Born Rich or ‘Gifted’?

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I came upon this trending Washington Post story on Reddit analyzing whether or not it is better to be gifted or be born into a richer family. It’s an interesting analysis that compares the genetic factors relating to being born with genes corresponding to higher success versus being born into a richer family. What the article found is that comparing those born into poor families but *with* preferable genes against those born into rich families but with a lack of preferable genes, those born into rich families are still more successful. Here’s the visualization that they created. Whilst genes predicting scholastic performance are nearly the same for both demographics, their observed success isn’t.

This is from a Washington Post article comparing success against income.


This sparked my interest to use the data that I have at hand and that I have already been analyzing (here and here) to see if these trends hold. Specifically, I wanted to see if there were indeed differences later on in life (that could be attributed to upbringing) versus similar results earlier on in life. Here was one interesting trend that seemed to be the case for most of the other trends that I analyzed. These are statistics from MCAS (Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System) that I have in my overall dataset1 on public schools in Massachusetts. I specifically looked at the average proportion of students at each school that achieved an ‘Advanced’ on the MCAS indicator, and compared this with the % of students at that school who are economically disadvantaged. Generally, while there is a very weak trendline between economic advantage and MCAS Advanced proportion in the 3rd grade, there is a strong, stark and steeper2 trendline when it comes to the same measurements in 10th grade (the schools are different). This means that although most students are equivalent in grade and primary school, the richer, more economically advantaged students emerged ahead when it came to high school.


These results only corroborate part of the conclusion of what was presented in the article, that while children born into the rich or poor families are innately similar, they deviate and the economically advantaged exhibit better performance/tested performance later on. This, again, only serves as a grave indicator of our status quo and the prevailing educational system in the United States.

  1. Massachusetts Public Schools Data
  2. So while the economically disadvantaged performed more or less the same, the economically advantaged performed much better in 10th grade compared to 3rd grade. These were the extremes of the measured data, no MCAS data exceeded 10th grade nor preceded 3rd grade.
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