Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Main genes for IQ now isolated

This is much sooner than anyone expected. The .90 correlation between a gene set and IQ mentioned below is historic.  Correlations don't get much better than that in psychology.  The IQ deniers have always looked pretty silly in the light of the evidence but I cannot see that they have any room to move now at all  -- JR

Factor Analysis of Population Allele Frequencies as a Simple, Novel Method of Detecting Signals of Recent Polygenic Selection: The Example of Educational Attainment and IQ

Davide Piffer, Interdisciplinary Bio Central, November 27, 2013


Weak widespread (polygenic) selection is a mechanism that acts on multiple SNPs simultaneously. The aim of this paper is to suggest a methodology to detect signals of polygenic selection using educational attainment as an example. Educational attainment is a polygenic phenotype, influenced by many genetic variants with small effects. Frequencies of 10 SNPs found to be associated with educational attainment in a recent genome-wide association study were obtained from HapMap, 1000 Genomes and ALFRED. Factor analysis showed that they are strongly statistically associated at the population level, and the resulting factor score was highly related to average population IQ (r=0.90). Moreover, allele frequencies were positively correlated with aggregate measures of educational attainment in the population, average IQ, and with two intelligence increasing alleles that had been identified in different studies. This paper provides a simple method for detecting signals of polygenic selection on genes with overlapping phenotypes but located on different chromosomes. The method is therefore different from traditional estimations of linkage disequilibrium. This method can also be used as a tool in gene discovery, potentially decreasing the number of SNPs that are included in a genome-wide association study, reducing the multiple-testing problem and required sample sizes and consequently, financial costs.



Five Myths About Inequality

“Inequality is the defining challenge of our time,” according to President Obama. It’s certainly the topic of the day for Paul Krugman, Joe Stiglitz and a whole raft of liberal pundits.

But have you noticed that hardly anyone else is talking about it? When is the last time you heard a shoeshine person or a taxi cab driver complain about inequality? For most people, having a lot of rich people around is good for business. But if average folks are not complaining should they be?

Unfortunately, a lot of what passes as serious commentary is actually myth. What follows are five examples.

Myth No 1: Income for the average family has stagnated over the past 30 years.

Here is an oft-quoted statistic: From 1979 to 2007, taxpayers’ median real income, before taxes and before government transfers, rose by only 3.2 percent. Cornell University economist Richard Burkhauser, via Greg Mankiw, shows why that statistic is misleading:

If we combine the income of all the taxpayers within each household to get household median income, that meager 3.2 percent rises to a bit more respectable 12.5 percent.

If we add in government transfer payments, that 12.5 percent number becomes an even better 15.2 percent.

Factoring in middle class tax cuts over the period, the 15.2 percent figure rises to 20.2 percent.

But not all households are the same size, and the size of households has fallen over time. Adjusting for household size increases that 20.2 percent to 29.3 percent.

Finally, if we add the value of employer-provided health insurance, the 29.3 percent figure rises to 36.7 percent.

So there you have it: real income for the average household actually increased by more than a third over the past 30 years.

This conclusion is consistent with other studies. A CBO study of family income over the same period of time found an increase almost twice that size: the average family experienced a 62 percent increase in real income.

Economists have a way of measuring inequality that includes the entire population, not just the average family or the top 1 percent. It’s by means of a Gini coefficient, which varies between 0 (complete equality) and 1 (complete inequality). One study found that between 1993 and 2009, the Gini value actually fell from .395 to .388—meaning that inequality has actually declined in recent years.

Myth No. 2: People at the bottom of the income ladder are there through no fault of their own.

In a study for the National Center for Policy Analysis, David Henderson found that there is a big difference between families in the top 20 percent and bottom 20 percent of the income distribution: Families at the top tend to be married and both partners work. Families at the bottom often have only one adult in the household and that person either works part-time or not at all:

In 2006, a whopping 81.4 percent of families in the top income quintile had two or more people working, and only 2.2 percent had no one working.

By contrast, only 12.6 percent of families in the bottom quintile had two or more people working; 39.2 percent had no one working.

The average number of earners per family for the top group was 2.16, almost three times the 0.76 average for the bottom.

Henderson concludes:  "...average families in the top group have many more weeks of work than those in the bottom and, in the late 1970s, the 12-to-1 total income ratio shrunk to only 2-to-1 per week of work, according to one analysis."

Having children without a husband tends to make you poor. Not working makes you even poorer. And there is nothing new about that. These are age old truths. They were true 50 years ago, a hundred years ago and even 1,000 year ago. Lifestyle choices have always mattered.

Myth No. 3: Government transfer programs, like unemployment insurance, are an effective remedy.

Government transfers can ameliorate the discomfort of having a low income and few assets. But at the same time they tend to encourage people to remain dependent, rather than achieving self-sufficiency. And the loss of benefits as wage income rises acts as an additional “marginal tax” on labor.

University of Chicago economist Casey Mulligan is the leading authority on welfare programs and how they affect employment. At The New York Times economics blog, he wrote:

As a result of more than a dozen significant changes in subsidy program rules, the average middle-class non-elderly household head or spouse saw her or his marginal tax rate increase from about 40 percent in 2007 to 48 percent only two years later. Marginal tax rates came down in late 2010 and 2011 as provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act expired, but still remain elevated—at least 44 percent...A few households even saw their marginal tax rates jump beyond 100 percent—meaning they would have more disposable income by working incentives were eroded about 20 percent for unmarried household the middle of the skill distribution, while they were eroded about 12 percent among married heads and spouses...with the same level of skill.

Overall, Mulligan estimates that up to half of the excess unemployment we have been experiencing is because of the generosity of food stamps, unemployment compensation and other transfer benefits.

Myth No 4: Raising the minimum wage is an effective remedy.

One of the few policy ideas President Obama has for dealing with inequality is raising the minimum wage. He thinks this will lift people out of poverty. Paul Krugman says the same thing. The difference is that Krugman is an economist who must surely know that the economic literature shows that raising the minimum wage does almost nothing to lift people out of poverty.

Richard Burkhauser and San Diego State University economist Joseph J. Sabia examined 28 states that increased their minimum wages between 2003 and 2007. Their study, published in the Southern Economic Journal, found “no evidence that minimum wage increases...lowered state poverty rates.” Part of the reason is that very few people earning the minimum wage are actually poor. Most are young people who live in middle income households. For example, the economists estimate that if the federal minimum wage were increased to $9.50 per hour:

Only 11.3 percent of workers who would gain from the increase live in households officially defined as poor.

A whopping 63.2 percent of workers who would gain are second or even third earners living in households with incomes equal to twice the poverty line or more.

Some 42.3 percent of workers who would gain are second or even third earners who live in households that have incomes equal to three times the poverty line or more.

Myth No. 5: Income is the best measure of wellbeing.

Why are we talking about income? The implicit assumption is that income limits our ability to enjoy life. But that turns out not to be true. One study found that consumption by those in the lower fourth of the income distribution was almost twice their money income. Moreover, consumption inequality is much less than income inequality. A Bureau of Labor Statistics study found that 2001, the Gini coefficient for consumption was only .280 (almost 30 percent lower than the Gini for comprehensive income, and about 40 percent lower than the Gini for money income), indicating that inequality with respect to this most meaningful measure of living standards is relatively modest. Moreover, according to the BLS, during the fifteen-year period between 1986 and 2001, consumption inequality went down slightly; from a Gini of .283 to a Gini of .280.

Bottom line: the next time you hear someone complain about inequality, make sure they are not repeating these five myths.



Book Review: 'Average Is Over,' by Tyler Cowen

The better we become at working alongside machines, the more the new economy will reward us. Fail and we'll be outsourced

By Philip Delves Broughton

To sum up, Mr. Cowen believes that America is dividing itself in two. At the top will be 10% to 15% of high achievers, the "Tiger Mother" kids if you like, whose self-motivation and mastery of technology will allow them to roar away into the future. Then there will be everyone else, slouching into an underfunded future of lower economic expectations, shantytowns and an endless diet of beans. I'm not kidding about the beans.

