Race/IQ – Rejecting the Ostrich Response
The central finding of my recent article “Race, IQ, and Wealth” was a simple one.
Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen today rank as perhaps the world’s leading academic advocates of the theory that the innate IQ of a given nation is fixed and determines its international success on a host of major economic and social criteria. Yet even a cursory analysis of the actual data which they accumulated and presented actually disproves their own hypothesis, given the huge IQ variations between genetically-indistinguishable groups and in national IQs over just a generation or less. So it strikes me as mighty peculiar that theory proposed in “IQ and the Wealth of Nations” had been immediately refuted by the evidence presented in “IQ and the Wealth of Nations”, but nobody seemed to have noticed this during a decade or more of heated, bitter discussion.
The Lynn/Vanhanen theory is hardly a totally obscure one. For example, if you Google the specific phrase IQ+”Wealth of Nations”, you will find some 103,000 search results, certainly small potatoes compared to “Lindsey Lohan”, but not exactly nothing. And many of those webpages are themselves blogposts, including vast numbers of comments, at least a portion of which were ferociously hostile to the ideas of Lynn/Vanhanen. One would think that Lynn/Vanhanen foes somewhere along the way would have thanked those scholars for graciously debunking their own theory.
I suspect the mystery behind this strange state of affairs might involve something appropriatedly called “the Ostrich Response.”
For decades now, many liberal intellectuals have tended to shy away from any scientific investigations involving “race” or “IQ”, or (especially) those two concepts in close proximity, perhaps fearing the dreadful Satanic truths which they might discover. As a perfect example of this, several of the individuals receiving my article told me they felt great trepiditation when they read my title, fearful at the possible factual conclusions presented therein, and were enormously relieved when these turned out largely to be the ones they might have most desired.
Unfortunately, one problem with avoiding debates on horrifying topics is that these debates take place nevertheless, but with only one side participating. Hence the 103,000 search results dealing with the Lynn/Vanhanen theory, of which an enormously high percentage seem totally laudatory.
An additional unfortunate consequence is that this absence of rational debate by serious thinkers means that the arguments of both sides remain crude, ignorant, and untested. As a perfect example of this, during just the last five days, my article has received close to 350 heated comments across several blogsites, with the vast majority of these—on both sides—being of very low quality.
For example, a typical anti-IQ commenter absurdly claimed that the DNA of Amerinds was “indistinguishable” from that of Chinese, hence the two groups must obviously have identical innate IQs.
Meanwhile, one of the most vigorous IQ-racialists has repeatedly denied that there exists any evidence whatsoever that the Irish had ever had IQs below 100, totally ignoring three large studies reported by Lynn which placed their IQ at 87 in 1972 and around 92 in 1992, studies representing a total sample size of nearly 6,500 individuals, a massive national total second only to that of Germany. Furthermore, Lynn himself has stated that his years of research in Ireland during the late 1960s had convinced him that the Irish were a low-IQ population, with a heavy government eugenics program being the nation’s only hope.
A more plausible criticism was that the Lynn’s 17 Buj IQ studies should be excluded, on the grounds that Buj restricted his testing to the capital cities of the countries he examined, and these are unlikely to be nationally reresentative. But excluding that large set of national samples from Lynn’s work sharply reduces his total dataset, and in addition actually tends to strengthen my own analysis, since the IQs of the various Southern and Eastern European countries become more uniformly low.
Another claim repeatedly made was that the implausible European IQs I had cited came from studies testing children, and these should be excluded on grounds of childhood unreliability. The totally ignorant commenter failed to realize that with the exception of the doubtful Buj studies, ALL of Lynn’s remaining IQ studies are based on samples of children, and if we exclude these—together with the Buj studies—Lynn’s total European dataset is reduced to exactly ZERO. Perhaps this indeed represents a means of salvaging Lynn’s thesis, since an analysis of zero datapoints is certainly consistent with anything and everything. All in all, it appears that an enthusiastic interest in engaging in IQ debates is no strong sign of actually possessing much of the attribute under discussion.
