Tag Archives: IQ

My thoughts on race and IQ

I’ve been hesitating a bit to get into this topic, not so much because I’m afraid of sharing my views, but because I don’t want to use this blog too much for discussions that are not directly relevant to open borders. However, given that the topic of “race” seems to have come up in Nathan’s recent post, and in BK’s comments, and since I’ve already commented sharing some of my views, I think it’s best that I go on the record with my views. Note that these are just my personal views. I won’t say that they are completely irrelevant to my case for open borders, but what I would say is that the case for open borders is, to my mind, sufficiently robust under changes to my views on this matter. The goal of this post is merely as a reference I can point to so that I can write in the future about these issues without having to provide long justifications and caveats.

To keep this post short, I will not discuss either the moral issues or the relevance to open borders.

I already signed on to the overall IQ consensus (ignoring the racial issues) at the beginning of this post, so I won’t repeat that here. But you might want to take a look at these two consensus statements, this journalistic survey, and this PDF summary by Linda Gottfredson. So here goes.

My understanding of the genetics-focused human biodiversity/race realist position

The genetics-focused human biodiversity/race realist position can be summed up thus. There are, roughly speaking, three sub-races of the human race: Whites, Blacks, and East Asians. Although most population geneticists don’t use the term “race” in their discussions, this tri-racial scheme is reasonably consistent with genetic distance classifications such as the Cavalli-Sforza tree, which identifies 42 subpopulations of the human species.

The race realist position goes on to argue that the mean “genetic IQs” of the three groups are 100, 85, and 105 respectively (some people use different numbers; I’m just using approximate numbers here). Genetic IQ is an ill-defined term, but roughly, you could think of it as meaning what the average IQ would be if they lived in a well-to-do country such as the US with a middle-class lifestyle. The standard deviations within each group is 15 or lower. Thus, blacks are one standard deviation below whites in average IQ.

Caveat 1: Lynn estimates African IQ as about 67, but says that the “genetic IQ” of Africans is probably 80. But I’m rounding that up to 85 since Lynn is relatively extreme. In the comments, BK has pointed out to the work of Jelte Wicherts which casts some doubt on Lynn’s pessimistic estimates, and suggests that current IQ in South Africa is about 80, which suggests that the “genetic IQ” may be around 85 (see also here).

Caveat 2: Some people, such as Lynn, consider genetic attribution of IQ differences even within sub-races and between ethnically similar populations in different regions of the same country. For instance, Lynn applies genetics to considering differences between Northern and Southern Italy. In a critical piece, Ron Unz writes of Lynn:

Although Lynn attributed this large deficit in Southern Italian IQ to substantial North African or Near Eastern genetic admixture, poverty and cultural deprivation seem more likely explanations.

Still, I think Lynn is a bit of an outlier in the fineness with which he makes genetic distinctions and uses admixture to explain differences between nearby regions. Continue reading “My thoughts on race and IQ” »

Open borders and the economic frontier, part 1

This will be the first of three posts on the topic of “open borders and the economic frontier.” 

I am indebted to commenter BK for making the major subject of my academic research, on the basis of which I hope to make my name as an academic economist, relevant to this blog. In a long series of comments at my post “The American polity can endure and flourish under open borders,” and previously at “Garett Jones responds…” BK digs up some numbers and makes a sort of loose empirical case, based on the experience of what Amy Chua calls “market-dominant minorities” in many countries around the world, that segregation of humanity based on cognitive ability, with race as a proxy, actually makes the world economy as a whole more productive:

Chinese-Singaporeans generate income almost twice as great in mostly Chinese Singapore as the large Chinese-Malaysian minority does in Malaysia (about $70,000 per annum vs about $38,000), even though there are less than 3 million Chinese in Singapore but almost 7 million in Malaysia. But the Chinese make up 75% of Singapore vs 25% of Malaysia…

There is a Chinese elite, but this isn’t enough to fix the institutions, which have to represent the general population. All this occurred in the context of strong legal discrimination in favor of Malay majority, racialized anti-business sentiment, and big gaps in political views between Chinese and non-Chinese Malaysians. Using the above statistics, if the Chinese-Malaysians could have done as well as Singapore by also seceding from Malaysia into Chinese-dominated countries, total GDP of the region would rise substantially just from letting the Chinese-Malaysians free of the Malaysian electorate, even if incomes back in Malaysia plummeted. But it gets even better: Singapore lets in millions of guest workers from non-Chinese Malaysia, among other places, who send back huge quantities of remittances. Singapore generates more innovations in science and technology with positive spillovers for the rest of the world.

Basically, patterns like this seem to suggest that total GDP and welfare are much increased by international segregation by IQ and other characteristics contributing to productivity and performance, and that giving every country in the world demographics representative of the world would be devastating…

I’ll try the analysis again for a different region, randomly selected to be Africa.

