Sources Of Inequality

by WCE

This article argues that parental IQ, not parental income, is the primary cause of inequality. I always appreciate analyses that look at trends in countries other than the U.S., whether that’s stock market performance or educational inequality. I also appreciate the point that society needs to value nonacademic character traits, those currently referred to as “grit”.

“All high-quality academic tests look as if they’re affluence tests. It’s inevitable. Parental IQ is correlated with children’s IQ everywhere. In all advanced societies, income is correlated with IQ. Scores on academic achievement tests are always correlated with the test-takers’ IQ. Those three correlations guarantee that every standardized academic-achievement test shows higher average test scores as parental income increases…

The more strictly that elite colleges admit students purely on the basis of academic accomplishment, the more their student bodies will be populated with the offspring of the upper-middle class and wealthy—not because their parents are rich, but because they are smart. No improvement in the SAT can do away with this underlying reality.

I haven’t used the word “meritocracy” to describe this because it doesn’t apply. Merit has nothing to do with possessing a high IQ. It is pure luck. And that leads to my reason for writing this.

As long as we insist on blaming inequality of academic outcomes on economic inequality, we will pursue policies that end up punishing children whose strengths do not lie in academics. We will continue to tell them that they will be second-class citizens if they don’t get a college degree; to encourage them to accumulate student debt only to drop out or obtain a worthless degree. Worse, we will prevent them from capitalizing on their other gifts of character, grit and the many skills that the SAT doesn’t test.”

The reason I’m sending the article, of course, is that I think Charles Murray is mostly right. But I know many people think inequality is a problem that government can or should solve. Is the role of government in reducing inequality limited to income transfers from the poor to the rich, or can the factors underlying inequality be changed more than Murray argues?

Why the SAT Isn’t a ‘Student Affluence Test’

(Google the title if the link doesn’t work)


226 thoughts on “Sources Of Inequality

  1. not because their parents are rich, but because they are smart.

    It’s interesting the degree to which both the left and the right don’t want to confront this issue. On the right, the tendency is to assume that almost all poor people are poor as a result of their own bad choices. While on the left their is a strong resistance to the idea that the rich are rich because they are smart.

  2. Thanks for sending this in, WCE. I’ve read several of his books, and find the subject matter really interesting. One of the things in his last book that really resonated with me is how much more segregated our society is than it once was. He pointed out that lower income children are less likely to encounter the UMC or rich in their daily lives. In doing some genealogy research on my family, I could see that on their block when my mom was young there were engineers like my grandfather, jewelers, shop owners, and a couple of maids. There was a lot more everyday visibility to people of a different income class. That tied in to a social experiment I had read about that took place in, I believe, Baltimore, where they took single parent families from public housing projects and put them in suburban single-family neighborhoods. They initially considered the experiment to be a bit of a failure, because it did not result in improved income or job situations for the mothers. But in doing their interviews, the mothers considered it a resounding success. They were so happy to have their kids growing up on a street with conventional role models, where in every single house the adults went to work and all of the kids went to school, every day. There was no one just hanging out on the stoop or the corner all day with nothing to do. They wanted their kids to see that working and going to school is what is normal, and they saw the changes in their kids as a result.

    One question – do you consider increases in minimum wage to be a transfer of income from rich to poor? Do you consider it an appropriate role of government, either on the local level or federal?

  3. MBT – I’m sure I sound like a broken record on this topic, but for many people throughout 20th Century American history, the military has served that role of getting young people out of their dysfunctional home environments and giving them conventional role models who go to work every day (and demand the same, of course). The age of 18 may be a little bit later than ideal, but it’s sometimes the best we’ve got. This is not to say that this can realistically be the role of the services, but it was a happy side effect that’s diminished as their numbers become proportionally smaller.

  4. I do agree with him, I remember reading in “Coming Apart” that even 50 years ago, people of varying intelligence married each other and that just does not happen anymore. My oldest recently got into the “gifted program” at school and when I went to the orientation another friend was there whose daughter also just got in. I realized when they were talking about how many gifted classes there were at the school, that half the students at the school were in the program. I remarked on this to my friend and she shrugged and said, “It makes sense when you think about it, we are all doctors, lawyers, accountants, etc., we’re likely to have smart kids.” The standards for the program are district wide so I imagine that in the poorer schools it’s a small number and in the wealthier areas it’s likely half or more.

  5. Atlanta’s post perhaps crystallizes some of my thoughts. My initial one was so what? Whether just correlated or caused in some way, smarter people, generally I think, will earn higher incomes. Of the smarter people, those who work hardest will earn more than their equally smart peers. (in fact, I think those who display the most ‘grit’ at all IQ levels will out earn their less grit-displaying peers).

    As to the ‘mixing-of-the-IQs’ I think it’s just a logical outcome of income level. In our town well more than half of the people 25+ have graduate degrees. Income correlates with education. So, yeah, based on a Broad county/state standard a higher % of people (kids/students) will be classified as G&T (and maybe consume more G&Ts) in wealthier areas. Which is why, as a effort to bring the less wealthy but yet relatively smart (as demonstrated by grades) into higher education, Texas has their top 8%(?) of your class rule vs. just letting the ‘best’, however determined, in the whole state into UT Austin.

    For all those wishing for the utopian society where rich/poor, smart/dumb, PhDs/HS dropouts are all commingled, fuggedaboutit! People aren’t like that…they mostly want to be around ‘folks like us’, using whatever measuring stick is important (religion, wealth, education, race are some of the more common).

  6. Re: inequality, a few studies cited in a NYT column seem to be suggesting that the greater inequality grows, the less interested we are in trying to fix it:

    The conservative shift in public attitudes on health care and on issues of redistribution and inequality pose a significant threat to the larger liberal agenda.
    The 2013 paper published in Public Opinion Quarterly that I mentioned at the beginning of this article, “The Structure of Inequality and Americans’ Attitudes Toward Redistribution,” suggests that Democratic programs providing tax-financed benefits to the poor are facing growing hostility.
    The author of the paper, Matthew Luttig, a Ph.D. candidate in political science at the University of Minnesota, found that while “numerous political theorists suggest that rising inequality and the shift in the distribution of income to those at the top should lead to increasing support for liberal policies,” in practice, “rising inequality in the United States has largely promoted ideological conservatism.”

    I think the greatest contributor to increased inequality is the simultaneous rise of single-parent households on one side and dual-income married households on the other. Economically, that’s just so significant and devastating as it pulls each half in opposite directions. Assortive mating is true, but a minor contributor. Other contributors are smaller families among the affluent, so money can be passed down to fewer children and grandchildren, plus the intense focus on kids as projects among the aspirational classes, whose parents will now find a diagnosis and accomodations rather than accept that their kid is a C student.

  7. Maybe it is the IQ, but more that the inherent smarts, it seems to be the behaviors that they engage in and pass on to their children. It’s about manners, navigating systems, decision making, etc.

    My daughter has a classmate whose mother was raised in a low income family in a low income neighborhood. The mother’s income now approaches MC in our area. However, the mother’s behaviors and those she passes on to her daughter are not consistent with the MC to UMC of the families in the school. For example, daughter who has been on A/B Honor Roll was on the A Honor Roll last semester. The school recognition for A/B is come and go with breakfast snack. The recognition for A is a bit nicer, more of a sit down event with breakfast buffet. The mother has missed both becuase of a work conflict. However, the mother is more upset about missing the second one, not because her daughter did so well, but because she is missing a free breakfast that is better than the breakfast they normally have at home.

    In contrast, for most MC and UMC, it would be about missing the milestone with their kid (first time making this honor roll) while whether food was served or what it was (unless there are alergies) would not be given a second thought.

  8. People aren’t like that…they mostly want to be around ‘folks like us’,

    That’s true to a degree. But, I think people do like some diversity. At some point the concentration of lulu clad yummy mummies, finance douches or college professors gets so high as to become insufferable. For an example of this look at the student suicides in Palo Alto. At some point, it becomes such a monoculture that maybe it would be good if you had kids presented with a more SES options.

  9. Milo, I see that in that in my in-laws. The vast majority of the men have spent time in the military, and all of those have very strong work ethics and are successful in their blue-collar careers. Of the youngest generation, one of the women went into the Navy straight out of high school, and she has always been the one in her family with the most ambition and possibly native intelligence. She is the middle child of three right in a row, and the only one that finished high school. Her strong desire to join the military (and get out of that town?) was likely the motivator there. She had a solid plan for becoming a teacher post-Navy, but just got married before her last deployment, so I don’t know what the new plan is. The non-military ones (multiple generations) seem to be much more willing to quit jobs when something annoys them, and to spend extended periods unemployed, living with family or whoever when they cannot afford rent.

    Fred- agree with the ‘folks like us’ comment, with ‘like us’ being defined any number of ways.

  10. You know, even the shift in our system of retirement savings will contribute to this, and it’s only just getting started. When you had more employees whose retirements were dependent on pensions, you effectively had everyone in an insurance pool with shared risk. If you died relatively young, as my grandfather did after collecting only a year or two of his pension, the benefits went to others. Now, the 401(k) balance will go straight to the heirs. This will further concentrate wealth among the families that are smarter/more disciplined/more affluent/etc, even among those who work for the exact same companies in the same roles.

  11. Rhett – agreed. I feel like that about my town sometimes – that I don’t want to be one of Those Moms.

  12. My special snowflake qualified for the pull-out gifted program in our district – which would mean reassignment to a school where all classes are filled with students that tested into the 98th percentile. I recently read that of 600 students at the school, 4 (total, not 4%) were on free/reduced price lunch – compared with 35% in the district. This is probably also related to the convoluted process for testing your child for the program, and then responding appropriately to get your child enrolled. Additionally, I have been told that a “near-miss” can be solved with an expensive private assessment. The cards are really stacked (in this district) against the smart kid from immigrant/overwhelmed/drunk parents (well, more than they already are in general).

    We are moving out of district, so it is a moot issue for us. However, I like that the new district (who does not do pull-out classrooms at my snowflake’s age) has a much less parent-dependent process for identifying other snowflakes.

  13. Milo: +1 on the retirement savings impacts.

    I would have thought your grandfather’s pension would have continued to flow to your grandmother (which assumes she was still alive, possibly not the case). Nonetheless, your point of what happens when a pension recipient drops out of the plan (dies) vs what happens to IRA money when the owner dies is right on.

