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June 18, 2014



Yes, it is a stubborn fact that material deprivation is positively and highly correlated with poor attainment at school.

Steve M

All the more reason to replace poor whites with poor minorities, right!


So why should the poor working class have become so lumpen over the past decade or so? For that is the gist of the 'transmission by genes or culture' idea. Further, why should this effect seem to be largest in the less vibrant areas of the UK and yet not so prevalent in the more jolly areas? May I suggest there is an elephant that the report does not wish to identify - they are not lumpen at all, that declining employment opportunities have made the poor working class give up hope. Rather than blame the teachers, place the blame where it belongs - at Number 10 - or more truthfully at Globalised Earth plc.

May I suggest something as a possible way out at least for the less lumpen. Offer a bursary to all young folk over 16 who achieve reasonable grades that will pay board and lodging and subsistence somewhere where work actually exists for say 2 years. For this will provide the mobility they need, no need to rely on some vague hope of jobs coming to XYZ town. But of course such a measure would be an admission that worthwhile work could not be found in XYZ town.... Another measure that might help would be to remove the glory from sport and X factor, both of which are lucrative deceptions aimed at the poor working class.

So why should immigrant children not give up hope - for the reasons Chris gives and perhaps because immigrants are more willing or able to up sticks and move where the work is, no matter how horrible the living conditions. Perhaps GCSE 'Up Sticks and Move' is the next thing - but we don't really want that do we.


Yes, because giving the white underclass more benefit money to spend on whatever they spend it on will magically make them suddenly appreciate the value of education and force their offspring to work harder at school. Why didn't I think of that?

Mainly because its possibly the worst option of all - if Ma and Pa (probably just Ma TBH) can make a good living for no effort and with no education whatsoever then there's even less incentive to work harder at school.


Thanks for an interesting take on a thorny problem.

Re your theory of heritability by genes and/or culture, glad to see you coming round to acknowledge heritability, since both ability and effort are known to be heritable.

"Perhaps the strongest evidence against it ... that there are massive regional variations in poor whites' attainment."

Maybe not. It is quite possible that there are regional differences in genes and/or culture among white Brits. I don't know if there are, but I wouldn't rule this possible hypothesis.


Thanks for the thoughtful post; you are probably right.

One quibble: I don't love the phrase "income redistribution"; I think something like "changing the income distribution" is preferable. Saying it the first way, as you did, sounds like there is a natural distirbution and then the big bad government comes in and takes money away from some people and gives it to others. Saying it the second way acknowledges the truth, which is that our current income distribution is hardly natural but is the result of a political and economic system set up by people and therefore subject to change.

Dave Timoney

One of the positive effects of Piketty et al has been to shift the focus of the debate on social mobility away from the failure of the poor to haul themselves up to the persistent immobility of the rich.

Greg Clark's voguishness owes much to the ideological need to find an alternative explanation to power and privilege, hence the ready eliding by many of the neutral "inter-generational transmission" to the more pernicious idea of "social competence" as a genetic trait.

We should never forget that most immigrants are not illiterate peasants, stowing away on lorries, but middle class professionals and skilled workers who not only have "get up and go" but the financial resources necessary to move country. They are the Daily Mail readers of tomorrow.


I find the hubris of a group of people with an average IQ no doubt north of 130 bemoaning the lack of academic achievement among their counterparts on the other side of the Bell curve. Please read up on the heritability of general intelligence. It's cruel to insist that someone with an IQ of 90 is deficient in effort when you yourself were born with gifts. We must make a place of dignity within our societies for the honest and hardworking below normal in gifts.


Are the ethnic minorities in question generally the children of immigrants? As others have noted, immigrants are the ones who have moved to what they at least hope will be a better place. In the US, they traditionally do whatever it takes and then push their children to move to the next level. It's usually the third generation that reverts to the mean.

There's also a class thing. In the US, non-immigrant blue color people tend to discount the value of education and consider the whole white color world of jockeying for money and position a sort of stupid game that they are well out of. They often ridicule book learning and vote Republican even if it means a wage cut. I've read my Jilly Cooper, so I know you also have social classes in England. Have these studies been controlled for social class?


"We must make a place of dignity within our societies for the honest and hardworking below normal in gifts."

The problem is that left and right have a radically different idea of dignity. I would put it as "feeling like an actual human being" versus "looking orderly and unthreatening", a rightist would probably say "unrestrained self-indulgence" versus "living and reproducing virtue".


There is obviously an issue about quality teachers in smaller less prosperous towns far from London or other trendy university towns. Good graduates will be attracted to good schools and good areas and if we want better than attract them with good pay. The idea that good graduates should be paid better is not attractive to all three parties who want to demean the state. But that's the best solution for helping the lower working class getting smart, intelligent graduates to manage and deliver subjects effectively. Instead they tend to get the staff who cannot go else where ( not entirely) but ask yourself one question - would you send your kids to these local schools and if not why not?

john b

"non-immigrant blue color people"


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