Taboo subjects avoided by well-informed and intelligent participants tend to regenerate into these battles of competitive ignorance, which is hardly a good outcome for scientific topics with major public policy ramifications.
Fortunately, such forbidden topics may also attract enormous interest once they are broached under reasonable circumstances. For example, my current article is now on track to receive more pageviews in its first 7 days than my Hispanic Crime article did in its first 90, and has already accumulated more Likes and Tweets than all my previous articles combined. Furthermore, a vigorous debate on some of the important issues raised may gradually act to sand off some of the rough edges of confusion and error, and such a debate is beginning to occur, as a number of reasonably prominent websites have been discussing my article and often attracting significant numbers of commenters, though ones overwhelmingly hostile to my views. Here are a few of the most prominent links:
Race, IQ, and Wealth, Steve Sailer
Has Ron Unz Refuted “Hard Hereditarianism”?, VDare.com
The new Ron Unz piece on IQ, Marginal Revolution
Race, IQ and wealth: A preliminary reply, Political Correctness Watch
Ron Unz on Race, IQ, and Wealth, Peter Frost’s Evo and Proud
Cities Make You Smart, Turbulence Ahead
IQ and the Wealth of Nations?, Social Democracy for the 21st Century
Of these, the VDare article, represents the strongest and most detailed rebuttal to my analysis, so I will confine my response to its arguments.
Some of the points VDare makes about the “noisiness” of the Lynn/Vanhanen IQ data are perfectly correct, though I myself had emphasized this in my own text. For example, the 1979 Irish study which yielded an outlying IQ of 98 was so tiny—just 75 adults—that it probably should be discarded on statistical grounds, likely having been drawn from a single unrepresentative location. Meanwhile, attempting to precisely compare the non-convertible currencies of Communist East Bloc countries with those of Western Europe for GDP purposes is foolish. However, the overall pattern is that the wealthier, more urbanized East Bloc countries did tend to have much higher measured IQs than their poorer, more rural allies, and the same was generally true for Western European countries during that same period.
However, given that VDare ranks as America’s premier “hard core” anti-immigrationist website, the primary focus of the article is (naturally enough) my claim that Mexican-American IQs seem to have risen quite rapidly in recent decades. My argument had relied heavily upon the analysis of GSS Wordsum-IQ data by The Inductivist blogger, who showed that although the figures for American-born Mex-Ams had generally been 84-85 during the 1970s and 1980s, they had risen to around 92 during the 1990s and then 95 during the 2000s. As it happened, two of the three Mex-Am IQ samples quoted by Lynn/Vanhanen for the 1970s and 1980s had been in the exact same 84-85 range, tending to support the validity of the Wordsum-IQ analysis.
The VDare column points out that a different and later book by Lynn, Race Differences in Intelligence, contains a much larger collection of 20 Hispanic IQ results, and that these show considerable fluctuations, with no clear pattern, but generally with lower results than I had suggested.
First, the analysis I quoted had been restricted to Mex-Ams, while two of these other studies are actually of Puerto Ricans, and many of the remainder are of Hispanics in general, who constitute a somewhat different population. Furthermore, the sharp rise in Wordsum-IQ had been restricted to the American-born Mex-Am cohorts, and none of these other IQ tests apparently make the distinction. Finally, an important advantage of the Wordsum-IQ data is that it is based on nationally representative samples, while all of these other IQ samples are localized, as well as often quite small and probably non-representative. For example, one of the IQ tests was based on an absurdly tiny sample size of 37, while four of the others had samples in the 100-163 range, considerably reducing their validity. Indeed, the wide fluctuations of these local samples tend to underscore the value of national results derived from the GSS and the NLSY.
