I’ve written about assortative mating and income inequality before, pointing out that the more educated tend to marry each other and therefore increase their economic earnings. Ronald Bailey at Reason weighs in on the discussion, adding to the mix evidence that shows assortative mating isn’t just about education, but intelligence. Quoting a 2015 study, he writes,
For example, if spouses mated randomly in relation to intelligence, highly intelligent women would be just as likely to mate with men of low as high intelligence. Offspring of the matings of women of high intelligence and men of low intelligence would generally be of average intelligence. However, because there is strong positive assortative mating, children with highly intelligent mothers are also likely to have highly intelligent fathers, and the offspring themselves are likely to be more intelligent than average. The same thing happens for less intelligent parents. In this way, assortative mating increases additive genetic variance in that the offspring differ more from the average than they would if mating were random. The increase in additive genetic variance can be substantial because its effects accumulate generation after generation until an equilibrium is reached.
He concludes, “To the extent that intelligence is correlated with socioeconomic status, assortative mating will further exacerbate trends to greater income inequality.”
University of Washington professor Tony Gill once shared a thought experiment he employs in his classes during a Facebook discussion:
Most students are for higher marginal taxation on the rich (defined as the dollar amount of people who have a wee bit more than them).
I propose centrally planned sorting by either IQ or socio-economic status (noting some studies that show how IQ might have a hereditary component and how IQ might be related to long-term income potential). I also note that we tend to marry people who are educationally and socially close to us (e.g., people meet at Harvard or in the same upscale neighborhood bars). Some of us use mail order catalogues, but we usually get a box on education to check.
Students freak out. First, they say that this has never been done. Then I note how arranged marriages are not an uncommon fixture in history. Then they say it isn’t possible because of data concerns, and I remind them about all those tests they took in 3rd, 7th and 11th grade and their “permanent record,” not to mention all the income data the IRS has on their parents.
Then they squeal that this isn’t right because it limits their freedom to do what they want. And then I say, “Oh, so now you’re worried about centrally-planned limits on freedom, eh?”
So, next time you get the social justice itch to redistribute wealth, ask yourself the following:
- Are the adjectives smart or intelligent used to describe your spouse? Are they some of the reasons given as to why you love them?
- Did you meet your spouse at college?
- Would it have a negative influence on your choice to date an individual if they were a waiter/waitress, barista, fast food employee, Walmart cashier? (And not one who is working there part-time while they go to school.)
- Would you date someone you thought was uneducated?
If you answered “yes” to the first three and “no” to the last, congrats: you’ve officially contributed to income inequality.