Talking to Economists

I gave a talk, back in April, at the University of Chicago.  We were trying to introduce some economists to genetics, which is relevant to some of the questions they work on.  Some already knew quite a bit – we had three of the main authors of the big GWAS education study last year,  the first to find replicable variants influencing something like IQ.

And some thought along other lines.



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90 Responses to Talking to Economists

  1. It’s funny, online Greg seems more brusque than Henry but, live, it’s the other way around !

    • dave chamberlin says:

      Greg Cochran and Razib Khan both come off as tough guys on their blogs. I don’t know either of them personally but I don’t connect the tough attitude necessary to keep the comment section from descending into drivel with what they are like in real life.

      • Patrick L. Boyle says:

        I think comparing Greg to Razib Khan is an injustice to Greg. Khan is not an important voice in genetics and he is not tough, he’s just nasty and self important.

        If truth were to be told, although I enjoy reading this blog I think Greg and Henry should write another book not indulge in blogging.

      • dave chamberlin says:

        I think Greg should continue to indulge in blogging while not losing focus on his primary goal which is writing another book. I do not think you can place yourself inside Cochran’s head and decide that this blog is a major part of the reason why he has not come out with another book since “The 10,000 year explosion.” One of the reasons we follow what Cochran has to say is he is very eclectic in what interests him. He needs to muse on subjects varying from all those listed on his categories times ten. It is not wasted time to blog IF he keeps it to a constructive hobby. I can see a blog as a way of bouncing ideas off of a large audience with minimal investment in time. Having said that you could be right Patrick, I’m not in Cochran’s head either. I notice that Razib’s blog isn’t what it used to be because the man has decided not to devote much time to it because he is raising a family and working on his PHD. I trust Cochran can manage his time and prioritize appropriately. I don’t think it is fair for us to expect a book of the quality of “The 10,000 Year Explosion” to come rolling forth quickly. But that doesn’t mean I’m not getting impatient for it. Big things are happening right now in science and I’m rooting for Cochran to be Johnny-on-the-spot. Check out this lecture by Steve Hsu titled “The Genetic Architecture of Intelligence”. Did he ask a question of Cochran in the above lecture? I think so. Anyway, this guy is another Physics professor making waves in other sciences. If he is right, that we are 5 years away from truly understanding the genetic architecture of intelligence, meaning we will have isolated the genetic reasons for the difference in intelligence, that is a game changer. This lecture by Steve Hsu made me better understand Cochran’s earlier argument that mutational load is a major reason for the large variation in human intelligence. I have read elsewhere besides this blog that there is a considerable effect on intelligence as the fathers age increases which points directly at proof of mutational load being highly significant. Sorry, I can’t link to it, but one study showed the children of 16 year old fathers to have an average IQ of 108 and then it just drops off from there. I’m guessing Cochran has read every single study in this subject area and whenever his next book comes out we shall all be further educated on it.

      • dave chamberlin says:

        I won’t defend the nasty Razib, I’ve seen it although I must say he’s tolerated my bullshit for years without getting too rude. I think this onion article is awesome and encapsulates my personal Let’s just say you have an IQ of 140 and the opinions of average people commonly drive you nuts. Well then maybe those very gifted few who are another couple of standard deviations above you are entitled to the same opinion about you than you have about Joe average.

      • Matt says:

        Khan doesn’t really generate ideas the way Cochran does, but if he’s ever been nasty to you, it’s pretty much only ever because you mouthed off on some off topic personal (usually in group biased) bugbear opinion, which you couldn’t actually substantiate with any real evidence, in his comments section. Never really seen it happen to people who actually understand what they’re talking about.

      • Patrick L. Boyle says:

        Greg Cochran is not ‘difficult’ in the same way as Razib Khan. There is an important difference.

        Cochran has a place in human discourse and part of his value to the world of science is the fact that he is prickly. If he had a more conventional and socially sensitive personality he would be a less important figure in the world of intellectual discourse. In psychology there is the concept of ‘inner directed’ and ‘outer directed’. Even in the simple perception of the upright some people (especially women) rely on external cues like architectural verticals while others (mostly men) rely on internal proprioceptive cues.

