July 18, 2007

How economists think:

Tyler Cowen blogs:


IQ and the Wealth of Nations

How many more times will someone suggest this book in the comments section of this blog? I like this book and I think it offers a real contribution. Nonetheless I feel no need to suggest it in the comments sections of other peoples' blogs.

I do not treat this book as foundational because of personal experience. I've spent much time in one rural Mexican village, San Agustin Oapan, and spent much time chatting with the people there. They are extremely smart, have an excellent sense of humor, and are never boring. And that's in their second language, Spanish.

I'm also sure they if you gave them an IQ test, they would do miserably. In fact I can't think of any written test -- no matter how simple -- they could pass. They simply don't have experience with that kind of exercise.

When it comes to understanding the properties of different corn varieties, catching fish in the river, mending torn amate paper, sketching a landscape from memory, or gossiping about the neighbors, they are awesome.

Some of us like to think that intelligence is mostly one-dimensional, but at best this is true only within well-defined peer groups of broadly similar people. If you gave Juan Camilo a test on predicting rainfall he would crush me like a bug.

OK, maybe I hang out with a select group within the village. But still, there you have it. Terrible IQ scores (if they could even take the test), real smarts.

So why should I think this book is the key to understanding economic underdevelopment?


My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

53 comments:

Josh said...

At least he is not condescending toward the locals. They probably adore him!

Toby said...

So why should I think this book is the key to understanding economic underdevelopment?

Uh, because predicting rainfall, understanding corn varieties, catching fish, mending torn paper, sketching a landscape from memory, or gossiping about the neighbors have not historically been the activities which have promoted economic take-off.

MensaRefugee said...

IQ and the wealth of nations is a rather crappy book - apart from the IQ summaries.

Tyler is being all P.C

Intelligence is not linked to personality, and when it is the people who are smart seem dumb compared to the real dumb people - at least at first blush. At the risk of annoying the politically correct Tyler more - Rushton on Africans winning Personality

These people are dead set against any empirical evidence - regardless of what they say.

Anonymous said...

The problem with economists is that they do not take into account SOCIETY in their theories.

For instance look at this article regarding a former BOOSH corporate Nazi economist on Globalization:

American angst grows over Globalization "menace"

http://www.reuters.com/article/reutersEdge/idUSN1537388920070715

"Economist Alan Blinder raised eyebrows this spring when he estimated as many as 40 million U.S. jobs could potentially be outsourced. He sees a painful transition as workers in even well-paid services lose out to cheaper foreign labor.

"It's gone beyond call centers and other relatively low-wage jobs," said Blinder, a former White House economic adviser who now teaches at Princeton University.

Blinder describes a divide between people who provide "impersonal" services that require little face-to-face interaction, such as radiologists, and those with truly hands-on jobs like taxi drivers or janitors. The second group will fare much better in a global economy, he said.

In 20 years, he expects carpenters to make more money than computer programmers. That means the U.S. education system needs to do a better job of preparing the next generation for the type of work that will exist."

This Blinder fellow, and all those like him, fails to understand that IF his vision of free trade is carried to such extremes, that there will be a gigantic political uprising - if not full scale civil war - against free trade and the elites pushing it if the best jobs our children can hope for is to be plumbers and janitors rather than radiologists.

Where's my rope...

Old Right

Anonymous said...

Jared Diamond did this exact same shtick in Guns, Germs and Steel. I think he used New Guinea tribesmen as his examples. In fact, I think Diamond went so far as to say that the natives were smarter than westerners. As with Diamond, Cowen's foray into primitivism is laughable and does absolutely nothing to counter Lynn's empirical work.

The ulterior purpose of Cowen's flattering portrayal of of Mexican-Indian villagers is to show how smart HE is, unlike all those yahoos who take "IQ and the Wealth of Nations" as "foundational" and don't give enough wide-eyed credence to Cowen's heartwarming life experiences. Sailer's point about the use of anti-racism by whites for social status jockeying looks ever more valid to me.

Chief Seattle said...

My dog can track rabbits better than I ever could. And he's friendly as all get-out. Yet I suspect he would fail miserably on an IQ test.

Have Tyler Cowen call me when my dog can earn a living and I can sit at home all day.

Paul K. said...

The comment by chief seattle hits the nail on the head. Cowen reminds me of Harvard professor Howard Gardner, whose Theory of Multiple Intelligences claims that there are eight different types of intelligence, of which only two are addressed in school. The purpose of the theory is, obviously, to discredit IQ by claiming other talents are equal demonstrations of intellect, such as his category, "bodily/kinesthetic." Of course, on any "bodily/kinesthetic" test my cat would score better than any human.

Svigor said...

Chief makes the most valid point.

"Never mind the data! Trust my subjective anecdotes!"

WTF? What a nimrod. In my experience, the unintelligent can't comprehend or assess intelligence well; since Cowen comes from an environment of "paper tests," what makes him think himself qualified to judge Oapan intelligence?

Put a "paper smart" person in the Oapan environment and, if necessary, he'll adapt to it and eventually thrive (collective issues aside). Put a "smart" Oapan in a "paper" environment and the reverse probably isn't true.

That's the difference between Cowan's intelligence, and actual intelligence.

That's why whites and yellows wouldn't suffer more than a short period of correction if they started giving tests in ebonics, and why blacks wouldn't gain.

Fred said...

Tyler Cowen may minimize the importance of IQ in economics, but some of you here over-emphasize it. Any economy needs a lot more Indians than chiefs, and from Cowen's description of their useful skills, his Mexican Indians seem like perfectly good Indians.

What Mexico needs is better chiefs.

tommy said...

Tyler Cowen is the first person I've ever heard refer to Indians overly sociable!

Vol-in-Law said...

"Tyler Cowen may minimize the importance of IQ in economics, but some of you here over-emphasize it. Any economy needs a lot more Indians than chiefs, and from Cowen's description of their useful skills, his Mexican Indians seem like perfectly good Indians.

What Mexico needs is better chiefs."

According to Murray/Hernstein in The Bell Curve, this is a myth - IQ correlates positively with achievement in all walks of life, including the most menial. A toilet cleaner with IQ 140 will usually do a better job than one with IQ 60 or 100.

Yip said...

I'm also sure they if you gave them an IQ test, they would do miserably. In fact I can't think of any written test -- no matter how simple -- they could pass.

For friends of his, that's a pretty damning judgement, but unfortunately, we're left none the wiser as to whether these rural villagers are literate or not, or receive basic schooling.


They simply don't have experience with that kind of exercise.

Why is it so difficult for Cowen to entertain the possibility that such experience may itself be a function of intelligence?

Anonymous said...

What Cowen seems unable to grasp with his deluded logic -- which is brilliantly smashed to pieces by Chief Seattle above -- is the consequences of "different" types of "smart."

I keep mentioning this to those around me: a crocodile has antibiotics in its blood so that he can suffer open wounds and yet not get infected and die in the filthiest waters. It eats only rarely, and rotten meat at that -- and then uses that for literally for months on end. It can reduce its heartbeat to a few per minute thanks to which it can stay under water for hours. And yet, their mothers are incredibly affectionate and protective toward their young. And the list goes.

Aren't these also "awesome?" Should we start sharing the US economy with them?

But more importantly, if there are different types of intelligences, obviously Westerners don't seem to appreciate that of Mexicans. Get that, Cowen? Westerners are oblivious to the wonderful smartness of Mexicans. So why force them to appreciate something they have no desire to? Why don't you just leave the US and live down there in Mexico?

Does the eagle pretend to appreciate the smartness of the baboon? How about the antelope vs. the chita? Why do all these "awesome" creatures persistenly fail to appreciate each others' "diversity"?

Not that you'd get any of that, or interested in changing your smug, self-satisfied self-image.

Finally -- most importanty -- why is it so incomprehensible to you that if these people are so smart then heck, they shouldn't need to move to the US, do they? Why does it happen that those wonderfully smart and diverse people always have to move to the "paper smart" zones of the world to show their skills? Why can't hey build viable civilizations in their homelands?


JD

Karen said...

Vol-in-Law is absolutely right. When people still employed domestic servants no one suffered under the delusion that it was a good thing to have a lot of stupid menials.

tommy said...

Tyler Cowen may minimize the importance of IQ in economics, but some of you here over-emphasize it. Any economy needs a lot more Indians than chiefs, and from Cowen's description of their useful skills, his Mexican Indians seem like perfectly good Indians.

What Mexico needs is better chiefs.


No, you've got it backwards. What Mexico needs is better Indians. If Mexico had better Indians, it would get less exploitative chiefs as well.

