July 19, 2008

The Half Sigma theory

Half Sigma writes:

IQ is more highly correlated with life outcomes for people with below average to average IQs. Most career tracks have an IQ floor, and if your IQ isn't high enough to meet the floor level, you can't perform that job adequately. Few career tracks have IQ floors much higher than 115, so if your IQ is higher than that, your parental wealth and connections become very important.

Thus, the higher your IQ, the more important the wealth of your parents becomes (the very opposite of what most people think). People with exceptionally high IQs but inadequate parents often have poor life outcomes because of the mismatch.

So, JFK and GWB would be examples of people just above the Presidential IQ cutoff who became Presidents because of their fathers.

An interesting idea. I haven't had time to assess it, but it seems worth thinking about.

In general, let me say that I check in on Half Sigma regularly because, while we have fairly similar approaches, he often winds up with ideas I wouldn't get to myself.

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

58 comments:

headache said...

The real kick with high IQ is to find a job that's intellectually bearable, pays OK and live an easy life. There's nothing like being able to walk carefree through your company's offices because you managed to complete your daily payload by early morning tea time, and then you can go chat up the office babes and generally sneer at all the hyper-tensed, maximally motivated management types running up and down the stairs.

Anonymous said...

HalfSigma didn't cite a source for his claim. It's difficult to accept or repeat this claim without any facts to point skeptics to.

I'm also skeptical that people with "exceptionally" high IQs with "poor" parents have "bad life outcomes". Besides lacking any data, HS does not define any of these 3 vague terms so as to render the complete statement fairly meaningless.

This is the kind of suspect generalizations without candor of fact typically found in PC-heavy MSM articles to justify sweeping social engineering by elites.

halfbreed said...

Interesting theory. Someone should do a study of how character correlates with success as well. After a lifetime of observation, it's my conclusion that sociopaths are overrepresented at the high end of the pay scale (as well as the low end). Their take-no-prisoners, back-stabbing, cavalier-with-the-truth, gambler's attitude towards life (and other people) can often pay off handsomely, though this same approach often ends up in bankruptcy court as well. A hard look at the personalities of the CEOs of many of the S&P 500 firms will not dissuade anyone from this conclusion. (And neither will a visit to bankruptcy court.)

BGC said...

I think Half Sigma is probably wrong on this matter.

Longitudinal studies of very high IQ children generally show that the higher the IQ, the better is the all-round performance.

For example Lewis Terman's 1000 gifted Californian children from the 1920s:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lewis_Terman

or the more recent work of David Lubinski e.g.:

http://www.vanderbilt.edu/Peabody/SMPY/PsychScience2006.pdf

The take-home message is that very high IQ is highly predictive of very high levels of accomplishment.

Indeed, the highest IQ people are superior (on average) in pretty-much every respect except that they have very low fertility (see page 198 of the Lubinski paper) - so very high IQ people may not be around in significant numbers for many more generations...

Anonymous said...

half sigma rocks!

Dennis Mangan said...

The flaw in the theory is that for any given job, higher IQ means better job performance, and the more g-loaded the job is, the more this will be true. Since higher IQ job performance, like doctor, lawyer, etc., is highly g-loaded, the smarter one is the better doctor, lawyer, etc., one will be. Someone with a 115 IQ can become a lawyer, but someone with a 150 IQ will be a better lawyer. The former will be writing wills, the latter will become a corporate VP.

Anonymous said...

steve an interesting analysis would be to look at the influence of parental wealth and connections at each iq break point

it is not intuitively obvious to me that parents are more important to those with high iq's than to low iq's

for example,

i know of many examples of children with iq's of 100 with wealthy parents - the parents bought the kids antique stores to manage or helped them become artists. running an antique store or painting are socially acceptable ways for the parents to support the kids and still maintain some prestige

i suspect that these same kids, if they were born to poor parents, would have wound up working at McDonalds and had a different lifestyle

i would suspect that parental wealth and connections are importang at ALL iq levels - but i'd like to better understand this

Horatio said...

Family connections and wealth may be relatively more important for those with high IQ, but as some of half sigma's posters pointed out, IQ is still far more important. It's not as if IQ is unimportant above the floor. The floor only determines the minimum for adequate performance. High performance will still require an IQ greater than the minimum. However, family is most important for getting into exclusive clubs and for becoming president.


I work in a field (physics) with a high cutoff. One probably needs an IQ of at least 130 to do any serious work. My department probably averages ~145 and we certainly have a greater impact than tier 2 schools. Within my department, some of the researchers are clearly in the 160 range and their research far outshines what the rest of us are doing.


Obama is a special case. Anyone with his abilities would be a high achiever, but a white man with his family would never have gotten this close to the presidency.

Anthony said...

I think HS is right about IQ being less important once you're above 115, but I think that he overestimates the importance of family money and connections. I think that motivation/work-ethic and ability to make one's own connections count for at least as much as family background.