The obvious data are the economic evolution of Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia) and South Africa after universal suffrage and the end of apartheid. This is complicated by the fact that both countries were suffering economically from crippling sanctions before majority rule, as well as internal racial conflict which were then lifted and replaced with foreign aid as part of an intentional effort to make post-suffrage conditions better than pre-suffrage conditions. Continue reading “Open borders and the economic frontier, part 1” »

“Only high IQ immigrants” fails to understand comparative advantage

OK, it’s time to give some strong back talk to this meme of “only high IQ immigration is good” which we’re getting in the comments. The simple rebuttal to “only high IQ immigration is good” is that this fails to understand comparative advantage and commits the maximize the average fallacy. But in a recent post, Vipul partially defends the high-IQ-only preference:

Not so fast, restrictionists would say. As Richard Hoste puts it, the comparative advantage argument works in the context of pure economics, but once we bring in crime and political externalities, it starts to falter. If crime rates go up, then your chance of being a crime victim goes up, all else equal (there are caveats to be added, but I’m using a simplistic picture of crime). Comparative advantage doesn’t come to the rescue here. And if low IQ means voting for bad policies (something that’s supported by Caplan’s research) then low IQ immigration would lead to negative political externalities.

So, I don’t think the comparative advantage argument is quite the right way to tackle the IQ deficit concern. So what is? I think we need to step back a bit and be clearer about how IQ matters to the moral and practical considerations that come up with respect to immigration and its effect on natives and immigrants. Does IQ matter in and of itself (as some indication of moral worth or desert), or does it matter because of its correlation with things like crime or political beliefs or social capital or what-have-you? It’s only the rare IQ elitist who argues that IQ is morally significant in and of itself. Most people who believe in the importance of IQ believe in it because it’s correlated with a lot of other things like crime, political beliefs, etc.

Vipul goes on to argue that people who make the “only high IQ immigrants” case are double-counting the harms of low-IQ immigration, and that IQ doesn’t give an extra reason for restrictionism, once one has taken possible effects on crime and politics into account. But I think Vipul is giving the “high IQ only” restrictionists too much credit. There may be subtle externalities arguments for why low-IQ immigration is worse, though I think they’re highly tenuous and have little empirical support (I’ll come back to that). But mostly, people are just failing to understand comparative advantage.

Consider the following comment from holier then [sic: should be “than”] thou:

I will say in this case I’m In total agreement with Silicon Valley. People in Silicon Valley are supporting high IQ immigrants, often with unique skill sets. They tend to add value to the nation in the short and long runs. Also, because programming is generally a value creation, rather then value transference industry, the addition of new labor can actually increase the wages of natives. A foreigner who starts a new company adds to the demand for labor. And programming is one of the few industries where smart people with little financial capital can still become job creating entrepreneurs.

And:

For this reason I’m far more open to the case of supporting high levels of immigration of the high IQ, especially those that have skills in key industries. However, you’ll note that this is far different from being “open borders”. Open borders, in practical real life terms, means mostly supporting the mass immigration of low IQ low skill workers who will mostly compete for the existing pie rather then increase it.

This is just economic illiteracy. A foreigner who starts a new company doesn’t necessarily add to the demand for labor. He creates a few jobs directly, but if he competes successfully with existing domestic companies, he’ll destroy jobs elsewhere. If his new company is more productive than the incumbent firms he is grabbing market share from or perhaps driving out of business, he’s likely to destroy net jobs in that industry. Not that that’s a bad thing. To think it is is to be guilty of what Bryan Caplan, in The Myth of the Rational Voter, calls “make-work bias.” Productivity increases tend to hurt workers in particular industries while making consumers and investors better off. And the workers may not be harmed either in the long run, as the market recycles them into other industries. But there’s not much reason to think that foreign entrepreneurs are particularly likely to add net jobs to the economy.

Meanwhile, low-skilled immigrants can also create jobs. Suppose a lot of low-skilled immigrants come and are willing to work in restaurants for low wages. They don’t have the business skills to run restaurants, but they can wait tables and slice carrots and man the cash register. Meanwhile, a lot of hungry people in a hurry would be happy to pay $5 or $10 or $15 for a meal cooked by someone else, rather than having to do it themselves. Native-born foodies with a knack for business have an opportunity to raise some capital, set up a restaurant, hire the immigrants, while carving out a nice job for themselves running it. Of course, customers and investors benefit too. Again, I live in Fresno, and all around the city are orange orchards and vineyards. They need workers to pick the fruit. Native farmers, agronomists, irrigation engineers, etc., who have jobs in the agricultural sector depend on these workers to do the “low-skill” (it’s actually not that low-skill, I hear, but at any rate it doesn’t require much education) work that makes profits possible. Again, I work in a nice clean office building (except for the clutter on my own desk). Who keeps it clean? Not my fellow professors! We hire a janitorial service, which hires a lot of people for the low-skill work of emptying trash cans. Yes, I could take out the trash myself. But I have better things to do! Immigrants who take such tasks off my hands are “increasing the size of the pie.”

