The more important reason this is a 'landmark' study in the eyes of NPR or New York Times or Post pundits and editors is that it fits very nicely into the outcomes that they find tolerable. It fits into the prevailing attitude of wealth supremacism. The Bill Kellers or Robert Samuelsons or Cokie Robertses embrace inequality. That want more inequality. They firmly believe that the privileged are innately superior. They absolutely will not tolerate scientific findings that clearly support a case for redistribution of wealth. This cannot be overemphasized. How many mainstream observers of President Obama's State of the Union address obsessed over any possible redistributive implications of his statements:
- The Economist; "Obamacare and inequality — A healthy dose of redistribution";
- Conservative, Clinton-style Democrat William Galston at Brookings;
- Britain's Telegraph newspaper: "Barack Obama calls for more redistribution of wealth";
Here is 'noted' Harvard economist Gregory Mankiw: "Smart parents make more money and pass those good genes on to their offspring."
This is the thinking underlying eugenics, and it is a pervasive and growing conviction among American conservatives, moderates, and no small percentage of progressives. (And not just among Americans.) It is reflected in the cultish adoration of evolutionary psychology and evolutionary economics, and the gross misunderstandings of genetics and biology common among people generally, social scientists, and even many biologists. Stephen Jay Gould was an outstanding thinker on these issues. Richard Lewontin and others still write on these matters.
I highly recommend Dean Baker's writing on the Chetty mobility study: