June 10, 2013

Roland G. Fryer, Jr.'s Great Moments in Social Science, Cont.: FryerPhones don't help the dim

Harvard economist Roland G. Fryer, Jr. gets a ton of funding to try out various interventions on young people to Close the Gap. So, here's Fryer's latest:
Information and Student Achievement: Evidence from a Cellular Phone Experiment 
Roland G. Fryer, Jr. 
Harvard University and NBER 
June 2013 
Abstract
This paper describes a field experiment in Oklahoma City Public Schools in which students were provided with free cellular phones and daily information about the link between human capital and future outcomes via text message. Students’ reported beliefs about the relationship between education and outcomes were influenced by treatment, and treatment students also report being more focused and working harder in school. However, there were no measureable changes in attendance, behavioral incidents, or test scores. The patterns in the data appear most consistent with a model in which students cannot translate effort into measureable output, though other explanations are possible.

Perhaps they were too busy texting their friends who also got FryerPhones to do their homework?

Why does Fryer get so much money to try out increasingly desperate interventions that he then forthrightly admits didn't work when other social scientists would try to obscure their depressing failure?

"Fryer is black."

I know that sounds like one of those horrible reductionist things that only I am so crude as to say, but I didn't make it up, I just read it in the NYT. As Steve Levitt's Freakonomics writing partner Steve Dubner wrote in the NYT Magazine in 2005:
To Fryer, the language of economics, a field proud of its coldblooded rationalism, is ideally suited for otherwise volatile conversations. ''I want to have an honest discussion about race in a time and a place where I don't think we can,'' he says. ''Blacks and whites are both to blame. As soon as you say something like, 'Well, could the black-white test-score gap be genetics?' everybody gets tensed up. But why shouldn't that be on the table?'' 
Fryer said this several months ago, which was well before Lawrence H. Summers, the president of Harvard, wondered aloud if genetics might help explain why women are so underrepresented in the sciences. Summers -- who is also an economist and a fan of Fryer's work -- is still being punished for his musings. There is a key difference, of course: Summers is not a woman; Fryer is black.

Here's an interesting thought experiment: What if Professor Fryer announced that -- so far as he can tell after blowing through loads of philanthropic money (Bloomberg's, et al) testing every intervention he could dream up -- the best explanation for The Gap remains the one put forward by Shockley, Jensen, Herrnstein, Murray, Watson, and Richwine.

Say, he just let it slip out in casual conversation like Watson did that wound up in the newpaper?

Would Fryer be Watsoned/Richwined? Or would being black suffice as an all-purpose protection?

Further, would such an admission get any publicity at all?  Or would it be like, say, the Obama Administration's 2011 report on how much more homicidal blacks have been over the last 29 years: something that only disreputable Internet commenters link to, a fact that your knowledge of is taken as prima facie evidence of your disreputableness?

More depressingly, what if Fryer got hit by the bus tomorrow? Who, out of this country of 300 million, would replace him as the only reputable social scientist in America encouraged to poke around at the margins of the race and IQ topic?

55 comments:

gwern said...

> treatment students also report being more focused and working harder in school.

What a useful experiment - it even quantifies the experimenter expectancy effect for us.

Anonymous said...

Sheeeeeeeiiit.

Anonymous said...

Which is better, a Fryerphone or an Obamaphone?

Geoff Matthews said...

And giving students laptops didn't make them smarter.

Power Child said...

Perhaps they were too busy texting their friends who also got FryerPhones to do their homework?

Hah, that's a bit cynical though. The abstract says giving the kids this special access to informational treasure didn't result in them putting it to use--but the abstract says nothing about them doing worse as a result of having it either.

The takeaway message as I see it is that if you want to spend money on education to Close the Gap, you'll fail, but you also won't do any direct damage to anyone (except those whose money you're spending, perhaps).

What I'd like to know is, will the SWPLs who go in for this stuff ever spend enough to make themselves feel better and assuage their guilt? That seems to be the true purpose, anyway.

carol said...

giving students laptops didn't make them smarter.