Grumpy Old Man said...

I'm prepared to entertain the hypothesis that the skill sets selected for in a non-literate environment might be different than those selected for in a literate one.

The anecdotal experience may be useful for formulating hyoptheses about what some of those skills might be. The anecdotes, though charming, can be no more than suggestive.

The observation by itself proves nothing much.

MensaRefugee said...

"Tyler Cowen may minimize the importance of IQ in economics, but some of you here over-emphasize it. Any economy needs a lot more Indians than chiefs, and from Cowen's description of their useful skills, his Mexican Indians seem like perfectly good Indians.

What Mexico needs is better chiefs."
------------------------------

Utter hogwash. I worked the graveyard shift in a violent urban area once. The biggest problem was with people messing up the toiletroom. If I let more blacks, on average, use it, I was in for a horrible cleaning experience at the end of the shift.

If the IQ was higher there, it would just be a urban area - There is very little, if any, downside to a higher IQ population

You can argue that there will always be fewer chiefs than Indians, but if the Indians are higher IQ - life is way way better for all concerned.

Luke said...

I agree with Fred. What Mexico needs is better chiefs. As someone who has spent a lifetime in the field of manual labor, I would hazard that most of those who disagree with Fred on this point don't have much of a clue about what makes the world go around, materially speaking. Plus, those people can be good company -- better company, often, than the better educated and presumably smarter middle-class professional that I play poker with every month or two.

Anonymous said...

hmm, let's see. our crypto-mensans can:

* understand the properties of different [plant] varieties
* catch fish
* mend [stuff they make]
* draw
* gossip

i hate to point it out, but grizzly bears can do at least 2 out of 5 of these things.

cavemen (apologies to the GEICO spokesman) could do at least 4 of 5.

so, i'm not sure what this proves other than the fact that academics operate in mind-deadening straightjackets of political correctness.

Fred said...

There was a line in The Caine Mutiny about how the U.S. Navy was 'a system designed by geniuses to be run by idiots'. That was of course an exaggeration, but it gets to the point that a well-designed system with competent chiefs at various levels doesn't need a lot of Mensa geeks to run smoothly; Indians work fine.

One such well-designed system is Wal-Mex, Wal-Mart's Mexican subsidiary. They have done quite well with their Zapotec Indian employees. If Mexico's other industries were opened to competition so they could be run with similar competence, Mexicans would be a lot better off.

Anonymous said...

"You can argue that there will always be fewer chiefs than Indians, but if the Indians are higher IQ - life is way way better for all concerned."

I'm going to eat a peach and disagree with mensarefugee.

China is a high IQ society and conditions there run from miserable to abysmal (there's an article circulating today about the cost of illness due to pollution in China). India, though I don't remember its average IQ standing, obviously has a lot of smart people. Pollution is a problem in both countries and the living conditions of the poor, illiterate masses are hellish.

For most jobs you don't need a very high IQ. According to studies about psychology in the workplace, job satisfaction will be greater if you are slightly but not overly challenged at work. Being employed at a task far beneath you intellectually isn't going to make you a better worker. You might have a personality that drives you to do everything to perfection but someone with 20 - 40 IQ points lower than you is going to get that bathroom just as clean. Sorry. More likely you will be bored and find other amusements to distract you, get promoted or quit.

My theory is that what matters is how egalitarian the society is (maybe populist is a better word). Higher average IQ probably helps the proletariat keep the elites from hording all the wealth but its the culture/society itself that fosters good working and living conditions. For instance, imagine what a boost it would be to average IQ in the US if college graduates were enthusiastic about teaching in our public schools. This might be the case if students respected their teachers and were motivated to attend class and study. The average IQ would certainly be higher after a generation or two but what made the rise in IQ possible would have been a change in culture rather than DNA.

Though I'm completely burned out on all things Mexican - not only was the average IQ higher than I'd expect, mid 80s I think, there's no way to gauge the intelligence of a population of rural illiterate Indians without removing a good many of their children from the parents at birth and raising them in a "paper smart" society. The two biggest problems with the mass importation of illiterate Mexicans is that it is to their advantage to undercut the wages of American workers and they are too large a group to be assimilated into our political culture.

Let's not forget that we are looking at average IQ and not the extremes. Certainly a jump from 82 to 102 would be beneficial all round but I believe a good education can make that much difference in IQ.

