August 18, 2007

How many bullets are we firing in anger in Iraq?

An AP article says:

Wars squeeze police ammunition supplies across US
Shortage curtails officers' training

Troops training for and fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are firing more than 1 billion bullets a year, contributing to ammunition shortages hitting police departments nationwide and preventing some officers from training with the weapons they carry on patrol.

Last year, I tried to figure out how many bullets we are firing at people in Iraq every year. (This new AP article drops some hints, but never comes out and says.)

I think a lot of Americans have a hard time grasping just how much firepower the
U.S. military expends. Many Americans seem to assume that because we are in Iraq to help, that our boys must be as lightly armed as policemen back home. Further, we have this image in our heads of America as the plucky underdog winning battles through intestinal fortitude, although the last time that happened on a big scale might have been a couple of hours of the Battle off Samar in October 1944 when Admiral Halsey got snookered by Japanese feint and left a weak fleet of small USN ships to heroically fight off the biggest battleship in the world. In reality, American doctrine going back at least to Grant has been to bury the enemy under the firepower that our industrial might provides. And soldiers aren't carrying single-shot M1s anymore. The M16 can fire at least 12 rounds per second.

What I found last year was that the
U.S. government does not make it easy to figure out how many bullets are fired in anger, let me tell you. I found that the military's consumption of bullets increased by over a billion between peaceful 2000 and bellicose 2005, but nobody seems eager to break that down between increased training and combat.

The best I could come up with was this: In testimony before the House of Representatives on June 24, 2004, references were made to "less than 10 million rounds per month being expended in hostilities" and an annual expenditure of "a hundred million for the war" outside of training.

So let's call it 100,000,000 bullets per year or 8.3 million fired per month in Iraq in mid-2004.

So, that's about 275,000 bullets fired in anger per day by U.S. forces. (If you have a better estimate, please let me know in the Comments.)

Of course, the vast majority of bullets fired never hit anybody, but you can imagine the emotional impact on Iraqis of having 275,000 American bullets per day flying around their county trying to kill somebody. It's kind of hard to win the hearts and minds of Iraqis when you are firing ten thousand bullets per hour, 24/7, in their homeland, some of them winding up in random living rooms.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Will be available on Mayor Villaraigosa's municipal free wi-fi?

The mayor of Los Angeles, an energetic fellow, has proposed that the city provide free high-speed wireless Internet connections to every Los Angeleno. Sounds great! I could dump my expensive cable modem connection ... assuming Mayor Villaraigosa would allow me to look at my own website.

Which is a big If. Colby Cosh recently pointed out that Saskatchewan's new municipal Wi-Fi networks ban citizens from visiting "sites associated with pornography or hate groups." One of the banes of my career is dealing with private censor companies that ban, such as the one that explained "The main goal of SiteCoach is to filter pornographic content and content glorifying violence, as well as right-wing and other so-called forbidden content that 'hits below the belt'." Who knows what Mayor Tony's taxpayer-paid service will allow? Free Speech and Free Wi-Fi are antonyms.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

August 17, 2007

Peter Frost's explanation for high average Ashkenazi Jewish IQs

Attempts to come up with a Darwinian explanation for the high average IQ of European Jews go back at least to Norbert Weiner's 1953 autobiography, in which he argued that arranged marriages between the shetl's brightest young rabbi and the richest merchant's daughter would lead to large numbers of smart children having enough money to survive. In 2005, Greg Cochran, Henry Harpending, and Jason Hardy put forward a sophisticated theory pointing to selection for the mental demands of traditional Ashkenazi occupations such as moneylender. In Commentary, Charles Murray recently suggested the Babylonian Captivity could have played a role.

For a number of years, anthropologist Peter Frost has been privately advocating a fourth theory. Frost is the author of the 2005 book Fair Women, Dark Men: The Forgotten Roots of Color Prejudice, which I reviewed in
On Wednesday, Frost posted in the comments to Mahalanobis' item on economist Greg Clark's new book showing that the prosperous had many more surviving children than the poor in medieval and early modern England. The comment summarizes Frost's theory of the evolution of Ashkenazi intelligence:

The same process was going on in other European nations, but to varying extents. I commented on this point in the following letter to Commentary (which was never published):

In "Jewish Genius" [April] Charles Murray states that selection for intelligence has historically been stronger in some occupations than in others, being notably stronger in sales, finance, and trade than in farming. Insofar as he is right, the reason lies not in the occupation itself but in its relations of production.

In the Middle Ages and earlier, farmers had little scope for economic achievement—and just as little for the intelligence that contributes to achievement. Most farmers were peasants who produced enough for themselves, plus a surplus for the landowner. A peasant could produce a larger surplus, but what then? Sell it on the local market? The possibilities there were slim because most people grew their own food. Sell it on several markets both near and far? That would mean dealing with a lot of surly highwaymen. And what would stop the landowner from seizing the entire surplus? After all, it was his land and his peasant.