And so now we have mill levies to upgrade school technology...can't expect those laptops to be running W2K can we?

Anonymous said...

I have an explanation. The phones weren't smartphones. This induced Stereotype Threat and nullified the advantages.

Chuck Ross said...

The dumbest NBER paper I've seen in a minute.

Anonymous said...

How about smart toilets?

If only to flush dumb studies.

Anonymous said...

Not sure why you'd want to bash Fryer here. Sure this particular study might not be especially helpful, but it sounds like Fryer is both more honest and more useful than the vast majority of social scientists.

panjoomby said...

ironic that being black is a get out of jail free card.
a peer-reviewed journal editor sends the non-anonymous submission to reviewers known to be sympathetic - being black gets you bonus points toward "accepted with revisions" - but still, i imagine the "denied tenure" rate still must be higher for affirmative action hires & females. (racist language in all academic position descriptions: "minorities & women encouraged to apply")

Steve Sailer said...

"Not sure why you'd want to bash Fryer here."

Am I bashing him?

I've been writing about Fryer's work on and off for eight years, ever since Dubner's brilliant profile of the ironies of his career. Mostly, I've been trying to keep public interest up in Fryer's projects and show how they can be made sense out of through the framework of Dubner's article.

I suspect that when I'm 80, I'll be saying, "Nobody remembers this anymore, but there used to be this black Harvard economist named Fryer and he got a lot of money to methodically try out all the ideas for Closing the Gap that have recently become fashionable again in the 2030s. But the more he discovered the less they didn't work, the more forgotten he became, and now he's as obscure as Coleman or Jencks or Scarr or all the rest."

Jeff W. said...

If you work at McDonald's, you wait for the fryer to ring.

In Oklahoma, Fryer rings you.

Anonymous said...

Ihave to give this guy credit. He forthrightly reports negative results. He doesn't hide the bad news in obscure appendices like Coleman did. He doesn't badger the data with more and more arcane and bizarre methodologies until it yields the results he wants like so many of those who've "studied" Head Start and other similar programs. Instead he develops a reasonable test of a plausible hypothesis and reports that his idea didn't pan out. The socila sciences and policy analysis and all the rest of us would be better off if there wwere a lot more researchers like this.

Polarized Disney said...

"Would Fryer be Watsoned/Richwined? Or would being black suffice as an all-purpose protection?"

He wouldn't get fired for it, but he might catch some flack from black groups and dems at large. No,to get fired, he'd have to criticize the Scots-Irish.

countenance said...

Fryer's findings:

You can lead a horse to love, but you can't make him fall.

carol said...

How about smart toilets?

Got 'em. Plenty schools have self-flushing toilets, so the kids don't have to learn that.

Which explains the mess in the Target rest rooms.

Mr Lomez said...

"What if Professor Fryer announced that -- so far as he can tell after blowing through loads of philanthropic money (Bloomberg's, et al) testing every intervention he could dream up -- the best explanation for The Gap remains the one put forward by Shockley, Jensen, Herrnstein, Murray, Watson, and Richwine.

Hasn't Thomas Sowell pretty much said as much -- but with the caveat that IQ is historically contextual, in the sense that Irish, Italian, and even Jewish immigrants at one point were on the wrong side of The Gap, and that blacks might also, under the right conditions, drift toward the mean?

I suspect, like Sowell, Fryer would be humored by academics and primarily ignored by the public.

Also, what is a guy like Fryer, if he does in fact harbor such suspicions, to do? Give up on his research all together? Propose that blacks get used to the idea of being a permanent underclass?

If you're Fryer don't you have to keep looking for solutions, even if the likelihood of finding one seems increasingly null every day?

As one commenter said above, at worst these studies are benign.

Anonymous said...

OT/ New article on Israeli immigration policy:

http://www.jpost.com/National-News/Plan-to-deport-migrants-to-third-country-gradual-316100

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Piggyback on Mr, Lomez. Clarence Thomas. Walter Williams. One becomes vilified and called a Tom.

Or just slowly becomes invisible.

Anonymous said...

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/10/education/grouping-students-by-ability-regains-favor-with-educators.html?src=me&ref=general

Jeff said...

What they probably need is Ritalin. Impulse control is a problem even for many of the non-dim. It's probably a bigger problem for the left half of the bell curve types. Maybe Fryer's combination of blackness and erudition could be leveraged into experiments in mass medication.

Anonymous said...

http://mancow.com/pg/jsp/charts/streamingAudioMaster.jsp?dispid=302&headerDest=L3BnL2pzcC9tZWRpYS9mbGFzaHdlbGNvbWUuanNwP3BpZD03NTIzJnBsYXlsaXN0PXRydWUmY2hhcnR0eXBlPWNoYXJ0JmNoYXJ0SUQ9MzAyJnBsYXlsaXN0U2l6ZT05MA==&size=90

David said...

The moment he says it and gets any attention, he won't be Watsoned. Instead, he'll be portrayed as a Goofy Negro by the I'm-so-antiracist SWPLs, The Atlantic magazine types. For a day or two "Fryer" will be a mere snicker on the lips of twentysomething white and Jewish editors and writers & then down the memory hole he will go with all his work.

There won't be a crucifixion, just a man's name being turned into a punchline and the end of a ride.

Anonymous said...

http://www.theimaginativeconservative.org/capitalism-has-won-and-conservatives-are-confused/#.UbaUmefVDfE

Anonymous said...

OT, another generics pharmaceutical company in trouble.

Aaron Gross said...

"I know that sounds like one of those horrible reductionist things that only I am so crude as to say."

Wouldn't say horrible, but yeah, it's crudely reductionist, a conclusion that goes ridiculously beyond the facts. But, no, you're not the only one crude enough to say stuff like that. Asserting things unsupported by facts is a specialty of self-described empirical, fact-based commentators.

eah said...

Did they use big words in those text messages? You know, at least three syllables? Maybe they at least improved their vocabulary then -- that ought to be good for a couple of verbal SAT points.

Just google "brain food" -- there are lots of ideas about that. So distribute an EBT card where the 'B' stands for 'brainfood', and see what happens. It's worth a try. Because, as Barry Goldwater might have said, 'Outlandish experimentation in pursuit of closing the gap is no vice'. Or something like that.

Mr Goldwater apparently did say this: Hubert Humphrey talks so fast that listening to him is like trying to read Playboy magazine with your wife turning the pages.
So he did have a sense of humor, a fact which might surprise some people.

Anonymous said...

OT, I am sure the white nationalist PUAs who congregate here will have head explosions when they see a photo of Snowden's girlfriend.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2339202/Lindsay-Mills-girlfriend-John-Snowden-Woman-NSA-leaker-left-member-acrobat-troupe.html

Gloria

Anonymous said...

Of course he's given more latitude, AA runs the gamut, it gives below average people average evals, average people above average scores, and so on up the scale. Even when a black academic is talented his or her rewards are comparable to those that are exceptional if they are of Asian or European descent. However because his career is tied to closing the gap, he can't really venture into Arthur Jensen or Richard Herrnstein territory or hell be shut out of the meetings and conferences of the movers and shakers who run the world. Just checked his CV, AA looks like it is still operating, Econ people who usually post doc at U of Chicago and win tenure at Harvard typically don't attend UT-Arlington and Penn State. It's usually Ivies along with Stanford, Chicago, Northwestern, and MIT, especially graduate school. Even guys like Borjas who attended a small Catholic college for undergraduate studies went to Columbia for graduate school. This guy didn't have to slog it out at some state u for 15 years before the Ivy League noticed, he went right to Harvard and tenure.

Anonymous said...