  14. Off topic, I’m feeling kind of like a jerk now. Tell me what you think. Last Fall, when I talked to the guy whom I’ve hired for some landscaping work, I was interested in hiring him to spread a compost to help the lawn come in thicker/greener this year. At the time, he refused the business and said to call him in April, because the Spring is better. So I called him a week ago to talk about the options. I said it needs some sort of compost or fertilizer and it should probably be aerated. Then he said it also could use a heavy dose of lime. We’ve talked about the compost options before, and he said he could do the treated human waste thing (I know, I know), plus the aerating and lime, for $1200, or, since he knew I was queasy about that and the kids play on the grass, fertilizer, aerating, and lime for $600.

    I agreed to the $600 one, but I was also wondering if he’s taking advantage of me because, even though I’ve thought his prices in the past were good, I’ve never balked at them or tried to bargain, and we always just write a check nonchalantly. So I was starting to wonder. I also said that the part where we have all the juniper shrubs needed some fresh mulch, mainly to cover the bare spots where the black weed barrier was now exposed. It’s been three years, DW and I figured out last night. He said he’d take a look and give me a price.

    The price he told DW on the phone yesterday for the fresh mulching was $1,000! I called back and left him a voicemail with my standard, non-argumentative “$1k for mulch is just not in our budget, so just do the other stuff with the grass, and I’ll have to do the mulch myself.” He called back and we were talking, and I was saying that I’ll just get bags of it myself from Home Depot, and he said it’d be cheaper if he just delivered it. We kind of went back and forth, and I finally said “If you can do the mulching for $500, then OK, but that’s it.” He said that he would do what he can, that it’s going to need X cubic meters (I forget at this point), but he would see what he can do.

    DW has been texting me that his guy showed up with an enormous truck full of mulch–“bigger than your standard pickup truck”–and he’s spent the past four hours going back and forth from the truck with a wheelbarrow and spreading it, and he’s maybe 2/3 across the shrubbery (it’s a long stretch that wraps around the whole front yard).

    Part of me thinks that he’s scalping me on the $600 lawn treatment, but I really don’t know the cost of fertilizer and lime. Most of the lot is wooded; we only have maybe a half-acre of actual grass. I also believe that if he thought the $500 bid for the mulching was going to cost him money, he shouldn’t have agreed to it. But still, I’m worried that I’m taking advantage of him.

  15. I wonder how true this idea is across different times and places? I am thinking of the vast numbers of Chinese, who were desperately poor for generations until just this past 15 years or so. A lot of them have turned out to be quite smart. I suspect that in a world where the vast majority of people are desperately poor, the link with IQ is not as strong. In that kind of world. perhaps it is simply lack of resources for everyone.

  16. I would have thought your grandfather’s pension would have continued to flow to your grandmother (which assumes she was still alive, possibly not the case).

    Fred – She is still alive. 25 years later. His not electing the survivor’s benefit option was not a wise choice, as my Dad has noted a few times. Fortunately, he was also a saver, so there was still money. Most of it’s gone now.

  17. MBT asked about the proper role of minimum wage. I know several people who earn around or just above our state’s minimum wage (~$10/hr; I’ll include people I suspect earn up to $12 an hour) I prefer an earned income tax credit over an increase in the minimum wage.

    I don’t mind having a low federal minimum wage, such that almost no employers would pay less than that anyway, but government is a primary low wage employer, which makes laws to increase the minimum wage inflationary. The acquaintances I’m thinking of include an assistant in the school kitchen, a cafeteria assistant (lunch lady), part-time church secretary, a CNA, and a couple assistants for the disabled. All these except the church job are largely government funded.

    A second aspect is how a higher minimum wage decreases employment. I hired a babysitter two afternoons/week when I went back to work and paid $10/hr plus social security. If I had to pay $15/hr plus social security at my marginal tax rate, I would have been less apt to return to work. Caregiving is low paid work when it is paid at all and it operates at the margins of the economy. I’m not convinced that the economy truly flourishes when more people do paid, vs. unpaid, caregiving. And of course all this is tied in with caregiving being predominantly women’s work, and to what extent men and women really want to be equal.

    Both my babysitters were considering furthering their education in hopes of a better job, and in both cases, (pediatric medical assistant and person to help you fill out forms for various assistance programs such as Section 8, food stamps, etc.), they could have done the job perfectly well with on-the-job training. Both babysitters planned to take out student loans for their further education and it was clear to me that those loans would never be repaid, whether they wound up being defaulted on or whether income-based repayment working for a nonprofit meant the federal government absorbs most of the loan cost directly.

    My babysitters both would have struggled to pass the introductory college math course, and both of them could do their jobs perfectly well without introductory math skills.

  18. Milo – is the LAWN work for a one-time event or does it include multiple fertilizer/weed killer/winterizer applications through the growing season? If the latter $600 is probably ok. If a one-shot deal, he’s making money on that.
    Mulch…it is a lot cheaper to buy mulch in bulk vs at HD/Lowes (the main advantage of HD/Lowes is you can buy as much as you can spread in e.g. an afternoon and not have a mulch pile on your driveway while you finish the job in evenings over the rest of the week). The most recent thing I got on my front door said $36/cubic yard, delivered for a minimum of 5 yards. Typically I receive way more than I buy, and really 6 yards does it for us. Assuming similar pricing for you, his out of pocket for the product is less than $200, so he’s charging you $300 for labor. Can he do that in a day? Seems like a fair wage for spreading mulch. Even after taxes. Even if it took 2 days, 16 hours, the rate seems like fair compensation.

  19. I worked for a small contractor doing manual labor. Often what he charged changed based on what other work he had line up for us. If he had nothing going Wednesday, you could get the whole crew for next to nothing since he was going to pay them for that day any way.

  20. Fred – one time thing. Alright, I won’t worry about it and won’t be afraid to play a little more hardball in the future.

    I think Sheep Farmer’s going to say I should have my head examined for paying what I am.

  21. Milo, I just bought 26-0-3 fertilizer for our half acre of grass for $0.50/lb. You put it on at 3.2 lb/1000 square foot or a 16 lb bag covers 5000 square feet, so the fertilizer costs him ~$35, assuming you aren’t using one with moss killer, 2-4D or other additive. Fertilizing boustrophedonically with perpendicular passes with a hand spreader takes around an hour. Lime is similar in price to fertilizer, depending on local suppliers. Mr WCE just aerated the lawn with our lawn tractor and it takes about the same time to drive around on it as to mow it, around an hour with all our trees, garden, swing set, shed, raised flower beds, fence, etc. Mulch cost varies dramatically by region.

    You’re paying mostly for his time and equipment.

  22. Milo, I think I paid about $1200 for 6-7 cu yds of mulch at my last house. It was an all-day job for a couple of men, and I found cottonmouth snakes several times, so was willing to be gouged to not have to deal with it ourselves. (And I saw those men drop their tools and leap about 6 feet more than once, so I know they saw the snakes, too). I’m not sure about the pricing for the initial work, but for the mulch and the amount of labor involved, it seems fair.

    WCE – I know your example is on a micro-level, but all of the studies I’ve read support the idea that a higher minimum wage does NOT reduce employment. So it seems like a win for everyone (obviously, only within a certain threshold).

  23. Milo, I don’t think you’re being a jerk. I think you quite nicely responded to his price. He replied by lowering the price. If he feels it was a bad idea, he won’t agree to it next year. He may see the lower mulch price as a way to keep your business year over year.

  24. Ada, I think it is like that in a lot of districts, and a lot of cities. I don’t have to deal with the gifted programs in NYC, but I have a lot of friends that are going through the process this year. You need to know how to get your kids into certain middle and high schools. If a teacher or guidance counselor helps a really smart kid – then they might make it into the right schools or G & T programs. There are many smart kids of immigrants or parents that don’t speak English, and their parents don’t know the “system”.

    I did mention in prior posts that I knew several friends and family with seniors applying to college this year. I learned in the last six months that even if you are UMC, and have smart parents – it can be very, very difficult to get into a top 30 college.

  25. Thanks Risley and MBT.

    You’re paying mostly for his time and equipment.

    When I suggested on the phone last night that I would have to do it myself, buying it at Home Depot, he said something like “But you don’t even have a pickup truck!”

    It was very emasculating. I should send him a few MMM articles on the topic.

  26. Milo – just for comparison, we paid over $1000 the last time we got mulch/compost on all our garden beds.

  27. just for comparison, we paid over $1000 the last time we got mulch/compost on all our garden beds.

    OK. It’s just that I like to think that I’m better at this stuff than you people. ;)

  28. I do not have any evidence, but it appears that with more population than available jobs, employers increase the education or experience requirements above what is acutally needed to do the job. One example is a pharmacy technician – my best friend in high school did this with just on the job training as she always had to work under the supervision of a licensed pharmacist. Now, it requires a obtaining a certificate (testing) and a state registration about $40 per year for a trainee and about $60 per year for a full technician.

    I continue to watch to see as our population ages and we have more jobs than people if employers will start reducing the education or experience requirements.

  29. $500 discount is definitely “better at this stuff”. I don’t negotiate with the garden guy – I just refuse certain line items. :)

  30. My first kid didn’t make it into the advanced track at school in first grade. I wasn’t clued in at the time but later found that as soon as kids started school there was a round of testing done to determine who got into the advanced track. I was curious and emailed the teacher. Basically she said that as the school was filled with professional parents they had lots of smart students in the class, so their criteria for the advanced track was so high that only a few students made the cut.

  31. Only because I have essentially slave labor (not really…DS1 who actually enjoys this kind of work, made slightly over minimum at his summer job last year and so I paid him that rate), it cost me about $250 for the mulch, which we bought at Lowe’s in bags, though more costly than buying in bulk from a nursery, see rationale above), about $150 for the labor, call it $25 for driving the SUV to and from Lowe’s 3 or 4 times to buy the mulch. Total ~$425 for 1/2 acre.

  32. Milo- Home Depot will rent you one of their pick up trucks to bring your mulch home with at a very affordable price. (To be clear, we don’t need it. My husband is manly, apparently, because he has his own truck.) We just hit the point a few years ago where the wear and tear on our knees and backs was not worth any savings from DIY. We put in our own wood floor in one room, and by the end of the project, my husband was doing 100% of the work on the floor and I was doing 100% of the work that involved standing (cutting boards, etc) because the up and down was killing both of us. We hire out a lot more now.