Anonymous said...

My own experiences and observations certainly support Half-Sigma's theory.

BINO (Boomer In Name Only)

albertosaurus said...

In the mainstream mental measurement literature this phenomenon is generally refered to as a threshold rather than a floor but its the same concept.

Consider basketball. Height is known to be important in basketball. So there is a correlation in the general population between height and basketball ability. Yet in the NBA there is no such correlation. When everyone is tall, height differences are not important.

Michael Jordan was only 6'5". I'm about that same height so I should be just as good as he was. Right?

Anonymous said...

I have a problem with this.

It may be true that "few careers have IQ floors much higher than 115." Thus money and connections play a larger role.

Arthur Jensen claims that beyond a mere 115 there are "no limitations" for an individual.

Likewise, Charles Murray claims 120 is the minimum floor to be "intellectually gifted." He thinks 120 is the cutoff for a person to have a shot at doing something noteworthy in society.

120 and up comprises is the top 10% of society.

Yet Murray himself admits that, technically, the "cognitive elite," the true movers and shakers of a society, are only the top 1% to 2%. So the IQ cutoff here is roughly 132 +.

On p. 121 of "Bell Curve," he broadens his definition of "cognitive elite" to 5%, for the sake of being "inclusive." So top 5% would equal roughly 126 +.

How can 115- 120 be the minimum floor for noteworthy accomplishment, yet the "cognitive elite" really be located at 126, or, really, 132+?

Politics - where money and connections play a large role is one thing. But it seems to me that the 132 is going to outwit and trounce the 122 more often than not in many other career fields.

Anonymous said...

Can someone tell me how we can distinguish someone with, say, a 122 Verbal IQ from a 132 Verbal IQ?

Is there a noticeable difference in aptitude? Or are we saying that, once above 120, you can basically figure out what the 134 guy can figure out. You simply need more time.

mnjohn said...

This might be true as the high IQ candidate might go to a state school and then in turn have a harder time getting into one of the top 14 law or business schools in the country. But he will still ace the lsat or gmat so I fail to see how it becomes that distinct of a disadvantage unless you are born to a really poor family. A student with a really high IQ born into a middle class family will find his way to the top most likely.

Michael said...

As a practical matter in the NYC mediabiz, it seems that 1) you have to be smart enough (and people in the NYC mediabiz are generally pretty smart), but 2) once you're smart enough and you've gotten a foot on the ladder, getting ahead is *all* about drive, connections, playing the game, and luck.

Anonymous said...

I think it is a very good comment though the reaction at his blog to it was all over the board and I suspect it may be too vague; my sense was many people were talking past each other.

If Half Sigma means that the higher your I.Q., the more important parental connections and money are to *status*, and he is comparing two individuals of similar intelligence, I totally agree. This has always been true. Look at any intelligent immigrant group and you generally see the same story: came here, worked hard and was middle-class, sacrificed, and kids moved to a higher status.

This paradigm is in our family in a striking fashion. I'm the wife of a high tech guy which I wrote about on another thread. His parents were dirt poor and he only knew living in a trailer. His I.Q. is in the 140's and he has had to bide his time but has steadily moved up in income and job status. He is 28 and we can't afford European vacations or the like, but I know they'll be in our future.

His I.Q. is just as high as two cousins of mine who came from extremely rich, partly aristocratic families and whose father was a Harvard Grad and is super intelligent and refined. The sons went to Harvard, and I can google their names to find out what my family is up to on the West Coast.

The way I see it is that an individual has to prove themselves and if you're high status, this means one's father has done most of the work for you already. The nobody has to do it all himself, rising as high as talent, time, and desire allow.

On a similar note, I told my baby sister that it takes several generations to reach the pinnacle, but it only takes one screw-up, lazy person, etc. to undo all that work for their descendants and it starts over again.

Anonymous said...

What about hedge funds? To take home a billion a year paycheck you need an iq over 160. And family connections don't help get you to that level - they may get you started but once you are started it is all due to iq

Anonymous said...

I really wish people would wise up and stop using law as an example of a field with a linear IQ-achievement relationship. Since 1990, the most successful trial lawyer in California, with verdicts/settlements of about $1 billion, is a guy who finished last in his class at a "third tier" law school. In law, IQ or its equivalent is all about getting the job, i.e. representing corps, not actually doing anything.

Anonymous said...

IQ is more highly correlated with life outcomes for people with below average to average IQs.

No! There is no "threshold effect".

The top 1 in 10000 do *much* better than the top 1 in 100, with SES controlled for, e.g. 56X base expectation rate for PhD degrees vs. only 25% for the top 1 in 100 (who were also not all at top institutions).

Benbow calls it "the difference that makes a difference".
The only reason people believe there is a threshold effect is that the top 1 in 10000 are 100 times less frequent than the top 1 in 100. Thus, the top 1 in 100 will numerically preponderate in many high IQ professions. However, the degree of this preponderance drops as the selection becomes more intense and the number of people in the profession increases.