Alex said...

How "economists" think--or liberals?

jody said...

how much stuff do they invent and how much industry do they create? does this guy not get the big picture in his own field of study?!

Flaxen-headed Strumpet said...

I spotted this at Vdare and after seeing the lively posts here, decided to take a swing at Tyler's logic.

While it is fascinating and heart warming to read Tyler's quaint and down-home folkloric descriptives of life in a remote and tranquil Mexican village abounding with artesan talent, I would be remiss if I failed to point out that analogous anecdotal stories (equally full of analogous nuggets of wit and wisdom) could just as easily be written by Hunter S. Thompson on a Gonzo journalism tour of American tatoo parlors.

My anecdotal guess is that most tatoo artists in America don't fare too well on standardized IQ/achievement tests either.

Artanis said...

What we see here is textbook academic professionality. Actually it reminds me of the scene in the original "Airport" where Dean Martin has to bamboozle the nerdy kid as to why the stars outside make it look as though they are flying west instead of east.

Indigenous Mexicans are, by any metric relevant to Western civilization, "dumber than the label on the box the rocks came in". Those who weren't left long ago and became the darker stock of the mestizos, living in a much more Western fashion. The ones that have remained until the Great Reconquista of now are the ones who couldn't adapt. Since the more adaptible ones left the gene pool, the remnant are especially low.

The upside for us is they have in effect speciated out enough they won't be mating overly much with lighter mestizos and whites. They will be the ones to go back without much grief when we get real about sending Mexicans home. The lighter mestizos are the ones for the most part who are going to get ignorant.

Such peoples are irrelevant one way or the other to a modern Western society. By contrast, the smarter indigenous peoples like the Cherokees can be a big burden or actually a big asset.

Karen said...

Oh, you are so wrong. Who here has supervised bathroom cleaners? I have and stupid ones are a CURSE.

The set-up in Brave New World worked because they also had hypno-learning and conditioning and the rest of it. We don't have that so stupid people CAN'T LEARN. Someone upthread mentioned corporate retail environments providing an environment where stupid people can make this go, but a) I bet you the smarter Indians are the ones taking the jobs and b) I'd like to see if that system still works in ten years.

tggp said...

Alan Blinder was a Clinton economist, not a Bush one. Greg Mankiw worked for Bush.

This is one of the worst posts I've read from Tyler Cowen.

Mensarefugee said...

Mmmmm... Peaches.

Dan Morgan said...

I agree with much of the criticism above. However, one point missing here is that Tyler Cowen will even write about the book at all and then say, “I like this book and I think it offers a real contribution.” How many public intellectuals would go that far? In fact, how many high-traffic conservative bloggers would go that far?

tommy said...

I noticed Tyler deleted both my posts on his site.

Anonymous said...

"Some of us like to think that intelligence is mostly one-dimensional, but at best this is true only within well-defined peer groups of broadly similar people. If you gave Juan Camilo a test on predicting rainfall he would crush me like a bug."

All the heart warming I've come to expect from the Chicken Soup series, and with almost as much academic rigor!

Anonymous said...

I hate to sound elitist, but the classic excuse of folks of mediocre IQ is that they are "smart" but not "book smart." Essentially Cowen is making this excuse for an entire society.

And even if you accept everything he says, it doesn't undermine the "IQ and the Wealth of Nations" hypothesis. Essentially, Cowen is saying that there are at least 2 kinds of intelligence (call them "smarts" and "book smarts") and that Mexicans have a lot of the first kind.

Well, they hypothesis is that there is a correllation between "book smarts" and the wealth of nations. So Cowen hasn't done a thing to rebut that hypothesis.

Not only that, but his claim about the intelligence of his Mexican friends is impossible to measure and therefore non-scientific.




Even if we accept everything that Cowen says as true, it doesn't really

Roy said...

Dan Morgan brings up a good point, and Tyler does the same thing on immigration.

I've sometimes wondered if Tyler doesn't deliberately bring up these subjects in order to to let his commenters demolish the arguments for liberal immigration laws. And because he can show that he still has the correct liberal views, he gets to keep his writing gig at the NYT.

Anonymous said...

T Cowan should be sent out hoeing cabbages for a few years

Anonymous said...

"a jump from 82 to 102 [...] I believe a good education can make that much difference in IQ"

BWWWAAH - HA - HA - HA

was going to challenge this ... but can't ... stop ... laughing ....