Or are these immigrants “competing for the existing pie” because other, less-skilled natives could have taken out the trash for me instead? No. That’s the wrong way of looking at it. Capitalism features competitive markets in almost every industry, but the people who are competing with each other are doing so by being productive, by creating value. To oppose “competition” to “increasing the size of the pie” is a mistake here. Some less-skilled natives probably do see their wages fall because of competition from immigrants (though even that’s controversial: less-educated natives may be able to exploit their comparative advantage in fluent English and being in the American cultural groove, and benefit from immigration just like higher-skilled natives). But if immigrant janitors do reduce the wages of native janitors, they’re still growing the pie. And the university benefits from cheaper housekeeping services.

Let me draw attention, by the way, to holier than thou‘s phrase “value transference industry.” This is not a term economists use. They don’t use it because it’s bogus. There is no phenomenon in the real world which it is sensible to refer to in this way. You could, if you liked, call theft a value transference industry, but that would be inappropriately neutral and non-judgmental. We don’t call theft “value transference,” let alone a “value transference industry,” we call it crime. Social Security might be called a value transference program, but it’s not an industry, precisely because it’s merely transferring, not creating value. It seems that holier than thou thinks the economic laws of capitalism ordain that some industries create value, others merely move it around. That’s just not how markets work. I advise holier than thou to delete this fallacious phrase from his vocabulary. Continue reading ““Only high IQ immigrants” fails to understand comparative advantage” »

IQ and double counting the harms of immigration

Nathan just published a lengthy and detailed critique of various critics of open borders. I think he gets many things right, but in some ways he underestimates restrictionist arguments. This isn’t entirely Nathan’s fault — restrictionists often don’t frame their arguments cogently and clearly, and it’s extremely hard to understand their arguments without spending considerable time going through them. I want to talk about one particular restrictionist argument — the IQ deficit argument, and what I think an appropriate response to this argument is. This post is not intended to address specific restrictionist critiques of IQ. I’ll do that in subsequent posts. For now, my main goal is to explain my overall position.

Now, some open borders advocates find the entire discussion of IQ off-putting and are quick to make accusations of racism and invoke negative stereotypes for restrictionists. (To take just one example of where this came up, consider the comments section of this blog post where I came under fire for engaging IQ-based arguments in the context of immigration). I do not adopt this approach for multiple reasons, most important of which is that I think some of the basic premises underlying the IQ deficit concern are valid. And, my goal in this blog post is to address IQ-based objections, not to dismiss them.

I’ll state the IQ deficit argument for immigration to the United States, though the general framework is applicable to immigration to other countries as well.

  • IQ is meaningful, measurable, and correlated with a number of real-world performance metrics. Higher IQ people tend to be more cooperative, less criminal, more innovative, better and more informed voters, etc. These correlations hold even after we control for other things such as education levels. A high IQ person without much formal education would tend to be more cooperative than a low IQ person with a similarly low formal education: Basically, I think this is correct. It seems to agree with the Mainstream Science on Intelligence and Intelligence: Known and Unknowns. Recent work by Garett Jones has strengthened economists’ appreciation of the link IQ and cooperation and its role in economic development, something whose implications I considered in this blog post.
  • Adult IQ is fairly stable (though it can go down with head injuries and certain illnesses). It cannot usually be made to go up significantly. Childhood IQ may be malleable, but we don’t quite know how to manipulate it much on the positive side, though probably malnutrition and childhood disease affect it on the negative side. I think this is broadly correct too. This also agrees with the two consensus statements above.
  • Under open borders, the average IQ of immigrants to the United States is lower than the average IQ of current United States residents: International IQ data comparisons are not very solidly established, but the preliminary evidence suggests that this is likely to be true. If Lynn and Vanhanen’s data are to be believed, then the average world IQ is about 2/3 of a standard deviation below average US IQ. I’m not very confident about this, but it’s plausible.
  • The stability of adult IQ means that even after migration, the lower average IQ of immigrants will pull down the average IQ of the United States. This seems fairly plausible to me.

At this point, Nathan jumps in and says, “Ah! Even if correct, this is not as relevant as you think. You’re committing the maximize the average fallacy and refuse to understand the comparative advantage concept.”