I thought being a WN and a PUA was mutually exclusive. In a demographic war, one doesn't fire blanks. Even if procreation was a result of a one night stand, being responsible for more single-mother raised children can only result in more children who are effectively raised by television and the education system. Better to find a wife and raise a family with her.

OSS said...

OT, I am sure the white nationalist PUAs who congregate here will have head explosions when they see a photo of Snowden's girlfriend.

Meh. Only an 8 or 8,5, tops. The intelligence world needs to provide hard LA 10s to each of its IT staff. Nothing less than a dime will keep them from following their moral instincts.

Whiskey said...

Snowden's girlfriend doesn't seem to broke up about him. And wasted no time putting pictures of herself pole dancing and in lingerie attire at the Daily Mail. Somehow, something tells me she'll probably do the best out of all of this. I see a TV movie, a book deal, and an acting career!

My guess, Snowden's 200K salary and ability to peer into anyone's life landed her. But like I said, she's not too broken up in the interview. For whatever that's worth.

Anonymous said...


"Also, what is a guy like Fryer, if he does in fact harbor such suspicions, to do? Give up on his research all together? Propose that blacks get used to the idea of being a permanent underclass?"



Nah, let's be reasonable and humane. Folks of any color who have very low IQ, say below 85, need to have fewer children. And those with high IQ, say over 115, need to have about replacement rate number of kids. We are almost there. Blacks in the USA have the lowest fertility of blacks anywhere on the planet. A little tweaking and it could turn into a cycle where folks get smarter not dumber. It would be a bargain to just give $100k to every childless 18 year old woman with IQ below 85 if she gets sterilized. Those kind of women and their children consume far more than that in services over their lifetimes.

Anonymous said...



Wouldn't say horrible, but yeah, it's crudely reductionist, a conclusion that goes ridiculously beyond the facts. But, no, you're not the only one crude enough to say stuff like that. Asserting things unsupported by facts is a specialty of self-described empirical, fact-based commentators.



speaking of statements unsupported by facts, the above statement is a perfect example of a statement unsupported by fact. It is just a bald assertion. No facts at all are supplied.

Anonymous said...

My guess, Snowden's 200K salary and ability to peer into anyone's life landed her. But like I said, she's not too broken up in the interview. For whatever that's worth.

Well he's famous all over the world now. So she's more attracted to him now.

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't say horrible, but yeah, it's crudely reductionist, a conclusion that goes ridiculously beyond the facts.

It absolutely does not go "ridiculously beyond the facts."

It is perfectly consistent with the fact that blacks can do and say things that whites can't.

Anonymous said...

"I thought being a WN and a PUA was mutually exclusive. In a demographic war, one doesn't fire blanks. Even if procreation was a result of a one night stand, being responsible for more single-mother raised children can only result in more children who are effectively raised by television and the education system. Better to find a wife and raise a family with her."

Okay, but first you gotta find that mate. And you want her to be of high quality. Second, a WN PUA would also realize that we're not all individuals, we're part of a much larger social and cultural context, our group, our history.

In short, you'd want the maximum amount of white men to date and marry white women.

But even beyond that, it makes sense to bang as many non-white women as possible and spread your genes that way too. Why settle for one or the other? Wouldn't you rather have a world where most of the minorities in America has a large amount of white ancestry? It would reduce crime, raise IQs and so on.

But Snowden's girlfriend is definitely hot. Like someone said earlier, she's definitely an 8, but I wouldn't go beyond that. Still, ultimately, an 8 is a solid base if her other qualities are high. (But then again some dudes ONLY consider looks as qualifiers for their girlfriends and/or potential bangs).

JSM said...

"But even beyond that, it makes sense to bang as many non-white women as possible and spread your genes that way too."

Blech. Not to mention the chlamydia you'll pick up, which, being a frequently silent disease, you can unknowingly pass on to your White wife and destroy her fertility, further reducing the number of White children conceived.



"Why settle for one or the other? Wouldn't you rather have a world where most of the minorities in America has a large amount of white ancestry? It would reduce crime, raise IQs and so on."