        This particular convention on economics provides an example. Cochran attacks epigenetics (in the strong form) . It doesn’t seem sensible to him. He is relatively immune to the strong social forces that promote this new flavor of neo-Lamarkianism. He is very definitely not one of those people who is swept up by intellectual fashion.

        Bill Buckley once wrote an essay called ‘No in Thunder’ extoling the value of the spirited opposition to ‘niceness’. Greg Cochran plays that role too.

        But Khan is impolite to no point. He, like everyone else, has political stances. He takes his own personal politics too seriously. He is more like the common Web blogger or commenter who just calls everyone who disagrees with him about anything an idiot.

        Dave Chamberlin suggests that Khan is intemperate because he has an IQ of 140. My guess would be that he’s a bit brighter than that. He’s no dummy.

      • dave chamberlin says:

        I meant to suggest that Razib gets exasperated with people who aren’t nearly as smart or as educated as himself and that includes me. He has an IQ waaay over 140 and when he gets pissy he does so for a good reason, to keep the quality of comments up on his blog. I personally owe Razib a debt of gratitude because his blog was a wonderful resource for being directed to the best non fiction books out there. His write ups of these books and all things under the sun of science and history were greatly enjoyed by me and he pushed me to think better. No he hasn’t made his mark in the sciences like Cochran has…yet. What is he 25 to 30 years younger? He is a first class intellectual in the old meaning of the word and his free labors in more than a decade worth of excellent blog posts will be long appreciated by many.

    • Bumface says:

      Who’d win in a fight: Greg or Henry?

  2. Chris B says:

    How would you go about a HBD informed economics system?

    • HBD fits neatly into the neoclassical economics paradigm, as long as economists are willing to abandon the straitjacket of “human capital” theory which in most of the conventional forms simply does not take into account genetic inheritance of behaviours.

      • Chris B says:

        My thinking was along same lines. multiple economic systems would be required. Some areas may be better if they where allowed to revert/ remain in preindustrial catallaxy, with trusts operating with regard resources. i.e. Congo, advanced economies that need resources operate mining with no employment from locals, and payment for rights to mine be placed in trust for general usage on infrastructure for the locals. Though implication of such a policy are complex. Shame the economist refuse to accept the HBD. I think at this point they can’t – they are so invested in the opposite that accepting it is fatal.

    • DB says:

      Obvious example: HBD knowledge makes it fairly easy to predict what kinds of social programs will yield a positive return on investment, and which ones will not. Intentional ignorance of HBD predictably results in misallocations, with total volume approaching $trillions per year.

  3. So Greg what did those people in the cesspool of human capital research tell you ? Anything you found useful ? (I can’t imagine.)

    To the extent that natural selection has attracted the attention of economists, it’s come in the form of a “unified growth theory” by the Israeli economist Oded Galor. He has this stupid model where people are selected not for thrift, patience, docility or other traits which actually make sense, but selected for preferring to invest in the quality of children rather than in the quantity. So in this model the industrial revolution comes about when enough parents emerge who prefer to have few children and invest heavily in them (rather than have a lot of children and invest little in them). Someone forgot to tell Galor that the demographic transition comes after the industrial revolution…

  4. Chris B says:

    Just watched the video. They just refused to grasp the implications. Constant banging on about epigenics. They just can’t grasp it.

    • Erik Sieven says:

      And what a waste of time. Mr Cochran talked about many so much more interesting things one could have asked about. For me personally the videos of Freedman are some of the most fascinating things I have ever seen. I would have asked about those

    • candid_observer says:

      This is exactly my reaction.

      Of all the things to discuss in the talk, epigenetics is the big stinking deal?

      What’s particularly absurd about it is that even those sticking up for epigenetics are really at most arguing that it just might, in some possible world, have some kind of effect on cognitive/emotive traits. Is there any evidence that such an effect is important enough that we must take it seriously in our thinking about such matters as capital formation? Of course not — but the mere logical possibility of such an effect, however remote and contrived, seems sufficient for their purposes.

      It’s a bit ironic, of course, that the purported great sin of Wade’s book was his engaging in speculation about the genetic roots of capital formation (among other things), but that the wildest speculation about a potential role of epigenetics in capital formation is deemed to be important and valuable.