Reminds me of Ayn Rand's bombastic assertion (in "Ayn Rand Answers") that IQ could be improved 100 points in a single individual, if only he would think "rationally."

Just remember, PC robots, all people are fungible. Fungible. Fungible. No Dunce Left Behind.

Anonymous said...

Roy might well have a point there.

Fred said...

"T Cowan should be sent out hoeing cabbages for a few years"

You would have loved The Cultural Revolution.

Anonymous said...

"Just remember, PC robots, all people are fungible. Fungible. Fungible. No Dunce Left Behind."

(I won't even go into the idea that an IQ score can mean very different things depending on the profile of strengths and weaknesses- loaded on verbal vs math, held back by a learning disability, etc.)

I'm not saying any person with an IQ of 82 could potentially have an IQ of 100. And no one is going to have a jump in IQ of 100 pts without some alien DNA (no I don't mean Chinese).

Are you implying that someone who had an IQ in the 80s despite not having attended school (or having gone to one of those open concept/whole language travesties) wouldn't score better on an IQ test given a better education?

In the upper ranges of IQ, schooling doesn't seem to matter, but I've heard psychologists say the opposite for mid-range IQs. I'm not talking about extremes of intelligence or retardation. What applies to those populations doesn't necessarily apply to those who fall in the normal range of IQ.

There aren't that many Good Will Hunting's out there. The handful probably being attracted to this blog and thus overrepresented here. What would most of you know about normal people with normal IQs anyway? It's the average Joe who would be more impressive socially and perform better on IQ tests with at least the benefit of a better vocabulary.

How this works out politically, I'd say tax the geniuses at a higher rate since everything is easier for them! Of course they might start scrambling to prove lack of entrepreneurial intelligence in order to avoid the tax...

Svigor said...

China has a high mean IQ, but from what I understand their bell curve is narrower. Also, per the egalitarianism thing above, Chinese seem more or less devoid of much of the secondary attributes that have led to western success (relative: honesty, altruism). Corruption is a huge stumbling block, even for the intelligent.

Who knows how much of this is genetic? I'm guessing, at the race level, the difference is substantial.

As for India, I'm glad I wasn't drinking milk when I read that. India's mean IQ is in the neighborhood of Mexico's. Those strutting Brahmins we see everywhere in the west are strutting because they're from the most elitist class of the most elitist nationality in the world. Apparently they don't realize the irony of their position (one would hope 800 million people could produce a few brains).

mepo said...

Laughing anonymous:

How long does that gap take to get closed by the Flynn effect?

Tyler has a couple valid points there, while maybe missing the big picture.

Point #1: People who have grown up in the first world, with free mandatory education, public libraries, pencil and paper tests everywhere, etc., are going to have an easier time with pencil and paper IQ tests than illiterate third-world peasants. The test means different things. That doesn't mean those guys can't be intelligent, just that it might be hard to use tests calibrated on first-world kids to measure it.

Point #2: You can't say a whole lot about genetic potential intelligence by comparing third-world peasants with first-world citizens.

But what he misses is that certain kinds of advancement of your society require intelligence (and the universe doesn't care if you lack it because you were malnourished as a kid and your well was next to an open sewer).

Fred said...

". India's mean IQ is in the neighborhood of Mexico's."

Could be, but India needs more Indians than chiefs, like every other country. One Indian IT CEO said that if India could get to the point where 10% of its population worked in IT and related fields, that would be enough to essentially eliminate poverty in India. Still a long ways to go, but with 8-9% economic growth, they are moving in the right direction.

"Those strutting Brahmins we see everywhere in the west..."

I haven't seen a lot of strutting Indians (and I don't think I'd be able to recognize a Brahmin by sight), but I doubt the wealthiest and most successful Indians in business in the West are Brahmins. Lakshmi Mittal, for example, the multi-billionaire CEO of Arcelor Mittal, is a member of the Marwari caste; the ubiquitous Patels are members of the Vaishya caste. More members of these castes tend to be involved in commerce than those of the priestly Brahmin class.

Arguably the most successful Indian writer in the West is a Brahmin though: V.S. Naipaul. He may be a little too politically incorrect to be considered the most influential.

Anonymous said...

I've gone from laughing to yawning.

