Do Smart Parents Raise Smart Kids?

Not surprisingly, the answer is yes. But we might also be interested in magnitudes.

A new paper using German data finds a parent-child test score correlation of 0.45, which is bigger than the intergenerational earnings correlation in Germany (about 0.2, I think). So a 10% increase in parents’ income raises children’s income by 2%, but a 10% increase in parents’ test scores raises children’s test scores by 4.5%.

Do Smart Parents Raise Smart Children? The Intergenerational Transmission of Cognitive Abilities
Silke Anger & Guido Heineck
Complementing prior research on income mobility and educational transmission, we provide evidence on the intergenerational transmission of cognitive abilities using data from the German Socio-Economic Panel Study. Our estimates suggest that individuals’ cognitive skills are positively related to the abilities of their parents, even when educational attainment and family background is controlled for. We differentiate between mothers’ and fathers’ IQ transmission and find different effects on the cognition of sons and daughters. We show that cognitive skills which are based on past learning are more strongly transmitted from parents to children than cognitive skills which are related to innate abilities. Our findings are not compatible with a pure genetic model, but rather point to the importance of parental investments for the cognitive outcomes of children.

(xposted @ CoreEconomics)

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5 Responses to Do Smart Parents Raise Smart Kids?

  1. conrad says:

    I don’t want to speak about re-inventing the wheel, but looking through that paper, I’m surprised at how little it managed to connect with the literal mountain of studies looking at IQ where genetic and environmental factors have been isolated in twin studies and the like (and where the effect of the mothers and fathers IQ has also been examined). I imagine if they did that (and published in one of the personality/intelligence journals), the work would probably be far more widely read.

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  3. Patrick says:

    I can’t think of it now but I am sure that there was a study recently which strongly suggested that who you were as parents did not matter much other than to the extent that it affected what really mattered – ie the peer group your kids mixed with.

    Food for thought!

  4. conrad says:


    I think you’re thinking of socialization in general versus IQ, but the view is very controversial. One of the main protagonists is this person.

    I personally wouldn’t believe too much of it (that’s not to say peers arn’t important), and that’s not because I’m completely ignorant on the topic. One of the unfortunate problems of psychology is that if you want to become a “big” player, then you take a side and argue it to the end of the Earth. In things like Nature vs. Nurture, extreme positions are often generally just silly, but if you have a moderate position, people won’t remember you for it (it’s also a good way to collect citations, since people will cite you as the prototype of one position). That’s not to say some people don’t believe in the extreme positions.

  5. Patrick says:

    Goodo then, I can go back to believing in my own importance 😉

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