Why is Mr Neville richer than Mr Smith? Will your children go to Oxford? Who should you marry if you want to win at the game of life? Gregory Clark, a Scottish economist at the University of California, Davis, offers some answers in his fascinating new book, The Son Also Rises. In short, he argues that the contribution of distant relatives matters as much as our parents in implementing our fate.
Whereas conventional work on social mobility tracks outcomes over a single generation in one dimension, such as income or education, Clark steps back to take in outcomes in all aspects of a human life over many generations. What counts, he argues, is ‘social competence’, a genetically driven underlying set of skills related to both income and education. If you inherit competence, you can draw on it to become rich, even