The situation changes with farmers who own their land and sell their produce over a wide geographical area. Consider the "Yankee" farmers who spread westward out of New England in the 18th and 19th centuries. They contributed very disproportionately to American inventiveness, literature, education, and philanthropy. Although they lived primarily from farming, they did not at all have the characteristics we associate with the word "peasant."

Conversely, trade and finance have not always been synonymous with high achievement. In the Middle Ages, the slow growth economy allowed little room for expanding a business within one's immediate locality, and expansion further afield was hindered by brigandage and bad roads. Furthermore, the static economic environment created few novel situations that required true intelligence. How strong is selection for intelligence among people who deal with the same clients, perform the same transactions, and charge the same prices year in and year out?

This point has a bearing on the reported IQ differences between Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews. Charles Murray, like others, believes that the Ashkenazim were more strongly selected for intelligence because they were more concentrated than the Sephardim in sales, finance, and trade, especially during the Middle Ages. Now, we have no good data on the occupations of medieval Ashkenazim and Sephardim. But the earliest censuses (18th century for Polish Jews and 19th century for Algerian Jews) show little difference, with the bulk of both groups working in crafts.

There was, however, one major demographic difference. While the Sephardim grew slowly in numbers up to the 20th century, the Ashkenazim increased from about 500,000 in 1650 to 10 million in 1900. The same period saw strong population growth among Europeans in general. This boom used to be attributed to falling death rates alone, but demographers now recognize that rising birth rates were also responsible, in some countries more so. In England, the rise in fertility contributed two and a half times as much to the increase in growth rates as did the fall in mortality, largely through a decline in the age of first marriage.

This trend toward early marriage coincided with growing use of roads, canals and, later, railways to distribute goods over a much larger geographical area. The baby boom was particularly concentrated among semi-rural artisans who produced on contract for urban merchants and who could ably exploit these larger, more elastic markets. "They were not specialized craftsmen in life-trades with skills developed through long years of apprenticeship; they were semi-skilled family labour teams which set up in a line of business very quickly, adapting to shifts in market demand" (Seccombe 1992. A Millennium of Family Change. p. 182). Their workforce was their household. In more successful households, the workers would marry earlier and have as many children as possible. In less successful ones, they would postpone marriage, or never marry.

In Western Europe, these cottage industries were concentrated in areas like Ulster, Lancashire, Yorkshire, Brittany, Flanders, Alsace, Westphalia, Saxony, the Zurich uplands, the Piedmont, and Lombardy. In Eastern Europe, they were concentrated among Ashkenazi Jews. Selection for intelligence among the Ashkenazim may thus have been part of a larger European-wide selection for intelligence among cottage industry workers. These entrepreneurial artisans had optimal conditions for selection: 1) a tight linkage between success on an intelligence-demanding task and economic achievement; 2) considerable scope for economic achievement; 3) a tight linkage between economic achievement and reproductive success; and 4) considerable scope for reproductive success. Such artisans were a minority in Western Europe. Among the Ashkenazim, they appear to have been the majority.

In the late 19th century, cottage industries gave way to factories and the tight linkage between economic achievement and reproductive success came undone. Entrepreneurs could now expand production by hiring more workers. Henry Ford, for instance, produced millions of his famous Model T but had only one child.

In conclusion, Charles Murray errs in thinking that selection for intelligence is driven by the type of occupation. The relations of production seem to be more important, in particular whether the worker owns the means of production, whether there is scope for economic achievement, and whether increases in production are driven by increases in family size.

By the way, it's quite sad how anthropologists have gone from glamour boys and girls in the 1950s to being almost ignored in the 2000s. Cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead, for example, was the Steve Levitt of the post-war era, an omniscient seer consulted on every topic imaginable. (For example, a fictionalized version of her named "Margaret Mader" has a sizable role as a space-traveling anthropologist in Robert A. Heinlein's 1957 sci-fi classic Citizen of the Galaxy. She explains to the young hero the complex family structure of the Free Traders' spaceship.)

But the rival school of physical anthropologists led by the two-fisted Carleton Coon could also generate celebrities. Coon, for instance, was a regular panelist on a high-brow TV gameshow called "What in the World?" that ran from 1951-1964. On it, Coon and a couple of other anthropologists would be shown some random object from a museum collection and then try to guess whether it was a Neanderthal's sternum or whatever.

Coon's specialty was "The Wilder Whites:" Berbers, Albanians, and other tough mountain peoples who found the macho Coon to be their kind of man. During WWII, Coon served in the OSS and his chief assignment was to prepare to be "Lawrence of Morocco" -- if Franco ever let Hitler's armies have right of passage through Spain, they could land on the North African coast behind the Anglo-American forces fighting Rommel's army in Libya and roll them up. If that happened, Coon would disappear into the Rif Mountains and rally the wild Berber tribes to fight a guerilla war against the German occupiers.