      Some speculations are more equal than others.

      • Anonymous says:

        “What’s particularly absurd about it is that even those sticking up for epigenetics are really at most arguing that it just might, in some possible world, have some kind of effect on cognitive/emotive traits. Is there any evidence that such an effect is important enough that we must take it seriously in our thinking about such matters as capital formation?”

        Well calorie intake is a credible way to influence significant traits as i think is acknowledged in the Q and A at the end of the talk.

        I think there is very good evidence for mothering practices causing epigenetic alteration of the adult anxiety level, in rats. And as the Derb just mentioned at Unz review, a long while ago Richard Lynn found that economic development correlated with measures of the average national level of arousal (such as calorie intake) which is somewhat similar to anxiety. More speculatively, I believe first born tend to be timid or anxious; wouldn’t firstborns become a high proportion of the population as the birthrate falls?

        Economists deal in price and (the real) value, They torture the data until it confesses.

    • candid_observer says:

      Another point I’d make about epigenetics is that one would certainly expect that its importance would have been revealed long, long ago, were it actually a phenomenon of real consequence.

      While I’ll grant I’m not familiar with the literature, I’m sure there have been endless numbers of studies over the past century or more to determine whether there is inheritance of acquired characteristics, as per Lamarck. Were epigenetics an important factor, surely in any number of these experiments inheritance of acquired traits would be demonstrated. So far as I have ever heard, not a single historical experiment showed such an effect. And what would be the point of evolution introducing a mechanism supporting epigenetic transfer of traits if no acquired trait useful in a given environment were transferred?

  5. Of course a lot of human capital research produces data and results which are useful to a more sociobiological understanding of society, e.g., . Baten has done a lot of data collection on biological standards of living (heights, etc.) as well as indicators of numeracy from the past (e.g., age-heaping). In that paper he finds that even as early as 1550-1600 age-heaping evidence shows that Korea, Japan & China were unusually numerate compared with the rest of the world. Baten et al. probably believe this just means these Asians were education pioneers… (Which is why they discuss education under the Ming and Tokugawa, etc.)

  6. Maciano says:

    From this fragment I didn’t notice obtuse dogmatic people. Just honest mis- & uninformed who had a superficial understanding of epigenetics.

    Actually, they’re probably more curious now how to incorporate genetics into economics. Job well done, I say.

    • 420blazeitfgt says:

      Was annoying how they didn’t get off that one subject.

    • Chris B says:

      I don’t think so. It seems they do not want to face reality. Cognitive dissonance at play I think.

      • Rob Smith says:

        EVERY single question was on epigenetics? Really, every one? How is that even statistically possible?

        On the other hand, these people have expended insane amounts of time and money on their educations. It would be all too easy to have their careers derailed by someone pulling a youtube clip of them agreeing with you.

        So kudos to them, I guess. Politically Correct is prudent when their futures are at stake.

  7. dearieme says:

    We must all bow down to Epic Genetics.

  8. blah says:

    People may find this interesting:

    Tuition corrected-earnings for five factor personality traits + IQ over the life-cycle

  9. JayMan says:

    Dr. Harpending’s face at time 21:20 onward – priceless!

  10. The fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

    I dunno, after listening to some berk drone on about inequality for a bit, I didn’t have the fortitude to watch more.

  11. Patrick L. Boyle says:

    A couple years ago I saw that the public TV celebrity David Suzuki was speaking locally at the Lawrence Hall of Science. It was a typical glorious Bay Area day so I took my girl friend to see the hall and its magnificent setting and hear the ever charming Dr. Suzuki.

    But Suzuki wasn’t charming. He was damn near rabid. He ranted about economics and economists. It was embarrassing. The crowd was with him and he revealed a side to himself you would never see on TV.

    Suzuki considered economics to be the primary locus of evil in the world. I expected the sweet and concerned scientist I had thought him to be, but I got Savonarola in high dudgeon instead.

  12. Magus Janus says:

    that was painful. also, why was the time so limited? it seems like you’d finished addressing epigenetics at that point and maybe they could start asking the more interesting questions, but the time ran out.

