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Comment on Preston and Campbell's "Differential Fertility and the Distribution of Traits"

Publication Abstract

Lam, David. 1993. "Comment on Preston and Campbell's "Differential Fertility and the Distribution of Traits"." American Journal of Sociology, 98: 1033-39.

This article is a comment on "Differential Fertility and the Distribution of Traits" by Samuel H. Preston and Cameron Campbell, the abstract of which is given in the following paragraph. The comment supplies illustrations of how the model proposed by Preston and Campbell works and useful examples of when it may or may not apply. Also included is Preston and Campbell's reply.

A recurrent fear during the past century is that the mean IQ level of populations will decline because persons with lower IQ scores have above-average fertility. Most microlevel data demonstrate such fertility differentials, but population IQ levels have risen rather than fallen. In this article, a simple two-sex model shows that negative fertility differentials are consistent with falling, rising, or constant IQ distributions. Under a wide variety of conditions, a constant pattern of fertility differentials will produce an unchanging, equilibrium distribution of IQ scores in the population. What matters for IQ trends is how the IQ distribution in one generation relates to the equilibrium distribution implied by that generation's fertility differentials. Intuition fails in this important area because it does not account for the macro structure within which micro results must be interpreted.

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