As it happens, two of the IQ samples provided in this Lynn collection are drawn from the 1920s, which raises another interesting issue. I had noted the extremely low 80-85 IQ scores for 1920s European immigrant populations collected by Thomas Sowell, and most of his data had been drawn from “Intelligence and Immigration”, a volume published in 1926 by Clifford Kirkpatrick, a prominent researcher of the time who maintained a very welcome tone of scientific objectivity. Although America’s Mexican population was relatively small during that era, Kirkpatrick included them in his analysis, but since their language, socio-economic status, and IQ scores were all very similar to those of Italians and Portuguese, he grouped these three ethnicities together in the same broader category of “Latins,” and noted that their results were far below that of mainstream Americans. So given the considerable rise in Italian-American and Portuguese-American academic performance during subsequent generations, perhaps we should not be too surprised to see a similar rise in Mexican-Americans.
Finally, the VDare column correctly notes that GSS Wordsum is a highly imperfect proxy for IQ, having a correlation of 0.71, compared to an IQ correlation of 0.81 for the SAT. The article then links to an analysis claiming that the the SAT gap between whites and Hispanics has held steady at 0.6-0.8 between 1980 and 2010, which would seem to indicate that Hispanic ability has stagnated rather than sharply risen during those decades. My own IQ claims referred to the subset of American-born Mex-Ams rather than all Hispanics in general, but since it seems plausible that a rising percentage of those Hispanic SAT scores came from the former group, the SAT non-trends might seem a little surprising.
These SAT findings would constitute a serious blow against my analysis except for the fact that the SAT-takers are obviously not a nationally representative sample of their ethnic population. Just a fraction of students take the SAT, and—more importantly—that fraction may change dramatically over time. As it happens, there has been a huge rise in the number of Hispanic SAT-takers, which grew 150% just between 2001 and 2010, while the overall Hispanic population expanded only by 43% and the cohort of 18-year-olds even less than that; thus, the fraction of Hispanics taking the SAT roughly doubled, while the fraction of whites taking the SAT changed only slightly, perhaps in the 15% range. Although I haven’t yet managed to locate similar SAT demographic data going back to 1980, I strongly suspect that the huge 2001-2011 relative rise in Hispanic test-takers merely continued a trend extending back for decades.
Now in general, it seems very likely that students taking the SAT tend to be drawn from the most able and best prepared slice of their ethnic group, so if the percentage of Hispanics taking that test has doubled, tripled, or quadrupled since 1980, those students will tend to be drawn from much lower levels of the performance pool, and we would expect to see a sharp drop in mean test scores. Instead, the scores have remained roughly constant relative to the white average, almost certainly implying a rapid rise in average Hispanic academic performance. Thus, instead of contradicting the Wordsum-IQ results, a more careful examination of the ethnic SAT data actually tends to confirm them.
Incidentally, I am grateful to the pseudonymous VDare author for directing me to Lynn book “Race Differences in Intelligence.” My own analysis had been based on the data in his “IQ and the Wealth of Nations,” supplemented by his sequel “IQ and Global Inequality,” but Lynn is an exceptionally prolific scholar, and the third book contains a wealth of useful additional data, much of which seems to further support my analysis. As an example, he reports two sizable IQ studies from Lithuania in the post-Communist early 2000s, which place the national IQ at 90 or 92. These seem implausibly low figures to me, and probably reflect Lithuania’s rural character and that its average income was less than one-third that of Germany during that period.
Finally, I must note the tragic loss which we all suffered in the passing of Alexander Cockburn, one of America’s most courageous and honest journalists, as well as co-editor of the Counterpunch webzine. Many were the mornings I’d read endless amounts of absurd, dishonest nonsense in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, only to discover a far more plausible and accurate discussion of world events on Counterpunch’s bright pages. Alex was very decidedly a man of the Left, indeed of the second generation, given that his father Claud had been one of the leading Communist journalists of the 1930s. But the severe compression of the allowed ideological landscape in American journalism had also established him as a port in the storm for leading conservative writers as well. A few years ago, I happened to be glancing through old issues of Buckley’s National Review from the 1980s and was stunned to notice how many of those authors, having been purged by Conservativism, Inc., now used Counterpunch as the primary distributor of their current writings. As I told Alex at the time, perhaps he was actually the true heir of William Buckley, Jr.
(cross-posted at www.ronunz.org)