    • gcochran9 says:

      The meeting ran for two days. Presentations were short, and there was a lot of time for questions. As usual, the real conversations were informal, out in the hall, over breakfast and lunch, etc.

      Other talks should be up soon, if they aren’t already.

      • harpend says:

        I gave the next talk at the meeting: it is up there now. Nothing in it not familiar to this blog audience since I have tossed out the models and ideas here from time to time.

      • candid_observer says:

        It’s a little bizarre how the comments to your talk got derailed by the scaling/transformation issue. While I can’t make out exactly what the original questioner was claiming, he seemed to be asserting that heritability is a number that can easily be manipulated by different modeling techniques. Does he really believe that that might hold for most traits of interest, and that that purported fact might have escaped the many first rate mathematical minds who have devoted themselves to quantitative genetics?

        Sometimes it’s hard not to conclude that many economists often get so stuck in the techniques of their mathematical modeling that they can’t see the forest for the trees.

    • Sandgroper says:

      It was still worth watching, Henry.

      Out of innocence, ignorance and plain curiosity, I want to ask Steve Hsu what “certain things” don’t follow a Gaussian distribution (I’m referring to his comment after Henry’s talk).

      If either Henry or Greg, or anyone else who happens to know, know what Steve was referring to, I’d be grateful if you could tell me. Dead rough, just an idea would be great.

      • harpend says:

        A big part of the reason that the discussion after my talk got sidetracked is that I am pretty deaf and could not hear the questions nor the discussion, save for Greg’s question about how much gene flow could derail class formation. He was, or course, sitting right next to me. I gather folks wanted to argue about how various transformations could warp heritability estimates.

        McGue had just the right answer to that–fuggedaboutit in our new trendy jargon. I thought McGue was just excellent throughout the meeting.

      • Sandgroper says:

        Likewise, Henry, I couldn’t catch a lot of the mumbling in the back of the room, but figured that’s what it was about, and couldn’t see the point.

      • Clark says:


        I agree! McGue’s Coursera class on Human Behavioral Genetics has also been excellent:

  13. A disappointing audience. Missed the main implications for economic theory. Silly.

  14. I didn’t realise Enrico Spolaore was also there. Talk about a guy who can’t or won’t see the obvious…

    • gcochran9 says:

      I talked with Spolaore quite a bit. That’s not my impression.

      • I’m just going by the papers he’s written. In his most recent paper he argues that more neutral genetic distances there is between populations, there are more differences in traits (and he seems to mean cultural traits, like languages) that act as a barrier to the diffusion of ideas and technology.What do you think of that idea ?

      • Paul says:

        I have a theory: most economic researchers don’t publish everything that pops up in their minds about the relation between IQ, human capital and economic development. That would not be wise and/or effective. There’s a term that captures this oblique strategy in print (people are more open in private, in dorms and in faculty corridors): straussian.

    • Dave says:

      Again pseudoerasmus is speculating with no knowledge and information about the quality of researchers. Spolaore interdisciplinary knowledge is impressive. The entire comments of pseudoerasmus on this thread are a reflection of shallowness and bigotry.

      • I did not say Spolaore was bad or ignorant ! He just seems like he’s always avoiding the subject or beating around the bush. For example, why not look at IQ in the diffusion of ideas and technology ? Psychometricians have proposed an interesting mechanism, like the smart fraction theory, which could be mediating the diffusion of institutions and technology to the catching up countries. Economists could play a valuable role here. Pscyhometricians seem to look primarily at the human capital of the elites, but economists might assess whether the cognitive ability of the median worker was more important to technology transfer than the cognitive ability of the elites.

  15. Garet Jones ( ) should have been there. One of the few economists who take IQ seriously.

    • Paul says:

      Garett Jones & W. Joel Schneider (2006) boldly proposed that IQ is the best proxy to human capital; much better than “years of education” or “share of population that concluded college” or whatever. I quote Jones & Schneider:
      The ability to solve problems, to think creatively, to recall facts and to reinterpret those facts in the light of changing circumstances: these are some of the key elements that economists seem to be thinking of when we think about “human capital.” (…) Fortunately for economists, psychologists spent the 20th century putting a great deal of energy into refining and improving upon one valuable technique for measuring this particular type of human capital: The intelligence test.

