Raj Chetty, Call Your Office.

24 07 2015

Palo Alto, California

Like Chetty’s research, the Grusky-Mitnik research also relied on them being able to talk the IRS out of letting go of otherwise confidential income data.   But unlike Chetty, Grusky-Mitnik’s conclusion is that socioeconomic mobility doesn’t depend on where you grew up, as Chetty thinks, but how much money your parents made.

I think the G-M conclusion is better than the Chetty conclusion, if for no other reason, the NYT’s analysis of the Chetty conclusion was that black ghetto kids from St. Louis City would be a lot better if they grew up instead in a corn field between Red Bud and Waterloo.  And it’s a conclusion that seems to line up better with the out of school observations of most people — The phrase “them that got is them that get” wasn’t coined yesterday, it was coined a whole lot of yesterdays ago.

But I think the main problem with the G-M conclusion is that they seem to treat socioeconomic ossification as both the cause and the effect.  I happen to think that they’re both effects of more fundamental causes.  Ctrl+F “immig” yields zero results, of course.  Forget about speculating about any other HBD-compliant explanations for the independent variable.  And since nobody wants to be honest about the causes, we don’t get honest solutions.  The only remedies offered here are offered by the author of the piece, who is a senior business editor at The Atlantic, who noted that the G-M study explicitly avoided proposing remedies.  Joe Pinsker suggests:

In dealing with the persistence of intergenerational wealth, the changes that would be most effective are also the most sweeping: Taking private money out of political campaigns would give more of a voice to people who’d benefit from stronger social policies. Bolstering housing-voucher programs would let poorer families move into better neighborhoods. Increasing taxes at the uppermost end of the income spectrum would redistribute perpetuated wealth. Finding ways to get lower- and middle-income workers to put more money into savings would help them improve their lots.

Hobby horses and pie-in-the-sky do-gooderism.  Of course, every social problem is a result of blacks not being able to live in suburbs and can be solved by making it easy for them to do so, or de facto forcing them to do so.  This also means that in the long run, the G-M research is no better than the Chetty research, because they are merely two different reasonings to bolster the same pre-determined conclusion.


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