See:

Lubinski, D., Webb, R. M., Morelock, M. J., & Benbow, C. P. (2001). Top 1 in 10,000: A 10-year follow-up of the profoundly gifted. Journal of Applied Psychology, 86, 718-729.

http://www.vanderbilt.edu/Peabody/SMPY/Top1in10000.pdf

King Obama said...

I think HS right, to some degree. Making a lot of money requires brains, but it also requires drive, charisma, connections and some luck.

I would like to see a study that compares the life outcomes for high-IQ people (130+) to people with moderately high IQs (115 - 130), but who come from families that have significantly more money than the high-IQ group.

I think the results of such a study would be very intesting.

testing99 said...

Halfbreed -- Mark Twain and US Grant both ended up bankrupt. Sometimes that happens when people roll the dice. Twain did it on typewriters, which he was convinced were the wave of the future (they were, just not his designs). Grant spent profligately, and worked on his memoirs while dying of throat cancer (with assistance from Twain) to secure his family's financial future.

Business requires risk taking, so I'm not upset at people finding the dice came up snake-eyes. It is the ruthlessness in back-stabbing that you allude to that concerns me. Grant and Twain by all accounts were loyal to their friends and family. That's different from say, Barack Obama using and then throwing under the bus long-time associates.

Character in terms of discipline and delayed gratification are probably quite important.

[I don't see frankly any evidence of Obama's skills. He's a very bad politician outside the Black and white yuppie groups.]

What most here don't understand, and Half Sigma DOES, is that patronage networks are the means to advancing in most organizations. A person with a lower IQ (but still above the threshold) will advance much faster and higher than one with a higher IQ but no patronage network.

Anonymous said...

i think that the above posters are correct

there are some professions where your success is almost entirely due to iq and others where, once you are past the threshold connections and wealth of your parents are most important

I would cite academia as an example of both -

if you are looking to be considered the best theoretical physicist in the world, you better have a spectacular IQ. connections and wealth count for much less than iq.

if you are looking to be considered a leader in some pseudo science like gender studies, then iq is not so important - your network and political skills are most important

similarly, if you want to get rich as a "stockbroker" you can do it with moderate iq and a lot of ass kissing and golf.

if you want to make a billion dollars as a hedge fund manager charisma and political skill may not matter so much as raw and exceptional levels of iq.

Stevie Cohen famously lacked all charisma. He also lacks muscle mass and lacks any sort of alpha mail traits. He married a woman of puerto rican ancestry. yet he is a billionaire simply as a function of his IQ and what he did with that iq, not from any sort of connections or networking

in fact go look at the list of all the hedge fund billionaires - almost none of them came from wealthy families - lots of middle middle class wage slave parents. They got theirs due to IQ

Anonymous said...

"I really wish people would wise up and stop using law as an example of a field with a linear IQ-achievement relationship. Since 1990, the most successful trial lawyer in California, with verdicts/settlements of about $1 billion, is a guy who finished last in his class at a "third tier" law school. In law, IQ or its equivalent is all about getting the job, i.e. representing corps, not actually doing anything."

Trial lawyers are not typical of most lawyers.

In corporate law, the higher the IQ, the better.

anony-mouse said...

So people with high IQ's and low people skills (like Asbergy types) do well in life? Well they get all the chicks, don't they?

Hmmm.....

David Davenport said...

What about hedge funds? To take home a billion a year paycheck you need an iq over 160.

How do you know that? Because you read it somewhere?

What about all the big time hedge funds currently losing money that were doing well a year or two ago?
Assuming that the top mgmt. at these firms hasn't changed -- which is probably the case, how do you explain the change in performance?

KlaosOldanburg said...

The problem in this theory is with the concept of accomplishment.

How 'accomplished' was Ken Lay? Does anyone here really think the Hedge Fund guys have contributed billions of dollars worth of value to society? I don't, and I think that they don't either, which makes them sociopathic in my opinion.

And at 160 IQ they're aware that as the number of billionaires has multiplied in the US, so has the number of formerly middle-class poor people.

What about a farmer, who despite being smart enough to do something hedge-fundy, wants to keep his children away from cosmopolitan culture, and doesn't feel the need to acquire a billion dollars. He'd rather eat food he grew himself because, in his mind, it's more congruent with God's will. And he'd rather teach his children to grow the food they eat, because he considers moving to 'the city' and earning a lot of money for his children to be a poor evolutionary strategy. He knows his genes will die in a generation or two if moves to city and gets rich. What is his level of 'accomplishment'?

Scott said...

In general, do you think that a high school senior with an IQ of 115 would have a better chance of achieving a high net worth by age 65 if he/she went directly into business and forego college, like the Syrian Jews, or, go the common Ashkenazi route, and pursue college and maybe an advanced degree to be a professional?