      Can we seriously believe that Romer, Mankiw and Weil (1992) did not know this when they incorporated human capital to Solow model in a famous and influent paper? They knew it — and Mankiw hints about this knowledge repeatedly in his blog* — but they knew better. All of them are succesful academics in top tyer Universities, of course.

      * See, v.g.:

  16. Nick Rowe says:

    Economist here. I read the 10k explosion (great book). I follow this blog, and Razib’s, and sometimes a few others. Because I think this stuff is interesting and important. Especially right now, with all the new data and discoveries.

    One example of my ignorance: consider the point Greg makes around 7.35, about regression towards the mean lasting only one generation, so that the second and all subsequent generations will still be 0.7 SDs above the old population mean. I did not understand that point until about a year ago, when Razib explained it. I had puzzled over that since I was a teenager; since I wrongly thought that regression to the mean continued for generation after generation, and could not see how that was compatible with Darwin.

    Don’t knock human capital theory. Nothing says it must be either/or. It can be both.

    How to incorporate this stuff into economics? Hmmm. (An economist once complained that too much interdisciplinary work is all inter and no discipline.) Preferences would be one simple way. Preferences matter in economics, but economists (usually) take them as exogenous. Time-preference, for example.

    I almost never comment, because I normally have nothing useful yet to add to the conversation. But that doesn’t mean I’m not listening, and learning. Other economists may be doing the same as me.

    Carry on.

    • “Don’t knock human capital theory. Nothing says it must be either/or. It can be both”

      But right now human capital theory has very little role for IQ or other heritable abilities. It’s all parental investment and educational spending.

      How to incorporate this stuff into economics? Hmmm….Preferences would be one simple way. Preferences matter in economics, but economists (usually) take them as exogenous. Time-preference, for example”

      Time preference is the other obvious place where biological theories can neatly fit into the neoclassical paradigm. In fact Galor’s “Agricultural Origins of Time Preference” makes more sense than his bizarre “unified growth theory”.

      • Dave says:

        Here is an informed overview of Unified Growth Theory, posted in Evolving Economics, based on rigorous reading, rather than wishful thinking and uninformed speculations

      • In The Cambridge Economic History of Modern Europe, it’s Galor galore. He clearly reset the research agenda, but Gregory Clark gets short shrift and is simply regarded as offering “qualified support” for natural selection models. Never mind Galor and Clark are completely different. Clark implicitly worked with a biological model in which the pressures of the Malthusian world directly select for smarter, more numerate, more patient and less violent people, and the mechanism is “survival of the richest” followed by downward social mobility of the offspring and then repopulation.

        But maybe for economists that was just too foreign — or maybe too eugenic ? So they prefer Galor’s model in which natural selection happens on parental preferences for child quality vs quantity, a model which keeps a central role for investment in education and skill development. So in spite of natural selection going on in Galor it’s still a “safe” model. No eugenics, except Dad & Mum have been selected for to pay a lot of attention to their kids.

        Another possibility for the different reception is, Galor wrote up a formal model with all the usual blah blah about overlapping generations, homogeneous goods, shape of the utility function, etc. etc. etc. whereas Clark’s was more rough-and-ready but, at root, biological.

        But I don’t know which is worse, a more biological model getting short shrift because of modelling aesthetics, or because it seems like a eugenic model of the industrial revolution.

      • Dave says:

        selection of parental preference for quality could have been biological

      • Paul says:

        Gregory Clark himself acknowledged his debt to Galor. See footnote 5 on page 8 of the introduction of Clarks’s Magna Opus, “A Farewell to Alms”:

        I first became interested in this idea in 1989. Clark and McGinley, 1989, argued
        through a simulation exercise that the logic of the Malthusian era implied that people evolved after the Neolithic Revolution toward greater patience and lower fertility. At the time these ideas seemed to conflict with the historical record and biological possibilities. My interest was reignited by a theoretical paper, making the same argument, by Oded Galor and Omar Moav; Galor and Moav, 2002.