Blech. Not to mention the fact that lots of mulattos running around competing with Whites for White mates simply further endangers White population numbers.

Conclusion:
WN PUA = contradiction in terms.

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't you rather have a world where most of the minorities in America has a large amount of white ancestry? It would reduce crime, raise IQs and so on.

So, you'd happily transfer your genes with some inherent intelligent racial nationalist tendencies into the non-white population? I prefer them more the way they are. The same way Jews don't like eugenics programs amongst the host nation, if you thought about it you wouldn't want a DIY eugenics program amongst the local non-white population either. Most WNs just want non-whites out of their countries (other than the few indigenous such as Indians or aborigines who are grandfathered in, and Jews if they were to get with the program and renounce PC Multicult activism).

Repatriating violent NAMs would be nice but we don't want a non-violent foreign overclass any more than India did either.

Anonymous said...

Morgan Freeman, several years ago on a Science Channel program (Into The Wornhole, I think), openly discussed the data seeming to indicate blacks have a substantially lower iq than whites and other groups. I don't know If it's because no one in the alt-right blogosphere watches that show that I haven't seen it mentioned before or because the episode hasn't been aired since, but someone mainstream enough to have it mentioned on the science channel by Morgan Freeman is aware and persuasive enough to have Morgan Freeman talking about it on a channel available to millions and a show likely watched by 100,000's of thousands.

Jack Hanson said...

PUAs are the guys at the boxing gym who won't spar but will talk about how much ass they could kick if they did. Getting married and settling down with a good woman is getting in the ring and taking your blows.

There's a time to sow your wild oats and find out what kind of man you want to be, but eventually you either grow the fuck up or you're an emotionally stunted fifty year old trying to pick up co-eds over Spring Break before you know it.

Anonymous said...

Anon said

"There's a time to sow your wild oats and find out what kind of man you want to be, but eventually you either grow the fuck up or you're an emotionally stunted fifty year old trying to pick up co-eds over Spring Break before you know it."

Done everything you want to do in life by 35? Good for you! Now you can kill yourself! Don't have the guts? Then it's time to settle down and get married. Otherwise known as the death of a thousand cuts for pussies. I'm 50, never been married, never gave away half of what I own to some mean old droopy woman all because somebody convinced me that I'm not a man if I don't conform to the status quo. I gave up 20 year old coeds in my mid forties. Now I'm banging divorced 30-somethings. No money worries. Zero retirement worries. I fly to Europe when I feel like it, while you sit in your dumpy house arguing with the your passive-aggressive wife about when to spray for termites, and why you have to be on the computer so much.
You've been sold a bill of goods, sparky. Sucks to be you.

Anonymous said...

Larry Summers was/is not a female, but he is a Scots-Irish - yet he got into hot water. That is interesting, IMO.

Jonathan Silber said...

If colleges hired on merit and not on skin color, a mediocrity like Fryer would have to content himself with employment at one of the historically black schools, which rank at the bottom of the barrel.

With few exceptions, black academics and the other unqualified minority academics set up shop in the social sciences, those rigor-free disciplines where all the modern quackery and PC insanity
find a home--and a faux-scientific veneer of respectability.

One need only consider the quality of the scholarly output of black academics that comes to the attention of the public to conclude that blacks, when it comes to serious intellectual pursuits, don't have what it takes.

Thomas Sowell, of course, is one of the few exceptions.

Jonathan Silber said...

American blacks strike me as provincial and narrow minded, interested only in things black.

This appears true in particular of black academics: their "scholarly" work amounts to little more than complaining--about whites and how they still do black folk wrong--dressed up in the repulsive jargon of academia and covered in the faux-scientific respectability of quack sociology.

Harry Baldwin said...

Hasn't Thomas Sowell pretty much said as much -- but with the caveat that IQ is historically contextual, in the sense that Irish, Italian, and even Jewish immigrants at one point were on the wrong side of The Gap, and that blacks might also, under the right conditions, drift toward the mean?

