Unequal Chances: Family Background and Economic Success

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Samuel Bowles, Herbert Gintis, Melissa Osborne Groves
Princeton University Press, Oct 15, 2009 - Social Science - 304 pages
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Is the United States "the land of equal opportunity" or is the playing field tilted in favor of those whose parents are wealthy, well educated, and white? If family background is important in getting ahead, why? And if the processes that transmit economic status from parent to child are unfair, could public policy address the problem? Unequal Chances provides new answers to these questions by leading economists, sociologists, biologists, behavioral geneticists, and philosophers.

New estimates show that intergenerational inequality in the United States is far greater than was previously thought. Moreover, while the inheritance of wealth and the better schooling typically enjoyed by the children of the well-to-do contribute to this process, these two standard explanations fail to explain the extent of intergenerational status transmission. The genetic inheritance of IQ is even less important. Instead, parent-offspring similarities in personality and behavior may play an important role. Race contributes to the process, and the intergenerational mobility patterns of African Americans and European Americans differ substantially.

Following the editors' introduction are chapters by Greg Duncan, Ariel Kalil, Susan E. Mayer, Robin Tepper, and Monique R. Payne; Bhashkar Mazumder; David J. Harding, Christopher Jencks, Leonard M. Lopoo, and Susan E. Mayer; Anders Björklund, Markus Jäntti, and Gary Solon; Tom Hertz; John C. Loehlin; Melissa Osborne Groves; Marcus W. Feldman, Shuzhuo Li, Nan Li, Shripad Tuljapurkar, and Xiaoyi Jin; and Adam Swift.


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The Apple Does Not Fall Far from the Tree
The Apple Falls Even Closer to the Tree than We Thought New and Revised Estimates of the Intergenerational Inheritance of Earnings
The Changing Effect of Family Background on the Incomes of American Adults
Influences of Nature and Nurture on Earnings Variation A Report on a Study of Various Sibling Types in Sweden
Rags Riches and Race The Intergenerational Economic Mobility of Black and White Families in the United States
Resemblance in Personality and Attitudes between Parents and Their Children Genetic and Environmental Contributions
Personality and the Intergenerational Transmission of Economic Status
Son Preference Marriage and Intergenerational Transfer in Rural China
Justice Luck and the Family The Intergenerational Transmission of Economic Advantage from a Normative Perspective

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About the author (2009)

Samuel Bowles is Research Professor and director of the Behavioral Sciences Program at the Santa Fe Institute, and professor of Economics at the University of Siena. He is the author of Microeconomics (Princeton); the coauthor, with Herbert Gintis, of Democracy and Capitalism; and the coeditor, with Kenneth Arrow and Steven Durlauf, of Meritocracy and Inequality (Princeton). Herbert Gintis is an external faculty member at the Santa Fe Institute and professor emeritus of economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He is the author of Game Theory Evolving (Princeton). Melissa Osborne Groves is associate professor of economics at Towson University.

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