The Just Meritocracy: IQ, Class Mobility, and American Social Policy

By Paul Kamolnick | Go to book overview

Chapter Two
Human Mental Ability and
Socioeconomic Status: The “g-Nexus”

THE PREVIOUS CHAPTER PROVIDED empirical evidence for the existence of human mental ability, a select discussion of its hypothesized neurobiological correlates, valid measurement, partial heritability, and role in assortative mating. In this chapter I document the significance of variations in human mental ability for partially explaining individual differences in socioeconomic status attainment. Specifically, I provide empirical evidence for robust, statistically significant correlations among measures of human mental ability and formal educational attainment, occupational attainment and prestige, and, to a lesser extent, earned income. Following Jensen (1998: chapter 14), this link among individual mental ability and its correlates shall be conceptualized as a “g-nexus.” Although the principal subject matter of this chapter is empirical, this nexus is offered as a highly parsimonious explanation of one major causal underpinning of variations in status attainment.

Herrnstein's syllogism can be depicted as a hypothetical causal argument, reduced to its simplest elements in figure 2.1. This model, by design, excludes other causal variables that substantially contribute to variation in socioeconomic attainment, and unspecified variables and “noise” that accompany highly idealized operationalizations. Some of these variables are also psychobiological-dispositional traits that are significantly heritable, such as components of personality and temperament. Other causes lie outside the individual and have to do with legal, economic, and attitudinal variables that either enable or restrict persons from educational or occupational endeavor. Some variables involve the unanticipated and serendipitous events that link a given individual with an opportunity, or lack thereof. Finally, socioeconomic attainment is only one, albeit a quite important outcome that persons may seek. It is crucial to always keep in mind that socioeconomic status is a relative value, and that variations in its attainment do not entail broader value judgments. Final-

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The Just Meritocracy: IQ, Class Mobility, and American Social Policy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Copyright Acknowledgments v
  • Contents vii
  • Figures and Tables ix
  • Preface xi
  • Acknowledgments xv
  • Introduction xvii
  • Chapter One - Individual Variation in General Mental Ability 1
  • Chapter Two - Human Mental Ability and Socioeconomic Status: the [G-Nexus] 41
  • Chapter Three - The Meritocratic Ideal and American Social Policy 86
  • Conclusion 126
  • Bibliography 128
  • Index 141
  • About the Author 148
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