I recently listened to an interview with Thomas Sowell on Uncommon Knowledge, and Sowell keeps repeating long-disproved arguments against the validity of IQ testing. I have a lot of respect for the man but he's an octogenarian who hasn't processed any new information in at least two decades. The fun part is watching host Peter Robinson cringe, quiver and preemptively apologize as he brings up the topic of black IQ.

eh said...

the link between human capital and future outcomes

So the study, and you, take for granted that this link exists, but is it true for blacks in 21st Century America? Doesn't today's 17year-old black kid have a pile of information that he'll somehow be taken care of regardless? At least if Grandma has a job at the DMV? If you missed today's news out of California, SEIU has a bill in the legislature that would prohibit state workers from being fired unless they're absent from work for 5 consecutive days. The black grapevine crosses state lines.

Kylie said...

JSM said, "...lots of mulattos running around competing with Whites for White mates simply further endangers White population numbers."

Just as bad if not worse is when a mulatto shows an early preference for white women but then decides to marry a black woman in order to further his political ambitions....

Aaron Gross said...

@Anonymous, to say that Sailer's claim goes wildly beyond the facts is so obvious that it doesn't need an argument. Look how he said what he did; it's like he's challenging you not to laugh. So, I'm not going to argue that the sky is blue. (Other Anonymous: Of course Sailer's claim was consistent with the facts; it's not significantly supported by facts.)

Regarding these self-described Fact Guys drawing fallacious conclusions unsupported by evidence or logic: I've noted plenty of examples in past comments, from Sailer, from John Derbyshire, from Razib Khan, and from others, so I'm not going to repeat them. For instance, I've described the Derbyshire Fallacy (first noted by other bloggers, not by me) more than once. Besides, I don't claim to be scientific or data-driven or whatever, like they do.

Not all Fact Guys are like that, though. Charles Murray and William Saletan are two Fact Guys who do respect facts, evidence, and logic, even if some of their conclusions are pretty arguable.

Steve Sailer said...

Dear Aaron:

When I put quotes around my assertion that ""Fryer is black," I was signaling that I was playing a trick on the reader, that this wasn't just my explanation. As I went on to document, I was quoting the explanation of Steve "Freakonomics" Dubner in a huge article about Fryer 8 years ago in the NYT Magazine.

Silver said...

OT, I am sure the white nationalist PUAs who congregate here will have head explosions when they see a photo of Snowden's girlfriend.

No, their heads would have "exploded" had she been black (or at least non-white). He's a hero in their circles, so that would have been quite the letdown. (Although I'd argue it demonstrates that even people who are, let's say, "racially compromised" (personally or through relationship) can be of considerable assistance in the general fightback against the disaster of equalitarian dictatorship.)

Aaron Gross said...

Dear Steve and readers:

I am an idiot. It's obvious that Sailer was attributing the "black" comment to others. I just read the post very carelessly and missed it.

Please excuse my idiocy here. It's times like these that I wish I were posting anonymously.

And, of course, I hereby publicly apologize to Steve Sailer for my own stupidity. I hope this will be the last time I have to do that, but I can't guarantee it.

Steve Sailer said...

Dear Aaron:

Thanks.

This may also have been partly my fault because I didn't put quotes around "Fryer is black" to emphasizing I was quoting Dubner until maybe an hour after my initial version of the post.

Steve

Aaron Gross said...

OK, the version I first read was the initial one, without the quotation marks. (I was wondering how I could have missed them the first time!) Without quotation marks it actually did read like you were giving that reason yourself and then citing Fryer to back you up.

I clicked on the link now. Even attributing that reason to Fryer is a real stretch. The "insulation effect" is about highly controversial topics like deaths on slave ships. That's different than trying out a new method to raise black achievement and then admitting you couldn't reject the null hypothesis.

So, is it too late to take back my apology? Never mind, you can keep it.