The Economist on Overparenting
By Bryan Caplan
Though I’m no fan of The Economist‘s editorials, their science coverage remains outstanding. Check out their latest piece on overparenting. You could say I’m biased because the piece draws so heavily on my work, but as a pedantic professor, you’d expect me to find fault with any third party’s popularization. Happily, there’s no fault to find:
Bryan Caplan, an economist at George Mason University, says it does not.
In “Selfish Reasons To Have More Kids”, he points to evidence that
genes matter far more than parenting. A Minnesota study found that
identical twins grow up to be similarly clever regardless of whether
they are raised in the same household or in separate ones. Studies in
Texas and Colorado found that children adopted by high-IQ families were
no smarter than those adopted by average families. A Dutch study found
that if you are smarter than 80% of the population, you should expect
your identical twin raised in another home to be smarter than 76% but
your adopted sibling to be average. Other twin and adopted studies find
that genes have a huge influence on academic and financial success,
while parenting has only a modest effect.
The Economist, unlike many of my critics, gets the limits of my position:
The crucial caveat is that adoptive parents have to pass stringent
tests. So adoption studies typically compare nice middle-class homes
with other nice middle-class homes; they tell you little about the
effect of growing up in a poor or dysfunctional household.
The moral, for Mr Caplan, is that middle-class parents should relax a
bit, cancel a violin class or two and let their kids play outside. “If
your parenting style passes the laugh test, your kids will be fine,” he
writes. He adds that if parents fretted less about each child, they
might find it less daunting to have three instead of two. And that might
make them happier in the long run. No 60-year-old ever wished for fewer
P.S. Hope to see you at the Open Borders Meet-Up on August 3. Email me for details.