Was your genetic potential stolen? Was your chance at the American Dream thwarted before you were even born?

Well, according to a fascinating new study published in the journal Psychological Science, the answer may be yes…and the reason why is absolutely shocking.

You see, the researchers say the problem is actually on the cellular level…in our genes.

What is “The American Dream”?

John Truslow Adams, the man who coined the phrase The American Dream in 1931, put it this way: “It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable…regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.”

The key phrase here is “innately capable.” Adams’ idea is that all Americans should have an equal opportunity to realize their genetic potential.

And this is where the study comes in.

Psychologists Elliot Tucker-Drob and Timothy Bates decided to investigate if inherited IQ is affected by socio-economic status.

How could you ever measure that?

Well, the researchers came up with a very inventive answer.


If you want to look at the passing down of genetic traits (like IQ), twins should score the same. So the researchers compared data on 25,000 sets of twins, many of whom were separated at birth and raised by different families.

The researchers examined data on these twins that included IQ, family income, wealth, and education. The results of the study were jaw-dropping. In the U.S., if you’re born to wealthy parents (top 5% of income), and your parents have a high IQ…you have a 61% chance of inheriting their high IQ as well.


If your parents are in the bottom 5% of earners, you only have a 24% chance of inheriting their high IQ! This was for TWINS…they should turn out exactly the same. And yet the researchers found the more affluent twin was over 2.5 times more likely to inherit their full “IQ potential.” In other words, many of us may not have received the full “genetic potential” we could have!

What other ways could we be missing out on the potential in our DNA?

For instance, I have a friend who is 6’7” and extremely coordinated. I’m sure he could have been an NBA player if he’d tried.

However, his parents never got him interested in sports. Would you say his inherited gifts of height and athleticism were “squandered?”

It’s a really interesting topic. And it makes you think about “what could have been.” When it comes to pursuing the American Dream, does it matter what circumstances you are born into? Or do we all have a shot at achieving our “genetic potential”…with sweat and hard work?

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