poverty while at the high end, IQ is more advantageous than being wealthy.  However, in this specific study that difference is marginal.

The final section of the chapter looks into the IQ of the child and tries to determine the significance of been raised in a home more exposed to the challenges of poverty vs. being raised in a more affluent home.  Additionally, the same investigation is conducted using the key variable of IQ:

The result is consistent with data already being demonstrated in this and other chapters.  The argument can be made that when isolating the socio-economic status of families and of mothers in the study the well being of the child generally suffers as that mother becomes poorer.  However, when all variables are held constant save IQ, those other factors are diminished to the point of being statistically insignificant.

IQ matters.

Welfare: Socio-Economic vs IQ – The Bell Curve

We’re moving from “The Family” to “Welfare” in the latest installment on “The Bell Curve.”

The series has been focusing on various snapshots of impact that the wealth of an individual or family may have and then at the impact that IQ may have.  Long has the argument been made that much of the disparity in America is due to the fact that the rich get richer while the poor get poorer.

Perhaps it has less to do with the wealth of the family and more to do with the IQ of the family.

So, moving towards welfare.

Previously I posted on the probability of going on welfare, within one year, after the birth of the first child.  I posted on this probability using only the socioeconomic status of the family.  Here I show both the SES and the IQ of the mother:

The impact is significant.  Even more so after accounting for the fact that a woman with higher IQ would be able to avoid the condition that would result in welfare.  Yet, after accounting for age, poverty, marital status and SES, we see that IQ plays a massive role in the probability of welfare reliance.

Next, the topic of chronic welfare dependency.  The data suggests see below, that SES plays at least as important a role as IQ does.  However, the data is restricted to the point that makes it important to point out a note.  Of the women in the study that were long term recipients of welfare, none scored in the quintile of cognitive ability; only 5 were in the second quintile.

With that caveat, here is the data:

Both the economic background of the mother AND the IQ play a part.  As I mentioned in the original post, education may be the relevant influence on this topic.

The Family: Socioeconomics vs IQ – The Bell Curve

The election, work and a jammed family schedule have impacted not only the amount of recent blogging but the subject matter as well.  It’s been over a month since my last installment of the impact of IQ on the conditions of all of us.

The Impact of IQ on Family Matters

I’ve gone over subjects such as poverty, education and employment.  I’ve taken an approach that first shows the impact of the socioeconomic status of the folks involved; sometimes the parents or family and sometimes the individual himself.  Then I’ve come back to show what the circumstances look like when the population has been described in terms of IQ.  So far, to me, the differences are stunning.

Today I look to continue this by checking out the family.


Because of the massive positive impact that being married has on society, it’s important to track who is getting married, when and why.  Earlier I showed a chart that described the state of folks at 30.  And because of the natural tendency of education to suppress marriage, both high school only and college graduates were displayed.  The chart below now includes taking IQ into account:

Most likely due to the fact that college is highly tracked to IQ, the differences don’t really matter.  But looking at the IQ of individuals without college education the impact i s large.  Of those with average IQs, 80% are married by 30.  Compare this with those of very low cognitive ability and their rate of 60%.

As I mentioned before, if marriage is important, then so is divorce.  And what does the comparison show?  Look:

The trends are interesting.  As individuals become wealthier, they are more likely to end their marriages in divorce.  But in a completely opposite way and manner, as the IQ of the folks increases, their likelihood of divorce decreases.

The subject of marriage is important because of the impact to the lives of the children of those families.  Because of this importance, it is required to look at the circumstances of birth.  Specifically illegitimate births.

The data are clear.  While the impact of the SES status is important, the top to bottom difference is 10 points, the impact of the IQ is even higher.  Where SES can show a 2 to 1 ratio, IQ shows a 7 to 1 ratio.

The last comparison is that of illegitimate births to white women already below the poverty line.  The data shows that as SES status increases so does the probability that a child is born out of wedlock.  If we include IQ?


In perhaps the most glaring demonstration of the impact of IQ, this metric shows that women with higher cognitive ability avoid births out of wedlock at remarkable levels while women with lower cognitive ability are much less likely to avoid this condition.

In each of the 4 comparisons, IQ is shown to have a positive impact on the favorable conditions expected.  In some cases moderate, in others dramatic.

Next up – we look at the impact of IQ compared to SES and welfare.

Where Are The People Of The Middle Class Going?

To the Upper Class.

There is no lack of reports demonstrating that the middle class is shrinking.  The unspoken conclusion?  That we’re all getting poorer and that somehow, we’re all under attack.

In fact, there is a Pew Report on just that topic:

Since 2000, the middle class has shrunk in size, fallen backward in income and wealth, and shed some—but by no means all—of its characteristic faith in the future.

But from Pew’s own report we find this:

In 1971 25% of us were in the “Lower Income” bracket.  Today there are 29% of us there.  The middle class shrunk even as the number of “lower income” folks grew in numbers.

But look.

As those of us in the “lower income” grew by 4% points, the number of us in the “upper income” group grew as well.  Grew by 6%.

We’re moving people from the middle to the top.  We’re getting richer, not poorer.

The Middle Class: Definition and Status

For a long time now, and especially since the recession of 2008, there has been discussion surrounding the the middle class.  Specifically how that group of Americans are doing.  I admit that I’m late to the game, but I have been very interested in this topic.

One of the most frustrating aspects to looking at this subject is that there isn’t a clear and definite definition of what the middle class is.  Who’s in, who’s out.

For a number of people the middle class represents an idea.  The idea that you can own your own home, send your kids to college and put a little bit away for retirement.  If that sounds familiar, it should.  This is how the president carves out his vision of the middle class.  And while I don’t necessarily disagree with this campy, it doesn’t satisfy my desire for a hard definition.

I think I’ve finally found one:

The middle-income tier—defined in this Pew Research analysis as all adults whose annual household income is two-thirds to double the national median.

In dollars and sense, this comes out to:

The new study reviewed 2010 data from the Census Bureau and Federal Reserve, defining “middle class” as the tier of adults whose household income falls between two-thirds and double the national median income, or $39,418 to $118,255 in 2010 for a family of three.

Note the definition includes household size.  In this case, the household size is 3.  This would include both configurations; two adults and one child or one adult with two children.

As expected, the Pew Report paints a depressing view from the middle:

Since 2000, the middle class has shrunk in size, fallen backward in income and wealth, and shed some—but by no means all—of its characteristic faith in the future.

Is this really true?

I haven’t taken the time yet to read the report, it came out only today, but I’m very interested to see how they ran the numbers and came to their conclusion.  For example, the Associated Press article makes this point:

By this definition, “middle class” makes up about 51 percent of U.S. adults, down from 61 percent in 1971.

However, no attempt has been made, that I’ve yet seen in my scanning, that would take into account a possible morphing of that middle class family structure.  In other words, how many families in 1971 fit into the 2 adults 1 child version of the family of three and how many fit into the 1 and 2 version?  Clearly a family consisting of 2 working aged adults is going to have a higher income than a family consisting of only one such adult with not one, but two children to care for.  Daycare alone is going to be double if even the two parent family has daycare expenses.

Good stuff.


Employment: Socioeconomics vs IQ – The Bell Curve

This post continues the comparison of the impact of the socioeconomic status of individuals and the IQ of those same individuals.  I’m going off the book “The Bell Curve” written by Herrnstein and Murray.  So far I’ve covered the comparison with respect to poverty and education.  This post will deal with employment, keeping it and looking for it.

Back when I started this series, I demonstrated data that spoke to each topic using SES data only.  For example, looking at the probability of being out of the labor force for 1 month or more in 1989 bases on SES, the data showed this:

The data seems counter intuitive.  As the SES status of the family increased, the chance that a young man would drop out of the labor force increased as well.  This may be explained by the fact that wealthier families could afford to have their son’s not work for a time while those from poorer families felt a greater need to earn money.

Next we looked at unemployment.  That is, still in the labor force but not working for a month or more in 1989.  Here is the impact of SES:

There is no impact.  The SES of the individual’s family doesn’t impact the unemployment of the young man.

Let’s compare SES and IQ.

First, go back to labor force participation:

As man with very low IQ had a 4x percent chance of remaining out of the labor force compared to a man with very high IQ. Even moving in one standard deviation, the less intelligent man had more than twice the probability of staying out of the labor force than the more intelligent man.

Those men that are unemployed?


Again, not close.  While SES has non meaningful impact on the probability of unemployment, it’s clear that IQ does.  Mirroring labor force participation rate, the unemployment rate for the least intelligent is nearly 4x that of the most intelligent.

The idea that the SES of an individual or his family influences the fate of that person has significant influence in today’s debate.  And I’m sure that folks with money are more able to offset life’s unexpected challenges.  However, it may be that the intellectual ability of an individual has dramatically more impact on his or her success than the wealth, or lack thereof, of his or her family.

Gender Pay Gap And Middle Class Earnings

Quick thought:

Can you simultaneously object to the fact that women make less than men [they don’t] AND make the argument that one of the reasons the middle class is under attack is because we now have to have two incomes to support a family?

Obama: You Didn’t Build That

Obama’s words are now famous.   In context, out of context, fair not fair, it’s all out there.  The republicans are running with it and the president is denying it.  However, this much is true.

Obama was making reference to the fact that business owners did not get to where they are entirely on their own.  Much of their success is based on the fact that those who came before created an infrastructure, roads and bridges, teachers and firemen, who have made their success possible.

And because of this, Obama feels, the very wealthiest among us, should be willing to “give a little back.”  Now, it’s important to put this in context, as ironic as that might be.  Here Obama is talking about his desire to let the Bush tax cuts expire for the wealthiest Americans.  Those Bush tax cuts that he wants to keep are the federal income taxes for all Americans earning less than $250,000.

President Obama is creating the narrative.  Federal income taxes.  The wealthy.  Business owners.  Roads and bridges and teachers.