  33. It’s very likely that I underestimated in my head just how much mulch was required, and how that would realistically end up taking me two full weekend days to spread, which would put us behind on laundry and grocery shopping…

  34. So how much are we saying for lawn “refresh” – we have someone coming to give us an estimate in a week.

  35. Louise, it’s going to depend on the volume that you need and the local price/yard for mulch and the type you want. We pay a little more for the non-slivery bark since the kids and dog are often in it. Last time, we got the smaller, faster-to-decompose blow-in bark with a 7 or 8 yard delivery minimum and $75 charge to have it blown in. Next time, we plan to get the larger pieces, which are not blow-in-able and do it ourselves with the boys.

    I shoveled a yard and a half of dirt into a wheelbarrow and wheeled it around the garden last weekend in around an hour and a half, I would say. It would have been much faster with two adults, one shoveling and one wheeling, as I spent a lot of time getting in and out of the truck.

  36. Milo, I was just telling DH the other night how much I love the fact that the mulch gets done by someone other than us now. It would take us two weekends, working all day, both of us, both days. Ugh. And if it rained in between, the mulch was so much heavier. Now, I send an email, guys show up, mulch is laid. Much, much nicer.

  37. Milo – that price seems entirely reasonable but DH negotiates on all stuff we hire out. He just can’t help himself, even if it’s only knocking $100 off. It really does usually work, although we can’t even get a landscaper to call us back right now because they are so busy.

  38. While raising minimum wage may not increase unemployment levels, it does decrease “the number of hours demanded by employers for unskilled labor”.

    Most minimum wage earners are between the ages of 16 and 24, and less than 1/4 of minimum wage workers live at or below the poverty line, so it would not have much effect on poverty levels.  However, it would affect entry-level jobs, diminishing the opportunities for unskilled workers to gain entry to the job market.

    This is interesting:  87 percent of poor smart kids escape poverty

  39. My parents can be a little quirky about what they hire and don’t hire. At their weekend house, my Dad decided that he wanted to spread small stones in an area to prevent erosion. He had some guy deliver something like 30 tons of river rocks (not as much as it sounds like) and dump it in their driveway, and he spent hours and hours at odd times, for weeks, loading it with just a spade into a wheelbarrow to move and spread it. So of course when we were there, I felt obligated to help a little bit, and Lord! that’s hard work. It gives you a whole new appreciation for the:

    You load sixteen tons, what do you get. Another day older and deeper in debt.
    Saint Peter don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go. I owe my soul to the company store

    The good old days.

    My Mom, of course, thought he had lost his mind.

  40. Milo,

    If I were your dad I’d have rented a Bobcat. That’s hours of grownup fun right there.

  41. My neighbors are mostly in their 70’s and do most of their own yard work. They can afford to hire what they need to, I think- everyone seems financially OK. But based on what I see (and looking at my 78 year old farmer uncle, who looks like he’s in his 50’s), I plan to keep doing some yard work as long as I can, even if I have to spread out the duration and hire some stuff done.

  42. If I were your dad I’d have rented a Bobcat.

    Yeah, but that’s missing the point. This is someone who has a collection of about eight kayaks.

  43. This is someone who has a collection of about eight kayaks.

    And no bobcat. Priorities.

  44. Milo, I usually get an “enormous truck full of mulch” dumped in my driveway for $350-400, and then we spend 2 days spreading it around. I think you got a good deal.

    What I really want is one of those mulch sprayers they use in my office park. It seems to be hooked up to the truck full of mulch in the parking lot and the hose just snakes around wherever they need it. I wonder if you can rent those at Home Depot?

  45. WCE,

    I was thinking more like this:

    But, I’d totally pay extra for the tank treads vs. tires.

  46. When we moved we started to hire out instead of doing it all ourselves. DH has finally got around to having a sprinkler system installed. I guess our yard will be all dug up and that’s where the landscaper will have to come in and fix it. I anticipate the yard issues to be fixed with the sprinklers and the landscaping.

  47. I think I’m glad we live on a postage-stamp sized lot.

    I’d hate it if we had kids, though.

  48. OK, update from DW. It was 8 cubic yards of mulch that he spread. And the grass treatment included re-seeding.

  49. @RMS – my kids make good use of our yard plus frequent use of the neighboring yards – including their nice landscaped patio gardens, screened in porches, driveways with basketball hoops, backyards with zip lines….I am thankful for all of it.

  50. We have a terrific park with big playing fields and an awesome playground — it’s one of the newer, less-safe kind, and thus looks like tons of fun. But it’s two blocks away and you have to cross one very busy street, so I doubt I’d let a kid under age 9 or 10 go by himself.

  51. “But you don’t even have a pickup truck!”

    It’s amazing what you can fit in a minivan with all the seats folded down/taken out. And you can always put a tarp down.

  52. Interesting article, WCE. I never thought about it that way (IQ v. opportunity), but it makes sense.

  53. If my H gets this job he’s interviewing for, I think we’ll just hire out the mulch this year. If not, he should have enough free time to take care of it all, including any equipment he might need.

  54. Doesn’t the income/IQ correlation weaken and eventually pretty much disappear as you move out of the upper middle class into the spectacularly wealthy? There you get much more into the realm of luck, not to mention inherited wealth. Although I wouldn’t be surprised if the “grit” correlation takes you farther than the IQ correlation. Right place at right time can put you in the serendipitous position where your little business is poised for huge growth, but grit is what keeps you putting in the hours to build it.

  55. Although I wouldn’t be surprised if the “grit” correlation takes you farther than the IQ correlation.

    I think that’s true. Look at some like Travis Kalanick. His first company, Scour went bankrupt in two years. His second, Red Swoosh was basically a failure after 6 years. But, he tried again with Uber and now he’s a billionaire.

    Then again Zuckerberg, Gates, Brin, Jobs all have IQs in the 99.9999% percentile. IIRC Jobs was tested as a kid and his IQ was beyond the ability of the test to calculate.

  56. So, ironically, as this post went up, I was in a session about the importance of grit and resilience.

    The issue I have with Murray’s line of thinking is the underlying assumption that being “smart” is a fixed thing that you are born with. Obligatory caveat: I do believe that there is a wide degree of innate intellectual ability — I don’t care how hard most of us work, we’re not going to be Einstein. But the more recent science is also pretty clear that for most of us within the normal part of the distribution curve, the brain works like a muscle: the more you exercise it, the better it works, and the smarter you get.

    So I would argue that IQ is also the wrong metric, and that it’s really those habits — working, seeing the importance of getting an education, sticking with it when things get hard, learning to delay gratification, aspiring to success/believing it’s possible, etc. etc. etc. — that drive the results.

    In other words, maybe it’s the habits that are generating both the higher IQs and the economic success, and not necessarily the other way around. So I don’t see “grit” as being such a separate, dissociated category from IQ as Murray seems to (though I agree with his view of its importance) — I think grit helps you make yourself smarter.

    The other problem I have with the Murray approach is that it can lead to a pretty fatalistic world view — oh well, nothing we can do, those kids are just screwed, let’s find them some nice manual labor they are capable of doing (and then argue about how much that minimum wage should be). This is, frankly, the world in which I grew up — and it’s a world in which almost everyone who wasn’t white and male and at least MC was assumed to be less capable of academic achievement. And that approach just flat-out screws over all of the categories of people who did a crappy job choosing their parents.

    OTOH, if you approach it from the standpoint that for most people what you’re born with is only part of the story, that opens up a world of possibility. Then you can look at teaching methods and school and community programs that can give the “other” kids at least a chance to catch up. What was it, 2 days ago when I told the story about what happened when my mom flat-out lied to her class about their “academic ability” (which, btw, was based on IQ tests the school had run on everyone)? People who believe that they can make themselves smarter do significantly better in both school and in their ultimate careers.

    So even if I’m wrong in the end, I’d much rather start from that perspective. Assuming ability is fixed at birth guarantees that ability stays fixed; assuming you can improve ability through effort at least gives you a chance of improvement.

    Of course, the current school system is going in the other direction. All the focus on parental involvement, all this need for knowledgeable/helicopter-ey parents to get your kids into the right classes, etc. stacks the deck even further against those kids who, the data suggest, have already drawn the short end of the IQ/affluence/”good habits” stick.

  57. HM, yes, if you look up the original article, one of Murray’s points is that the benefit of wealth phases out above ~$125k HHI and flattens/becomes negative over $200k.

  58. Ceiling effects, btw, is why CTY and Davidson have kids do the out-of-level testing (i.e. taking a test designed for kids at a higher grade level) to screen applicants.

  59. WM,

    Shhhhh! Next thing you know they’ll put extra credit questions on the SAT and you’ll need 1650 out of 1600 to get in.

  60. Risley – last summer DH had 5 yards of mulch delivered on a Friday. We had planned to spread it over the weekend. The weather changed and a huge storm was moving in on Friday night. We ended up leaving work early on Friday and spreading it all over the course of 4 hours. Finishing just as the lightening and rain came in. The next morning I couldn’t lift my arms, but we weren’t about to have that mulch pile get wet. It rained about 3 inches that night.

  61. LfB, you are definitely correct that what is measured as “IQ” is generally correlated with what is measured as “grit” in real life. Murray’s attempt to deconvolve those variables may or may not be correct. One of the charities we support talks about the difference between situational poverty (Meme’s income immediately after her divorce) and generational poverty (the lack of grit that causes your income to remain below $20k over your lifetime)

    Everyone has already heard my argument about threshold variables, and that success means having “enough IQ’ and “enough grit”. And in countries like Africa, you have had a huge effect on IQ in recent decades from sufficient nutrition, which raised IQ from ~70 in people who had been undernourished as babies to ~100 in people with adequate nutrition.

    Like the minimum wage, the argument is over what the balance/thresholds are.

  62. “Of course, the current school system is going in the other direction. All the focus on parental involvement, all this need for knowledgeable/helicopter-ey parents to get your kids into the right classes, etc. stacks the deck even further against those kids who, the data suggest, have already drawn the short end of the IQ/affluence/”good habits” stick.”

    This is one of the things I like about the charter school my son attends – they try hard to mitigate for parental involvement. A fair number of the kids are children of immigrants, or immigrants themselves, and ~45% are on reduced price lunch. They take the PSAT and SAT on a school day, and the school covers the fee and signs them up. They offer after school and Saturday tutoring, and try to make a lot of project work done in class. Particularly for Science Fair or PBL projects, that science teachers schedule the kids to come in after school to use the lab facilities. They’re not perfect by any means, but a lot more of the work is done in class. They also have a college readiness “club” where they target kids throughout their 4 years and help make sure they do everything they need to do to be competitive when applying, and help them through the process. My son has mentioned that some of his friends’ parents can’t help them at all with any homework, so the school tries to fill in that gap.