Not so fast, restrictionists would say. As Richard Hoste puts it, the comparative advantage argument works in the context of pure economics, but once we bring in crime and political externalities, it starts to falter. If crime rates go up, then your chance of being a crime victim goes up, all else equal (there are caveats to be added, but I’m using a simplistic picture of crime). Comparative advantage doesn’t come to the rescue here. And if low IQ means voting for bad policies (something that’s supported by Caplan’s research) then low IQ immigration would lead to negative political externalities.

So, I don’t think the comparative advantage argument is quite the right way to tackle the IQ deficit concern. So what is? I think we need to step back a bit and be clearer about how IQ matters to the moral and practical considerations that come up with respect to immigration and its effect on natives and immigrants. Does IQ matter in and of itself (as some indication of moral worth or desert), or does it matter because of its correlation with things like crime or political beliefs or social capital or what-have-you? It’s only the rare IQ elitist who argues that IQ is morally significant in and of itself. Most people who believe in the importance of IQ believe in it because it’s correlated with a lot of other things like crime, political beliefs, etc.

This brings me to the crux of my objection to the IQ deficit concern. If lower immigrant IQ raises concerns about higher immigrant crime rates or wrong political beliefs, then that should show up in the evidence on immigrant crime rates and political beliefs. If it does show up there, then great, score a point for restrictionists, and now that we’ve done that, what additional information does immigrants’ IQ deficit give us? By saying that immigrants commit crime and that immigrants have a low IQ which means they would commit more crime, it seems like restrictionists are double counting crime.

What if restrictionists are unsuccessful in demonstrating higher immigrant crime? That does seem to be the case with current levels of immigration to the United States. As things stand today, the foreign-born have lower crime rates than natives both in total and for every ethnicity and for every combination of ethnicity and high school graduation status.

Some restrictionists look these data in the eye and say, “Immigrants have lower IQ, therefore they must be committing more crime, no matter what the data say.” I think the data on crime rates aren’t wrong, so let me engage restrictionists by offering alternative explanations within their explanatory framework of low IQ being correlated with higher crime rates. The first possibility is that the restrictionists may be wrong about their claim of lower IQ of current immigrants to the United States. The second possibility is that there may be certain other differences between the foreign-born and native-born Americans that compensate for the lower average IQ to push the overall averages in the other direction. Those differences may be in terms of the culture or in terms of the structural incentives and constraints faced by the foreign-born relative to natives. But whatever the story, I think that when restrictionists find that a particular predicted ill-effect of low immigrant IQ fails to materialize, then they should give up on that and concentrate on the other claimed bad effects. And, perhaps, also double-check their claim of lower immigrant IQ while they’re at it.

So my overall claim is that restrictionists who think the IQ framework is a good overarching framework within which to fit their objections can certainly offer this framework. But they should not double count harms by both including the harm itself and the IQ deficit channel for the harm as separate harms. And if a harm predicted by IQ deficit fails to materialize, they should sportingly concede the point and move on. Which means that IQ deficit ultimately serves only as a framework, not as an argument in and of itself.

I will now address a few possible objections that restrictionists might raise to what I’ve said above. Continue reading “IQ and double counting the harms of immigration” »

More on IQ and immigration: Collins, ParaPundit, LGDL

A while back, I blogged about Lynn and Vanhanen’s book Intelligence in a blog post titled intelligence, international development, and immigration. L&V’s earlier books have been important references in many restrictionist arguments based on the alleged IQ deficit of immigrants, so critiquing L&V’s work is crucial to the immigration debate. My basic thesis was that whereas IQ might be quite important in explaining the creation of technology, sustaining and benefiting from technology is less sensitive to IQ, and low IQ people can benefit from new, improved technologies quite well. I asked Garett Jones, a researcher on the nexus of IQ and economics, to comment on my blog post, and I subsequently published another blog post including his response and my further thoughts.

Since then, I’ve discovered some other writings on the web that touch on this issue. I’ll mention them briefly.

  • Immigration externalities, a blog post by Jason Collins where he lays out the key points of contention between competing hypotheses: the intermediating role of institutions, and the debate about whether it is the high IQ fraction or the low IQ fraction that is more predictive. I recall that some of Heiner Rindemann’s results suggest that the high IQ fraction may be more predictive, but I don’t think anything definitive can be said yet.
  • Benthamite Libertarian Collectivists Wrong On Open Borders, a blog post by Randall Parker (for ParaPundit) that offers a number of standard arguments against immigration, including the welfare objection, cheap labor leading to a technological slowdown, crime, and political externalities. The post also links to many other standard restrictionist IQ-based arguments, so it’s worth a read.
  • Smart Fraction Theory II by La Griffe Du Lion, which posits an explanation for how national IQ differences lead to differences in the trajectories of nations.