I’ve noticed that education is negatively correlated with entrepreneurship.

testing99 said...

Institutional traders construct elaborate mathematical models looking for arbitrage opportunities. This requires high IQ, lots of math skills, an instinctive understanding of valuation and arbitrage.

However ... all the major Ibanks and other institutions have guys like that on their payroll too. It matters little where the degree is from, first or second tier B-school, what matters is how good the understanding and application of various mathematical principles is. All the applicants are tested.

These guys, if they are successful, can land huge paychecks but typically grind away in various windowless offices. Everyone of them competes against the other ... finding momentary advantage is hard to do.

This is different than the leaders of said institutions who need connections and sales skills. But who can take a mighty fall if they don't understand the risk, hedge against it, and understand how well their quant guys perform against the competition.

A lot of the failures were caused by greed, loading up on what looked like high-payout items like securitized mortgages that weren't well ... securitized.

beowulf said...

Hmm, I wonder how much Half Sigma is generalizing from his own particular career. I think he has this completely backwards.

At the low end of the IQ scale, family wealth is a huge factor. Poor dumb kids end up in jail. Rich dumb kids end up in a beach house.

But if you're smart, you can get pretty far in the world regardless of your family's background.

If someone has a high IQ, it doesn't matter if their dad paid for Princeton or the GI Bill paid for UT-El Paso, their career success will depend on a mix of luck, people skills and conscientiousness.

Reader said...

For most "jobs" (i.e. where you work to make money for someone else by doing what someone else tells you to do), I'd imagine there's a very real floor effect above which the marginal returns on increasing IQ are low. You don't need a genius to do an office job anymore than you need a genius to scrub toilets.

Where increasing IQ is generally increasingly beneficial is in fields involving some degree of autonomy and creativity (entrepreneurs, scientific researchers, writers, etc.), where the sky's basically the limit.

MQ said...

The blogsphere is a stronghold of high-IQ underachievers, so that might explain some intuitive attraction to Half Sigma's theory.

Obama is a special case. Anyone with his abilities would be a high achiever, but a white man with his family would never have gotten this close to the presidency.

I disagree -- a white guy with Obama's intelligence, charisma, shrewdness, discipline and political skills would have had a decent shot at making it all the way in politics. He probably wouldn't have vaulted up quite so quickly, though. Like Bill Clinton -- another smart guy from a poor, messed-up family -- he would have had to be governor of a state or something first.

Oh, and hedge fund guys are hardly the pure meritocracy (although they are more so than the old Wall Streeters). If you can talk a good game, spin a good investment strategy story, and then get some money, then luck plays a significant role. It can take years for a bad investment strategy to be shown up.

Anonymous said...

So, basicly, what Half Sigm says, is this: SES matters.

Which doesn't surprise me at all. If you can start up in the already by-your-on-dad-established-network, that sure saves you some time and energy. Compared to some smart dude from the wrong side of the tracks, who has to take loans to get ahead in life.

It's like running the 100 metres at the Olympics and starting half-way, while the others are at the start. Unfair, sure, but fairness has got nothing to with it.

Anonymous said...

Steve

It must be depressing for you too see from the comments here that despite all your efforts for all these years to make it obvious that whom your relatives are matters, the message is lost on whites with high IQs since they can't stand the idea of anybody other than themselves doing the job for them.

See what is wrecking your country now? See how futulie it is to get your message through to a white -- i.e. an only mildly ethnocentric, mostly individiualistic person who cannot stand not thinking "I'm number one"?

I mean think of this situation: A guy has a 135 IQ, he's white, from a rich family, and he wants to be the president of a law firm. A Pakistani, who has a 138 IQ, also wants to be the president of the same firm. We know what would happen if there were no political correctness or affirmative action, right? They'd give the job to the Pakistani, right?

I'm sure these people also blame blacks with low IQs for having low IQs. You see, if they worked harder, they'd be smarter; but whites, being olympian goddesses that were meant to be the top dog on earth, will always work harder-er than all others, so they deserve everything they've got NOT because of their relatives -- that's "commie" thinking; if we accept that, then we cannot keep on despising losers, which is the biggest favorite pastime of the American male after he survives high school -- but because, well, they're winners.


JD

SFG said...

What about a farmer, who despite being smart enough to do something hedge-fundy, wants to keep his children away from cosmopolitan culture, and doesn't feel the need to acquire a billion dollars. He'd rather eat food he grew himself because, in his mind, it's more congruent with God's will. And he'd rather teach his children to grow the food they eat, because he considers moving to 'the city' and earning a lot of money for his children to be a poor evolutionary strategy. He knows his genes will die in a generation or two if moves to city and gets rich. What is his level of 'accomplishment'?
Not much by American standards, though obviously you have a good point that money isn't everything. The problem is that drought may hit you (especially with global climate change) or someone may buy up your farm. Or falling prices may destroy your farm's profitability.

