When the children that Lewis Terman had studied—the so-called "Termites" (people who had high IQs as children)—had reached adulthood, Terman divided them into three groups. The A group had achieved success in fields such as engineering, law, academia, and medicine. What distinguished them from the C group, which had achieved the least, was that the A group came from homes that were in the middle or upper class.
At a time when few people went to college, half the fathers of men in the A group had college degrees or beyond. However, one-third of the fathers of the C group had dropped out of school before 8th grade. The A group had been schooled to be poised and to know how to present themselves. In other words, the A group had the benefit of higher socio-economic status than the C group, and they had families that encouraged their success.
Gladwell refers to the psychological study conducted by Lewis Terman three times. The analysis of the A, B, and C groups appears in Chapter Four, “The Trouble with Geniuses, Part 2.” Beginning in the 1920s, Terman studied 1,470 California children whose IQs averaged more than 140. Because of the researcher’s surname, the “young geniuses” became known as “Termites.” After they reached adulthood, Terman divided the individuals into groups he called A, B, and C, depending on the types of jobs they had and how successful they had become. The people in Group A were the top of the crop. They included doctors, lawyers, and engineers. 90% of them had graduated from college. The majority of them came from homes in the middle and upper class – homes that were filled with books. Terman’s study showed that even the smartest people also needed a supportive community around them in order to advance well in life. Those that didn’t have that family background were more likely to land in groups B or C.