Poor Americans, writes Mr. Cowen, will have to "reshape their tastes" and live more like Mexicans. "Don't scoff at the beans," he says. "With an income above the national average, I receive more pleasure from the beans, which I cook with freshly ground cumin and rehydrated, pureed chilies. Good tacos and quesadillas and tamales are cheap too, and that is one reason why they are eaten so frequently in low-income countries."

So what am I to do to save my sons from this bean-filled future? The first thing, it seems, is to have them play more chess. Mr. Cowen is an avid player, and the first half of his book is taken up with an argument for how freestyle chess, in which humans play alongside machines, rather than against them, is a model for the economy. His point, and it is a good one, is that the future belongs to those of us able to work best with machines. The author roves broadly and interestingly to make his case, outlining the radical economic transformations that lie in store for us, predicting the rise and fall of cities depending on their capacity to adapt to this machine-driven world and offering policy prescriptions for preserving American prosperity.

"A potentially valuable worker offers the promise of improving on the machine, taken alone," he writes. "In the language of economics, we can say that the productive worker and the smart machine are, in today's labor markets, stronger complements than before."

In other words, we may not be able to calculate in the way a computer can, but we are usually better readers of character and emotion. For all that behavioral science and big data can provide, we remain the best interpreters of one another. This applies to everything from consumer products to medicine to Mr. Cowen's own profession of economics.

The author points out that we often see the promise of technology long before it delivers. "The advances of genius machines come in an uneven and staggered fashion," he writes. "For the foreseeable future, you'll always have to be learning something, reprogramming something, downloading new software, and pushing some buttons, all to have the sometimes dubious privilege of working with these new technological wonders."

You see this every time a company like Apple updates its operating system. Those of us with iPhones teach ourselves through the bugs, prodding and rebooting, becoming our own tech support. We have been trained to educate ourselves, to become complements to our machines. The better we become at these kinds of behaviors, the more the economy will reward us. Fail and we'll be outsourced. We needn't all be programmers, but we do need to be facile in making the most of the technology around us.

That takes motivation. One of the most interesting sections of Mr. Cowen's book is his analysis of the future of education. For a select few, he argues, the traditional college experience will still be worth the time and money. They will benefit from close proximity to highly engaged teachers. But for most, a much cheaper model might work better, one in which most of the material is available online and young people are provided with motivators instead of professors—that is, with people who are part drill sergeant and part yoga instructor, able to inspire and put the fear of God into students. No more tweedy snoozers lecturing everyone into oblivion and charging $50,000 a year. Think of college as a gym membership, with trainers to help you make the most of the machines around you.

Education for the masses, writes Mr. Cowen, "will become more like the Marines, full of discipline and team spirit." This will help the young avoid becoming "threshold earners," those "content just to get by and who do not push ambitiously for a higher wage or stronger credentials at every step. Williamsburg, Brooklyn, is full of young threshold earners." I think Mr. Cowen is being unfair to Williamsburg, which seems to me a hive of economic activity—from new, online-only journalistic ventures to artisanal pickle shops. But his point about the need for a more efficient marriage of machines and motivation in education is a sound one.

One world that Mr. Cowen does not investigate, but might have done, is that of high finance. Here you find these two worlds of man and machine co-existing marvelously. There is room for both computer-driven trading operations and grizzled veterans like Warren Buffett and Carl Icahn, with their genius for picking stocks and fights.

In his final chapter, "A New Social Contract?," Mr. Cowen cruelly lays it all out. "We will move from a society based on the pretense that everyone is given an okay standard of living to a society in which people are expected to fend for themselves much more than they do now." The top 10% will have it better than ever. The majority will suffer stagnant or falling wages but have more opportunities for cheap education and cheap fun. The rest will fall by the wayside, with government less and less able to take care of them. It will be dazzling at the top, and "meh" to miserable for the rest.

If that doesn't propel you and your children out of bed, you deserve all the beans you get.


There is a  new  lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC,  AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

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