My guess is that what went wrong was that the Franz Boas / Margaret Mead school of cultural anthropology succeeded in demonizing their enemies like Coon. Without rivals anymore to keep them on their game, the cultural anthropologists got complacent and politically correct, and thus boring. The subject is still fascinating, but you'd only find that out these days from a handful of anthropologists, such as Frost, Harpending, Stanley Kurtz, and Peter Wood.

That's too bad because anthropology ought to be the foundational social science, what physics is to the hard sciences.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

August 15, 2007

College admission yields: Is the fix in?

The two key numbers in the college admissions prestige game are selectivity and yield. For example, Harvard only accepts about 10% of all applicants, and about 80% of them choose to go to Harvard.

Some specialty schools have very high yields without having very high selectivity, such as BYU and the Citadel military, but mostly selectivity and yields are closely related (inversely).

Here's a 2006 article from the Stanford Daily with some more numbers on yield:

Though still a long way from Harvard’s 80 percent, Stanford’s yield rate increased to a respectable 69 percent this year, up from 67 percent last year, according to Richard Shaw, dean of admission and financial aid. The number increased to approximately 88 percent for students who attended Admit Weekend or applied under the single-choice early action program.

The yield rate is the percentage of Stanford’s 2,430 admits that chose to join the University’s Class of 2010. The admission rate this year was the lowest ever, with less than eleven percent of applicants admitted. The yield rate is also among Stanford’s highest, surpassing Shaw’s expected 68 percent.

Shaw characterized this year’s yield rate as “very high and probably among the top five yields in the country for selective private universities.” Yale’s yield rate is expected to be 73 percent, while
Princeton’s is 69 percent.

Two years ago, the Office of Undergraduate Admission released statistics showing that 28 percent of students that declined Stanford chose Harvard instead, followed by 20 percent choosing Yale, 13 percent choosing MIT and 8 percent choosing Princeton; 31 percent of students chose other schools. ...

In trying to increase its yield rate, one initiative that the Stanford Admission Office instituted this year and will expand next year is the Likely Admit Program, which reaches out to the “most extraordinary” students early, before the regular review mailing date. These students received a letter in January and follow-up calls from Stanford faculty. This year, there were 61 “Super-star Academic Likelies” and 60 “Multicultural Likelies.”

What strikes me is that these are awfully high yields. I would guess that the typical student who applies to Harvard, Yale, Princeton, or Stanford also applies to two of the three other big four colleges. And yet they have an average yield of between 70%-75%, rather than the 33% that would be the maximum possible if the average successful Big 4 applicant applied to three of those schools and was accepted by all of them. And, 44% of those turning down Stanford are picking a non-Big 4 school, so the expected yield in this (unrealistic) model would be more like 20-25% of those accepted by all the Big 4's.

So, why are the yields so high?

Certainly, Early Decison, where students are allowed to apply to only one college in the fall in return for promising to enroll if accepted, boosts the yields.

And, perhaps, the average number of Big 4 schools applied to is less than three. Maybe students still believe the old counselors' tale about applying to just one or two "stretch" schools.

Another factor is clearly that schools disagree on who to admit, with students being accepted by, say, Harvard and Stanford, while being turned down by Yale and
Princeton or vice-versa. The renorming of the SAT in 1995 to make it easier to score 800 on the Verbal SAT means that colleges can't rank order the superstars as accurately anymore. I recall reading a People magazine article about boys who scored 1600 on the SAT one year in the early 1990s: there were only 9 in the whole country. Perhaps the elite colleges supported making the SAT easier in order to diminish competition amongst themselves?

And that leads to the suspicion that the fix might be in. It would make sense for the inner circle of cool colleges to boost their yields, and thus ensure their continued inner-circleness, by agreeing not to accept each other's, say, top 200 favorites.

This would sound beyond belief, except that the Ivies, plus MIT and 14 other fancy colleges used to (and for all I know may still do) get together in a hotel room each year and fix prices by agreeing on the maximum financial aid offer they would offer to "overlap" admittees. It was a shameless cartel. The Ivies agreed to give it up in 1991, but MIT fought in court, and the Clinton Administration caved in to MIT on the grounds that, hey, they were a college, and colleges are not evil corporations; colleges are above all that sort of thing.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Schools and neighborhoods

From the Washington Post:

Neighborhoods' Effect On Grades Challenged
Moving Students Out of Poor Inner Cities Yields Little, Studies of HUD Vouchers Say

By Jay Mathews
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 14, 2007; A02

Many social reformers have long said that low academic achievement among inner-city children cannot be improved significantly without moving their families to better neighborhoods, but new reports released today that draw on a unique set of data throw cold water on that theory.

Researchers examining what happened to 4,248 families that were randomly given or denied federal housing vouchers to move out of their high-poverty neighborhoods found no significant difference about seven years later between the achievement of children who moved to more middle-class neighborhoods and those who didn't.

Although some children had more stable lives and better academic results after the moves, the researchers said, on average there was no improvement. Boys and brighter students appeared to have more behavioral problems in their new schools, the studies found.

"Research has in fact found surprisingly little convincing evidence that neighborhoods play a key role in children's educational success," says one of the two reports on the Web site of the Hoover Institution's journal Education Next.

