May 15, 2013

Cato's Lindsey says Richwine is wrong

Brink Lindsey, a lawyer at Cato, weighs in against Jason Richwine in The Atlantic:
Why People Keep Misunderstanding the 'Connection' Between Race and IQ 
Jason Richwine's IQ-based argument that American Hispanics are less intelligent than native-born whites has been called racist. It's also wrong. 
BRINK LINDSEY MAY 15 2013, 2:47 PM ET

Last week Heritage Foundation scholar Jason Richwine, coauthor of a hotly disputed new study on the fiscal costs of comprehensive immigration reform, resigned his position in a hail of controversy over his 2009 Harvard Ph.D. dissertation. In that dissertation Richwine had argued, among other things, that American "Hispanics" are less intelligent than native-born whites as evidenced by their lower average scores on IQ tests. Richwine then attributed Hispanics' alleged intellectual inferiority at least partly to genetic factors. 
The Richwine affair is just the latest flap in a long-running dispute over the significance of IQ tests and group differences in IQ scores. It's easy enough to shut down that debate with cries of racism, but stigmatizing a point of view as morally tainted isn't the same thing as demonstrating that it's untrue. Here I want to explain why Richwine's position is intellectually as well as morally unsound. 
... When these assumptions are relaxed, environmental factors start to loom larger. In this regard, consider a pair of French adoption studies that controlled for the socioeconomic status of birth and adoptive parents. They found that being raised by high-SES (socioeconomic status) parents led to an IQ boost of between 12 and 16 points - a huge improvement that testifies to the powerful influence that upbringing can have.

This was a study of 10 kids who were born to poor parents and adopted by rich parents and eight kids who were born to rich parents and adopted by poor parents. It found IQ at age 14 under those circumstances to be 58% nature and 42% nurture. Despite the tiny sample size, that seems highly plausible to me.
A study of twins by psychologist Eric Turkheimer ...
Among the strongest evidence that IQ tests are testing not just innate ability, but the extent to which that innate ability has been put to work developing specific skills, is the remarkable "Flynn effect": ... The Flynn effect is acutely embarrassing to those who leap from IQ score differences to claims of genetic differences in intelligence.

It's so acutely embarrassing that the term "Flynn Effect" was coined by Herrnstein and Murray in The Bell Curve.
Jason Richwine is the latest exemplar of the so-called "hereditarian" interpretation of IQ - namely, that IQ scores are a reliable indicator of immutable, inborn intelligence across all groups of people, and therefore that group differences in IQ indicate group differences in native intelligence. Yes, the hereditarian view lends aid and comfort to racists and nativists. But more importantly, it's just plain wrong. Specifically, it is based on the ahistorical and ethnocentric assumption of a fixed relationship between the development of certain cognitive skills and raw mental ability. In truth, the skills associated with intelligence have changed over time--and unevenly through social space--as society evolves. 

Mr. Lindsey seems to confuse making a theoretical case that something could happen (Hispanic performance on tests and in the economy could rise dramatically) with the assumption that something will happen ... all without presenting any evidence that it has happened.

The U.S. has had enormous experience with Hispanics since 1848. Surely there must be lots and lots of Hispanic physicists employed at Los Alamos, New Mexico? Surely, Los Angeles' entertainment industry must be overrun by local Hispanic screenwriters and sound editors? Surely, Palo Alto's venture capital firms must be heavily staffed by local Hispanics?
The lower IQ scores of American Hispanics cannot simply be dismissed out of hand. They are evidence of skill deficits that sharply curtail chances for achievement and success. But contrary to the counsel of despair from hereditarians like Richwine, those deficits aren't hard-wired. Progress in reducing achievement gaps will certainly not be easy, but a full review of the IQ evidence shows that it is possible.

Perhaps Mr. Lindsey should tell us how many generations will it take to make this possibility into a reality? And how many trillions of dollars will it cost?

Wouldn't it make more sense to select immigrants who can strongly contribute immediately, not in several generations?
And it will be aided by policies, like immigration reform, that encourage the full integration of Hispanics into the American economic and cultural mainstream.

A very testable suggestion: After 1986, 2.7 million illegal aliens were amnestied, the majority in California. The subsequent history of the public schools in California and California's economy (e.g., mortgage defaults) suggests that evidence for Mr. Lindsey's optimism about amnesty raising IQs is limited, to say the least.