The Flynn effect has nothing to do with an individual gaining nearly 20 IQ points (from 82 to 100).

Real tests of g do not depend on a particular vocabulary.

Perhaps in an extreme example (e.g. the subject suffers a stroke during the test and must be rushed out of the room, he was stoned, a test was administered incorrectly, etc.), there would be a marked (more than one SD) difference in IQ test results for the same individual. But in normal conditions - and remember, "normal" means "overwhelmingly prevalent" - an individual's IQ stays about the same for a lifetime. It has some elasticity - yes. And in abnormal conditions, the bounds of the elasticity are somewhat wider - yes. (Remember, we're talking about one individual and his lifetime, not about a group of people over generations, Flynn aficions.)

But >> 18 POINTS << owing to "a good education"? No! Show me. Was that figure just arbitrarily arrived at?

The challenge: show me that normal individuals, in normal conditions, in IQ tests administered normally and correctly, can go from a consistent 82 IQ to a consistent 102 IQ by boning up on vocab, phonics, or the like. Show me! I think we would all be interested in this.

(PS: I'm not an elitist. My IQ is not as high as could be desired. Yes, snark all you want, lads.)

Anonymous said...

As a cleaner I would like to point out that it is definitely the case that a person with an IQ of 120 will clean a toilet better cleaner than a person with an IQ of 80.

It is not safe to employ anyone with an IQ of 60 nor 70. Not only do they do a rubbish job, systematically missing areas like the external surface of the toilet pedestal so that over a period of weeks it becomes very dirty, but worst of all, they BREAK THINGS all the time! I only employ people with halfway decent GCSE's, unless they are Seniors.

As a cleaner with a higher degree in mathematics, The quickest and most effective technique for cleaning an averagely dirty bathroom/toilet is to clean surgically, that is to say, use the minimal amount of WATER and chemicals to get the desired finish.

Svigor said...

The point was not whether they're Brahmins or Marwari or Zapatistas, it was their elitism and overweening arrogance.

***

Intelligence isn't a narrowly-applied trait. The benefits of an extra five IQ points might be small for some jobs, but the benefits don't stop there; intelligence helps you navigate life. A population with five extra mean IQ points is likely to see substantial gains in quality of life.

Fred said...

"The point was not whether they're Brahmins or Marwari or Zapatistas, it was their elitism and overweening arrogance."

What happened to the old Svigor, who at least maintained a pretense of rigor?

Anonymous said...

Oh, Mr./Ms. Show-me...

I have worked with the abnormal population of autistic toddlers creating a measurable IQ where there wasn't one. I'm sure that jump was more than 20pts btw although I wasn't doing the testing. Running around in circles vs using words to ask for things and name things has to be at least a 100 pt jump. I realize this is an exceptional population but the transformation does demonstrate that IQ is somewhat malleable in early life. As for combing through psychologyl/education abstracts that I'd probably have to pay to access, I'm not doing that to post on a blog that has recently focused on the likes of Britney Spears, Lindsey Lohan and Paris Hilton.

Literacy is a powerful thing though. If you don't believe that's worth 20 IQ points, there's probably not a research study out there to convince you. If we had been inclined to test the IQs of Americans who had been yanked out of school to work on the family farm back in the good ol days then test their offspring who got the full 12 years or so, that would be a good comparison. And I wouldn't want to do a similar comparison between immigrants from disadvantaged backgrounds & their children who were educated in the US because there are too many social/cultural variables. Possibly there's an inner city school out there that was transformed by being privatized where you could compare the test scores of an earlier generation of a relatively homogeneous group with those of their offspring after attending the much improved local schools.

Do you have some research proving that IQ can't be improved through quality instruction or even education vs lack of education?

Anonymous said...

Before I have a beer and settle my neurons down for the night, I think I know where to find information about potential rises in IQ due to education.

You could use information about Mexican and South American immigrants if you searched for test scores from the children of those who had settled far beyond the Southwest where the huge numbers of recent Hispanic immigrants have compromised the ability of the public schools to educate their children.

These would have to be places like Alaska or Connecticut or midwestern towns that still haven't been overrun. The schools would have to be without a substantial population of recent immigrants and have to be rated as good or excellent. You'd have to include several locations to get a decent sample size & you'd have to know country of origin of the parents - only compare Mexico to Mexico, Guatemala to Guatemala or some other country with a low average IQ as long as you can be reasonably assured the parents aren't elites.