  63. I just read “The Millionaire Mind” which was good but very heavy on the anecdotes. Stanley spent a decent amount of time profiling millionaire men who weren’t academically inclined, but had grit and had a knack for seeing niches where they could make money. Stanley said something along the lines of parents and teachers do kids like this a huge disservice when they act as if a kid’s fate is sealed with bad grades and SAT scores, which is what Murray is saying too. These things are not necessarily correlated with wealth and success. But it seems like this is the way schools are going in UMC areas.

  64. LfB, I’ve been thinking about your post more doing the low IQ, high grit tasks of unloading the dishwasher and folding laundry.

    I don’t know what percentage of high school students take the SAT/ACT, but the people who take those tests at least used to be truncated for IQ. Few people with IQ’s below 100 bothered to take them, which is why Murray uses the NLSY.

    I then thought about the people I know who have normal intellectual ability and high grit. The one that comes to mind is ~21, just got married, enjoys hunting and fishing and just took and passed the test to manage the hunting/fishing department at a sporting goods chain store that is opening in our town. I recently e-mailed him an opportunity to be a clerk (with eventual opportunities to be a tech) for the city engineering department.

    His dad is a custodian for Costco and his mom just started working as a classroom assistant after homeschooling for ~20 years.

    Adoption studies are the best thing we have to understand the effect of environment on IQ, and in my opinion, they conclude that with middle class parents, most children can be in the normal range of IQ. Part of me wonders if both you and Murray are saying that society needs to develop “grit”, for which I agree with Milo that the military was good.

  65. WCE,

    Is grit more malleable the IQ? I’d argue that both are pretty much fixed.

    You can make them do it but you can’t make them want to do it.

  66. agree with Milo that the military was good.

    Selection bias? If we chose a random sample and sent into the military I think we’d find at best a very marginal impact.

  67. “Bobcat or Kubota”?

    Kubota makes all kinds of heavy machinery. If you’re ever in Japan, look at any construction sites and you’re likely to see Kubota products. Kids will probably really enjoy looking– much of the machinery you’d see are scaled-down versions of what you’d see in the US, usually painted in pastels (lilac and gray seemed a common combination), and the equipment owners/operators seem to put a lot more effort into keeping them clean and shiny than is the case here. They almost look like toys.

  68. Is grit more malleable the IQ?

    I think it is. It seems that if you give someone a glimpse of the life that is available to them for a certain marginal increase in effort, they are more likely to put that effort out. I think for a certain amount of inter-generational poverty, it is related to the relative silos of poverty/wealth in which we live – people don’t even know what their options are. It’s the whole “not for people like us” mentality. Or maybe this is selection bias on my part. If I had known about more lucrative opportunities when I was young and working a ton of hours anyway, I would possibly have made different choices.

  69. I suppose it depends on your definition of “grit” but I consider it way more malleable than IQ. I read a blog about some research that pretty accurately predicts IQ from MRI scans of the brain, and the ratios of white and grey matter within the brain. “Grit” is why I plan to make my sons haul mulch around the yard, and after they leave home, might be tempted to hire it done.

  70. Is grit more malleable the IQ?

    It has a lot to do with habits, and circumstances can cause a person to develop more-gritty habits (suddenly responsible at age 16 for supporting a now-fatherless family in a pre-welfare/food stamp era, must look for work and also keep up the chopping-and-hauling for the family vegetable garden and animals so that younger sibs can stay in school) or less-gritty habits (at 16, only responsible for pulling decent grades, gets allowance, minimal or no chores, can spend all free time in climate-controlled private room with computer, smartphone, other toys). If both are equally smart and both are suddenly able to go off to college at 18 — let’s send them to college in 1975 to kind of split the difference in historical circumstances — which one is likely to show more apparent grit in putting in more hours studying and attending class versus partying, cheerfully living in a shared dorm room and eating what the dining hall offers, and so on?

  71. Rhett – I wasn’t so much saying that it would teach grit, but just that it will get some kids out of a bad situation.

    But I was curious so I just Googled it now. This guy seems to have looked at a lot of the available studies, and the data is mixed. One thing I did notice from his individual summaries is that the benefits of service appear to be consistently better for black men than other demographics.

  72. BTW, yes I am implying that in historical terms we’re all weenies. If the [Historical Period] House series has taught us nothing else, it has taught us that. (Except for the Meadows family; they are the *best*. Sweetest teens you’ll ever see in a reality show.)

  73. I am not comfortable with the idea that on a society-wide basis there is 85% or more overlap of middle class to low UMC parental income and above average intelligence measures, achievement test results, academic talent, future success in the modern economy. He seems to be saying that the sorting is pretty much all done and that only few outliers will rise or fall, so (LfB put it well already – I won’t repeat.)

    In the late 1990s we had a departmental lunch at big company tax dept. Out of 25 employees there ranging from office assistant to VP Tax, 25 to 60 years in age, exactly 2 had parents who attended college, and they were both 38 year old graduates of top 50 law schools. Several of the professionals had received their college degrees in adulthood at night. All of our children were expected to attend and graduate from college. Many of our parents were just as smart, whatever that means, as we were. Our cousins, siblings, childhood friends who did not end up taking showers before work instead of afterward were not stupid, low IQ, low bandwidth or whatever “innate” disqualification they might seem to have for that sort of life. Some were unable to get an education because of family circumstances or gender or race discrimination. Some had learning issues that in that era were not understood. Some were unwilling to leave home region or family expectations behind.

    Liberals may be unwilling to acknowledge the degree to which bad choices and bad family structure have made it more difficult for the less advantaged to rise. But we are not will to accept the view that the sorting was completed for the existing US population groups by 1980 with the baby boomer and Gen-Xers, and that from now on only worthy striving immigrant from certain groups should expect to get the few non inherited pieces of the middle class pie.

  74. “I think Sheep Farmer’s going to say I should have my head examined for paying what I am.”

    Milo, you don’t need your head examined. Well, at least as far as the mulch episode is concerned. :) I know nothing about the price of mulch, but I do know a lot about people who haggle about prices. Drives me crazy, especially when I know that they can afford what is being charged. Don’t have problems with people who want to haggle over the price of sheep, but do have to deal with it for our other business, and what really bothers me is that the ones that are most insistent that they can’t afford our prices are the people who can most easily afford our rates. Your mulch guy is looking at your UMC house and UMC lifestyle and knows that you can afford his prices, but for some reason he gave him. Perhaps he was tired after working outside all day and did not want to argue. Perhaps he hates to haggle, so he just gave in. Perhaps he really needed the work, and is just happy to have work. Who knows, but I do know that a couple of hundred dollars means a lot more to him than to you. Give him a little more than the agreed upon price. Think of it as giving him a bonus for working so hard for you. He will appreciate it and be more willing to work with you in the future.

  75. Meme, I take his argument completely differently. I take it as “Why require college for so many jobs? Why exclude my babysitters from appropriate jobs because they may or may not ever pass college algebra?” I wonder how many people at a similar departmental lunch these days would have non-college-educated parents.

  76. “So I would argue that IQ is also the wrong metric, and that it’s really those habits — working, seeing the importance of getting an education, sticking with it when things get hard, learning to delay gratification, aspiring to success/believing it’s possible, etc. etc. etc. — that drive the results. ”

    I’ve read more than once about Asian kids doing better in math than American kids because of this sort of difference in attitude. It was postulated that the Asian attitude was that all kids could learn math if they worked hard enough at it, vs. the American attitude that the ability to do well at math, or lack thereof, was more innate.

  77. Sheep Farmer – I hear you, and that’s why I felt a little bad. I haven’t haggled with him before, and he’s done a lot of work for us. I just got the impression that he was upping his prices because he didn’t think I was the least bit price-sensitive about it.

  78. Milo, some people (perhaps including your Dad) enjoy a certain amount of hard physical labor.

    A couple of years after I bought my first house, the sewer main needed to be replaced. Rather than hire someone to do it, I did it myself. The major part of that job was digging, so for several weeks, every day after work, and an weekends, I’d spend an hour or two with a pick and shovel, until I’d finally dug a trench, in hard clay soil, that was about 5 feet deep at its deepest.

    The daily digging provided me a good workout, and I slept very well every night after digging.

    Doing that kind of work for 8 hours a day, day in and day out for years, is not something I’d want to do. But just that much, along with the freedom to skip a day any time I didn’t feel like it, was something I liked. Regularly getting that kind of exercise energizes me.

  79. “Doesn’t the income/IQ correlation weaken and eventually pretty much disappear as you move out of the upper middle class into the spectacularly wealthy? There you get much more into the realm of luck, not to mention inherited wealth.”

    There you also get a lot more into entrepreneurialism, where willingness to take risks comes much more into play, as well as salesmanship.

  80. “it appears that with more population than available jobs, employers increase the education or experience requirements above what is actually needed to do the job.”

    And we’ve seen the converse, when the military dropped its standards to try and meet its recruiting goals a few years ago at the height of the combined Iraq/Afghanistan deployments.

  81. “I continue to watch to see as our population ages and we have more jobs than people if employers will start reducing the education or experience requirements.”

    Or become more willing to hire older people.

  82. There you also get a lot more into entrepreneurialism, where willingness to take risks comes much more into play, as well as salesmanship.

    Stanley’s theory on that, which I think has some truth to it, is that those who were more average students are more willing to take risks later in life because they’ve experience failures from time to time and aren’t quite so afraid of it. The straight-A NMSF is more likely to stay on the safe path as a diligent employee because the risk of a first big failure is too scary.

  83. (suddenly responsible at age 16 for supporting a now-fatherless family in a pre-welfare/food stamp era, must look for work and also keep up the chopping-and-hauling for the family vegetable garden and animals so that younger sibs can stay in school)

    Selection bias, you’re not counting all the folks that just walked away. I would argue that grit can only be influenced, ever so slightly, at the margins.

  84. “Is grit more malleable the IQ? I’d argue that both are pretty much fixed.

    You can make them do it but you can’t make them want to do it.”

    I think “grit” in this conversation is the same thing as “middle class” in others: we all have different ideas of what we mean, so to some degree we end up talking past each other. For ex, I don’t see grit as *either* “making them do it” *or* “making them want to do it.”

