July 14, 2007

IQ economist gets new job: Garett Jones of Southern Illinois U. has been one of the very few economists working with the average national IQ data from Lynn & Vanhanen's 2002 book IQ and the Wealth of Nations.

From the Economist Magazine's blog:

Garett Jones: A Very Intelligent Economist on Economics and Intelligence

GUEST BLOGGER | Bryan Caplan

Thirteen years after Herrnstein and Murray’s The Bell Curve outraged the country, it’s hard to find a serious social scientist who denies that intelligence is a Very Big Deal. But it still takes courage to push the envelope. That’s just one of the reasons why I’m thrilled that Garett Jones, a leading expert on economics and IQ, will be joining the faculty of George Mason University, where I work, this fall.

So what’s Garett been up to? For starters, he’s done the most careful statistical study (with co-author W. Joel Schneider) of the relationship between intelligence and economic growth. Published in the prestigious Journal of Economic Growth, the Jones-Schneider study find that “In growth regressions that include only robust control variables, IQ is statistically significant in 99.8% of these 1330 regressions, and the IQ coefficient is always positive. A strong relationship persists even when OECD countries are excluded from the sample. A 1 point increase in a nation’s average IQ is associated with a persistent 0.11% annual increase in GDP per capita.”

Garett’s got another neat paper on intelligence and cooperation in Prisoners’ Dilemma experiments. By combining data from many previous experiments, and looking up the average SAT scores of the schools where the experiments were conducted, Garett answers a big question on the cheap. Result: “A meta-study of repeated prisoner’s dilemma experiments run at numerous universities suggests that students cooperate 5% more often for every 100 point increase in the school’s average SAT score.”

But my personal favorite is Garett’s job market paper (also co-authored with Schneider), “IQ in the Production Function: Evidence from Immigrant Earnings.” A common objection to international IQ comparisons is that the tests are not cross-culturally valid. This paper shows that the average IQ of immigrants’ country of origin predicts a lot about immigrants’ earnings in the U.S. In short, despite obvious shortcomings of international IQ tests, they still predict real-world outcomes right here in the U.S.

Now I should add that Garett Jones works in several other areas of economics, too. But I’m confident that his work on economics and intelligence will bring him the most attention and the most controversy. As I see it, that makes him a perfect fit for GMU.

By the way, George Mason U. itself is an interesting story. It was a nondescript public college in Washington D.C.'s Virginia suburbs. A couple of decades ago, it came up with the idea of hiring conservative and libertarian academics -- nearby Washington provided demand for them and they were cheap on the market. Conservative foundations subsidize George Mason, and professors are encouraged to be public intellectuals. Thus, the large presence of George Mason economists in the blogosphere and their constantly blogrolling for each other. (The irony of course is that these libertarians are employed by the state of Virginia.) This strategy has raised GMU's public profile considerably, although it doesn't appear to have done all that much yet to attract a stronger student body. Still, in the sleepy world of academia where the reputations of institutions change only glacially, it shows that colleges can alter their fate if they are willing to try something new.

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


Anonymous said...

It is a little inaccurate to suggest that GMU is dominated by libertarians and conservatives. While that holds for the Econ department, the rest of the University is fairly standard pc/leftist. Some of these other departments are jealous of the success of the Econ guys.

George Johnson was entrepreneurial in realizing that N. Virginia had the wealth to support a world-class University (something GMU aspires to). The Econ department has been brilliant at buying in future Nobel laureates. James Buchanan (Public Choice) was the first. Fairly recently the department brought in Vernon Smith (experimental economics)prior to his 2002 prize.

The school has traditionally been a commuter school (it doesn't even have a football team!) that appealed to bureaucrats subsidized to pursue further education. But it has enough land for a stadium and new dorms. I think it is one of the most entrepreneurial Universities in the country.

Anonymous said...

Is this the same Bryan Caplan who said that democracy sucks because we common folks aren't smart enough to support mass immigration?

WTF? How can he reconcile the belief that importing millions of dumb Mexicans = good with the belief that IQ matters?


Antioco Dascalon said...

The strategy may not have paid off yet with undergrads, but its law school's reputation has skyrocketed. It really is the only conservative choice other than another Virginia public school: UVA (which is where JAG corps is based). This increase in ranking is due primarily to its innovative "law and economics" program, which could only be successful because of the high reputation of the economics department. And it is not easy to break into the top 25 law schools. But I think GM will break through in the next decade. It is already ranked 34th and was #7 for most underrated law school. US News and World Report called it the "fastest rising law school".

Anonymous said...


Caplan actually addressed this issue once. In brief, he went through a Brave New World-like analysis that basically said, "We need lots of Deltas to take out our trash and pick our vegetables."

Of course, he didn't acknowledge the issue of massive cultural and social externalities of importing low-IQ and culturally alien people.

Anonymous said...

George Mason will never be more than a third rate commuter school. It has to compete with UVa which is one of the nation's most prestigious public universities.

Responding the comment above about law schools, all law schools based in important markets seem to be rising in the rankings. George Mason law school is just lucky to be located in Washington DC. (The area of Arlington it's in is, for all practical purposes, part of Washington DC.

Anonymous said...

"Cooperation" is a word that has positive even PC connotations. What I want to know is whether these geniuses are cooperating in price gouging or in preventing the even smarter megalomaniacs like Bill Gates from turning the US into a 3rd world country?

Anonymous said...

interesting stuff. i generally agree with jones after reading his paper, though i disagree with lynn and vanhanen on a few details.

there's no way the mean IQ in china is 105. also the mean IQ in germany and the netherlands is certainly above 100.

Anonymous said...

Bryan Caplan is a preening fool and I wish would stop discussing his idiotic pronouncements.

Antioco Dascalon said...

Well, if GM DOES become a first tier school, it won't be because of its faculty. I'm sure the fact that its basketball team caused a national sensation a couple of years ago by making it to the Final Four, upsetting a lot of brackets, had a greater impact than a dozen professor hirings. Consistent success will translate to more selective admissions and higher rankings. But it will take a very long time.
BTW, my only connection to GW is that I used to live across the street from its law school. I also considered going to law school and truly would only consider Yale, Stanford, UVA and GW, the latter two because of their ideological balance.