From Social Mobility in Britain: An Empirical Evaluation of Two Competing Explanations by Peter Saunders, in 1997. From the Abstract:
Existing data on social mobility in Britain demonstrate a disparity of up to 4:1 in the relative chances of children from different social class backgrounds ending up at the top or bottom of the occupational class system. In an earlier paper, it was argued that such disparities should not necessarily be seen as the result of social advantages or disadvantages associated with different class origins, for they are also consistent with a model of meritocracy in which class differentials in average levels of ability are reflected in the class destinations achieved by people from different social backgrounds. That paper has been criticised, both analytically and empirically, and this paper addresses some of these criticisms through an analysis of data from the National Child Development Study. The analysis shows that ability is an important factor influencing social mobility chances, and through a series of logistic regression and multiple regression models, it demonstrates that meritocratic factors (individual effort and ability) outweigh social advantage/disadvantage factors in predicting the occupational class achieved by over 6,000 men and women by age 33. The paper ends by answering the analytical criticisms made against the earlier paper.My read of his empirical finding is that Effort and Ability explain more than half the variance of which occupational class an individual arrives in. Personal effort and ability trumps advantage.
Since the entire grievance industry, academic and governmental, is built on the opposite assumption, it is understandable why this finding was disparaged and not followed up on.
The Brookings Institute has a number of papers out related to the Success Sequence. The Success Sequence observes that if you complete high-school, get a job and stay employed, and if you marry and only then have children, there is a less than 1-3% (depending on the study) of your being in poverty.
There is, of course, a whole academic industry devoted to arguing why this can't be so, much as there was at one time purportedly engineers who demonstrated why bees ought not to be able to fly.
But the Success Sequence, while better quantified now than in the past, is not new. My father related it to me in the early seventies so it was being documented even then. And one might argue that most Sino-culture nations are built on the Success Sequence with manifest beneficial outcomes. But there are a lot of ideological academics and government agencies whose success and existence depends on it not being true and therefore that is what they argue.
Saunders' finding comports with all sorts of other pieces of evidence. Alan B. Krueger has done multiple studies examining what the impact is on students attending high prestige universities versus low-prestige universities. When controlling for IQ, there is no future income difference. From Estimating the Return to College Selectivity over the Career Using Administrative Earning Data by Alan B. Krueger and Stacy Berg Dale. From the Abstract.
We estimate the monetary return to attending a highly selective college using the College and Beyond (C&B) Survey linked to Detailed Earnings Records from the Social Security Administration (SSA). This paper extends earlier work by Dale and Krueger (2002) that examined the relationship between the college that students attended in 1976 and the earnings they self-reported reported in 1995 on the C&B follow-up survey. In this analysis, we use administrative earnings data to estimate the return to various measures of college selectivity for a more recent cohort of students: those who entered college in 1989. We also estimate the return to college selectivity for the 1976 cohort of students, but over a longer time horizon (from 1983 through 2007) using administrative data.In other words, if you are high IQ, it doesn't make any difference to your future income and wealth outcomes whether you attend a high prestige university or a decent but no-name university. Your IQ drives the outcome, not the putative privileges and advantages of the institution.
We find that the return to college selectivity is sizeable for both cohorts in regression models that control for variables commonly observed by researchers, such as student high school GPA and SAT scores. However, when we adjust for unobserved student ability by controlling for the average SAT score of the colleges that students applied to, our estimates of the return to college selectivity fall substantially and are generally indistinguishable from zero. There were notable exceptions for certain subgroups. For black and Hispanic students and for students who come from less-educated families (in terms of their parents’ education), the estimates of the return to college selectivity remain large, even in models that adjust for unobserved student characteristics.
Finally, there is a large field of studies investigating self-efficacy, a close relation to motivation. Self-efficacy is strongly associated with achieved outcomes.
The complete picture strongly suggests that having a high IQ, a high degree of motivation, and good decision-making and good behaviors are materially and substantially responsible for achieved outcomes, significantly outweighing putative privilege and social advantages.