Lion of the Blogosphere

I doubt that wealth causes low grades

The New York Times, today, is featuring an article which tells us:

Students from wealthy families are more likely than those from poor families to go to college, and those whose parents pay their way are more likely to graduate. But according to “More Is More or More Is Less? Parent Financial Investments During College,” a study by Laura Hamilton, a sociology professor at the University of California, Merced, greater parental contributions were linked with lower grades across all kinds of four-year institutions.

The implication from the article is that parental contributions cause kids to become lazy brats who don’t study. But I think this has the cause and effect wrong.

Smarter students get better grades. Students from wealthier backgrounds are more likely to get into top colleges even though they’re not quite as smart, whether it’s because they are legacies, because their parents paid for them to attend private schools that help to build up their curriculum vitae and leadership skills which colleges like, or because colleges blatantly favor students with wealthy parents because they pay full price and donate more money. Because students with wealthy parents get into the same college without being quite as smart as the middle class students at the same college, they will naturally tend to get lower grades.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

January 15, 2013 at 7:58 pm

Posted in Education, Wealth

20 Responses

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  1. There is something to the story. I’ve noticed it personally: richer or spoiled kids have less incentives to learn. Parents can use the carrot to motivate the kid to learn, but if they use the stick as well, then they’ll be more efficient.

    T

    January 15, 2013 at 8:26 pm

  2. Generally, the more wealthy someone is, the smarter they are, and the smarter their kids will be. I think there might be another explanation: wealthier kids whose parents are paying for their college (and their rent, and their beer, weed, etc) treat college as playtime, while less wealthy kids work harder and study more.

    Anonymous

    January 15, 2013 at 8:28 pm

    • But at any one particular college, the wealthy kids will be less intelligent than the middle-class kids because the wealthy kids had advantages in the admissions process.

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      January 15, 2013 at 8:51 pm

      • That seems more likely. Anyway, college administrators probably have a higher future time orientation than Prof. Hamilton. She figures that the students are lazy – shorter term thinking like her own. The administration is looking at being sure they collect their pensions someday – longer term thinking.

        not too late

        January 15, 2013 at 8:56 pm

      • That sounds like liberal fantasy/propaganda to me.

        Anonymous

        January 16, 2013 at 9:54 am

  3. Lion, your experience is with elite colleges. At second and third tier schools there are a lot of rich kids who have lots of money and who treat college as a finishing school and a place to have fun and meet lots of people. I have personally seen this happen. Students who have lots of money to spend have lots of money to go out and party and not study.

    ColRebSez

    January 15, 2013 at 9:01 pm

  4. I wonder what percentage of kids whose parents pay the full price are actually wealthy enough to treat college as a finishing school. For instance, a family making 250K could very well pay for everything at a private college, but the family isn’t so rich that the kid can just party and expect to have everything taken care of.

    AsianDude

    January 15, 2013 at 9:28 pm

    • My family made not much more than that, and that’s basically how I treated college. Not because I expected my family to have me set up for life, but because I believed the lies that good jobs would be plentiful. I knew lots of older kids who had partied all through college, gotten mediocre grades in “pointless” subjects, who went on to get perfectly good jobs.

      Anonymous

      January 16, 2013 at 9:56 am

  5. If there is a correlation between grades and intelligence it is almost certainly negative. It certainly isn’t a strong and positive correlation. Remember that smart people at a school are the people who had GPAs too low to get into better schools.

    The key trait here is focused hard-work on school. Let’s simplify the world into rich vs poor, focused vs unfocused.

    Rich + focused = good grades.
    Rich + unfocused = bad grades.
    Poor + focused = good grades.
    Poor + unfocused = no grades, because these people aren’t in college.

    Rich average = medium grades (mean of good and bad)
    Poor average = good grades, because the people who would have gotten bad grades dropped out.

    T

    January 15, 2013 at 9:36 pm

  6. College students from wealthy backgrounds are simply not as intelligent as kids from middle class backgrounds who work harder and longer, and appreciate their opportunities more. But then is the answer and explanation we’re looking for not simply staring us in the face in that last piece of sentence? When you treat personal intelligence and wealth as synonymous people start talking nonsense “the smarter the parent the smarter the child” “The child of smart parents will naturally be less intelligent because of their advantages” etc the implication being that intelligence is fixed from birth, intractable and incapable of being altered. The entire conversation is being done a disservice from this assumption, especially considering that if we accept the proposition then the assumption is also the conclusion and there is no room for dialogue.

    Lenny

    January 15, 2013 at 10:15 pm

  7. There’s an intersting mystery in HBD, one that I view as more interesting than the overhyped Flynn effect.

    IQ studies have demonstrated parental influence has no effect on life outcomes. However, peer influence HAS been shown to have a statistically significant effect on life outcomes. The mystery is why does parental influence have no significant effect on life outcomes but peer influence does? How can that be when parental decisions (such as whether they put their children in an elite college and high school) have a causal link with peer influence since, obviously, parents have important say over what peers children are exposed to?

    Maybe this inconsistent effect is being caused by an inability to quantify peer influence and parental influence that is appropriate for a regression model?