    So based on the seminar I just came out of, here is what I mean:

    1. The belief that you can get smarter/better by working harder (like Finn’s math example). I.e., “of course you can’t do it, math is hard, I couldn’t do it either” vs. “of course you can’t do it, no one gets it on the first try, you have to work at it.” It has been demonstrated in a variety of situations that teaching people that they can get smarter by sticking with it and working hard in fact leads to people performing better. A/k/a confirmation bias at work.

    2. Persistence and resilience in the face of challenges. This can be anything from sticking with that calculus problem set until you really feel like you “get” it to just getting yourself to school every day when you have no parental support and have to take three crosstown buses. This is the closest thing to “making them do it.”

    3. Belief in the value of what you’re doing/delayed gratification. I.e., you stick to that problem set because you believe the long-term benefits are going to pay off more than the relief you’d get from giving up. This is the closest thing to “making them want to do it.”

    4. The ability to take a step back, get your emotions under control, and analyze roadblocks and find a way to address them or work around them. This is probably the hardest to define and the longest to develop; it’s almost a combination of mental flexibility and maturity/emotional control. Every person in a professional or business environment is going to run into an asshole boss or impossible client or flopped assignment. Some people end up throwing up their hands and saying screw it, it’s not worth it — or screw it, I’m stuck; or screw it, I’m not smart enough; or any number of other things. And it’s very easy to then let that start you on a cycle of “awfulizing” — I’m never going to get anywhere, I’m going to get fired, Ican’tIcan’tIcan’t. But the people who are the most successful hit that roadblock, go out and have a drink or a kvetch session with friends, and then start trying to figure out what they can do to fix the problem/change the situation/prevent the same issue from happening again/etc. It’s not just learning to be stoic and not crumple at the first piece of criticism or bad luck — it’s being upset/pissed/scared, but then getting yourself under control, figuring out how to lick your wounds, and then finding a way over/under/around/through.

  85. “some people (perhaps including your Dad) enjoy a certain amount of hard physical labor.”

    He’s a little like you, Finn, and a lot like Fred.

  86. “where willingness to take risks comes much more into play”

    This is a factor in my life. I am risk averse, and that impacted the decisions I’ve made in my life. It worked for me, allowed me to craft a life where I worked from home the entire time my oldest was in K-12, and through 9th grade for my second. My brother and his wife are in the entertainment industry. They make exceptionally good money when they work, but can periods of more than a year where they are unemployed. The upside potential is high if you don’t wash out waitng for your break. I absolutely could not live like that for decades, but I also have kids and they don’t. I couldn’t risk everything we have on a business venture. Perhaps I could have when we were young and just starting out, but not at this age. This limits some options.

    Meme, I agree with what you say. My current thought process is that schools need to put a lot more emphasis on vocational training instead of acting like college is the only good path to adulthood. My blue-collar family members have solid middle-class lives. One is doing quite well because his wife’s family had what was once land out in the country, and is now smack-dab in the middle of a rapidly growing suburb, and the value of their acreage has skyrocketed. But even without that, they are making a very comfortable living, with no student loans. So I don’t think the middle class pie is only available to those with certain IQs, but I think schools need to help kids more with alternate career options.

  87. that those who were more average students are more willing to take risks later in life because they’ve experience failures

    It’s also important to know that the correlation between IQ and academic achievement isn’t 1. If you have someone who has a 150IQ but scores very low on “agreeableness” that might make for a terrible student but an amazing entrepreneur.

  88. I like LfB’s explanation of grit a lot. It explains why 80% of the population does OK in life, in my opinion. In the case of my hunting/fishing department acquaintance, he not only had to know about hunting/fishing (which comes at least partly from family background in the same way affinity for college does for folks on this blog) but also pass accounting, scheduling and inventory management parts of the exam.

    I suppose he’ll wind up making $50-$60k, his wife is a nurse who will make at least that if she works full-time, and they will have a perfectly nice life near their extended family, all local. To me, his situation is a win- he has no desire to be at a department lunch with Meme’s colleagues.

  89. Like MBT, I hate risk. Part of that is my personality, but part of it is knowing that I didn’t have family resources to fall back on. I notice different choices among my friends who are “receiving wealth” (either money now or the expectation of an inheritance, and previously it affected how long people stayed in school and what they studied) vs. “giving wealth” (needing to support aging parents)

  90. Finn – I have the Asian attitude towards Math. Though I have not been born with the innate ability to “get math” at the first try – I take a step by step approach and in school I practiced Math till I could get through basic problems very quickly. I have tried to teach my kids this and in case of my DD “girls can do math” has to be tacked on as well.

  91. “I couldn’t risk everything we have on a business venture.”

    DH is a serial entrepreneur. It’s taken me a while to get used to the risk in our lives because of his chosen profession. This year, he’s starting a company, so no salary for him. Our income dropped 60%. We also invested a lot of money in his company. There’s an 85% chance that this company will fail. There’s a 15% chance that it will succeed.

  92. WCE,

    I get the impression, both from that article and from stories of how Bill ran Microsoft, that he was never going to thrive in Corporate America as anything other than the big boss.

    Agreeable individuals value getting along with others. They are generally considerate, kind, generous, trusting and trustworthy, helpful, and willing to compromise their interests with others

    I’m guessing that’s just not his thing.

  93. Rhett, I remember discussing Bill Gates with my college boyfriend, who interned at Microsoft, before Gates married Melinda. I’m actually a little surprised he’s stayed married.

  94. WCE,

    I’m betting Melinda’s agreeableness scores are as high as Bill’s are low.

  95. WCE – whether your hunting and fishing friend has advanced education or just grit and enough conventional smarts to pass the tests you described, he and his college educated wife are comfortably middle class, reaching at some point Murray’s optimal point of 125K per year. Whether they went to four year college programs or not is irrelevant. I assume he finished high school. If they are the first generation in their families to enter the comfortable middle class, they prove one of Murray’s various points, namely that hard work, applied intelligence and responsible life choices, not a pair of diplomas (they do have at least one, albeit a practical one), are the upward ticket to a middle class life.

    The implication of the article posted, however, is that for someone starting out, current family prosperity, living situation, available educational advantages, and raw “intelligence” test levels, are simply part of a package that indicates that the young subject comes from superior breeding stock developed over the past few generations in this country. New blood has to be introduced from time to time, and the herd culled, but for the most part we have what we need, thank you.

  96. Meme, thanks for commenting. To me, the statistics he offers are pretty compelling, and even the people who somewhat disagree today (LfB, Meme) have essentially said, “That’s not my vision of the world” not “Here’s where his analysis is wrong.”

    The mother of the hunting/fishing guy has a degree in history and wasn’t particularly academically inclined and the father-in-law is a physician, so the couple isn’t exactly climbing from the bottom. My closest friends who “climbed from the bottom” faced certifiable neglect (not being fed, left at home alone for weeks as a young teen) and are partially supporting now-elderly parents. I admire them and they BOTH have a ton of grit, as well as intelligence.

  97. Okay. I am more than upset today. Outraged, in fact. My feathers are ruffled. Milo doesn’t have a pick up?!!! That simply cannot be!

    I mean, when he pulls into the well landscaped office park in McLean or the NSA parking lot, who would know he is a gentleman farmer– the living image of Jefferson (without the slaves, of course, but with three daughters).?

    At least two mothers at school drive spanking new, white Ford 150’s. They make a statement (I don’t know what) when they disembark in the morning for the Mother’s club meetings in full make up and f-you high heels.

    I know I need my 2016 Lincoln Continental as a coda (or to please Milo, a pre-coda) on my life. Milo needs that Ford F-150 far more Thomas Jefferson wouldn’t have done without Monticello. Milo should not do without with a pickup.

  98. Milo – I have to agree with PTM here. Septic tank and well water = hefty pick up. This is my son’s commuter car (his has car seats in the back). How else can you take the trash to the dump every week?

  99. “At least two mothers at school drive spanking new, white Ford 150’s.”

    Do they have a gun rack in the back? Every F-150 needs a gun rack…

    That said, I *love* F-150s and agree with everything PTM said.

  100. honolulu mom – Stanley, Murray et al have no particular use for the ultra wealthy, especially the flashy nouveau riche, and would probably subscribe to shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three or four generations. No, it is the virtuous do-without millionaire next door and moderate middle class that they admire, and a fancy pants elite college degree is not only unnecessary, but likely a impediment, because it serves to erode the bedrock values of the heartland.

  101. @WCE — ? Thought I did say where I thought Murray’s analysis was wrong, i.e., in assuming that IQ is the cause instead of just another correlating factor, and in assuming that IQ is fixed despite quite a bit of recent research that suggests that it is not (although to be fair, I think the recent research tested things like “school outcomes” and not IQ per se).

  102. A musket. Milo would require a musket. A long one. Two dueling pistols would be kept on the passenger seat. The daughters in the rear part of the cab.

  103. “That said, I *love* F-150s ”

    Sadly, I’ve never own a pick-up, but I did use one for most business trips back in the day. So much fun.

  104. Milo, you must keep the outside of your truck muddy, to prove that you do *real work* in it. The inside must be clean to prove that you respect the truck.

  105. LfB, sorry for misunderstanding you. I think “school outcomes” are prime examples of the combination of IQ and grit, and the high dropout rate among low income kids with high measured IQ’s is evidence that IQ is only part of the puzzle.

    Group statistics on IQ defined psychometrically are pretty powerfully consistent. That does not mean that an individual can’t have a bad day or that IQ can’t be improved when a threshold variable such as nutrition among babies in Africa isn’t adequate.

    IQ, in my mind, is the attempt to separate out the ability part of school performance. It’s why my mother, a literacy specialist for awhile, approached people with a very low measured IQ (say, 70) differently from people with a normal measured IQ (say, 90-100). When people on this blog say IQ doesn’t matter or can be increased much, I admit that I’m skeptical that they’ve really had much chance to observe the difference between 70 and 95 over a large population.

  106. We simply do not own Carollas. Maybe in Apalachicola, but certainly not down here. Lambos or Maseratis or Porshes. Rented, of course. Mailroom kids, BMWs. The old, bald guys drive Bentleys. Folks from Brazil and/or real estate developers, RRs.

    I haven’t seen a Corolla since the last time I went to Georgia.

