Gregory Clark, Author of The Son Also Rises, on PBS: “Birth is Fate”

7-18 Gregory ClarkGregory Clark, professor of Economics at UC Davis and author of The Son Also Rises: Surnames and the History of Social Mobility can see into your future.

Well, maybe not in the conventional sense – but, based on the research featured in his latest book, Clark thinks it’s much easier to predict the trajectory of one’s life based on the social status of his or her parents. Social mobility is a far more stalwart characteristic than we thought, an issue that Clark discusses at great length in this recent op-ed for PBS Newshour. In a country that’s founded on the ideal of the “American Dream” and the possibility of rising in society, these revelations take on enormous importance and are subject to influence future public policy decisions.


“We can predict the majority of status variation among people at birth just from their lineage,” Clark writes. In other words, our society’s divergence of fortunes — which as Clark points out, isn’t just about income, but also social status – is relatively fixed. That’s something no one ever wants to talk about.”


Clark says that, “underlying social status is inherited from parents as strongly and mechanically as height,” and explains that rates of social mobility are reflected by the degree of similarity between children’s social outcomes and those of their parents – a melange of earnings, education, wealth, and health.  A family whose generations possess a weaker correlation between these factors thus places less emphasis on lineage, race, and ethnicity for the next generation, when children become free to produce a fresh set of social outcomes. Alternately, a family in which children and their parents possess greater similarities is more capable of predicting the social status of its progeny. 

Clark’s essential point lingers on the incredibly slow nature of social mobility. Fortunately, though, he’s able to leave off with some encouraging news: there is “considerable evidence that the biological inheritance of talent and drive is what underlies most of the correlation between the social status of parents and children,” and that “whatever the social system — Communist China or Republican Texas — families of greater social competence will navigate themselves to the better social positions.” Change is uniquely possible for those with the tools and motivation to enact it. 

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Gregory Clark is the author of:

7-18 SonAlsoRises The Son Also Rises: Surnames and the History of Social Mobility by Gregory Clark
Hardcover | 2014 | $29.95 / £19.95 | ISBN: 9780691162546
384 pp. | 6 x 9 | 15 halftones. 111 line illus. 50 tables. 7 maps. | eBook | ISBN: 9781400851096 | Reviews Table of Contents Introduction[PDF]

PUP News of the World, January 31, 2014

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Each week we post a round-up of some of our most exciting national and international PUP book coverage. Reviews, interviews, events, articles–this is the spot for coverage of all things “PUP books” that took place in the last week. Enjoy!


Well, folks, we’re one month in, and 2014 is off to a stellar start for PUP books and authors. We rounded out the month of January with some great reviews in publications from around the world. Check them out below!

The one-week countdown to Sochi has arrived. And as athletes from around the world travel to the games, all eyes have turned to the games’ host. PUP author Angela Stent–director of the Center for Eurasian, Russian, and East European Studies at Georgetown University–is our in-house expert for all things “Russia.” This week, the New York Times published a piece by Stent, where she discusses the implications of the upcoming games for Russia and President Vladimir V. Putin. She writes:

The Olympic Games are supposed to symbolize international cooperation as well as competition. Of course, any country hosting the Games wants to highlight its best features. But Sochi may be one of those times in Olympic history when a leader wants to use the Games for a much more specific political purpose — in this case, to prove that the system he presides over is preferable to that in many participating countries.

Read the whole article here. Want to brush up more on US-Russian relations before the games? Professor Stent’s new book, The Limits of Partnership, offers a riveting narrative on U.S.-Russian relations since the Soviet collapse and on the challenges ahead. It reflects the unique perspective of an insider who is also recognized as a leading expert on this troubled relationship. The book was reviewed in the Economist this week, the review saying that “Ms Stent tells the story clearly and dispassionately.” View the introduction of the book here.

World News 1-31

It seems like some people have all the luck, doesn’t it? Or perhaps certain people really do have better track records of “making it.” While it has been argued that rigid class structures have eroded in favor of greater social equality, our new PUP book, The Son Also Rises, proves that movement on the social ladder has changed little over eight centuries. Using a novel technique–tracking family names over generations to measure social mobility across countries and periods–renowned economic historian Gregory Clark reveals that mobility rates are lower than conventionally estimated, do not vary across societies, and are resistant to social policies.

Intrigued? Check out Gregory Clark’s recent interview, which ran on the Washington Post‘s Wonkblog. Clark says:

Another remarkable feature of the surname data is how seemingly impervious social mobility rates are to government interventions. In all societies, what seems to matter is just who your parents are. At the extreme, we see in modern Sweden an extensive system of public education and social support. Yet underlying mobility rates are no higher in modern Sweden than in pre-industrial Sweden or medieval England.

You can also preview the introduction of The Son Also Rises here.


While we’re on the topic of economics, check out this Financial Times review of Eswar Prasad’s The Dollar Trap, the book that argues that the dollar is the cornerstone of global finance–and will be for the foreseeable future. Henry Sender of the FT says, “To understand how the world of international finance works, what the agendas are and what is at stake, this work is indispensable.” Prasad was also interviewed on Marketplace:

Next, we move to a review in the Times Literary Supplement of Jed Z. Buchwald and Mordechai Feingold’s Newton and the Origin of Civilization. Scott Mandelbrote writes:

‘This argument for intellectual unity in Newton’s method of working gives Newton and the Origin of Civlization philosophical as well as historical originality and importance … represents a climacteric in our understanding of its subject’s life and thought.’

Newton and the Origin of Civilization tells the story of how one of the most celebrated figures in the history of mathematics, optics, and mechanics came to apply his unique ways of thinking to problems of history, theology, and mythology, and of how his radical ideas produced an uproar that reverberated in Europe’s learned circles throughout the eighteenth century and beyond. Preview the introduction for more about this title.