26 comments:

Maxwell Power said...

This "cosmotarian" idiot Brink--it sounds like the name of Miss September or something--has been de-educating the public and battering the collective IQ for far too long. Will no one rid me of this meddlesome think-tank dork

C. Van Carter said...

"Morally unsound" - one of the things I can't stand about Libertarianoids is their moralizing.

Cail Corishev said...

I'm sure it's just a coincidence that the people loudly claiming Richwine is wrong and/or racist are all open-borders nutcases.

Maxwell Power said...

It's the mother of all coincidences

Anonymous said...

It is well established in the behavioral genetics literature that the full impact of genetic factors does not manifest itself until adulthood. Social liberals on the Left and at the Cato Institute sometimes cite the French adoption study because it offers the most hope for their anit-hereditarian, Open Borders dogma, but other adoption studies do not find any lasting IQ effects of having had adoptive parents (irrespective of the adoptive parents' socioeconomic status).
Richard Nisbett still needs to track down all of the adoptees and show us that their IQs are still as high as Lindsey claims.

Anonymous said...

There it is again, not just racist, but also wrong. I guess people are starting to make the connection that the charge of racist isn't being made in such a way that the context means "innaccurate" or "false".

C. Van Carter said...

Stop the presses, it turns out Lindsey figured out a way to make everyone equally intelligent: "[H]ow can we accelerate the flagging pace of human capital development? Bold policy innovations are needed on a number of fronts: more effective early childhood interventions to help kids from disadvantaged backgrounds"

Anonymous said...

The French adoption study did not track people all the way until adulthood. Moreover, the adoptions effects found at earlier ages are not on 'g'.

x said...

cato institute are dirt

Anonymous said...

"Brink Lindsey, a lawyer at Cato,"

I'm pretty sure he was kicked out of Cato along will Will Wilkinson for being a "liberaltarian". I always thought they were both douchebags.

Surely in the spirit of open debate The Atlantic will commission a companion piece arguing from the other perspective.

David said...

Modern libertarians are lunatics. In a fit of pique, one Ayn Rander wrote a long, crabbed expose of the libertarian "movement" ("Libertarianism: The Perversion of Liberty," by Peter Schwartz). The theme of this was interesting. The theme was that liberty minus content, i.e., liberty on principle, is not other than nihilism; it means a revolt against any concept of solid, constraining facts.

Example: I dislike paying tax. So, taxes should be abolished and everyone should build his own road if he wants to go anywhere. He could charge tolls, using military weapons for enforcement since there would be no government. Nor should there be one, because government only tells people what to do, like my father did. Now dress all that up with footnotes, moralizing, and a whitewashing of the disasters that would follow if this were put into practice, and you have what's called libertarian scholarship.

A Lew Rockwell writer, Bob Wallace, was turned into a non-person by Lew, who destroyed Wallace's archives - because Wallace non-profanely expressed some race-realistic platitudes. Wallace here reports that homosexuality of a nihilist type is well-represented among libertarians. He calls it "The Dilemma of the Libertarian Homosexual". This is well worth reading.

x said...

libertarianism reminds me of an isolated, radical totalitarian clique that brooks no dissent. we should be grateful they forswear the initiation of force.

(my browsers spell check doesn't even recognise 'libertarianism' as a proper word, a good message about the significance of that movement)

Anonymous said...

Lindsey's views are a prime example of what Feynman called "cargo cult science"
Feynman says that to do real science, you have give all of the information that is available; not just the
information that leads to judgment in one particular direction . Lindsey is obviously interested only in those result that support his POV.

john marzan said...

the richwine dissertation was about culture (hispanics) not race (latinos). hispanics include white people (spaniards).

how to easily tell anglo culture is superior to hispanic culture? just look at economies and standard of living of former british colonies vs former spanish colonies. DUH!

Anonymous said...

@C. Van Carter

> Bold policy innovations are needed

Don't observers detect the sameness after umpty repetitions that equality, like nuclear fusion, is always some number of years of intervention by yet-to-be-conjured genius, away? I don't think it would take an observer of good faith much time to notice and figure it out.

The author is dishonest to state his conclusions strongly up front, and bury the fact of a need for, and his weak, merely hopeful solution at the bottom. Putting them at the top would make clear that you can't build the conclusion from them and would ruin anything else he has to say.