  107. “I haven’t used the word “meritocracy” to describe this because it doesn’t apply. Merit has nothing to do with possessing a high IQ. It is pure luck. ”

    In the context of the article– admission to elite colleges– this isn’t true. High IQ is, for most, necessary but not sufficient to get accepted to elite colleges. Besides high SAT or ACT scores, a high GPA in the most challenging courses offered by one’s HS is also necessary, as are high scores in SAT subject tests. Those typically require a certain amount of effort and self-discipline, and are not achieved via pure luck.

  108. WCE, as you know, I find you somewhat impervious to argument on the subject of Murray. Laura absolutely did show you where the analysis is wrong. The fact that you can’t see that doesn’t mean her critique is wrong.

  109. “high dropout rate among low income kids with high measured IQ’s is evidence that IQ is only part of the puzzle.”

    We’ve also in the past discussed how extremely bright kids often get poor grades because they are bored, and how teaching such kids and keeping them engaged can be very challenging for some teachers.

  110. RMS, I wish you would show me statistics. I don’t mean to be impervious- I just don’t think that you, Laura and others are using statistical analysis, rather than “normal, everyday” definitions of intelligence/IQ.

  111. Maybe part of my thinking is that my Mom was good at telling the difference with a “correctly measured” IQ of 70, and someone with relatively normal intelligence and some other problem such as poor vision, poor hearing, dyslexia, addiction or nonstandard English that caused their IQ to be incorrectly measured as 70. Her pass rates were about double those of the other GED prep teachers, and that was true even for people who transferred into her class from other GED prep teachers.

  112. You guys are funny. I can’t understand how some people can latch onto something as innocuous as a buried, out-of-sight septic and ascribe such meaning to it. It changes nothing about daily life except, instead of paying a monthly municipal sewer charge, every few years I call the local company to come pump it out. (If I’m present to watch the process, I get a lecture about not using fancy-pants Charmin Ultra or anti-bacterial hand soaps, and I smile and ignore both admonishments. I mean, if a comfortable tush means that I have to have it pumped every three years instead of every five, it’s well worth it.) The cost is $200.

    Before I would buy a pickup truck, I would just get a small cargo trailer easily towable by the minivan. I still value efficiency in transportation costs. Murray and Stanley, God rest his soul, would have loved to write about FIL and his dented, faded 10-year-old base 2wd Highlander that he bought off the back lot just after they discontinued that generation, the last time they offered the model with only a 4 cyl. And that was only after his then-12-year-old Camry was rear-ended and declared a total loss.

    I’m not in sales–my cars don’t matter a bit. In fact, with some, if I happen to be driving them, I can garner more respect with well-placed references to the MND Gospel.

  113. I already showed you that Murray relies on studies from a very problematic source, namely, the house organ of the Pioneer Fund. You just shrugged that off. Why should I engage again on the topic?

  114. Maybe, after reading LfB’s first post, my Mom is good at helping people with low measured IQ figure out the root cause of their roadblocks to adequate literacy, and we as a society need to figure out ways for that to happen more often.

    I definitely agree with her point that in real life, IQ and grit are heavily correlated. People with low measured IQ’s are disproportionately unable to overcome their own roadblocks, and maybe what the rest of you are saying is that we as a society need to put more resources into helping them, but to me, that could be the answer to Murray’s question.

    Anyway, thanks for putting up with me when I am unintentionally dense. It’s because I care about all sorts of people that this question interests me so much.

  115. Milo, my friend (and I really consider you a friend), I call bullshit on this one. Get a white F-150, muddy it up as Houston suggested and go drive the kids to school.

  116. “I know many people think inequality is a problem that government can or should solve.”

    A lot of this depends on if we’re talking about equality of opportunity vs. equality of outcome.

    Several regulars have posted about their relatives who’ve chosen to prioritize different things (particularly, leisure) than they, or their spouses, who had essentially the same opportunities. Should the government be stepping in to equalize those outcomes?

  117. PTM – I’d rather have a white or maroon RDX with a tan leather interior. That may be my next car, depending on how many years away that is and investment returns between now and then. Otherwise, it will likely be a CR-V in the same coloring.

    Trucks are just too big and heavy.

    The landscape guy really didn’t listen to me at all when I said “I’m looking to just cover the bare spots.” His employee re-mulched the entire thing. It looks good. I’ll make sure to give him more business in the future.

  118. @WCE — honestly, I am not up enough on the IQ studies to speak knowledgeably, but I wasn’t talking about the guy with the IQ of 70. I just pulled up a generic google search chart – — and that IQ is basically the lowest 1-2 percentile. I was talking, for lack of a better word, about the “most people” category — maybe the 10th-90th percentiles, or around 80-120? Or 20th and above, so maybe 85 and up?

    More generally, I think there is just a lot more malleability and “nurture” in IQ than you or Murray do. I will grant you that I believe people are born with an innate genetic potential for intelligence, the same way that they are born with genes that make them tall or short, or Angelina Jolie or everyone else. I just don’t think that IQ tests measure that genetic potential — I think they are affected by a lot of the same “nurture” issues we are talking about.

    The only example I can give you is me. I was in that same school system where they gave everyone IQ tests before they started school, and mine were extremely high. Did I have good innate smarts? Sure. But I was also an early reader, and the tests strongly favored kids with advanced reading ability. And I had two college-educated parents, one of whom was actually a HS English teacher at the time — hmmm, gee, might that have had anything to do with my early reading ability? I would say I got lucky because I happened to be exceptionally good at what the test measured — and because I was born to parents who valued that particular skill and encouraged and supported me in developing it.

    But isn’t it logical then that other kids may have been born with the same genetic “potential” I had, but didn’t score as well on that test as I did? Maybe their skills didn’t precisely align with what the test valued the highest; maybe they were both brilliant and dyslexic; or maybe they spent their first 5 years watching TV instead of reading, because their parents were uneducated and working multiple jobs.

    And here’s the kicker: my IQ test results qualified me for additional assistance under a federal program for poor smart kids, so I got additional support and “educational” daycare and stuff I don’t even remember. It’s a self-reinforcing virtuous cycle — I am smart both because I got good smart genes, AND because people treated me as smart my whole life and looked to develop that potential. Which then leads me to what seems like the logical conclusion that if you give that same kind of support to those “underperformers” — the kids who for some reason didn’t test up to their innate potential — you’d help them overcome those initial problems and get a lot closer to whatever their “genetic potential” was. And of course since you can’t tell which kids are at their innate potential and which have room to grow, you give everyone that same support and encouragement, teach them that they can make themselves smarter by studying and working hard. And see what happens.

    So to put it all in a nutshell, this is my problem with Murray: he starts with a test that measures both nature + nurture; he then ignores the “nurture” aspect of that test; and finally, he uses those test scores to argue that nature is the variable that controls the result. And I think that is illogical and defeatist.

  119. @WCE — FWIW, I don’t think you’re being dense. I think you’re being an engineer, and crunching your way through hard data; and I’m being a lawyer, and talking principles that are illustrated with anecdotes; and so to some degree we’re both talking past each other. But I hope my last post explained in a little more detail my problems with the IQ test.

    I also think that this is a hot button issue for me because I am significantly older than you (sigh) and grew up in a time and a place when *everyone* believed that IQ was destiny, and everyone was tested and tracked from the time they were five. FIVE. And ironically, this was all done with the best of intentions: the idea was that you could go out to all the poor areas and find those really bright kids and help them escape poverty! But no one paid attention to the fact that the test that they were using to cull the wheat from the chaff was pretty darn confounded by all that chaff. And the end result was, I think, a lot of lost potential, because everyone just assumed that “those kids” didn’t have the capability. Which is why Jaime Escalante was such a Huge Frigging Deal at the time — I really can’t even begin to describe how against the grain it went to prove that underprivileged kids had the capacity to learn calculus. It was like claiming that the earth moved around the sun instead of vice-versa, you know?

  120. LfB, I can go on and on and on about a certain kid I know and how none of his teachers realize that he is perfectly smart. “Smart enough” as President Obama might say. This year he has an older teacher, who practically gushes when she sees how well he can do. I almost cry when I hear that.

    I don’t know what IQ is. I apparently have one and most who know me would figure it is about six. My IQ, I suppose, has gotten me many places, some of which I deserved and some of which I didn’t.

    I think if one has a good sense of who she or he is, is realistic, has determination, that is most of what one needs. I have to believe this, though.

  121. LfB, thank you for taking the time to write detailed posts. I think I was missing a lot of history about “measured IQ” that makes it a hot button issue for people who were negatively affected by excessive focus on it and assumptions that its distribution in the population is Gaussian, etc. In my mind, of course you have “measurement error” in any standardized test, and I think my mom was uniquely talented and motivated to identify the hurdles of people with low measured IQ’s. (not that I’m biased in favor of my mom, haha)

    The skills measured by the GED always came easily to me, and I’ve always admired the determination (grit?) of people who studied for months or even years to pass the test and then often don’t retain the skills they just learned.

    Part of the definition of grit you gave above assumes that people have the ability to develop a new path or figure out the cause of their difficulties without extensive, one-on-one assistance, almost like what a parent does for a child. That ability was generally lacking in the people my mom taught. I don’t know what to call it after today’s discussion.

    In my local school, IQ testing is out and so are accommodations to differing ability levels such as reading groups. I’m living out the ideal of “let’s give everyone the same opportunities” with my kids. Times have definitely changed.

  122. Milo,

    It’s interesting that the rebutter went to great lengths to agree that she was basically correct.

  123. Milo,

    I would add that her critisms seem very familiar to anyone that age working in any large organization be it PWC, P&G, SAP, GE, etc.

  124. Yeah, some of her complaints are unoriginal and largely unavoidable (travel and separation). That shouldn’t have surprised her; if it did, she’s certainly not as smart as she thinks.

    The promotion thing, well, like you said, it’s a huge organization and yeah, it’s based on wickets. That doesn’t actually mean it’s worse than a system based more on perceived merit, or that trying to grant promotions based on merit (in any organization) is somehow going to be more fair.

    The “white men/privilege/Christian” complaint just discredits her further. It’s a stupid complaint in any case, and one reason is because ultimately those in senior ranks are the ones who volunteered–and stuck around. Most service academy graduates are NOT engineering majors, so the few hard facts she offers aren’t even correct. And I think you’d have a hard time finding any professional group of college-educated people that has better representation from non-economically privileged backgrounds. Working class backgrounds of officers are very common, and that was very enlightening to someone from my upbringing.

