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Comparing within- and between-family polygenic score prediction | bioRxiv
See this thread for our new study on polygenic scores within fraternal twin pairs! Main point: take extra care with polygenic scores for traits like IQ & education, because they're confounded by (what seem to be) socioeconomic status effects. Not so for traits like height & BMI.
The idea is that the parenting is caused by the parental genotype, so it gets (mis)classified as a genetic effect on the children. It's really another way of looking at "genetic nurture" - see the papers from last year.
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10 days ago by nhaliday
Overcoming Bias : The Model to Beat: Status Rank
People often presume that policy can mostly ignore income inequality if key individual outcomes like health or happiness depend mainly on individual income. Yes, there’s some room for promoting insurance against income risk, but not much room. However, people often presume that policy should pay a lot more attention to inequality if individual outcomes depend more directly on the income of others, such as via envy or discouragement.

However, there’s a simple and plausible income interdependence scenario where inequality matters little for policy: when outcomes depend on rank. If individual outcomes are a function of each person’s percentile income rank, and if social welfare just adds up those individual outcomes, then income policy becomes irrelevant, because this social welfare sum is guaranteed to always add up to the same constant. Income-related policy may influence outcomes via other channels, but not via this channel. This applies whether the relevant rank is global, comparing each person to the entire world, or local, comparing each person only to a local community.

That 2010 paper, by Christopher Boyce, Gordon Brown, and Simon Moore, makes a strong case that in fact the outcome of life satisfaction depends on the incomes of others only via income rank. (Two followup papers find the same result for outcomes of psychological distress and nine measures of health.) They looked at 87,000 Brits, and found that while income rank strongly predicted outcomes, neither individual (log) income nor an average (log) income of their reference group predicted outcomes, after controlling for rank (and also for age, gender, education, marital status, children, housing ownership, labor-force status, and disabilities). These seem to me remarkably strong and robust results. (Confirmed here.)
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march 2018 by nhaliday
Randomizing Religion: The Impact of Protestant Evangelism on Economic Outcomes
To test the causal impact of religiosity, we conducted a randomized evaluation of an evangelical Protestant Christian values and theology education program that consisted of 15 weekly half-hour sessions. We analyze outcomes for 6,276 ultra-poor Filipino households six months after the program ended. We find _significant increases in religiosity and income_, no significant changes in total labor supply, assets, consumption, food security, or _life satisfaction, and a significant decrease in perceived relative economic status_. Exploratory analysis suggests the program may have improved hygienic practices and increased household discord, and that _the income treatment effect may operate through increasing grit_.

Social Cohesion, Religious Beliefs, and the Effect of Protestantism on Suicide: https://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/abs/10.1162/REST_a_00708
In an economic theory of suicide, we model social cohesion of the religious community and religious beliefs about afterlife as two mechanisms by which Protestantism increases suicide propensity. We build a unique micro-regional dataset of 452 Prussian counties in 1816-21 and 1869-71, when religiousness was still pervasive. Exploiting the concentric dispersion of Protestantism around Wittenberg, our instrumental-variable model finds that Protestantism had a substantial positive effect on suicide. Results are corroborated in first-difference models. Tests relating to the two mechanisms based on historical church-attendance data and modern suicide data suggest that the sociological channel plays the more important role.
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february 2018 by nhaliday
Testing the moderation of quantitative gene by environment interactions in unrelated individuals | bioRxiv
We use simulation to estimate the accuracy, power, and type I error rates of our method and to gauge its computational performance, and then apply this method to IQ data measured on 40,172 individuals with whole-genome SNP data from the UK Biobank. We found that the additive genetic variation of IQ tagged by SNPs increases as socioeconomic status (SES) decreases, opposite the direction found by several twin studies conducted in the U.S. on adolescents, but consistent with several studies from Europe and Australia on adults.
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september 2017 by nhaliday
There can only be one! | West Hunter
Dynasties decay.   The founder generally has a lot on the ball – tough, a natural leader, and canny campaigner – but his son is unlikely to be so exceptional.  Partly this is a manifestation of regression to the mean, and partly because his mother was probably chosen for something other than her talents as a warlord. By the fourth or fifth generation, it can be hard to believe that the useless poet on the throne is truly a member of the Golden Family.