Experts often debate the factors in student achievement. Many point to teacher quality, others to parental involvement and others to economic and cultural issues.

Some critics, and the researchers themselves, suggest that the new neighborhoods may not have been good enough to make a difference. Under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Moving to Opportunity program, one group of families received vouchers that could be used only to move to neighborhoods with poverty rates below 10 percent, one group got vouchers without that restriction and one group did not receive vouchers. Families with the restricted vouchers moved to neighborhoods with poverty rates averaging 12.6 percent lower than those of similar families that did not move, but not the most affluent suburbs with the highest-performing schools.

"There is a wide body of evidence going back several decades to suggest that low-income students perform better in middle-class schools," said Richard D. Kahlenberg, senior fellow at the Washington-based Century Foundation. "But, in practice, Moving to Opportunity was more like moving to mediocrity."

Harvard University sociologist William Julius Wilson said that although the families that were studied moved to neighborhoods that weren't as poor, they still had many disadvantages. Three-fifths of the families relocated to neighborhoods that were still "highly racially segregated," he said, and "as many as 41 percent of those who entered low-poverty neighborhoods subsequently moved back to more-disadvantaged neighborhoods." ...

"For many families who remained in their new tracts, the poverty rate in their neighborhood increased around them," the researchers said.

Stefanie DeLuca, a Johns Hopkins University sociologist who wrote the second report based on interviews of Moving to Opportunity families in Baltimore, said many of the parents had little faith that better teaching in better schools would help their children. They felt it was up to their children to make education work.

Yeah, well, what would they know? They're just the kids' parents. Do they have an Ed.D., I ask you?

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Education Jargon Breakthrough: "Low Confidence Learner"

A math teacher in Oklahoma writes:

"At my professional development class for math teachers, I'm starting to hear the term "low confidence learners" as a euphemism for the d*mb kids.

"I think this is great! Having a euphemism for the single biggest reality that we teachers wrestle with everyday -- some kids are smarter than others -- means that at least the concept is officially thinkable. Before we had a euphemism, we had to pretend that everybody was equal in their math capabilities, which was hugely dysfunctional from a teaching standpoint in all sorts of ways, as you can easily imagine.

The philosophy behind the term "low confidence learner" is that all our students already understand everything about math, we just have to stop harshing their mellow by doubting this, and let them let all this math knowledge flow out of them on the test.

"The funny thing is that us math teachers all think we're smarter than the other teachers. (Which we are.) Of course, the other teachers boast about it: "I'm not a "math person." I never got into all that times table stuff," they're always saying with a smug look on their face.

"Well, excuse me ... How would they look at me if I said, "I'm not an "alphabet person." I never got into all that now-I-know-my-ABCs stuff." Yeah, right ... But they're totally complacent about being innumerate.

"The principal was giving one of his talks to all the teachers and he told us that 90% of 50 was 40. He must have got a funny look from somebody (thank God for the union!) because he stopped and tried to work out exactly what 90% of 50 was. It took him about 30 seconds. It made my day! Of course he makes three times what I do."

In a lot of school districts, the principles have their own union, which is kind of like baseball team managers having their own union so they can't be fired, only worse.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

August 14, 2007

Pancho Gonzales

African-American sports history (e.g., Jackie Robinson, Arthur Ashe winning the U.S. tennis title in 1968, etc.) is so heavily publicized that it's striking to notice how little attention is paid to Mexican-American sports history.

For example, when Tiger Woods won the Masters golf tournament to become the first (part) black to win a major championship, it was widely announced that this was a historic breakthrough for minorities in the previous lily white game of golf that would get minorities interested in the sport for the first time, etc etc. This struck me as a bit odd considering that Lee Trevino, a Mexican-American driving range pro from a dirt poor background in El Paso, had won the U.S. Open 29 years before and had gone on to win six major championships in all, in four of which the great Jack Nicklaus, who intimidated everybody except Trevino, was the runner-up. Trevino was also the likely the funniest golfer of his era -- he told the reporters after his Open win in 1968, "When I get enough money I'm going to become a Spaniard instead of a Mexican" -- and one of the biggest draws.

Similarly, Nancy Lopez, a Mexican-American from
New Mexico who debuted in 1979, was likely the most popular woman golfer of all time.

A reader wrote in recently to mention a name I hadn't heard in years, even though I live in his hometown: Pancho Gonzales, who was probably the most famous tennis player in
America when I was a little kid. The son of Mexican immigrants, Gonzales was born in Los Angeles in 1928, and grew up on the streets, spending a year in juvenile hall. His mom gave him a tennis racket for his 12th birthday, but he never had a lesson. He grew to be well over 6 feet tall and was considered the best athlete in tennis.