I hate the modern rat race too, but there are very few ways out.

Scott said...

mq-

Everybody writes about how Bill Clinton is so intelligent. He has high verbal intelligence, which is apparently all you need to win the presidency.

In his book My Life, he confessed that he never knew he was bad at math since he never took math in college, yet found out that he was when he had to give up on helping Chelsea with her algebra because he could not figure it out.

Anonymous said...

well, how fo you measure success?

let's put aside for the sake of argument all measures of success except the dollars of wealth created.


So let's define success as the dollars of wealth created by a man over his lifetime

if you look at high iq men from wealthy families and compare them to high iq men from educated upper middle class families i think you will find that for many men there is an advantage to not growing up wealthy.

i would speculate that if your great grandfather made a boatload of money and for generations later the kids grow up knowing they have access to trust funds, then the kids are on average lazier - they lack ambition and motivation

so parental wealth may not in most cases contribute to children turning in to productive members of society

Anonymous said...

One way to measure success is to look at the number of great grandchildren you produce that grow up to share your values and identity.


By this measure, a Mormon man in Utah that can have five children, support them and educate them and transmit values to them may be considered more successful than an athiest in San Francisco with a billion dollars

if each of his issue have 5 kids, then you are talking about 25 grandchildren and 125 great grandchildren.

The athiest in san francisco might wind up with very few great grandchildren.

From an evolutionary perspective, and from the perspective of making a permanent difference, why shouldn't we measure success in this way rather than measuring it with money?

It is the cultures that reproduce successfully generation after generation that will predominate, not the cultures that lose their will to reproduce

Anonymous said...

http://www.rentec.com/

Go to the above web site - it is the web site of a firm that employs thousands of ultra high IQ individuals.

The firm is Rnaissance Technologies - each year they consider the IQ of thousands of applicants and fill their ranks with the ones with the absolute highest IQ. They have defeated their competitors for more than 20 years now, posting strong numbers year after year after year. The head of the firm is a former math professor that now takes home about a billion dollars a year in personal income. The average professional takes home a $5 million a year paycheck (once they have 5 years or more of tenure)

alpha male traits like muscle mass and charisma just don't count for much in that environment.

my point is that alpha male traits are required in some fields and not required in others.

If you are born with an average iq but you also have alpha male traits you can make lots of money - if you are born with a spectacular off the chart IQ and have no alpha male traits you might make even more money at a place like Renaissance.

if you lack iq and you lack alpha male traits you are in trouble

David Davenport said...

I mean think of this situation: A guy has a 135 IQ, he's white, from a rich family, and he wants to be the president of a law firm. A Pakistani, who has a 138 IQ, also wants to be the president of the same firm. We know what would happen if there were no political correctness or affirmative action, right? They'd give the job to the Pakistani, right? ...

How many white Christian or Jewish layers get attorney jobs in Pakistan?

Martin said...

"MQ said...

Oh, and hedge fund guys are hardly the pure meritocracy (although they are more so than the old Wall Streeters)."

Chelsea Clinton works for a hedge fund. Her job qualifications consisted in.......being the daughter of the junior Senator from New York (who by chance no doubt, was also the presumptive democratic nominee, and also - still - sits on the Senate banking committee). Pure merit, don't you know.

Bill said...

I'd agree with him. Although I'd be more specific.

It has more to do with inadequate or absent fathers (often through no fault of their own these days) than pure wealth.

Having an absent father or a cad of a dad does a lot to children - especially sons - psychologically. Some, like Bill Clinton and Obama, become highly ambitious overachievers, but most just get the short end of the stick.

High IQ does little to protect boys during the highly vulnerable years of adolescence, when most people's careers and future are defined. Nothing provides stability, guidance and protection like an involved, caring father. Wealth does matter, but consider that wealth is correlated with successful, responsible men in the family. A middle-class man who provides what a kid needs contributes far more than a single, career-oriented mother can in most circumstances.

Art Deco said...

Obama is a special case. Anyone with his abilities would be a high achiever, but a white man with his family would never have gotten this close to the presidency.

Mr. Obama's custodial grandparents were, respectively, an insurance salesman and a banker.

Mr. Clinton's parents were an auto parts dealer and a nurse-anaesthetist.

Mr. Dole's father owned a creamery.

Mr. Perot's father (by some accounts) was a farm worker.

Mr. Reagan's father was a salesman.

Mr. Mondale's father was a clergyman.

Mr. Ford's adoptive father owned a paint store.

Mr. Nixon's father owned a grocery store.

Mr. Humphrey's father was a pharmacist.

steve wood said...

In general, do you think that a high school senior with an IQ of 115 would have a better chance of achieving a high net worth by age 65 if he/she went directly into business and forego college, like the Syrian Jews, or, go the common Ashkenazi route, and pursue college and maybe an advanced degree to be a professional?

