Psychometrics, epigenetics and economics

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Email this to someoneTweet about this on Twitter

Two papers of interest. IQ in the Production Function: Evidence from Immigrant Earnings (ungated). And Human Intelligence and Polymorphisms in the DNA Methyltransferase Genes Involved in Epigenetic Marking. My impression is that the focus on epigenetics has a higher-order social motive; even the sort of humanists who are involved with N + 1 have asked me about the topic. But how many people know what methylation is?


  1. I couldn’t open the link to the ‘IQ in the Production Function’ paper, but found the pdf (below). I found the section about whether economic gains boost national IQ interesting:

    “The region of the world that has witnessed the most rapid increases in living
    standards the world has ever known is unambiguously East Asia. Surely, this region
    would be an ideal testing ground for the productivity-causes-IQ hypothesis. If most of
    the IQ-productivity relationship were reverse causality, then we would expect to see the
    East Asian economies starting off with low IQ’s in the middle of the 20th century, IQ’s
    that would rapidly rise in later decades, perhaps even converging to European IQ levels.
    In short, one would expect to see Solow-type convergence in national average IQ.
    However, this is not the case. Lynn and Vanhanen’s (2006) country-level IQ data
    shows that average East Asian IQ’s were never estimated below 100 before the 1980’s
    (Figure 4). These IQ scores come from South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, China, and an
    East Asian offshoot, Singapore. In all cases, IQ scores are above 100—even in a poor
    country like China. Thus, East Asians both started and ended the period with high IQ

    Another place to look for massive IQ increases would be in a region of the world that experienced a dramatic increase in the price of its exports: The oil-rich countries of
    the Middle East. But a glance at that data, likewise, shows little evidence that being
    richer, per se, increases IQ within ten or twenty years:”

  2. I wonder how long before “epigenetics”, “gene methylation” and similar become household words. They will probably mean something more like “ways in which your ancestors’ bad habits can make you sick too” than what they really mean. I bet there are already quacks devising potions that supposedly “cleanse the methylation markings off your genes” to give you a clean start at life. Though if there really were a way to do that, it might make a good cult religious practice, sort of like high-tech baptism.

    And I’m waiting for the first epigenetic thriller. “Mike is just your everyday man. A suburban house, a wife and two kids. Yet in the center of every one of his cells is a deep, dark family secret. Who knew that the memory of his axe-murdering, alcoholic grandfather was kept alive in a group of just four tiny atoms? Join him in his quest to hunt them down!”

  3. ***And I’m waiting for the first epigenetic thriller.***


  4. Hey, I have a Ph.D. in the humanities and I know what methylation is. Of course, I also have a B.A. in recombinant gene technology and did two years of grad school in molecular biology, and I was obsessed with DNA methylation at the time . . . so I may be a bit of an outlyer. :-)

Leave a Reply