    I resigned for the same separation reasons, but I guess I’m not so self-absorbed to presume that it’s worthy of a column. The time was fun, but the obligation was no longer what I wanted. That doesn’t mean the Navy needs to change or that I was somehow better than those who have stayed. We both got what we wanted out of the deal. As the fake JCS response so brilliantly said “You could not be more replaceable.”

  125. Milo, you couldn’t be more irreplaceable, on this board at least.

    I would be more than proud if my son serves in the military. I wish I had too as my father and grandfathers did.

  126. Milo,
    Glad that you were happy with your mulch guy, but don’t haggle with him next time. If you don’t like his price or his work, just find someone else. If you are happy with his work and his price, then pay what he quotes you. He is just trying to make a living doing work that you prefer not to do. He doesn’t need the extra hassle of someone questioning the value of his work.

  127. Murray has repeatedly pushed against what has long been “a purely environmental explanation” for all types of differences among us, so it follows that much of his focus has been on genetic differences.  This “purely environmental” thinking, he believes, has led to poor (disastrous, some might say) results in how government tries to help people.  However, he does not discount the effect of environment; and IMO a key part of his discussion has also been on the unequal upbringing that wealthy/smart parents offer their children.

    … The parents are likely to be conveying advantages other than IQ such as self-discipline, determination and resilience—“grit,” as this cluster of hard-to-measure qualities is starting to be called in the technical literature.

    The existing government policy of promoting college for all, often in the form of easy to get government loans, has had detrimental effects both for low SES trying to rise above poverty and for higher education in general.  Our public school system has not served the poor well, partly from the ineffective ways it addresses differences among students.

    I only recently learned of Murray’s idea to guarantee a minimum income to everyone while simultaneously doing away with most other government programs intended to help the poor.  Interesting concept, and I could possibly see it as an improvement if it were politically feasible.  IIRC, I think Murray thinks it is feasible.

  128. Interesting commentary on the Maryland free range case, where the parents have indicated they will sue. If CPS can override parents’ choices on walking in a relatively safe neighborhood, what’s to stop them from taking away other choices that involve statistically more risky behavior?

    … The Meitivs’ parenting practices are also much safer than numerous typical childhood activities, such as participating in contact sports like basketball and hockey, or going downhill skiing. If the CPS can force parents to stop letting their children walk home from the park, it can similarly target every other comparably risky activity, including numerous sports, and even driving the children in a car.

    The bottom line is that the CPS’ actions here seem to be the result of exactly the kind of “mere disagreement” with parental choices that the Supreme Court specifically barred as a basis for overriding parents’ constitutional right to direct their children’s upbringing.

  129. @ Milo – I was driving behind a modified white pick up truck with Marine Corps stickers. A sticker at the back said – Happiness is a Belt Fed weapon.
    I thought of PTM and his showing up at school with said truck.

  130. CoC – I hope they sue and win big.

    Sheep – I understand, but I think there ARE times when certain contractors will start to take advantage of an opportunity to charge ridiculous rates. And in this case, I really wasn’t looking to bargain; I wasn’t bluffing when I said to hold off on that part because I’ll do it myself. He called me back and kept pushing to find an agreeable alternative.

    “A sticker at the back said – Happiness is a Belt Fed weapon.”

    lol. Never seen that. My favorite is “God Bless our Troops – Especially our Snipers.”

    There’s such an understated and uncomfortable dichotomy in that pairing, yet it coyly maintains its claim to perfect innocence.

  131. “A lot of this depends on if we’re talking about equality of opportunity vs. equality of outcome.”

    Even Bill Clinton was on the right side of this during his presidency, probably during the debate leading up to the welfare reform enacted then. His point was that it’s the government’s responsibility to ensure equality of opportunity.

  132. The last F-150 commercial I saw was advertising that the 3.5L V6 version was offering up to 12,000 lb!! towing capacity. That’s a lot of boat or camper.

    I wonder what Ford’s reaction is to $2 gasoline. Are they disappointed that there’s less ROI than everyone had expected for the buyer of their all-aluminum body, or are they happy that Americans have more money to spend and the increased cost of driving a pickup vs. a car is significantly reduced (at least for now).

  133. Are they disappointed that there’s less ROI than everyone had expected for the buyer of their all-aluminum body,

    I think it goes to the reason Ford didn’t go bankrupt – with the Ford family in control of the voting stock they can afford to take the long view. So, they may have to add some incentives now but they will be sitting pretty when gas prices spike again. And,as you said, low gas prices means buyers can afford new vehicles more often and opt for more lucrative option packages when they do buy.

    Personally, I think you should go with a black F-150 EcoBoost Platinum Supecrew. It’s yours for only $60.470. 1.9% for 72 months through Ford Motor Credit.

  134. Milo,

    Interesting to note that Car and Driver got an F-150 EcoBoost Platinum Supercrew from 0-60 in 5.4 seconds. Which is about as fast as a 1980s Lamborghini Countach.

  135. No, Rhett. The F-150 has to be white. It’s a better background for the Confederate flag.

  136. “God Bless our Troops – Especially our Snipers.”

    Reminds me of Billy Joe Shaver’s song, “If you don’t love Jesus go to hell”.

    “Are reports of child neglect by concerned citizens not something that should be taken seriously and investigated? …
    I’d be interested to see what solution you propose.”

    How about decriminalizing children walking alone on the street?

  137. How about decriminalizing children walking alone on the street?

    That makes sense. But, that’s something for the Maryland legislature. I have to assume that ignoring the 911 calls of concerned citizens is something the police and CPS can only do with appropriate legislation.

  138. Tee, hee, Rhett. Maybe we’ve been having too much fun with Milo. Despite our protestations (and disbelief) he says he really doesn’t want an F-150. Given the MMM fixation, that may be true. Probably not, but maybe.

    Of course, I really, really, really want my Lincoln Continental. I want a green one with a tan naugahide (sp? Do they even have that anymore?) faux convertible top. I want the driver’s side seat to recline so far that I can easily sleep during the trip from my home here up to The Villages.

    Oh, man. I want that floating mattress!

  139. “Interesting to note that Car and Driver got an F-150 EcoBoost Platinum Supercrew from 0-60 in 5.4 seconds. Which is about as fast as a 1980s Lamborghini Countach.”

    Indeed. Similarly, I’d estimate that a modern V-6 Camry has the raw performance of an early-90’s Porsche 911, or somewhere thereabouts. So all my childhood fantasizing of exotic cars like a Porsche, the video game simulations, the bedroom posters, the Trapper Keepers and folders–all for what? Everyone would say “it’s sooo fast. You have to be rich to afford that, you’re really cool if you drive it…”

    Now I could buy a beige V6 Camry this weekend and “car people” would think “eh, nice enough car if you like ‘driving an appliance.’ I’d be bored out of my mind.”

    Just shows how it’s all marketing and posturing and image. Same for the trucks, with the obvious exception of contractors and recreational trailer haulers.

  140. Police ignore phone calls of concerned citizens on a fairly regular basis. If you call because Burger King refuses to serve you from the breakfast menu, even though there should be 10 more minutes of breakfast service left, they do not have to dispatch police to investigate (true story). There are websites devoted to ridiculous 911 calls.

    I’m all about big government (really, I am), but we can’t legislate all the reasons police should and shouldn’t be concerned. I didn’t listen to the 911 call, but I read the article — it did not appear that the kids were in distress at all, or that the caller thought they were. I didn’t see anything that would make this a 3-car response.

  141. Kids here walk in our neighborhood when they are fourish. We have two kids – siblings whose parents send them out to play in the neighborhood at three and five. They have their instructions to stay together. These are only short distances and it is a village of neighbors – but they could be deemed too young to walk around in other communities. My own kids didn’t walk around till later, I wish I had started earlier because by then I was tired of accompanying my first grader.

  142. Despite our protestations (and disbelief) he says he really doesn’t want an F-150.

    That’s before he knew about Air Horns of Texas.

  143. I listened to the audio Rhett linked. The caller (a guy) thought the kids were 6 and 7, and he said they had been walking around for about 20 minutes. I have to admit that if I saw two kids who seemed to be 6 and 7 wandering around aimlessly, I might be concerned. He was following them to make sure they got where they were going safely, but he was also trying not to appear like he was stalking them so he wouldn’t scare them. So the guy didn’t think he was seeing a 10 year old walking a younger sibling somewhere, and the police had no way to know at the time of the initial call that the kids weren’t the children of some crackhead. However – after the police responded to the initial call, it seems the way that it was handled went downhill very quickly. This seems like the kind of thing that should have been resolved with one three-minute conversation.

  144. “Despite our protestations (and disbelief) he says he really doesn’t want an F-150.”

    No, I don’t. I want a lakehouse. Emotionally, at least. Practically I know that if I had one, I would feel guilty about ever vacationing anywhere else, and I would have some level of added mental stress about the carrying and opportunity costs. Plus, I can’t even spread the mulch around my primary residence myself.

  145. I would feel guilty about ever vacationing anywhere else,

    Not if you rented it out.

  146. Milo – move here, where people have a lake house with dock and boat as their primary residence.

  147. Why does it feel like EVERYTHING from the 70s was depressingly ugly? I feel that way about the cars, the clothes, the interior decorating. All of it. But I don’t feel that way about any other decade before or after. I wonder if it’s because when my earliest tastes were being formed, the stuff from the 70s was still around, but it was what was old and dated. Earlier stuff was already retro and cool. Do people who are 10 years older have this reaction about styles from the 1960s?

  148. “move here, where people have a lake house with dock and boat as their primary residence.”

    Lake Norman? I could find something in Charlotte.

    “Not if you rented it out.”

    That is an option.

  149. Any of us who were born in the 1970s are advised to ignore Milo’s most recent post.

    Then again, he might be right.

  150. Just don’t have a tenant above you with a 12 year old basketball player.

  151. Milo – I was born in the 60’s and I completely agree that most 70’s stuff was awful b

  152. Milo – we do 0 yard work up north. The trick is to buy a place in the woods. Who on earth would mulch the forest?

  153. Well, I guess that wasn’t helpful, b/c we now do 0 work in the city, too. “We cause 0 yard work to be done up north,” is the better way to put it.

  154. Milo – The 70s were particularly awful in style for everyone of all demographic groups. People furnish their homes with stuff from the 50s and 60s. They hold 70s nights with can you top this themes. I was born in the 50s, but old stuff was just old, not disposable and horrid.

  155. I don’t Milo – I have memories of a red crushed velvet sofa from the ’70s that I thought was the absolute greatest piece of furniture ever, at the time. There is just the slightest chance that seeing it again would reveal that it was not, in fact, as awesome as it is in my memory.