This decay is a fundamental historical fact – an inevitable consequence of  biology and primogeniture.  It’s one of the important weaknesses of dynastic rule. The Ottomans, however, found a way around it for some centuries – the law of fratricide.  Upon the death of the Sultan, all of his sons were theoretically eligible for the succession (not just the oldest).  Since the Sultan had a harem, there were a lot of them. Whoever first seized power then had all his brothers and half-brothers executed by ritual strangulation. Incompetents didn’t win out in this struggle.

Dynastic decline through regression seems meaning you go from a guy like Stalin to an imperfect copy of Stalin that’s more like the average person (less competent but lacking in other traits that make Stalin, Stalin). Might not always totally all be “bad” for most people’s status, depending on the Great Man’s balance of competence to traits in a ruler that you don’t really want, but which helped them to seize power anyway.

Speculation, but might inbreeding be a way to hang on to more of the founder’s right stuff?

Thereby why constitutional monarchy and similar arrangements might tend to emerge in more outbreeding populations, because the successors to the big Mafia that runs the state and all the little Mafias that run everything else down from there tend to retain less ancestral competence and less ancestral desire for domination and status, so alternative arrangements are found.

list of evaluations for presidents+
"Competence, of course, is not the same thing as acting in the best interests of the common people. But it is absolutely essential for the continuation of a royal lineage or dynasty."

If everyone in a country was absolutely obsessed with the idea that the human pinkie finger was a symbol of a leader’s connection to god and was required for him to be a good ruler, this whole problem would be solved. The oldest brother could simply have his younger siblings’ pinkie fingers cut off, and let them live.

This would mean that ruling families would be much more free to have big families and expand their power even more.
The Byzantines did something similar with deposed emperors: the disfigured were ineligible for the role of God’s regent, or whatever the emperors were theologically. So, off with the nose! Justinian II ruined this humane custom by by wearing a silver nose after his restoration, à la the Lee Marvin character in Cat Ballou.

Here is my take on a solid alternative to democracy in the West: adoptive monarchy. We are acquainted with the Five Good Emperors of Rome. Before an Emperor died, he would adopt his most capable, wise and just subordinate as his son, who would become Emperor after his adoptive father died. The Roman Empire was perhaps at its most stable and prosperous point duribg this time period, and Edward Gibbon esteemed it as the high point of human history up through the time he was writing his tomes about Roman history, at least for the common Roman citizen.

If the American electorate continues to decline, ever falling into idiocy, factionalism and dementia, then I think it might be prudent to put adoptive monarchy into play, and have our monarchs rule the country in the spirit of the Constitution while temporarily holding it in suspension. The monarchs would have 40 to 80 years to pursue enlightened demographic policies, which would ensure that the American people would be ready for democratic rule again. There of course would be a Congress and courts. Both of these branches of government would at first be impotent, but would gradually regain their former power and prestige. At some point, the monarchy would be abolished, with an elected president regaining command of the executive branch, having about as much power as, say, Eisenhower did.
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may 2017 by nhaliday
The More Parents Pass on Earning Power to Offspring, the Weaker the Argument for..., Garett Jones | EconLog | Library of Economics and Liberty
...the welfare state as social insurance.

After all, if you know how your kids are going to turn out, what's there to insure against? Sure, you'd like to grab resources from other people--the raiding party has a long history--but it's only when you're not sure how your kids will turn out that you start fretting over whether insurance markets face major market failures and whether government-mandated redistribution can fix those market failures.


The Great Gatsby Curve has made the rounds recently, showing that in countries with higher income inequality, your parent's income does a better job predicting your income. One version from Chrystia Freeland, author of the new book Plutocrats (source: WonkBlog).


Coda: I'm trying to get in the habit of often using "productivity" instead of "income" or "earnings." I use the term neutrally, referring to private productivity not overall productivity, so a successful raiding party is just as productive as a McDonald's.

Subcoda: I saw Freeland speak about her book earlier this year, and she places substantial weight on productivity-side explanations for the rise of the new plutocracy.
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march 2017 by nhaliday

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