The information may already be out there.

mepo said...

I certainly don't claim that you can cause a 20 point IQ gain by some minimal educational intervention. But wouldn't it be nice if we had some natural experiment, which would let us see whether widespread changes in environment changed IQ? I mean big stuff, like increasing wealth, better medicine and sanitation, exposure to mass media, etc.?

The cool thing is, we have such a natural experiment. We can compare raw IQ test scores from 80 years ago with today's scores. Assuming we haven't seen some kind of selection for intelligence in terms of genes (the opposite seems much more likely), this means that something about those different environments introduced a huge change. The Wikipedia article on the Flynn effect talks about some of this, including a quote from a prominent psychometrician that kids in 1932 would score about an average of 80 today.

IMO, the lesson here is that the best way to boost your average IQ (and in particular, to raise the bottom) is to get fabulously wealthy as a society. On the other hand, a good way to get wealthy is to somehow boost your average IQ, so you've got the clerks, engineers, scientists and entrepreneurs to advance.

So, here's how you boost IQ for people at the bottom, assuming a continuing 3 point per decade increase. Arrange for them to be born and raised 70 years in the future.

Peter said...

You could use information about Mexican and South American immigrants if you searched for test scores from the children of those who had settled far beyond the Southwest where the huge numbers of recent Hispanic immigrants have compromised the ability of the public schools to educate their children.
These would have to be places like Alaska or Connecticut or midwestern towns that still haven't been overrun.


Take Connecticut off the list. It has had a big Hispanic population for decades, originally mostly Puerto Rican and more recently including more Central and South Americans.

Svigor said...

Don't need a slide rule to notice subcon arrogance.

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't work to be born 70 years in the future, mepo, everyone else would be smarter too, relatively speaking.

I did look at the Flynn effect but that's not what concerns me. Demographics change drastically over several decades so you're not measuring the same population. I'd be more interested in a study that could compare IQs of parents from disadvantaged backgrounds with their children who had a better education.

Using average national IQ wouldn't really work either because the population measured and the population immigrating probably isn't the same. It would be intriguing, however, to find out if the first generation born to Mexican peasants in the US (in areas where assimilation is still possible)compare well with the imbeciles running the country.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Steve, why so much coverage of the doings of Tyler Cowen? I visit a lot of websites and read my share. But if it weren't for isteve I would never hear of this man. Cowen is a lightweight.

More discussion of the bigger name frauds please. Like Diamond. Outside of his birding hobby, Jared D is the SJ Gould of his time. Meaning a Frankfurt school kewlade machine - like a lot of the "top 100 intellectuals" printed in that magazine list a while back.

Anonymous said...

Mepo, long time no argue, sorry.

You lay down the gauntlet:

"Do you have some research proving that IQ can't be improved through quality instruction or even education vs lack of education?"

Such evidence can't exist. Nothing will prove a negative. Google "burden of proof." (You're making the positive claim.)

You know about autistic children. Is it possible (I don't know) that a slight increase in g (mental ability) on the relatively low end of the Bell Curve has more noticeable and beneficial results in behavior and basic competence than do equal increases further up the curve (at least around the median)? In other words: wouldn't a jump from IQ 65 to IQ 73 produce a behavioral improvement more noticeable than any resulting from an increase of 85 to 93? The point being that dramatic effects of the kind you insist on are possible at the margins, but not for the majority of people.

I am all for increasing IQ even by small amounts. But it's absurd that a radical increase in g in one generation is possible. If I'm right, this wouldn't mean that dramatic improvement is impossible at the margins; you've evidently seen it.

I object to the assertion that we're going to see Joe Average become Einstein through therapy as being...well, unsubstantiated. No, don't say "Let's try it." We have. But the Flynn effect (there are problems with it, btw) doesn't make a big dent in comparative IQ among the traditional groups. The gap ain't narrowing between black and white. That's the ugly hard fact.

You may be interested in Steve's idea on how to increase IQ in Africa. That Bono flits around the globe allegedly helping Africa, and doesn't advocate Steve's simple (dietal) reform, is a depressing commentary on the state of the world. Go here:
http://isteve.blogspot.com/2006/01/ghana-endorses-my-plan-for-improving.html

Regarding that glass of beer, it's easy to REDUCE IQ by significant amounts...temporarily in this case. :)