The tennis powers-that-be in LA didn't want him around but after he got out of the Navy in 1946, he got so good that they started to help him. In 1948 and 1949 he won the American leg of the Grand Slam at
Forest Hills. He went pro in 1950, and was #1 from 1954-1960,Back then, the Grand Slam tournaments were reserved for amateurs (unlike golf, which had Open championships for pros and amateurs alike since the 19th century), so when he went pro in 1950, and was #1 from 1954-1960, but he was locked out of the Grand Slams until they went open in 1968. At age 41 in 1969, he won the longest Wimbledon match ever, over Charlie Pasarell 22-24, 1-6, 16-14, 6-3, 11-9. That year, he was the leading American money winner, and remained highly competitive and a major draw for several more years. I would imagine he was the best over-40 player ever.

Gonzales was a mean son of a gun with a Ty Cobb-size competitive streak. He was a chain smoker, even on the court, dying of cancer in 1995. He had five wives (marrying one of them twice). His last wife, whom he married when he was 55 in 1984, was Andre Aggasi's sister Rita. Pancho's new father-in-law, Andre's dad, an ex-boxer from
Iran, was so mad, he thought about having him rubbed out. Pancho died broke and Andre paid for his funeral.

It's a helluva story, but that kind of thing just isn't very interesting to the modern sporting press. Gonzales (who looks in pictures like a mestizo weighted more toward the European than Indian side) had to deal with discrimination, but compared to what blacks had to put up with, it was kind of vague. Also, perhaps because Jackie Robinson came up with the Dodgers of Brooklyn, the black cause in sports got imprinted emotionally on a lot of young Jewish boys in Brooklyn, who went on to have a huge influence on the media. Mexicans never interested Jewish sportswriters very much. Finally, this history never really went anywhere. Today, there are 30 million Mexican-Americans, but there don't seem to be many more Mexican-American sports stars (outside of the fading sport of boxing, which Oscar de la Hoya is sacrificing his body to keep alive) than in the days of Pancho Gonzales and Lee Trevino.

August 13, 2007


From my review in the August 28th issue of The American Conservative:

"Sunshine" is a medium budget ($40 million) science fiction thriller with art house pretensions about eight astronauts on a last-chance-for-mankind mission to reignite the dying Sun with a "stellar bomb" the size of Manhattan. The movie falls uncomfortably between the grand heroism of the old sci-fi and the petty self-absorption of our reality television shows.

Granted, the physics of the premise are unworkable -- for one thing, it takes a half million years for light to jostle its way out from the dense solar core to the surface, so by the time we noticed anything was wrong with the Sun, it would be too late -- but, some of the film's conceptions of how much the freezing folks back on Earth could do if they had to are thrillingly old-fashioned. For instance, this bomb is humanity's final hope because "all the fissile material on Earth has been mined" to make it.

On the other hand, by 2057 NASA appears to have delegated personnel selection to a TV network. The crewmembers of Icarus II look great but display all the competence, cohesiveness, and cool-headedness of a losing tribe on Survivor. With the oxygen running out, they sit and debate whether it's morally justified to kill one person to save the entire species (uh, yup). "Sunshine" isn't quite as inane as last year's apocalyptic "Children of Men," which kept getting distracted from its plot about saving humanity from extinction to protest the plight of illegal immigrants, but it's close.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

I review Michael H. Hart's answer to Jared Diamond at

I review Michael H. Hart's answer to Jared Diamond at Hart's Understanding Human History is a better History of Everything than Guns, Germs, and Steel. Here's an excerpt:

A Real Diamond: Michael Hart’s Understanding Human History

Hart observes:

"Throughout history, most of the instances of people from one region attacking and conquering substantial portions of another region have involved 'northerners' invading more southerly lands."

(The biggest exception: the Arabs of the 7th Century A.D. And the Romans conquered in all directions.)

This overall pattern of north conquering south has long been apparent from the historical record—even though northern lands are generally less populous, due to shorter growing seasons.

For example, mighty China, a vast empire with a competent bureaucracy chosen by meritocratic tests, was never much threatened by southerners, but it built the vast Great Wall to keep out its much less numerous northern neighbors. Nonetheless,
China was twice fully conquered by northerners—the Mongols in the 13th century and the Manchus in the 17th century. And its northern half was conquered by the Manchurian Jurchens in the 12th century.

Likewise, the vastly populous Indian subcontinent was seldom a threat to its northern neighbors, but was frequently overrun from the northwest.

This pattern has been validated by recent DNA studies. (Hart fails to mention this, which is surprising considering how otherwise up to date he is on the human sciences). In populations of mixed background, the male line of descent (as seen in the Y-chromosome) tends to derive from north of the homeland of the female line of descent (as seen in the mitochondrial DNA). Implication: men from the north more frequently overcame the men from the south and took their women.

Examples: Latin Americans (white fathers and Indian or black mothers), African-Americans (whites and blacks), Asian Indians (Aryans and Dravidians), and Icelanders (Vikings and Celts). Similarly, the Han Chinese, the world's largest ethnic group, are more likely to be descended from northern Chinese men and southern Chinese women than vice-versa.