        Later, at page 167 of the same book, Clark said that he owned a crucial point in his theory to Oded Galor, in verbis:

        “Evidence from animal populations shows that, in cases in which a trait has previously been neutral in terms of survival, so that it exists in varying frequencies in populations, strong selective pressures can change the characteristics of the population within a few
        generations. (…) I owe this point to Oded Galor.”

        This capacity for ackwnowleding inspiration is partially agreeableness (heritabiliy ~ 0,5) and good academic manners. It is possible to cultivate some and more of it.

      • Anyone can propose natural selection for every bloody thing. Otherwise evolutionary pscyhology could not exist… What matters is the mechanism.

        Here is Clark on Galor :

        Voth’s conclusion that the evolutionary argument in [A Farewell to Alms] is just a footnote to Galor and Moav (2002) is perhaps understandable given that Voth believes Galor and his co-authors have solved all the problems of long run growth…. However Voth must have limited understanding of these papers. For elsewhere in the same article Voigtländer and Voth state: “Unified growth theory (Galor and Weil, 2000; Galor and Moav, 2002; Hansen and Prescott, 2002; Jones, 2001) offers a consistent explanation of the transition from century-long Malthusian stagnation to rapid growth.” The arguments in Galor and Weil (2000) and Galor and Moav (2002) are in fact completely at variance with those of Hansen and Prescott (2002) and Jones (2001). Since Voth cannot detect any distinction in these radically different approaches, it is not surprising that he cannot understand that other than in using natural selection as a mechanism, the data and conclusions in A Farewell to Alms are inconsistent with Galor and Moav (2002).”

        the Hansen & Prescott in question is the “Malthus to Solow”

      • Anonymous says:

        You can check put the paper here

      • Ömer says:

        For those interested, you can find our “Agricultural Origins of Time Preference” paper here

    • I’m another economist. I also didn’t understand regression towards the mean until recently. I wonder if our profession will be brave enough to make proper use of genetics.

    • Magus Janus says:

      oh wow. Nick Rowe. I read your blog and I read this one, seeing you post here is awesome. It’s like I had you in one bubble in my head under econ and then I have Cochran, Harpending and others in the other bubble. Now the bubbles are touching!

      Very cool to see you’re reading up on this stuff. There’s tons of room for more economic background guys who grok IQ to write papers, etc. Or even just blog posts. You have one of the more influential econ blogs… I’d love to see you write something along those lines in the future.

      • Nick Rowe says:

        Thanks Magus! But I don’t think my IQ is high enough to understand all this IQ stuff well enough. Money/macro has already filled my brain up, so there’s no room left.

      • Nick Rowe says:

        Greg: “It’s ag science.”

        Yep. I reckon the two biggest influences on Darwin were Malthus (economist) and Sebright (agricultural scientist). But farming requires more brains than many people think. Hence Greg Clark’s thesis.

  17. Pingback: greg and henry and the economists | hbd* chick

  18. When A Farewell to Alms came out, Deirdre (formerly Donald) McCloskey reviewed it in which she criticised the concept of the “survival of the richest” because it would be, supposedly, eliminated by the regression to the mean. In a rejoinder in the European Review of Economic History Clark gently informed her, any regression in the second generation would be to a higher mean.

    • gcochran9 says:

      Biology may not be McCloskey’s best subject.

      • Magus Janus says:

        which is a shame, because I find the most convincing explanation for the Industrial Revolution in the West a combination of Clark’s model and McCloskey’s change in rhetoric model she’s hinted at in Bourgeois Dignity.

        As I see it, Clark’s genetic (and cultural though mainly genetic) eugenic model of Middle Ages was a necessary but not sufficient condition, and then the “spark” that made it happen was likely the rhetorical change McCloskey documents in Northwestern Europe and specifically England. Clark’s model in isolation is not enough to explain why for instance we don’t see IR in China instead of Europe, or why specifically England as opposed to other parts of Europe. But it does explain to my satisfaction why it occurred roughly in that time period, and does limit the places where it could occur.

        Put both together and you get a pretty coherent picture. Certainly far more than any bs capital exploitation model the Marxists churn out, or the neoclassic free trade model that doesnt add up mathwise (or historically), or the institutional model that also doesnt add up.

      • Paul says:

        Magus Janus: (“which is a shame, because I find the most convincing explanation for the Industrial Revolution in the West a combination of Clark’s model and McCloskey’s change in rhetoric model she’s hinted at in Bourgeois Dignity.”) X 2

        Deirdre McCloskey will publish the last intallment of the Bourgeois Trilogy later this year. Stay tunned. Genetics only can’t explain why South Korea / North Korea; East Germany / West Germany; Late 19th century Japan / late 19th century China and Korea. The list is very long.

        It is clear by now that bad ideology and/or institutions can seriously fuck up growth, no matter how good your genes.

      • The fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

        It is clear by now that bad ideology and/or institutions can seriously fuck up growth, no matter how good your genes.

        Well, sure, but cui bono? How do these bad ideologies and/or institutions develop?

        Of course, if a really effective parasite colonizes a population, their genes probably will have no defense for a long time … maybe hundreds of generations.

  19. Was that Steve Hsu interjecting about plant & animal breeding now being done with SIMP data rather than by pedigree, and how linear models work just fine for those ? His brief comment seemed like such a deflation of that long-winded Durlauf talk.

  20. I see Heckman in the Q&As (although most of those were inaudible). Did he not give a presentation ?

  21. The fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

    From that paper on Time Preferences we see this:

    Moreover, in light of the importance of long-term orientation for human and physical capital formation

    Can economists explain what they mean by human capital formation?

    Do they mean that someone with an IQ of 85 can, through this process of human capital formation, develop Rocket Surgery skills?

    If so, by what mechanism? If not, what the hell do they mean?

    • Sandgroper says:

      What’s rocket surgery?

    • Nick Rowe says:

      4th doorman:
      Consider an analogy with land.

      Land in the natural state will produce very little. It takes investment to clear it or drain it, and that investment will increase production per acre. But not all land is equally productive, even with equal investment. And different land is better at growing different crops. And some crops are more valuable than others, depending on what people like to eat.

      Same with labour. Replace “clear” and “drain” with “teach” and “train”. These all take the use of resources, which could have been producing something else today, to increase future productivity. We call that “investment”, to create “capital”. Some capital is embodied in land. Some capital is embodied in humans. We call the latter “human capital”.

      • The fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

        OK, I misunderstood the term, perhaps because of popular misuse of the term.

        I assumed it meant that we could magically turn low IQ people into geniuses through this process of human capital formation.

        To check that I fully understand the term, when Henry Ford’s company was training workers to engage in the processes used on his assembly lines, that was human capital formation?

        When someone goes to college and studies Asian American Studies that is human capital formation?

      • Nick Rowe says:

        4th doorman:
        “To check that I fully understand the term, when Henry Ford’s company was training workers to engage in the processes used on his assembly lines, that was human capital formation?”
        Very probably.

        “When someone goes to college and studies Asian American Studies that is human capital formation?”
        I don’t know. It might be. Or it might be signalling (peacock tails). Or it might be consumption (they just find it interesting). University education is probably a mix of all three.

    • L says:

      Rocket Surgery = takes twice the skill and ten times more fun

  22. There is an economist in New Zealand, or maybe Australia, who calls his blog : Evolving Economics. I have not read him much, I am just tossing it out for your interest.

  23. Pingback: Genes and socioeconomic aggregates | EVOLVING ECONOMICS

  24. Alex Schell says:

    Paul Krugman apparently used to have an interest in evolutionary genetics. Here’s an old talk of his on the relation between econ and evolutionary theory (with sensibly harsh Gould-bashing):

  25. Kate says:

    I sympathise with you having to face an audience of people who clearly were not open-minded to the subject and seemed to have a pre-set agenda.

    What I thought was really interesting was the brief conversation between you and Dr Harpending. And I wondered if that format, maybe fielding questions together, might be a way of breaking down resistance because, you both came across as relaxed and evidently knowledgeable. It’s really a privilege to be privy to that sort of intellectual exchange and I should think the calibre of your communications would be obvious, even to people who approach the topic with not so much understanding of the finer maths detail or, with reservations about the validity of the research area.

    (just a thought)

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