The conversation is federal income tax.  We’re not talking about sales tax.  No mention of property tax.  Not a whisper about social insurance taxes.  This conversation begins and ends with federal income tax.  Keeping the Bush rates for everyone but the wealthiest using the logic that those business owners didn’t build the infrastructure that allowed them to be successful.

In researching TPC’s critique of the Romney tax plan I found some numbers that will prove to be illustrative to Obama’s, his own logic, argument:

It turns out that the middle class didn’t build that.  The poorest among us didn’t build that.  Just as you would imagine, the wealthiest among us built that.  Those few wealthy who not only provide jobs for the rest of us but also provide for the roads and bridges to get us there.


Education: Socioeconomics vs IQ – The Bell Curve

The second installment of the comparison of socioeconomic status and IQ.  This post examines the impact of each on:

  1. Dropping out of school
  2. Obtaining a GED
  3. Graduating from college

In a previous post, I showed various charts.  Among them is the probability of cropping out of school based on the SES of the family:

The pattern is clear, kids from wealthier families have a better chance of obtaining a high school education.

The came the data showing the probability of a kid, who has dropped out, obtaining a GED:

This is a tale that is counter-intuitive.  We expect the narrative to be that rich kids do better than poor kids.  But this data shows the opposite for folks who obtain a GED after dropping out of school.

Finally we show data that speak to college degrees.  College is, arguably, a key factor to the success of an individual in today’s society.  Maybe.

The data suggests a massive SES impact.  Very few kids from the poorest families are graduating college while nearly 40% of the wealthiest kids are achieving that milestone.

The data is somewhat mixed.  High school and college graduation rates seem highly dependent on the SES of the parents while attainment of a GED is the exact opposite.

Now, what if we add in the predictive value of IQ?

First, dropping out of school:

The first thing that should be apparent is that dropping out of school is rare for kids of either average SES or intelligence.  But dropout rates escalate dramatically for those of below average intelligence.  IQ is more than a 3x predictor than SES of the school dropout.

How does GED look?

The data including IQ doesn’t change the fact that obtaining a GED goes against the commonly held belief that kids from poorer households do worse than the rich kids.  Even accounting for IQ, the folks from the poorer families obtain a GED at higher rates than do kids from wealthier households.

Our last look into education is the college graduation rate:

Again, a dramatic difference.  With one exception; the data shows very little difference between low SES and low IQ.  But when it comes to highly intelligent kids, it doesn’t matter if they come from poorer families or wealthier families; the kids are graduating college at a better than 75% clip.

As with poverty, IQ plays a dominant role in the educational attainment of our children.  All else being equal, the smarter the kid, the better they will achieve educationally.


Poverty: Socioeconomics vs IQ – The Bell Curve

About 6 weeks ago I started posting data from the book, “The Bell Curve.”  The first portion of the book deals with various conditions, poverty, education, crime and so on that take place in our society.  And more than just look and detail those conditions, the authors try and look at what might cause some of those conditions.  The point being that a vast majority of today’s commentators on such matters blame the socioeconomic conditions of families for the unfortunate plight many of our citizens find themselves in today.

Having problems graduating high school?  Check and see if the kid is from a poor family.

Mothers raising children in poverty?  Check and see of that mother herself came form a poor family.

Individuals in jail?  Check and see if those folks came from a poor family.

And the evidence is there that such an impact exists.  But is there another, stronger variable that impacts these conditions?  The author’s answer is, “Yes.  And that variable is IQ.”

Let’s review the first set of data I showed back then.  The first set of data shows the probability that an individual will be living below the poverty line in 1989, the data the study used:

The next set of data shows the probability that a child will be living below the poverty line in 1989 when her mother is married:

And the third set of data shows that same probability for that same child if her mother is single.

The data has an uncomfortable, but not surprising trend, to be born wealthy is better than being born in poverty.  However, here the authors, as I mentioned, looked for additional variables.  Specifically IQ.  Look at the data with the socioeconomic status AND the IQ included in the same graph.

Let’s go down the line starting with the probability of living in poverty:

The difference is dramatic.  Not only does having a very low IQ put you at significant risk of living in poverty compared to having a very low SES background, but being very intelligent is more important than being very wealthy.

Next we look at children of married mothers living in poverty and the impact that her SES and IQ have:

While the dramatic difference in the values isn’t the same, the pattern is.  A mother having everything else considered who is less intelligent has a higher probability of raising her children in poverty than an equally neutral mother of higher intelligence.

Finally, the probability of children of single mothers living in poverty and the impact that her SES and IQ have:

Right back to the dramatic difference.  What looked like an impacting variable before, SES clearly now has the appearance of having a minimal effect on raising children in poverty.  Rather IQ dominates this condition for children of single mothers.  Those children lucky enough to be born to the brightest of mothers have a 1/7th the chance of living in poverty compared to those children whose mothers score on the very lowest on IQ tests.

Clearly, as it relates to poverty and child poverty, IQ is the runaway variable when compared to SES.