Likewise, the man who left the largest footprint yet found on the Y-chromosomes of humanity was Genghis Khan from cold
Mongolia. He left roughly 800,000 times more descendants in the direct male line than the average man alive at the time.

The Manchu founder of the Qing dynasty that ruled
China from 1644-1911 shows up as another of history's most fecund forefathers.

The pattern is even true in
England. The main outside infusion of male Y-chromosomes in historic times apparently came from the Vikings.

Hart offers a simple, deliberately reductionist model for explaining this (and much else): Foresight is needed to survive cold winters. So harsher, more northerly climates select for higher average intelligence. And intelligence is useful in war.

Indeed, there is a positive correlation between latitude and the average intelligence of modern countries, as summarized in Richard Lynn's and Tatu Vanhanen's IQ and the Wealth of Nations. (Here's my table listing their data.) In 2006,
Lynn found a substantial r = 0.67 correlation between national average IQ and the absolute value of latitude. Similarly, the correlation between IQ and average temperature is r = -0.63.

On the other hand, within continents there often aren't obvious latitude-related IQ disparities. For instance, the IQ differences among most European countries are too small to worry about.

Northerners have tended to be better at organizing on a large scale. This could be related to intelligence, but doesn't have to be. During WWII, for example, according to military historian John Keegan, the Italians were probably the worst soldiers in Europe and the Finns the best. But
Finland's average IQ isn't higher than Italy's.

No doubt other factors contribute to the long history of Northern military successes. For example, the ease of raising horses on the Eurasian steppe, varying family structures—and of course the ancient moral explanation, going back to the Roman historian Tacitus, that contrasts northern hardiness, self-sacrifice, and motivation with southern decadence, backstabbing, and enervation.

Nor is climate the only factor determining intelligence—or the Eskimos would be the smartest people on Earth. (They are, however, probably the smartest hunter-gatherers). [More]


A few years ago, an anthropologist emailed me to call my attention to a 1982 article on this tendency of the north to intrude more upon the south than vice-versa:

See "Winter temperature as a constraint to the migration of preindustrial peoples." John M. Whiting, John A. Sodergren, Stephen M. Stigler, American Anthropologist, June 1982

Main conclusions: 1. Based on the distribution of language phyla, the 10 degree centigrade (50 degree Fahrenheit) isotherm has been a major barrier to migration. (The isotherm is two lines going around the globe, one north and one south of the equator, at which the mean temperature in the coldest month is 10 degrees C.) Plenty of language families stretch a long ways longitudinally on either side of the isotherm. Not many cross it. (Indo-European, with its extension into
Iran and India, is one of the exceptions.)

2.When language phyla *do* straddle the barrier, it's much commoner for cold-centered phyla to have warm-ward extensions than the reverse, indicating that migrations from high to low latitudes are more common than the reverse. The authors propose a technological explanation, drawing on earlier research on climate, clothing, and infant care: "It is easier for people who wear two layers of clothing to take one off when they move into a warmer climate than it is for single-layer people to produce a second layer when they move to a colder climate. Similarly it is much easier for cold-adapted people to substitute a shawl for a cradle as a device for carrying infants than it is for warm-adapted people to learn to make a cradle." Obviously this doesn't apply when people get clothing and cradles in stores instead of making their own.

In other words, cold weather favors a higher level of technological sophistication. (There were exceptions, such as the remarkably backward Tasmanians.)

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

August 12, 2007

A trillion here, a trillion there, pretty soon we're talking about real money

Now that the long predicted dubious mortgage crash has finally arrived, I keep remembering that going back to the early 1990s, the government has been twisting the arms of private lenders to get them to lend more mortgage money to minorities than the private firms believed was justified by colorblind principles of creditworthiness.

This history seems to have disappeared down the memory hole because it's all in the sacred cause of fighting discrimination (real or imagined), but I recall it distinctly from when I was a daily reader of the Wall Street Journal in the 1990s.

For example, there was a celebrated 1993 study by the Boston Fed showing that minorities' mortgage applications were rejected at a higher rate. (Peter Brimelow pointed out in Forbes that minorities did not have lower default rates, suggesting that lenders were behaving in a rationally colorblind manner, but that was not a popular view at the time.)

Have the chickens finally come home to roost?

I'm sure the private financial markets were quite capable of blowing up a big bubble by themselves in the eternal see-saw struggle between greed and fear, but this political pressure for lending to minorities with doubtful credit must have exacerbated the problem.
About half of all mortgages for blacks and Hispanics are subprime, versus about one-sixth for whites.

A reader has sent me some links to articles from 5 to 9 years ago to show me I'm not hallucinating about what I remember. The first are from early in this decade about Fannie Mae's big plans for boosting mortgages for minorities. Now, I don't pretend to understand what Fannie Mae is (but does anybody?). It's some kind of quasi-governmental publicly-traded for-profit thinga-ma-bob, but Fannie Mae's past pronouncements do make interesting reading at present.

Straightforward tax-and-spend programs were out of favor in the 1990s, but lean-on-lenders for the benefit of your political constituents is always in season.