Anonymous said...

There really aren't any think tanks on the right interested in preserving our civilization, are there?

Why do they even exist?


eah said...

The U.S. has had enormous experience with Hispanics since 1848.

For that matter, so has most of Central and South America, including Mexico. But never mind all of that! What kind of nutcase racist are you anyway!!

eah said...

It's the mother of all coincidences

Another classic!

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't it make more sense to select immigrants who can strongly contribute immediately, not in several generations?

I don't want any more immigrants into my country Steve! I don't care how intelligent they are. We are already too crowded, competition is already too cutthroat. We need a foreign overclass like we need a foreign underclass.

teqzilla said...

Here's a great idea for raising the mean IQ of hispanics in the US: introduce immigration policy that privileges high IQ hispanics over their less smart brethren.

jack strocchi said...

Brink Lindsey Said:

Specifically, it is based on the ahistorical and ethnocentric assumption of a fixed relationship between the development of certain cognitive skills and raw mental ability. In truth, the skills associated with intelligence have changed over time--and unevenly through social space--as society evolves.

Man, what a mouthful. Lindsey is saying that human nature does not exist in a fixed Platonic form because human populations evolve. Thats true, so far as it goes. But the process of human evolution usually takes hundreds, if not thousands, of years, to go through the formality of actually taking place. And even when it does occur, it does not necessarily get "better". Plenty of breeding populations have lost their evolutionary mojo. (Greece, I am looking at you.)

The Left, by censoring the analysis of human nature, have lost all credibility on the debate over the national interest. They plan to "naturalize" eleven million illegal immigrants (about five percent of the total US adult population) whilst ignoring or banning the analysis of the natural attributes of Hispanics.

Thus we have naturalization without nature.

The worlds most prestigious science journal is called "Nature". But what would they know?

jack strocchi said...

I have nothing against Hispanics on a personal level. They seem nice enough.

But immigration is not just about personal likes & dislikes. Basically its a HR decision. The state is recruiting potential military recruits and tax-payers. (Unless the state has some other agenda beyond the well being of its citizens.) On that score the Hispanic recruitment drive is not a good bet.

Its not like we dont have much experience of evaluating Hispanic social performance under conditions of modernity. Its been more than five hundred years since Cortez dragged the indigenous inhabitants of Latin America kicking and screaming into the modern age. So far they have done...so-so. Not too bad, but nothing to write home about.

If this immigration reform goes through and you want a vision of the US future, think urban Brazil. Is that what Washington, Lincoln and Roosevelt were thinking of when they urged their fellow citizens to make sacrifices for the future?

TGGP said...

Anonymous is right, Will Wilkinson and Brink Lindsey left Cato around the same time in what some called a "liberaltarian purge".

Svigor said...

But immigration is not just about personal likes & dislikes.

Jesus Christ himself could rise from the grave, and if he and the majority demanded he stay at my house, claimed it as a right, and threatened opprobrium if I refused...I'd refuse.

I don't like the way these people ask.

David said...

>There really aren't any think tanks on the right interested in preserving our civilization, are there? Why do they even exist?<

To stroke the 1%. That's what they're paid for, and they do a good job.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the French adoption study, Jensen's reanalysis suggested that the effect of high- versus low-SES adoptive parents on adoptees' IQs was not on general intelligence, while the effect of high- versus low-SES biological parents was. He wrote:

The mean standardized difference in g factor scores for the postnatal [adoptive] environmental effect… is 0.129, t = 0.41, p = .68 (2- tail). The mean standardized difference in g factor scores for the biological effect… is 0.861, t = 3.08, p = .004 (2-tail). In other words, the effect on the level of g of an extreme difference in SES environmental background is small and, in this study, even nonsignificant. In contrast, the effect on g of a difference in the SES level of the adoptees’ biological parents is relatively large and highly significant.

This would suggest that the IQ boost caused by being adopted to a high-SES family reflects gains in narrow skills rather than general ability (or, conversely, being adopted to a low-SES family causes deficits in narrow skills). Such an effect will most likely fade away as the kids grow up. In contrast, the boost in g caused by being born to high-SES parents (or a g deficit caused by being born to low-SES parents) will likely become more potent with age.