There are many variables at play here. Most importantly, does your hypothetical HS senior have an interest in and talent for starting and running a business? Those are not universal. Secondly, what area of business will he choose? Some are dependent on contacts that he may not have. Others may call for a level of polish that, without the civilizing experience of a good college education, he will lack unless he comes from a well-to-do background.

I’ve noticed that education is negatively correlated with entrepreneurship.

Correlation does not imply causation. It's more likely that entrepreneurially inclined people are driven to skip college in order get started on their dream than that education per se reduces entrepreneurship.

Founding and running a business is hard work and very insecure, especially early on. It's easier to go school and get a corporate job or pursue a profession, and many people will shy away from a career that is fraught with the possibility of economic disaster even if they might otherwise be drawn to it.

Anyway, my point is that it's not exactly an either-or situation. Your student can't - or shouldn't - just pick the track that's most likely to lead to greater net worth. He has to have the talent and skills to match his choice.

Anonymous said...

the upward mobility in the USA is something to be proud - of - the fact that so many of our presidents came from very humble backgrounds says something about the opportunity available in this country.

no,things are not perfect by any means, but the opportunity is there.

please consider all the ethnically chinese kids that grow up in the USA with parents doing very very humble work - many times the parents try hard and are never able to master english (learning english is damn hard)

there is REVERSE discrimination against ethnic chinese - an ethnic chinese kid often needs a HIGER SAT score to get in to an ivy league school than a "white" kid.

The ranks of the richest in Silicon Valley and elsewhere are starting to include many first generation immigrants from China

The fact that these kids, with no parental wealth to lean on, no parental connections or influence, can make it in to the ranks of the centimillionaires shows that the USA is a lot more of a meritocracy for the high IQ kids than is suggested by half sigma

One more point - there are plenty of organizations that go out of their way to hire kids from humble backgrounds rather than the kids of the wealthy - one prominent investment bank said they will ONLY hire kids that are "PSH" Poor smart and hungry.

there are all sorts of ladders up in to the ruling class available to kids from humble backgrounds that have exceptionally high IQ's and who are driven to work exceptionally hard.


America is a terribly difficult place for almost anyone of any race that is born on the left half of the bell curve - all of us who are on the right half of the curve should thank our good luck to be born with the IQs that we have .

But for kids born in to modest circumstances with exceptionally high IQ's there are opportunities

Anonymous said...

To "anonymous" who wrote:

"PSH" Poor smart and hungry.

Correction:
That's PSD, poor, smart and deep desire to get rich, coined by the chairman of the late Bear Stearns investment bank:

From the Vanity Fair article on the Bear Stearns' demise:

http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2008/08/bear_stearns200808

QUote:
"Since the days when the Goldmans and Morgans cared mostly about hiring young men from the best families and schools, “the Bear,” as old-timers still call it, cared about one thing and one thing only: making money. Brooklyn, Queens, or Poughkeepsie; City College, Hofstra, or Ohio State; Jew or Gentile—it didn’t matter where you came from; if you could make money on the trading floor, Bear Stearns was the place for you. Its longtime chairman Alan “Ace” Greenberg even coined a name for his motley hires: P.S.D.’s, for poor, smart, and a deep desire to get rich."

Too bad the ONLY investment bank that WAS hiring the talented poor, was crushed by these very same highly regarded hedge fund managers. These marvelous wizards at Goldman Sachs, et. al, have been engaged in hiring kids only from the "best" (i.e., richest and most connected) families and best schools (where the hirees got in on legacy admissions).

And while our esteemed hedgies were pulling down their billions shorting Bear Stearns into oblivion and then gobbling up the remains with the help of a FED (i.e., us gullible taxpayers) guarantee, moms and pops whose pension funds were heavy with BS stock will spend their sunset years destitute.

Nice life for those to the manor born. The rest of us get to hard-scrabble with the imported illiterates for our blue collar jobs that formerly provided a middle class lifestyle.

Signed: A Different Anonymous

albertosaurus said...

Let me try again on the threshold effect.

Think of it as step wise regression problem. First you maximize the R squared values for each of the independent variables. In our example the largest R squared (percent of explained variance) will be IQ. That means that IQ is the single most important predictor of life or career success. The actual value as I remeber is something like .30.

That means about 30% of the variance in career success can be explained by differences in IQ alone. For academic success it's higher - about 50% I think.

Of course the 30% explained variance figure also means that 70% of the variance is explained by other factors. Most of these other factors are harder to quantify - like hard work or ambition - but they are nevertheless real.

So if you "control" for IQ you will make thes other factors predominant. One way to control for IQ is to select subjects in a profession or sub group that is loaded for IQ. One group might be US Senators or corporate officers or Nobel Prize winners or Mensa members. If you measured the performance of any of these groups and regressed it against IQ scores you would find that there was still a large variance in performance but relatively little of it would be explained by IQ differences.