  156. Dang, I missed an interesting day!

    Milo, I have the same reaction to 80s stuff- interesting theory.

  157. “The 70s were particularly awful in style for everyone of all demographic groups.”

    Yep, Meme. They were. But weren’t they fun? I remember so well my shoulder-length thin hair, my tight, flag colored bell-bottomed trousers. My platform shoes! I could out Greg Brady Greg Brady.

    It was a hideous decade. But then look at what we were coming off of– the 60s.

  158. In the home country, they adopted bead curtains as room dividers between the dining area and the seating areas – was that a 70s trend ? Open plan living was not in fashion. I don’t think open plan living has taken off there even today.

  159. PTM – I am only 2-3 years older than you in chronological age, but more than 25 years older in parental age. My “fun” decade was the 60s. I remember 13% mortgages, gas lines, apartments with cockroaches, stagflation, the Ayatollah, disco (shudder), and Carter in his sweater, plus I was a 60s hippie mother of small children more than half the decade.

  160. “At least two mothers at school drive spanking new, white Ford 150’s. They make a statement (I don’t know what) when they disembark in the morning for the Mother’s club meetings in full make up and f-you high heels.”


    When DH and I got married, we got a brand new white F150. we just sold it last year. I would drive it to work because it wouldn’t fit in my husband’s parking garage he used for work.

  161. Agree re: 70s. I can’t get over how ugly our clothes are in every school picture. I don’t think our family home was ever gross but we had wood paneled station wagons for years, so we certainly did our part for ugliness.

  162. Louise – I would love to discuss “open concept” living in a Friday post. I look at every House hunters and “we love to entertain” and I try my best to imagine a world in which 90% of families have large groups in their house most weekends milling around the kitchen and great room. Really rich people have a show kitchen for sitting at the stool and having a drink or snack and a separate working kitchen for the caterers – reminds me of a South Asian home with a spice kitchen as well as a main kitchen.

  163. “we love to entertain” – that is on every episode! I’m always asking if we are the only couple in America who doesn’t say that all the time. “We love to meet friends out at a restaurant then come home alone” apparently doesn’t get you on TV.

  164. Not everyone was wealthy enough to ditch the wood-paneled wagons by the 80’s. Check out the one on the bottom right, the white one with wood paneling:

    That was ours, exactly. It’s a Mercury on the RWD Fox platform, which Ford used up until the revolutionary Taurus. My Dad found it a couple years old through an ad in the paper, and the lady gave me a homemade brownie and milk while they were preparing the paperwork. The car had more features than we had ever enjoyed to date, including such rarities as power locks (but not windows), reading lights, a lighted front seat passenger mirror in the visor, and a cassette deck in the stereo, through which I could play my Ghostbusters soundtrack.

    My brother drove this car to high school. I drove it around the neighborhood, underage.

  165. MBT – +1 on the restaurant and going home afterwards.

    We had a version of the green paneled station wagon at the top left – good times. The later version we had while in high school was the “kids’ car”, and I remember we could fit 9 or 10 people in it. That didn’t happen very often, but it was fun when it did!

  166. I try my best to imagine a world in which 90% of families have large groups in their house most weekends milling around the kitchen and great room.

    Well, you need to consider that the person who signs up to be on House Hunters is likely significantly more extroverted than you are. If my Facebook feed is any indication, it’s fairly common for families to entertain +10 guests on a pretty regular basis.

  167. Agreed Rhett, on the House Hunters type. I fantasize about an appearance on HH or Prop Brothers as a late 70s widow moving back to DC area. Some how when I keep saying – location 2 block from metro, no parking needed, walkable, cat friendly, 600 sq ft 1 br ample, Alexandria Old Town or Cleveland Park preferred, I don’t think the show would get off the ground.

  168. I like open concept for kitchen and family room, but when I entertain the kitchen is usually a disaster, I don’t want my guests to see the kitchen sink while they are eating dinner.

    My dad bought the station wagons with wood paneling until he couldn’t anymore. He then switched to SUVs until he was able to buy the Ford Flex with wood side panels. He is so happy now.

  169. Property Brothers is my favorite. I’ve already told my daughter that if they film in Houston, she’s buying a house just so she can work with them, even if I have to co-sign. We’ll work all those pesky financial details out later.

  170. We had a wood paneling minivan in the mid-80s. It was an upgrade from the wood paneling station wagon. I thought that minivan was first class at the time. So much luxury, power locks and windows (in the front), cassette player, and tinted back windows. I even recall my dad talking about how fancy the hubcaps were.

  171. OMG that is the car – same color and hubcaps. Although I can’t tell if that is the extended version. We had the extended. What a thing of beauty.

  172. I think it’s iconic because it was the first really successful response to 1970s gas fluctuations and a brilliant workaround to CAFE standards. It wasn’t just the first minivan, but the precursor to the modern crossover SUV. And with it, Lee Iacocca probably saved Chrysler.

  173. No doubt. Without Iacocca my family would have suffered – my grandma is still receiving my grandfather’s pension (he retired in 70s). It is interesting how big of a hit it was – the styling of it was so different than anything else out there.It was the opposite of the Pontiac Aztec. How much was a 1986 caravan back then? I imagine it had to be more than the basic station wagons.

  174. “Interesting to note that Car and Driver got an F-150 EcoBoost Platinum Supercrew from 0-60 in 5.4 seconds. Which is about as fast as a 1980s Lamborghini Countach.”

    The more relevant data point is how quickly it can go from 60-0. Preferably without hitting a tree in the process.

    It’s not all marketing and hype. It’s about 30% brakes, 20% suspension, 20% acceleration, and 10% aerodynamics. The rest is all marketing and hype. :-)

  175. I first saw a Dodge Caravan in 1983 at the Farm Progress Show, which was in Iowa that year. Will post again if my Dad remembers the price.

  176. I did some digging around and found the 1987 Plymouth Voyager: Base price for the Voyager SE is $10,875. The base includes a nice level of trim and appointments and such standard features as power steering and brakes, stainless steel exhaust system, ETR AM radio, P195/75R14 SBR tires and intermittent windshield wipers. Other options included. two-tone paint, $236; rear window defroster, $165; air conditioning, $840; power door locks, $203; luggage rack, $140; heavy duty suspension, $68, and wire wheel covers, $239.

    I love how the rear window defroster was extra.

  177. My BIL’s in-laws had a Caravan woody. It later became their youngest kid’s car, when they bought a new car when he was a junior or senior in HS, and he drove it for many years.

  178. The list price (and they were rarely discounted) for the introductory 1984 Caravan base model with automatic transmission was about 9.5K. The basic1983 Toyota Camry was introduced in the US a few months earlier and was about 9K (not sure whether automatic transmission was an option, and it was at that time not a good one).

  179. Huge property brothers fan. Makes me want to buy an ugly old house and gut it. But one thing I’ve noticed is that usually the entire house they buy is a disaster- but they only show them renovating the kitchen, living room, and maybe a bathroom. Do they keep the rest of the house looking like a dump?

  180. Finn, I take it the saltwater mist not have the same rusting effect as road salt. I’m pretty sure my parents’s van rusted into dust before the engine or transmission died. Also, a Woody with surfboards on top has a certain appeal to it.

  181. The more relevant data point is how quickly it can go from 60-0. Preferably without hitting a tree in the process.

    F-150 brakes form 60-0 in 134′ the Lambo 131′.

  182. Lemon, my perception is that newer cars go a lot longer before they start rusting. It used to be pretty common for people here to have “beach cars,” cars that already had a lot of rust that were used to go to the beach.

    Thinking about it a bit more, I think one of the big problems, that seems to have been addressed, was the drains on the bottoms of doors to let out water that ran down the windows, or the window seals to keep the water out of the doors. A lot of the rust on older cars was at the bottoms of doors, starting inside the doors. Or perhaps the inside bottoms of doors are rustproofed better at the factory.

    Or maybe as totebaggers we are just so overscheduled that we just don’t go to the beach very much.

  183. Rio, I’ve often wondered the same thing. My guess is that they do mostly cosmetic stuff on the rest of the house, e.g., paint, flooring. Kinda like how Hillary on Love It or List It only hits certain parts of the house.

  184. Since the budget provided is always ludicrously low (obviously the owner pays only for materials and the hands on crew in Property Brothers, but they don’t get put up at a hotel as in Love it or List it), the costs are all in funny money anyway. It may be that in lieu of paying an appearance fee to the owners since they are required to “act” – there are set ups and scripts and fake disputes – they get a basic cosmetic refresh on the other rooms.

  185. I’m way late to this conversation, but I’m with MBT. I have zero problem with police responding to a call about a potentially 6 or 7 year old pair of kids walking for 20-plus minutes by themselves. Investigation is where this should have gone away– they had functional parents who knew where they were, they weren’t scared, etc. That said, calls like that are what have informed CPS about houses where kids have let themselves out of homes and wandered around because parents have been completely incapacitated from drugs/alcohol.

    I don’t find the 70’s stuff beautiful or lovely, but it does make me smile.

  186. Do any other women love clothes from the ’50’s? I have a 50’s style dress purchased at a thrift shop and it fits me beautifully. I wish more clothes were designed with the ’40’s/’50’s body type in mind.

  187. the Property Brothers are here filming for a few months. They were supposed to do one or two episodes, but now they are doing a season of episodes in several counties in NY and lower CT. We saw Drew last week at a restaurant near our home. He was about to film a scene with homeowners about their decision. We are huge fans so we were really excited as we don’t usually spot celebs unless we are in the city.

  188. “I don’t find the 70’s stuff beautiful or lovely.”

    Oh, believe me. Meme and I were both beautiful and lovely. We still are, for that matter.

  189. You aren’t stuff, PTM. People and stuff are different. So you both were/are lovely. I remain skeptical of the polyester fashion.

    Did that dig me out well enough?

  190. Tulip – So next time you see a couple that reminds you of Bette Midler and (my guess here – no knowledge) Bill Murray dining out, think of us.

  191. “Tulip – So next time you see a couple that reminds you of Bette Midler and (my guess here – no knowledge) Bill Murray dining out, think of us.”

    Tee, hee, Meme. As much as I like to portray myself as a Bill Murray character– or even better, Dan Akeroid– I am far more like an old Luke Skywalker. Sigh.

    And no. Before you all start, I don’t look like Luke’s dad, Darth Vader. Yet.

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