    The Undiscovered Jew

    January 15, 2013 at 10:51 pm

    • this is interesting, but it also shows that there are fuck-ups everywhere. You can send your kid to private school, but that private school has a non-0 number of deliquents. If your kid is prone to hanging out with delinquents, they will.

      oo-ee-oo-ah-ah-ting-tang-walla-walla-bing-bang

      January 16, 2013 at 12:16 am

    • I don’t know if you’ve had teenagers for children, but somewhere around 13-15 they start to think their parents are the dumbest people on the planet and their peers, in turn, become the focus of their existence. There’s probably some biological imperative to this.

      And unless you’re raising your kids in an Amish community (and even then it might be difficult), you gradually lose control of what they are exposed to around this age.

      [Students from wealthier backgrounds are more likely to get into top colleges even though they’re not quite as smart]

      Didn’t the article specifically say the effect was not as marked in elite schools?

      islandmommy

      January 16, 2013 at 7:02 am

    • Probably has to do with children picking their own friends, thus they only pick children to be friends who they like and who likes them back. So it pushes them to be friends with people of similar ability and you can see this very clearly if you look at high school social groups. You see cliques form which seem to be based on intelligence and social status. More likely this is what causes correlation and it only appears that peer influence effects life outcomes (but it would make sense that it reinforces the child’s identity too.)

      Really weird kids who are socially awkward and unintelligent become social pariahs. Average kids who are socially awkward become goths. Average kids who are well socialized become popular and play sports. Smart kids that are socially awkward become nerds. Smart kids that are well socialized become valedictorians! And of course there are others and divisions within groups etc.

      If you can’t tell what your child is like because you’re blinded by parental pride. Just look at his/her best friend and you’ll know

      XVO

      January 16, 2013 at 9:42 am

      • You can send your kid to private school, but that private school has a non-0 number of deliquents.

        But the odds of them running into bad characters at a private school are lower than at a public school. Since the decision to put them in a private school is made by the parents then how can parental influence not affect life outcomes if peer influence is affected by where they send their kids to school?

        Probably has to do with children picking their own friends, thus they only pick children to be friends who they like and who likes them back. So it pushes them to be friends with people of similar ability and you can see this very clearly if you look at high school social groups.

        Researchers already controlled for types of social groups people hang out with and they still find peer influence to have a statistically significant on life outcome after controlling for other variables like IQ and school status.

        And elite grade schools and high schools can have very different social scenes. A top ranked Catholic school will likely have less drug use and early sexual activity than an equally good but secular private school.

        The Undiscovered Jew

        January 18, 2013 at 12:14 am

  8. OT:

    Anti-feminist Game-HBD is slowly gaining mainstream acceptance among the all important elites. From the Wall Street Journal & The Atlantic:

    Gray Lady Dumps Darwin

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323596204578241691461160054.html

    http://m.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/2013/01/one-possible-troubling-outcome-of-online-dating-more-social-inequality/266798/

    The Undiscovered Jew

    January 15, 2013 at 11:23 pm

  9. i think LotB has very few actually wealthy comment-leavers, so I’ll go for it.
    Words like “brat” and “lazy” are pretty pejorative, given the realities on the ground. Many Wealthy *ARE* wealthy because they control equity, ie they own businesses, ap’t buildings etc. A “upper middle class” kid might have a doctor for a dad who *knows* his kid will need to ace organic chem to go to med school himself, but if your dad owns a business, whether or not you get an “A” or a “B” in your gen-ed librul arts Introduction to XYZ class doesn’t.fucking.matter. At all. You will seamlessly segue into a branch of your dad’s business, irrespective of how well you learned French.
    As an example, at Ivy Business School very near to me, some 40% of grads go on to work in family-owned businesses. Obviously, there’s a lot of Goldman etc but there are TONS of boutique shops waiting for their kids to get the wild out of their systems before they, too, can run the show.
    To poors like you, this may seem lazy or boorish etc, but it’s just a matter of incentives. How hard would you have studied Swedish Cinema if you knew it didn’t matter?

    oo-ee-oo-ah-ah-ting-tang-walla-walla-bing-bang

    January 16, 2013 at 12:13 am

  10. “their parents paid for them to attend private schools that help to build up their curriculum vitae and leadership skills which colleges like”

    I went to a private secondary school that (though I didn’t know it at the time) was “too easy” and thus I did not develop the habit or expectation of having to work hard at school. Nevertheless I got good grades and got into a very selective college. But, when I got there, I was shocked to discover that I was not as well prepared as I should have been (given the amount of money my parents spent on private high school) and also that I had to work harder than I did in high school.

    I solved the problem by switching from a STEM major to a liberal arts major. =)

    Tarl

    January 16, 2013 at 6:11 am

  11. I go to a prestigious school paid for by my father and I get top grades. Why? Because if I don’t he’ll be disappointed. I’m not Asian, so I won’t be whipped or disowned or anything if I don’t, but to my retrograde European mind, merely angering one’s parents is a distant second to dishonoring them.

    Jack Bolling

    January 16, 2013 at 7:05 pm

  12. Rich kids don’t need good grades to get a job; they can rely on their parents’ networks.

    DPG

    January 16, 2013 at 8:09 pm


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