This is matematically a tautology. Its the same reason that player's height difference are not very important in the NBA. Just being in the NBA restricts the range of heights. If this weren't so there would be no need for scouting. If one prospective forward was 6'7" and the other was 6'6" you would just send the shorter guy home. There would be no need to consider anything else.

This simple matematical phenomenon that must result from the less than perfect perfect prediction of an independent variable is perceived as a threshold effect.

Half Sigma's observation has to be true - that's just the way the math works. Control for IQ by only considering careers above the floor or threshold and IQ must be less important.

king obama said...

"http://www.rentec.com/

Go to the above web site - it is the web site of a firm that employs thousands of ultra high IQ individuals.

The firm is Rnaissance Technologies - each year they consider the IQ of thousands of applicants and fill their ranks with the ones with the absolute highest IQ. They have defeated their competitors for more than 20 years now, posting strong numbers year after year after year. The head of the firm is a former math professor that now takes home about a billion dollars a year in personal income. The average professional takes home a $5 million a year paycheck (once they have 5 years or more of tenure)"

The above website says they have 260 employees, not "thousands," as the above commentor states.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I used to belong to - and was briefly president of - the Prometheus Society, with a purported IQ cutoff of 164. There was some agreement there that while Terman's data applied well to people with high-IQ's to a point, that somewhere around 155 there was a point at which higher IQ actually increased the chances of social dysfunction. Grady Towers' "The Outsiders" (http://www.prometheussociety.org/ articles/Outsiders.html)
started with the biography of astronomical-IQ William James Sidis, but went on to cover some data as well. I noted in a recent post the gradual understanding of Asperger Syndrome may have something to do with this.

It is, as many here noted, clear that above a certain threshold other factors come into play: determination, social skills, silver hair. In most professions, these are often more important skills than IQ, though even menial jobs will relent somewhat to an application of intelligence.

Bill's comment about absent fathers is apt. Drive and discipline are not the same thing. Sons of poor or absent fathers may have the drive to succeed but may still lack self-discipline (see Clinton, William). Whether they are successful or not depends much on your definitions of success.

As a tangent about Obama, I don't see evidence that he might have much of an IQ. We have entered the age where SAT scores were common when our presidential candidates applied for college. Obama certainly had to take them, plus the LSAT's, and I suspect there is a reason we don't know them, much as Kerry's LSAT's were not revealed. The average SAT for minority candidates getting in to Occi did not crack 1000 in 1980, even though it is pretty selective for white students). Bush had SAT's of 1260 (higher math) and Gore of 1370 (higher verbal). Kerry's were estimated as somewhat lower on the basis of his officer candidate exams. Hillary Clinton was a National Merit Scholar on the basis of truly exceptional verbal scores. Rhodes Scholar Bill Bradley's SAT's were a touch below average, BTW.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Ouch. There's an unnecessary space in that Prometheus link.

Anonymous said...

I see law school as a ladder up to wealth for kids that are born in very modest circumstances

many kids from modest backgrounds get law degrees - if they have super high IQ's and work hard they will be law review and can get jobs in the DA's office

working for the DA, your modest circumstances make it EASIER to get along with cops and others from modest backgrounds.

Of course you don't get rich working for the DA but if you have a super high IQ and work hard you will have a very high conviction rate and be tapped to join a prestige law firm as a criminal defense lawyer.

Then you use your skills getting wealthy criminals like Claus Von Bulow off the hook - this sort of work pays millions of dollars a year

this is just one ladder in to wealth for those with very high IQs

Anonymous said...

Well, wealth counts in different ways. A kid with a high IQ who grows up in poverty is more likely to have crooked teeth, faulty grammar acquired from an impoverished peer group, and may lack a "style sense" on top of lacking Ivy League diplomas, good skills at golf and tennis, etc. There is also a chicken/egg aspect to this, in that people with bad teeth, no social network to speak of, and an unimpressive alma mater are less likely to apply for certain plum jobs, AND less likely to be hired if they do.

As somebody else mentioned, someone with a high IQ and a Super Salesman personality can often overcome a lack of early advantages. I would say that this is much easier if this person is quite good looking and has REAL social skills (the ability to remember names and faces, and a zillion little personal details about other people's families, for instance, can take people a lot farther than I ever would have imagined when I was in high school or college.)

The introverted, average-looking high-IQ person from a disadvantaged background will find it almost impossible to achieve what a similar person who has grown up wealthy will achieve.

Anonymous said...

if you have a super high IQ and work hard you will have a very high conviction rate and be tapped to join a prestige law firm as a criminal defense lawyer.

So putting thugs in jail puts you in line for a job getting thugs out? How does that work?

*and is it the same thugs*?

Anonymous said...