From 2000:

Fannie Mae Bending Financial System to Create Homeowners, Says Raines

Yet home ownership is unevenly distributed in society, [Fannie Mae head Franklin] Raines said. He quoted the famous pronouncement by W.E.B. Du Bois, in The Souls of Black Folk in 1903, that the problem of the 20th century is the problem of the color line. Du Bois also observed that the size and arrangement of people's homes is an index of their condition.

"We have made great progress since then," Raines said, but "minorities have yet to achieve parity in home ownership in America."

Raines said 70 percent of white people own a home, but the figure is less than 50 percent for minorities, female headed households, and others, despite the current period of "unprecedented prosperity." Minorities, he said, are still often unserved and overcharged.

In the past 30 to 40 years, he said, various approaches have been tried to increase affordable housing for minority and lower income families.

In the early days of the movement, he said, there was a significant commitment of government funds. The state of Connecticut, for example, built and managed 8,000 units of affordable housing, including Stowe Village and Charter Oak Terrace in Hartford. But later, all over the country, government pulled back and eventually thousands of units of housing had to be torn down because they had become uninhabitable.

In the 1980s, public-private partnerships were seen as more effective.

Now, said Raines, more money is being invested in community development through private mechanisms, including Fannie Mae, which works through mainstream lenders to reach out to underserved communities.

During the 1990s, Fannie Mae pledged $1 trillion in capital over seven years to boost home ownership among underserved populations. Last spring, said Raines, the commitment was completed ahead of schedule, and Fannie Mae pledged a further $2 trillion to assist 18 million families during the next decade.

And from Jet in 2002:

Fannie Mae to invest $700 billion in minority housing -
Business Jet, Oct 28, 2002

Fannie Mae, the nation's largest source for financing home mortgages, plans to invest at least $700 billion through 2009 to provide financing to 4.6 million minority households.

News of the breakthrough came during the New Orleans conference of the National Bankers Association (NBA).

Franklin D. Raines, Fannie Mae's chairman and chief executive officer, told the audience that the NBA was uniquely focused on lending to underserved, minority and immigrant families.

"Through this agreement," said Raines, "we hope to extend the benefits of the housing finance system to more Americans in underserved communities and boost minority home ownership rates closer to the national rate of 60 percent."

From Insight on the News back in 1999:

Easy Credit Turning into Hard Times? -
Brief Article Insight on the News, Nov 8, 1999 by Patrice Hill

Analysts worry that banks are too quick to give credit where credit isn't due ... and will pay the price during the next recession.

The easy flow of credit during the 1990s has helped to fuel a nationwide housing boom and spending spree that has kept the economy humming. But analysts say banks have lowered their lending standards, particularly to tap into the fast-growing minority markets, and have been under strong political pressure to do so despite studies showing minorities are more likely to default than whites. The result of this largess may be soaring levels of bankruptcy and default during the next recession.

"We have created a tremendous amount of risk," says Cynthia Latta, economist with DRI/McGraw-Hill in Boston. "At some point, the economy is going to turn down. There will be large numbers of defaults that will trigger a lot of political heat."

Politicians have pushed for the lower standards out of a legitimate desire to spread today's prosperity to groups that previously were on the margin, says Latta. "Banks are under a great deal of pressure to lend in these communities," she says. "It is very political. But I still have reservations about whether you're really doing anyone a favor by letting them borrow 100 percent of the cost of a home. It makes it so easy for them to get in over their heads." If the economy turns sour and unemployment rises, minorities will be the first laid off -- paving the way for a wave of defaults.

Federal laws on fair lending and community reinvestment require bankers to reach out to minorities, notes David Lereah, chief economist with the Mortgage Bankers Association. The record rates of homeownership among minorities as well as the rest of the population shows that these reach-out programs are working.

Nevertheless, Lereah agrees that banks and the economy will pay a price in the next recession. "If the economy goes into a tailspin and experiences recession, then I do worry about some of the low down-payment loans," he says. "The borrowers don't have that much at stake, don't have that much equity in the homes. If they lose their jobs, they could walk away from the homes."

A recent study by Freddie Mac, the federally chartered Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp. that buys mortgages from banks to resell to investors, documents the shaky financial standing of minorities. The study found that nearly half of black borrowers and a third of Hispanics have "bad" credit records -- that is, they have a record of delinquent loans or bankruptcy -- compared with a quarter of whites. Moreover, income does not explain the disparity, according to the study. Among people with incomes of $65,000 to $75,000, 34 percent of blacks have bad credit, compared with 20 percent of whites.

Apparently, the Fed pumped so much money into the system after 9/11 that, with stocks in disfavor after the Internet bubble burst, that the liquidity flooded into the home market, postponing the day of reckoning in housing until now.
has collected some articles from 1999:

Mortgage Lenders to Step Up Pursuit of Minorities (10/13/99)
BOSTON, Oct. 13, 1999 (Reuters) - "The mortgage industry intends to pursue minorities with greater intensity as federal regulators turn up the heat to increase home ownership in underserved groups.

