Greg Mankiw and Paul Krugman are having an important debate about the transmission of income inequality across generations. Here is a quote from Dr. Mankiw.
“A book I probably should have cited in my article is Judith Harris’s The Nurture Assumption. The main thesis of this great book is that, beyond genes, parents matter far less than most people think. Raising three children has made me appreciate Harris’s conclusion. It is frustrating how little influence we parents have.”
I believe that Jim Heckman would disagree with Dr. Mankiw. Here is a good quote from a PBS Newshour Segment where Heckman was interviewed.
“You’re a University of Chicago economist, which suggests a certain conservatism with regard to economics, right?
James Heckman: Yes, but what I take from Chicago is not some hard line about minimum wages or anything of the sort, but understanding that incentives really matter. Alfred Marshall is one of the inspiring forces of the Chicago tradition.
And Marshall, in his book, “Principles of Economics,” made this remark:
“The greatest capital that you can invest in is human capital, and, of that, the most important component is the mother.”
So he was talking about early motherhood, maternal interventions, the importance of the family. We know there are a lot of differences genetically; there are a lot of differences that emerge. But what we also know is that we can work with those differences and so we recognize individuality, we supplement individuality and when, in some cases, the individuality looks like it’s heading in a bad direction, we can do something about it.”
For those RBC readers eager to see some advanced material, read through Heckman’s research program.