David Davenport:

If you'd read my comments carefully (and if you were familiar with some of my other comments on iSteve), you wouldn't be giving me this knee-jerk "somebody is blaming us with racism" reaction. (I wasn't whining, and I couldn't care less about a Pakistani, but obviously you have difficulty reading the simplist comparisons made to make a point.)

The point wasn't that whites are guilty of "discrimination." The point was whites—like all human groups—prefer to associate with their own kind.

But, by the same token, it should be predictable that people with high IQs and better family connections (higher SES) tend to get selected for higher positions more than people with similar IQs but much poorer social/familial backgrounds. (If this is less striking in the West, especially in the US, it's because the US seems to have a much more homogeneous and much less class-based society. But it is dishonest to deny that it isn't there.)

Just think of the demographic impact of IQ distributions on a national basis. Say I, as a Turk, have an IQ of 140. That should put me right in the highest income bracket, right?

Or it should make me candidate for doing high engineering work? Well, heck, no, it doesn't work like that. (Please save me the "but you also have to work hard and should have the right attitude" comment; I'm not making a rhetorical argument like if you have high IQ you should be very successfull automatically.) A renowned psychometrist wrote me a couple of years ago that his best estimate for the Turkish average is 84—with an SD lower than the West's. To do any decent engineering work (at least by the standards of today, not the 18th century), you need a whole hinterland of engineering culture. Which doesn't exist in Turkia since most engineering work is re-assembly of Western products, or manufacturing products using Western technology and using Western brands. That's because--surprise surprise--there are too many very bright people around, and what there is is generally employed to manage and monitor whether the rest (the dumbfucks) are doing their job right.

Someone with a similar IQ in the West will have it much easier since his ancestors have done a lot of work for him, there's great diversity of fields of expertise and way more numerous employment opportunities. Are you going to deny this as "racism," too?

(I know dozens of engineers in the 130-40 range in my social environment who do work that'll be handled by people with 100-110 IQs in the West. More often than not, they drop out of engineering and open a restaurant of something to make better money and to avoid the dreadfullness (for them) of having to spend 12 hours a day—for 24 grand a year—monitoring how a bunch machines are running in a factory.)

Whom your relatives are matters! Live with it. When will you guys stop reading every comment like mine as if there's football game between ethnies and all that's needed for an argument is these right-back-at-yas?

We all prefer our own to strangers. We prefer members of our own family, region, class, ethny, nation, race, etc. to those of others. If this is "racism," so be it. But given this fact, it is hypocritical to claim that once you have a high IQ and the right attitude, you have an equal opportunity with all others of the same cognitive grade. No, you don't.


JD

Josh said...

Re "horatio":"Obama is a special case...someone with his abilities..." Obama was just quoted as saying he wants to get to know the Iraqi leaders he will be dealing with "over the next 8 to 10 years.." 10 years?

Half Sigma said...

I just noticed this post today. Thanks very much for plugging my blog.

My observation was based on a lot of analysis of the General Social Survey and various academic papers on intelligence. You have to read between the lines of Charles' Murray's books.

IQ is mostly genetic, and it's real, but not that highly valued by society. While someone with a higher IQ can perform higher quality work than someone with lower IQ in the same profession, where did people get the idea that how well you perform your work is the most important part of getting promoted? Or the most important part of getting the job in the first place?

The primary qualification to become filthy-rich in the hedge fund industry is (1) you need to get started in the financial industry, and the requirement is generally a degree from an elite university; and (2) you need to be able to convince people to invest a lot of money into your fund. (3) It also helps to be lucky in your investments, then people will think you actually know what you're doing and invest more. There has never been any solid evidence that the best performing investment funds owe their performance to anything other than luck. 10% of funds will always be in the top 10%, even if monkeys are running them.

debunking the O.P. said...

Half-Sigma's comment is empty, because not only (as several here have pointed out) do other factors take over once you filter for IQ (or height in the NBA, etc), but there is nothing to say that the influential factors at that point are family connections. The non-IQ factors could just as well be charisma, networking (universities attended), physical stature, appearance, greed, ambition, etc etc. So all that HS really is saying is that the influence of IQ per se is weakened after controlling for IQ, which is obvious but doesn't tell us anything more about what leads to success.

map said...

These are very interesting arguments, but there are factors that you're missing.

What matters most in any field is credibility. Credibility is largely driven by status. People look for short-cuts in evaluating who they want as employees, investment managers, co-workers, etc. The highest credibility comes from the wealthiest and most connected people simply because they are in a better position to do stuff for others.

While IQ matters, if that IQ is not being used to acquire status markers that signal credibility and thus usefulness to others, then the size of the IQ is not going to matter.

In other words, a smart poor kid competing in an environment of wealthy kids is going to be at a huge disadvantage unless his IQ is sufficiently high enough to overcome his lack of status.

Anonymous said...


Actually, Senator Bill Bradley reputedly had a verbal SAT score of sub 500 but got into P'ton because of his basketball skills and underprivileged background.