"'We need to push into these underserved markets as much as we can,' said David Glenn, president and chief operating officer of Freddie Mac. Glenn made his remarks at the annual convention of the U.S. Mortgage Banker Association of America (MBA) this week.

"Freddie Mac, like its sister agency Fannie Mae, is a government-chartered corporation that buys mortgages from banks and packages them into securities for investors.

"In September, Freddie Mac launched a new lending program, based on research done in collaboration with five black colleges, to bring more African-Americans into the market.

"The call for greater efforts to broaden minority home ownership comes at a time when interest rates are pinching mortgages. A record $1.5 trillion mortgages were granted in 1998 in a refinancing boom fueled by the lowest interest rates in nearly three decades.

"The federal government in the meantime has increased pressure on lenders to seek out minorities, as well as low-income groups and borrowers with poor credit histories.

"Fannie Mae recently reached an agreement with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to commit half its business to low-and moderate-income borrowers. That means half the mortgages bought by Fannie Mae would be from those income brackets."

Utah (Salt Lake City): Companies Help Minorities With Home Mortgages (05/01/99)
"Premier and M&T Mortgage in Midvale this week agreed to work with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to make an even deeper commitment to helping minorities buy homes. Both companies already seek out low-income and minority customers, especially Latinos, through Spanish-speaking loan officers.

"But they also now have signed formal agreements with HUD to conduct second reviews when loans are declined and to help those who don't qualify address the factors that led to loan denials. "It basically requires lenders to go the extra mile," said Richard Bell, community representative at HUD in Salt Lake City. "It's sometimes hard to persuade them to agree to something like this."

"The agreements do not require lenders to change their underwriting practices. Each applicant still must have a satisfactory credit history, manageable debt load, be employed, and in most cases, have some type of down payment. About 20 Utah lenders have signed HUD agreements in the past two years, but Bell said Premier and M&T have perhaps taken the concept of marketing to minorities and helping them qualify for loans the furthest. (The Salt Lake Tribune, Sat., 05/01/99, by Lesley Mitchell)
[link ]

Wisconsin (Milwaukee): Racial Lending Gap Here Still Too Wide, But There's Hope (04/11/99)
"Ironically, whites may have directly benefited from efforts to expand the number of minority people who receive home loans. After all, making the application process fairer could expand the pool of eligible whites as well as eligible minorities. Hence, such efforts may help explain why the rejection rate has not soared among whites here as it has across the nation." (Milwaukee Sentinel Journal 04/11/99)
[link ]

And nobody in the government seems to have learned a damn thing over the years. Here's an AP article from just a few weeks ago when the bad credit crisis was already severe:

Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Justice Dept. says it is investigating discrimination against minorities in home loans
By ALAN ZIBEL, AP Business Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department is investigating several possible instances of discriminatory mortgage lending, and plans to open more probes soon, an agency attorney told lawmakers on Wednesday.

House members said at a subcommittee hearing that evidence of racial discrimination in the mortgage market is especially troubling given the surge in home-loan defaults that has showed signs of expanding beyond the market for borrowers with weak, or subprime, credit.

"There is no excuse, and no one should be at all willing to settle for a situation in which race of a borrower today makes so much difference for some people," Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, said.

Grace Chung Becker, a deputy assistant attorney general, said several Justice Department investigations into discriminatory mortgage lending are ongoing based on the agency's own leads and referrals from banking regulators.

"We expect to initiate additional investigations in the coming months," Becker said.

Since last fall, the Federal Reserve has made three referrals of cases to prosecutors, with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. making two, Becker said. Two cases have been closed without charges, she said.

A Fed study last year found that 55 percent of blacks and 45 percent of Hispanics received home loans with rates that exceeded Treasury securities by at least 3 percentage points, compared with 17 percent for whites.

Consumer groups say this data provides evidence of discrimination in the mortgage market, while the banking industry says it can be misleading because buyers' credit scores, the quality of the home, the size of the down payment, and other variables are not taken into account.

At the hearing, consumer groups said banking regulators have not been aggressive enough in going after lenders that discriminate against minority borrowers. Ginny Hamilton, executive director of the Fair Housing Center of Greater Boston said they have displayed "minimal and halfhearted efforts" to prevent discrimination.

Banking regulators defended their track record, and several said they have investigations of discriminatory practices under way.

Earlier this month, a report by the Washington-based National Community Reinvestment Coalition found that higher income does not protect blacks and Hispanics from receiving mortgage loans with above-market rates.

The report, which analyzed federal data on home loans. concluded that in 2005 blacks in 171 metropolitan areas were at least twice as likely as whites to receive expensive loans, and said the trend was more severe at higher income levels, rather than lower ones. Similar trends were apparent for Hispanics as well.

It's common for low-wage workers in the Washington, D.C. area to be are steered into taking out loans for homes that cost $300,000 or more, on which they quickly default, said Saul Solorzano, executive director of the Central American Resource Center of Washington.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer