April 25, 2009

Swine flu

I haven't been following the deaths of people in Mexico (and in the U.S., primarily in the Southwest) closely, but Tyler Cowen says:
Some people are puzzled as to how human, pig, and bird strains of the flu have mixed together, but if you have spent any time in rural Mexico the answer is obvious: these creatures all live together in close quarters.

What worries me, personally, is that many of their cousins keep chickens in their backyards here in the densely populated San Fernando Valley. I don't know how many keep pigs, but I wouldn't be surprised.

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

"State of Play"

From my review in The American Conservative:
To chase down the conspiracy, Russell Crowe’s veteran reporter teams up with a callow blogger (the ever-perky Rachel McAdams of “Wedding Crashers”). Much banter about the rivalry between print and online journalism ensues. Yet the movie misses the key personality difference between traditional media and the more Aspergery culture of the Web: newspaper reporters converse constantly, while Web people prefer Google to human contact. Young Matthew Yglesias, for instance, recently declared on his blog, “Definitely the whole time I was employed at The Atlantic I never once returned a voicemail. … In general, I’m not a fan of talking on the phone ...”

The movie portrays Crowe’s aging reporter as a solitary man, trudging alone to confront the powerful in their lairs. In reality, as Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop made clear, traditional reporters are most comfortable in packs, where they can gauge what’s “appropriate” to ask and to write from the consensus of their colleagues.

Just when the strident soundtrack (synthesizers and militaristic drums relentlessly barking “Tense up!”) and now-mandatory Shaky-Cam cinematography have almost ruined a decent if predictable story, an amusingly florid Jason Bateman (Arrested Development) shows up as a hedonistic public relations consultant, seemingly to contrast the greed of the flack with the nobility of the crusading journalist. The film’s countless screenwriters, though, are aware that reporters, such as the New York Times’ Judith Miller, who pipelined so much pro-Iraq war propaganda, are often just more respectable PR agents, publicizing messages in return for access to newsmakers.

From there, the movie keeps departing from its earlier Vast Corporate Conspiracy rut, ending with a plot twist that, while contrived, is surprisingly realistic.

Movie statistics?

Over time, sports statistics hobbyists have become professional analysts employed by sports teams. Bill James started out analyzing baseball statistics in the 1970s as a boilerroom attendant and now he has a very nice job with the Boston Red Sox. The less mature field of basketball statistics has been losing its leading hobbyists over the last few years to NBA front offices.

With basketball statistics, it's been kind of like the early 1940s when the physics journals that had been full in the late 1930s of of exciting atomic discoveries suddenly had a shortage of new papers from Americans and Brits about splitting the atom. The Germans eventually realized that there was a very big reason for this sudden silence.

One of the main trends in baseball and basketball statistics has been away from analyzing existing box-score statistics to making up new statistics by analyzing video. For example, baseball statisticians have now been reviewing games to see which section of the field balls were hit too.

But let's think about other ways that quantitatively-inclined males can waste time.

For example, are there any movie statistics besides box office totals? The only use of movie statistics I can recall involved the lawsuit against Oliver Stone that was aided by legal novelist John Grisham over Stone's movie "Natural Born Killers," a vile film about a couple who conduct thrill kill murders of random people. A friend of Grisham's was randomly murdered by a couple who had just watched "Natural Born Killers" a whole bunch of times in a row while taking drugs.

"NBK" was made, right after "JFK", near the height of Stone's considerable powers of cinematic razzle-dazzle. To establish the amount of effort put into making "NBK" psychologically powerful, the plaintiff's lawyers counted up the extraordinary number of cuts in the film and compared it to an ordinary film.

So, number of cuts per minute would be an interesting statistic. Which directors or editors use the most, which use the fewest. Is there a sweet spot? Does it change over time for a director? Stone's "W." from last year has many fewer than "NBK."

That's just one thought, but you might have more.

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

April 24, 2009

Last go-round at Talking Points Memo

I've got one last post up at Talking Points Memo Cafe, on how McCain's lack of sophisticated understanding of the Hispanic vote betrayed him. You can follow the discussion here.

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

Equal Credit Opportunity Act

Matthew Yglesias recalls how, even last October, it was still ridiculously easy in terms of documentation for him to get a mortgage. A reader named Matt R. comments:

I understand your thinking, but what I don’t think you realize is that the type of judgments and research which you think might make sense for mortgage underwriting have been severely inhibited by the financial regulators. ECOA (equal credit opportunity act) and concerns about so called red-lining have made the regulators virtually eliminate all credit criteria that can’t be coded into a machine. The main push behind this effort has been due to regulators worry that non-algorithmic decision making is just a mask for rejecting minority and underprivileged applicants. This is especially applicable to any policy which attempts to be forward thinking. For instance, if an underwriter were to put in a policy discouraging loans to folks in the struggling construction industry, the general counsel would immediately reply “show me the precise data that says that there is a historical statistical correlation between construction employment and loan default rates, or else we are going to be accused of implementing a policy of ‘disparately impacting’ Hispanics.” One of the consequences of nervousness regarding “disparate impact” has been the increased use of statistical score models in consumer underwriting. In terms of how business is done, this reduces reliance on a semi-skilled workforce that leverages relationship, intuition, and local environmental factors and opens up new opportunities for technical folks good at mining data, recognizing data relationships, and creating logistic regression models and so forth. And yes, this does encourage centralization of consumer banking and the development of a highly paid and (maybe) skilled technical manager set in underwriting.

The main downfall of this approach which relies on historical data patterns is that it is easy to lose sight of what is really happening to consumer balance sheets and that recent past results may be anomalous. So in the past situation where consumers could roll over debt due to rising home prices and the increased availability of home equity loans, the banks’ models were “tricked” by borrower profiles who were repaying their loans but yet were in unsustainable consumption and borrowing patterns. And because the top underwriting brass are absorbed in their models and far from the realities of the borrowers’ “real” situations–not being able to put the full picture together while sitting across the table from borrowers daily–a realistic picture that might have stimulated a more conservative underwriting approach did not force itself on credit committees until the loans (thus the data) started going bad.

And by the way, you can see clear proof of the regulatory impact of ECOA laws demonstrated by their non-applicability in small business lending. Relationship and judgmental underwriting remain prevalent in small business lending, even for comparable loan sizes being made to consumers.

The last point I’ll make is that the stupid money behind securitization business ruined everything anyway. Try adhering to rigorous underwriting processes and reasonable pricing/underwriting criteria at a bank while finance company next door has agreements to have all of its poorly priced and researched loans purchased the next day no questions asked. The banks are then faced with the decision to either put in an application process and pricing structure which no consumer will actually vie for (thus losing all market share) or following the leader. This is why tough handed regulation is needed to keep the industry in check because all can be led astray too easily. The follow the leader psychology is the source of every financial panic.

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

Updated: Mancow listeners

I'll probably be on the Mancow national radio show talking about the Ricci Supreme Court case from about 9:35 am to 9:40 am or so on Friday morning. That's Eastern Time, or 6:35 am Pacific Time.

You can read my article on the Supreme Court's firemen case at VDARE.com here.

UPDATED: Well, it didn't happen today. So, the new plan is for me to be on Monday morning at 7:10 am EDT.

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

April 23, 2009

The True Believer

In 2002-2004, George W. Bush actively campaigned for zero down and zero doc mortgages in the name of closing the racial gap in minority homeownership. This sent a big signal to the financial industry that federal financial regulators would not be actively enforcing traditional lending standards.

The Housing Bubble took off in 2004, helping Bush get re-elected, with his share of his strategically treasured Hispanic vote up from about 35% in 2000 to 40% in 2004 as Hispanics got more mortgages and more jobs as construction workers and home improvement fixer-uppers.

This is similar to how Richard Nixon had his friend Fed Chairman Arthur Burns inflate the money supply in 1972 so he could get re-elected. The interesting thing, though, is that Bush appears to have been largely uncynical. If the month after his re-election, Bush had signaled to the Executive Branch and to the industry that they shouldn't be quite so lax on mortgage standards any more, there wouldn't have been a mortgage meltdown.

But he wasn't that cynical. He drank his own Kool-Aid.

DataQuick reports on California mortgages:
Of the 3.7 million home loans made in 2004, less than 1 percent have since resulted in a lender filing a default notice. Of the 3.7 million loans originated in 2005, 4.9 percent have triggered a default notice so far. Of the 3 million in 2006, 8.5 percent have so far resulted in default. A particularly toxic period appears to have been August through November 2006 which had more than a 9 percent default rate. Of the 2.1 million loans made in 2007, it's 4.6 percent - a percentage that's likely to rise significantly during the rest of this year.

You'll notice that the default percentages should run in the opposite direction: "Of cars built in 2004, 8.5% are no longer running, while of cars built in 2005, 4.9% have been disposed of, but less than one percent of 2006 cars are now out of action." That makes sense. Instead, "scraping the bottom of the barrel" is the best single explanation of the 2004 to 2006 trend.

The people who bought in California in 2004 weren't quite so sterling credit prospects as this makes them look. They bought at lower prices than the classes of 2005 and 2006, and had more chance to get out from under their mortgages by selling while still above water rather than defaulting.

But housing prices in California more or less plateaued in later 2005 through 2006, so the worse performance of 2006 borrowers compared to 2005 reflects, in part, bottom-scraping.

Still, the take-away message is that the class of 2005 included a lot of people who couldn't qualify for a loan in 2004. And the class of the first half of 2006 included people who couldn't qualify for a loan even in 2005. And the class of August-November 2006 included a fair number of people who couldn't normally borrow a cup of sugar from their neighbor.

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

Me on Mancow

I'll probably be on the Mancow national radio show talking about the Ricci Supreme Court case from about 9:35 am to 9:40 am or so on Friday morning. That's Eastern Time, or 6:35 am Pacific Time.

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

More on Red State, Blue State

I've put up a couple of more posts at the Talking Points Memo Cafe Book Club (six proper nouns in a row!) on statistical whiz Andrew Gelman's book Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State. You can see the discussion here.

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

"Spent:" This should be better than Malcolm Gladwell's books

Geoffrey Miller, the bright and handsome evolutionary psychologist at the U. of New Mexico, author of The Mating Mind a decade ago, has a new airport book coming out that should give Malcolm Gladwell, Richard Florida, Steve Levitt and the rest a run for their money. The idea of nonfiction books aimed at the frequent flier class that draw upon the human sciences for insights of value to people in business is a good one. Unfortunately, the execution has been mediocre so far. I haven't seen this one yet, but I have hopes for it.
Why do we buy what we buy? Like Freakonomics or The Tipping Point, SPENT: Sex, Evolution, and Consumer Behavior (Viking; On-sale: May 18, 2009; $26.95), by leading evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller, is a bold and revelatory book that illuminates the unseen logic behind the chaos of consumerism and suggests new ways we can become happier consumers and more responsible citizens.

Evolutionary psychology—the compelling science of human nature—has clarified the prehistoric origins of human behavior and influenced many fields, ranging from economics to personal relationships. In SPENT, Miller applies this revolutionary science’s principles to a new domain: the sensual wonderland of marketing and status seeking that we call American consumer culture. Starting with the basic notion that the goods and services we buy unconsciously advertise our biological potential as mates and friends, Miller examines the hidden factors that dictate our choices in everything from lipstick to cars, from the magazines we read to the music we listen to. With humor and insight, Miller analyzes an array of product choices and deciphers what our decisions’ say about us, giving us access to a new way of understanding—and improving—our behaviors.

As I've been looking into buying a car over the last couple of years, I've been struck by how much car-buying is driven by sexual display urges. So, at my age, much of what I see in car design seems more annoying than cool. Even the Honda Accord (which I bought in 1988 and 1998) fits in to this pattern. The LA Times' best writer, car critic Dan Neil wrote:
I was sitting at a red light when they rolled up beside me, the guy riding his Suzuki Do-Me 8000 with his hot female companion on the back, her thongage pouring out of her low-rise jeans. Her blond hair fell from beneath the helmet and fluffed weightlessly in the hot breeze. Her skintight ballistic-armor motorcycle jacket was unzipped down to her navel. It's a good look, I guess, if you go in for that sort of thing.

As I sat there in the Amana-white 2008 Honda Accord EX-L sedan, she looked over at me. I knew what she was thinking. I knew she wanted me.

And why wouldn't she? The Honda Accord ska-reams confirmed heterosexual, and not in a Larry Craig way, either. This car ought to be issued with a complimentary pair of relaxed-fit dad jeans. Every male owner should get a free BlackBerry, which is like monogamy's ankle bracelet. To own this car is to be possessed with an inexplicable urge to trim hedges. While other cars suggest the owner is still working out issues -- experimenting, if you will -- the Accord sedan says, "Hey, I'm past all that. I'm a smoldering volcano of straight suburban love, and I accept it."

For Accord-driving women, the message is related but different: "My husband likes girls."

I finally ended up buying my friend's superbly-maintained 1998 Infiniti I30 (basically, an expensive Nissan Maxima), with 196,000 miles on it. It exudes the High Bourgeois image I'd like to hold about myself: "This man invests in quality for the long term." In contrast, the car I've actually owned for the last eleven years, my dented, paint-pealing, self-destructing 1998 Accord with 108,000 miles, broadcasts the message: "This vehicle has been owned and operated by a family of wild dingoes."

One interesting angle I've been pondering is how Stuff White People Like products, like the Toyota Prius, tend to androgynously subordinate sexual display to class display. (But I'll keep that idea for another time.)

Miller's PR continues:
In his exploration, Miller examines a wide and delightful range of familiar products and what they reveal about us, from the Sims to Rolex watches, from L’OrĂ©al lipstick to the Hummer. SPENT illuminates:

o Why luxury car brands, such as Lexus, advertise in places such as GQ, not to inform rich potential customers that they exist, but to assure those rich potential customers that GQ readers will recognize and respect those brands when they see them
o Why kitchen appliances are now made of high-maintenance stainless steel instead of easy-to-care-for white enamel
o Why all cosmetics aim to recreate the stage at which women are at their highest level of fertility
o Why we’re such suckers for products such as Smartfood, Smartwater, Smart Start, SmartMoney, and Smart Cars—and why marketers would never use the word “intelligent” in such products
o How people advertise their traits through their car choices and iPod play lists
o Why simple IQ tests would threaten the supremacy of Ivy League universities
o Why owning a pet and actually managing to keep it alive is a good signal to a potential mate
o The real reason so many exercise machines are unused
o Why men are supposed to spend two months’ salary on engagement rings

In these economic times when it’s more important than ever to be aware of why we buy what we do, SPENT is both a fascinating look at consumer behavior that will surprise and intrigue.

About the Author:

Geoffrey Miller is an evolutionary psychologist and author of The Mating Mind. He was educated at Columbia and Stanford and is an associate professor of psychology at the University of New Mexico. He lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with his wife, daughter, and many products.

For some reason, this whole topic reminded me of a refrigerator magnet I saw a couple of years ago. It had a picture of a pretty girl dancing the Hokey-Pokey at a wedding reception, and the caption read:
"What if the Hokey-Pokey is what it's all about?"

Perhaps that refrigerator magnet was my Kant-reading-Hume moment.

Speaking of things that have stuck in my memory, Geoffrey Miller's wife's name is Rosalind Arden, and I've finally figured out why that pair of names is so memorable: "Geoffrey Miller" is the most Chaucerian name imaginable ("The Miller's Tale" is perhaps the most famous of Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales), while "Rosalind Arden" is the most Shakespearean name imaginable. Rosalind is the heroine of Shakespeare's pastoral comedy "As You Like It," which is set in the Forest of Arden.

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

Occam's Butterknife strikes again

The LA Times runs a big article on a completely shocking discovery, one that's even more surprising than the fireman's test results in the Supreme Court's Ricci case. Oh, when will the never-ending surprises finally end?

Who could possibly have imagined back when the solons of California came up with the idea of having a high school exit exam that NAMs would fail it at a higher rate? And that girls would do worse at math than boys? That's just crazy talk!

But now, the unbelievable has happened:
High school exit exam hinders female and non-white students, study says

The mandatory test is keeping at least 22,500 California students a year from graduating who would otherwise fulfill all their requirements, researchers say. State education officials defend the exam.

By Mitchell Landsberg

California's high school exit exam is keeping disproportionate numbers of girls and non-whites from graduating, even when they are just as capable as white boys, according to a study released Tuesday. It also found that the exam, which became a graduation requirement in 2007, has "had no positive effect on student achievement."

The study by researchers at Stanford University and UC Davis concluded that girls and non-whites were probably failing the exit exam more often than expected because of what is known as "stereotype threat," a theory in social psychology that holds, essentially, that negative stereotypes can be self-fulfilling.

In this case, researcher Sean Reardon said, girls and students of color may be tripped up by the expectation that they cannot do as well as white boys.

Reardon said there was no other apparent reason why girls and non-whites fail the exam more often than white boys, who are their equals in other, lower-stress academic assessments.

Yup, no apparent reason whatsoever. I'm drawing a complete blank.
Reardon, an associate professor of education at Stanford, urged the state Department of Education to consider either scrapping the exit exam -- one of the reforms for which state Supt. of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell has fought the hardest -- or looking at ways of intervening to help students perform optimally. Reardon said the exam is keeping as many as 22,500 students a year from graduating who would otherwise fulfill all their requirements.

Stanford has a School of Education? Who knew? Wouldn't it be fun to hear what Stanford's Electrical Engineering Department professors say in private about the quality of their colleagues in the Education Department?
"No one can be happy with these results," Reardon said. "The exit exam isn't working as it was intended."

O'Connell issued a statement containing measured praise of the report but defending the exam, saying it "plays an important role in our work to ensure that a high school diploma has meaning." Other officials in the Education Department reacted skeptically to the study, sharply rejecting its assertion that the test has no positive effect on learning.

"I'm not ready to agree with that at all," said Deb Sigman, deputy superintendent for assessment and accountability. The researchers, she said, "don't look at grades, they don't look at classroom observation or interviews with children."

But Russell Rumberger, a professor of education at UC Santa Barbara who directs the California Dropout Research Project, called the study "very sophisticated" and said policymakers need to take heed of its conclusions and perhaps consider an alternative test.

Because an alternative test will no doubt show that blacks and Hispanics are just as smart as whites. Obviously, there is some flukish flaw in this single test, just like the test in the Ricci case produced never-seen-before results.
State Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) issued a statement saying that the research "reinforces the concerns that many of us have had about the exit exam from its inception." She said the results "must make us all pause and take stock of whether the exam could be fixed or is fatally flawed."

"Fixed" is the right word for what Speaker Bass wants. Fixed like the 1919 World Series.
The exit exam, which students can take multiple times beginning in their sophomore year, includes math and English tests, with the math aligned to eighth-grade standards and English to 10th-grade standards. It has been criticized both for being too easy and for unfairly denying a diploma to students who otherwise might graduate.

The study, funded by the private, nonprofit James Irvine Foundation, is based on analysis of data from four large California school districts, those in Fresno, Long Beach, San Diego and San Francisco. Reardon said the results were very similar for all four districts, suggesting that the conclusions had broad application for all California schools.

Not surprisingly, the researchers found that the exam was toughest on students in the bottom quarter of their class, based on state standardized test scores. That was also where the study found the strongest inequality of results.

"Graduation rates declined by 15 to 19 percentage points for low-achieving black, Hispanic and Asian students when the exit exam was implemented, and declined only one percentage point . . . for similar white students," the study said. Low-achieving girls had a 19 percentage-point drop in their graduation rate, compared with a decrease of 12 percentage points for boys.

Reardon said he initially was skeptical of the "stereotype threat" effect, but that it has been well-established by social psychologists and appears to apply to the test disparities.

mitchell.landsberg @latimes.com

"Protective stupidity" is still "stupidity."

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

March 2009: Top 26 foreclosure rates all in 4 Sand States

Here we are, a couple of years into the mortgage meltdown, and foreclosures are still concentrated in the four Sand States. Normally, spikes in foreclosure rates are caused by recessions, but this is the first time in memory when a recession (or worse) was caused by foreclosures.
Foreclosure leaders focused on 4 states in new metro list

By Catherine Clifford, CNNMoney.com staff writer

The 26 cities with the highest foreclosure rate in the nation are all located in four hard-hit states, with Las Vegas topping the list, according to a report released Wednesday.

Metro areas in California, Florida, Nevada and Arizona topped the foreclosure filing list for the first quarter of 2009 in a report from RealtyTrac, an online marketer of foreclosed properties. A foreclosure filing includes default papers, auction sale notices and repossessions.

Las Vegas had the highest rate of foreclosures of any city, with one in every 22 homes subject to a foreclosure filing in the first three months of the year. The rate of foreclosure filings was 4.5%, seven times the national average.

Merced, Calif., had the second highest rate, with Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Fla., Stockton, Calif., and Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Calif., rounding out the top five.

"The metro areas with the highest levels of foreclosure activity in the first quarter of 2009 paint a picture of concentrated problems in a relatively small number of hard-hit areas," said James J. Saccacio, chief executive officer of RealtyTrac, in a written statement.

Foreclosure rates have been very high in the 4 key states throughout the bursting of the housing bubble, and so it was to be expected that cities from those states would pepper the top of the list.

However, it was a surprise to see the list so top heavy, according to Rick Sharga, senior vice president at RealtyTrac.

"The concentration of troubled metro areas within the hardest-hit states, candidly, was even more severe than we expected it to be," Sharga said. "The degree to which those four states dominated the rankings surprised even us."

The economic downturn set off by the Sand States' mortgage meltdown has spread enough that foreclosures are finally trickling down to other regions:

New problem cities: Meanwhile, some metropolitan areas had a surge in foreclosures. Boise City-Nampa, Idaho, in 27th place, Provo-Orem, Utah, in 37th, and Charleston-North Charleston, S.C., in 51st were examples Sharga gave of areas that had particular strong gains in filings.

Sharga said the rise of foreclosures in additional regions indicates new factors influencing the housing market as the recession drags on.

"What we believe we are seeing is some of the areas with unemployment problems," said Sharga. "These are people living paycheck to paycheck and, when the paycheck is gone, suddenly they can't afford to make their mortgage payments." ...

But, mostly, it's still the damn Sand States:

The national report also found that the worst of the foreclosures were centralized in a handful of worst-hit states. California, Florida, Arizona, Nevada and Illinois accounted for nearly 60% of the total foreclosure activity in the first quarter, with 479,516 properties received foreclosure filings in those states.

So, if nearly 60% of the newly foreclosed homes Q1-2009 are still in the four sand states, where home prices and Loan to Value ratios were higher, then those states must account for the huge majority of the defaulted dollars.

What was it about the Sand States that set them on the path to bring down the national economy? All that sand?

Nobody seems to want to know.

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

April 22, 2009

TPM Book Club: Me on California v. Texas

I have a new post up on Talking Points Memo in the discussion of Andrew Gelman's Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State on why California went from being the Republican to the Democratic anchor state in the Electoral College, while Texas went from being a swing state to being the GOP anchor state.

You can read all the contributors here. Things are finally heating up there, with lots of pointing and sputtering at my hatefacts, hatestats, and hategraphs.

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

April 21, 2009

Coastlines and Liberalism

On Saturday, my 92-year-old father and I went to a relative's wedding at a hotel named Shutters on the Beach at 1 Pico Blvd. in Santa Monica. It was about 95 degrees in the San Fernando Valley, but it was only 75 as we drove down Pico. The traffic kept getting worse and worse as I approached the beach, the coolest place in Southern California. We finally arrived, paid $14 to park, and had a very nice time.

Not surprisingly, land adjoining the beach in Santa Monica is so expensive that young couples can only afford to hold their wedding receptions there, not to a raise a family there. Indeed, Santa Monica as whole, with its exquisite weather, is unaffordable by all but the wealthiest young families. There just isn't a large supply of land when you start at 1 Pico Blvd., you can only drive in directions covering 180 degrees. The other 180 degrees are underneath the Pacific Ocean.

Also, as my theory of Affordable Family Formation would predict, Santa Monica is famously liberal -- e.g., the joke about it being the People's Republic of Santa Monica. Jane Fonda's ex-husband Tom Hayden represented the Santa Monica area in the state legislature for 18 years. Republican "family values" campaign themes don't go over big in Santa Monica. The people who raise kids in Santa Monica can afford to insulate them with private schools, tutors, and all the rest. They don't need politicians' help in making it a little easier to raise their kids.

Another famous example of the interrelationship between coastlines, density, and liberalism is found within the city of Chicago. In the city, population density increases exponentially as you approach the lakefront. In time-honored Chicago political jargon, the voters who live in that narrow strip of high-rises are known as "Lakefront Liberals."

I might add, however, that America's Gulf Coast is largely an exception to the pattern of liberalism increasing as you approach the coasts, which works well for the Pacific, the Great Lakes, and much of the Atlantic.

I think the difference is that the Gulf Coast doesn't have as many major urban areas set directly on the ocean, perhaps due to danger from hurricanes. For example, Galveston, a classic seafront city, was obliterated by a hurricane in 1900, killing 6,000. So, the population center of the Texas coastal region moved 45 miles inland (and 45 crucial feet above sea level) to Houston. So, Houston can expand 45 miles in any direction before its exurbs run into saltwater. Hence, Houston has low housing prices and conservative voters.

Also, before air conditioning, the climate was so deplorable for four months of the year along the Gulf Coast that it discouraged urbanization. (British government employees once got the same tropical hardship pay for manning the British consulate in Houston as they did for working in Lagos, Nigeria.)

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

"Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State"

I'm participating this week in an online discussion at the Talking Points Memo Cafe Book Club on political scientist (and statistics wizard) Andrew Gelman's 2008 book Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State: Why Americans Vote the Way They Do.

You can read my first contribution here. Here's an excerpt from mine:

As a little thought experiment, imagine two sisters who are completely typical except that they are identical twins: with the same nature and nurture. They graduate from college together with degrees in business administration, but then they have to split up for the first time in their lives because one twin gets a job in downtown San Francisco while the other gets a job in downtown Dallas.

Ten years later, when they are 32, which twin is more likely to be a home-owning, married, stay-at-home mom?

Common sense and Census statistics suggest that the twin who got the job in Dallas is likely to take a more conservatively-inclined path through life. Middle class Americans today tend to get married when they are ready to buy a home and have children.

That houses are so much more affordable in the Dallas metropolitan area than in the San Francisco Bay region is one reason why non-Hispanic white women in Texas averaged 15.2 years of marriage between ages 18 and 44 in the 2000 Census, compared to 12.5 years for their counterparts in California.

And why is housing so much cheaper around Dallas than around San Francisco? There are many reasons, but a fundamental one is topographic: San Francisco is surrounded by saltwater and mountains, while Dallas is surrounded by flat dirt. There is simply a greater supply of land around an inland city than around a coastal city, so, ceteris paribus, the former's homes will be cheaper.

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

Painters: Scholarly eminence vs. "Will this go with my couch?" popularity

Following up his comparison of classical composers' popularity on Amazon.com vs. their historical eminence in works of music history as tabulated in Charles Murray's Human Accomplishment, Agnostic has up on GNXP.com a study of painters from the scholarly vs. popular point of view. He measured popularity from the number of posters on sale at AllPosters.com.

The ten top painters who do best among the poster-buying public relative to their more moderate historical prominence (i.e., their influence on subsequent artists) are:

Claude Monet
Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
Vincent Van Gogh
Salvador Dali
Camille Pissarro
Edgar Degas
Henri Rousseau
Fra Angelico
Marc Chagall

These are definitely not unimportant figures in the history of art -- they're just even more popular now than they were influential then.

Basically, to sell a lot of posters in the 21st Century, you will have wanted to have been in Paris in the late 19th Century.

The Impressionist Claude Monet absolutely dominates poster inventories, with the Expressionist Van Gogh second and the Impressionist Renoir third.

Henri Rousseau was an obscure retiree who painted charmingly childish fantasy jungle scenes cobbled together from the Paris zoo and horticulture exhibit. He's famous today because the cool kids on the early 20th Century Paris art scene, such as Picasso, Brancusi, and Apollinaire, adopted him as a sort of mascot. Who knows how many other primitive painters could have made it big if they happened to be in Paris in 1905? Well, it's good that he got lucky because his pictures make you happy.

The ten painters who sell the fewest posters relative to their historical importance are:

Pol de Limbourg
Antonio del Pollaiolo
Max Ernst
Giorgio de Chirico
Piet Mondrian
Hugo van der Goes
Martin Schongauer
Frans Hals

A few comments: Masaccio was the first painter known to use perspective (which was perhaps invented by his friend Brunelleschi). That makes him a very big name in the history books. But he died young, so we don't have many examples of his work. And his colors aren't terribly vivid because the Florentines didn't yet have the Norwegian invention of oil paint, plus his frescoes have faded somewhat over the last 600 years. So, posters of his work wouldn't do much to liven up your living room with a splash of color, the way a Monet poster does.

The popularity of Impressionist painting posters is related to the fact that posters of paintings compete with posters of photographs. If you want a clear image of something to hang on your wall, you'll probably buy a poster of a photo, not a painting by, say, Poussin. And if you want to look at an image from Roman history, you'll probably go to a Ridley Scott movie rather than buy a Poussin poster.

The Impressionists were the first painters to figure out that photographers were starting to compete with them and they'd better do something that played to painting's strengths over black-and-white photography: color and mood.

They were very successful at creating attractive colorful canvases. By being the first movers, they were able to grab the lowest-hanging fruit of a strategy: Go someplace nice-looking when the sun is shining and splash a lot of color quickly on the canvas. Hey, this isn't rocket surgery.

Ever since, painters have been striving to distinguish themselves by inventing new alternative strategies to combat competition from photography, with ever diminishing returns.

Sculptors count in Murray's rankings--thus Michelangelo comes out #1--but a poster of a sculpture is kind of, well, flat. Thus, the Big 4 sculptors, Donatello, Michelangelo, Bernini, and Rodin, don't sell that many posters.

Reproducing sculpture well is vastly more difficult than reproducing a painting well. For example, the Florentines put a reproduction of Michelangelo's David outside when they moved the original inside to protect it from the elements. Presumably they put some effort into getting a good reproduction, and being Florentines they access to the best copyists, but the result is still ho-hum. When you see the reproduction, you say: "Hey, look, it's that big naked guy, you know, what's his name?" Then you go inside to see the original and say: "Wow! That's the greatest work of art in the entire world!"

I looked at a lot of famous paintings over six weeks in Europe in 1980, but it was mostly not too different from looking at them in my Janson's History of Art textbook. The "David," though, is in another dimension altogether.

Raphael: Since AllPosters.com is in English, I presume it's aiming at an American audience. American tastes are influenced by what's in our museums, both directly and indirectly (art history textbooks tend to use examples from the writer's local museum -- that's why the Chicago Art Institute seems almost as good as the Louvre to somebody who took art history using the Chicagoan Janson's textbook).

There are very few Raphaels in America. The only one I've seen is a small but ineffably beautiful Madonna in the Norton Simon in Pasadena. Raphael died young and was recognized as a genius in his own lifetime, so his works were treasured from the start. The Pope would pay to have first dibs on Raphael's work. His greatest painting, The School of Athens, is on the Pope's apartment's wall, and he ain't selling.

In contrast, Monet painted a lot of canvases, and Americans were rich enough to buy up a fair number.

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

April 20, 2009

Guest Commentary on Rep. Jane Harman's AIPAC Scandal

I'm pleased to have a guest commentator on today's new scandal involving Congresswoman Jane Harman's machinations on behalf of AIPAC:

"So, likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others, which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill will, and a disposition to retaliate in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld; and it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation) facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country without odium, sometimes even with popularity, gilding with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation….

"Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government. But that jealousy, to be useful, must be impartial, else it becomes the instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defense against it. Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people to surrender their interests."

– George Washington’s Farewell Address

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

Roissy on the Department of Homeland Security

Despite Roissy's stated philosophy of life, he seems to put an awful lot of effort into crafting a fine pseudonymous blog, as demonstrated by his parody of all those recent articles on "Right-Wingers: Threat or Menace?"

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

April 19, 2009

Boston Marathon

For the first time in years, an American is the top seed in the Boston Marathon: Ryan Hall.

Hall was born and raised in Big Bear Lake, a Southern California ski resort town set at an altitude of 6,750 feet, similar to that of the home regions of many of his Kenyan competitors. (Some Ethiopian runners are from even higher altitudes.)

The Washington Post reports:
Hall's task will be formidable, with three-time defending champion and four-time Boston winner Robert Cheruiyot competing, along with Evans Cheruiyot, who won the Chicago Marathon last fall in 2:06:25, and Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot, who ran 2:07:21 to win the 2008 Frankfurt Marathon in his debut.

Yes, many of the top Kenyan runners are related (they mostly come from the Kalenjin tribe that only makes up about one-tenth of the population of Kenya), but the ridiculous similarity of names among Kenyan runners is, I think, mostly intentional: teenage boys pick out running names for themselves to compete under as tributes to their heroes. Presumably, taking a phony name also helps in qualifying for the World Junior Cross-Country championships when overage by muddying the waters.

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

Today's Top Headline

Honest to God, this was the top headline on WashingtonPost.com:
Obama to Order Cabinet To Identify Budget Cuts

Convening members for first time today, president is to ask for a combined $100M to be cut over the next 90 days, senior administration official says.

Cutting $100,000,000?

Federal outlays for 2009, according to the Obama Administration, are supposed to be $3,938,000,000,000. That's, roughly, four million millions of dollars.

So, the Big Story today is that Obama wants to cut spending by about 1/40,000th of the budget?

Isn't this just a transparent PR ploy?

Really, if the newspapers went bankrupt and were nationalized and run by the Obama Administration, would there be any noticeable difference?

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

The Obama Administration Is Playing with Fire

Here's an excerpt from my VDARE.com article on the Ricci Supreme Court case:

Frank Ricci is the lead plaintiff of a group of New Haven, Connecticut firemen (17 whites and one Hispanic) who took the city’s fire department promotion test in late 2003 and earned advancement to the rank of lieutenant or captain.

No blacks scored high enough to qualify for promotions. On the Lieutenants’ exam, the mean black score would have fallen at the 20th percentile among whites. (Hispanics scored the same as blacks). On the harder Captain’s exam, the mean black score fell at the 10th percentile for whites, while the average Hispanic scored at the 18th percentile. (You can see the individual test results at Adversity.net.)

There is nothing surprising or anomalous about these percentiles. They’re almost identical to blacks’ and Latinos’ results on professional school tests such as the LSAT used by law schools and the MCAT employed by medical schools. Blacks average at the 12th percentile of the white distribution of scores on the LSAT, which was taken by every single lawyer involved on all sides of the case.

(New Haven, by the way, is home to the Yale Law School, which enjoys the highest LSAT scores in the country. But punditry by Yale Law professors on this backyard case has tended to be muted. Perhaps they are torn between their liberalism and their desire not to die needlessly due to inept firefighters.)

A prominent black supporter of New Haven mayor John Stefano objected to the racial hue of the fire department’s results. So in 2004 the mayor talked the Civil Service Board into throwing out the test on the grounds that otherwise the city might get sued by blacks for using a test with “disparate impact” on protected minorities.

And the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission does indeed enforce a guideline that a “selection rate for any race, sex, or ethnic group which is less than four-fifths . . . of the rate for the group with the highest rate will generally be regarded . . . as evidence of adverse impact”.

In other words, if, say, 50 percent of whites pass your test, then 40 percent of blacks darn well better pass or the federal government will want to know the reason why.

Of course, everybody involved more or less knows the reason why: on average, blacks aren’t as smart as whites. But, at all costs, you must act like you don’t know that. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll wield Occam’s Butterknife instead of his Razor.

New Haven hasn’t bothered to hold another exam since 2003—presumably because it knows that any reasonable test would produce roughly the same results. Instead, it just hasn’t promoted anybody in five years. Instead, it has filled posts with “acting” lieutenants and captains of the politically desired colors.

Not promoting anybody may seem ridiculous, but it’s become quite common in America’s cities. For example, Chicago spent $5 million dollars devising an absolutely bulletproof non-discriminatory police sergeant’s test in 1994, only to have 109 of the 114 top scorers turn out to be whites. So Mayor Richie Daley just refused to promote anybody for several years, until he could push through his alternative system of promotions based on “merit” (“merit” being defined, in effect, as whatever the finely honed political instincts of Richard M. Daley found to be least trouble for his career).

The cities find themselves in an absurd legal position. They are subject to civil service rules and civil rights laws that outlaw favoritism—and, simultaneously, to EEOC and Department of Justice regulations that mandate it.

This leads to even more pretzel logic. Thus New Haven claimed that it wasn’t discriminating against white firemen—it was just trying to avoid being sued for discriminating against blacks!

And, incredibly, the federal Second Circuit Court of Appeals bought that rationale by a 7-6 vote (with potential Obama Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor one of the seven).

The Second Circuit’s decision was all the more incredible because the distinguished judge Frank Easterbrook of the Seventh Circuit had already shot down the same circular logic in 2004, when Chicago tried it the Biondo case involving testing for promotion of Chicago firefighters.

Easterbrook incredulously asked:

"[T]he premise of the City’s argument is that [the EEOC] regulations supply a compelling governmental interest in making decisions based on race. How can that be? Then Congress or any federal agency could direct employers to adopt racial quotas, and the direction would be self-justifying: the need to comply with the law (or regulation) would be the compelling interest. Such a circular process would drain the equal protection clause of meaning."

(Sorry about all the Chicago examples—I used to be a Chicagoan so I can make more easily make sense of the contorted history of public safety employment testing in the Windy City. But you can find similar cases in most cities.)

Many assume that firemen just have to be brave, but here’s a very simple question from an entry-level practice test:

When coupling hoses together, ___ 50-feet hoses and ___ 75-feet hoses will result in a length of 575 feet.

a. 5, 4
b. 4, 4
c. 5, 5
d. 4, 5

(You don't want to overestimate because firehoses filled with water are heavy.)

Now imagine having to solve that while burn victims are screaming for help.


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

The Subprime Fiasco: "Predatory Lending" or "Predatory Securitizing?"

For years, mainstream economists pooh-poohed the very existence of the concept of "predatory lending." When two willing parties agree to a transaction, how can one be "predator" and one "prey"?

Of course, this totally ignores differences in, say, math ability between lenders and bottom-of-the-barrel borrowers.

Yet, while I think the concept of "predatory lending" has some merit, especially in areas such as credit card lending, it's mostly throws us off the scent in figuring out the subprime mortgage disaster.

After all, the point of making predatory loans is to extract a stream of high monthly payments from the borrower. But the point of originating worthless mortgages was not to get paid back a lot of money over the next thirty years (many borrowers wouldn't last past the two year teaser rate period, and by 2005-2006, a fair number of borrowers never made more than one payment -- what economists Haughwout, Peach, and Tracy of the New York Fed jocularly refer to as "juvenile delinquent mortgages"). No, the point was to extract a high payment now from credulous saps to whom you sold the dubious mortgages.

What hundreds of anecdotal accounts show is a process often involving collusion between the borrower and the originator of subprime mortgages to defraud institutions farther up the financial food chain by selling them garbage.

We had a ridiculous system in which big investors let themselves get duped by small grifters. The borrower 100% knew he wasn't making the $132,000 per year he put down on his mortgage application. The mortgage broker was 95% sure the stated income figure was a lie. The storefront mortgage broker's boss was 90% sure. The loan officer at Countrywide who bought the loan from the storefront mortage sales firm was 75% sure. The Countrywide salesman who securitized it into mortgage-backed security and sold it to Fannie Mae was 50% sure, while the Fannie Mae buyer was 25% sure, while his boss was 10% sure. The Fannie Mae CEO just assumed that the Law of Large Numbers was magically going to make his risk disappear through diversifying. Just diversify the diversity and it's all good!

Of course, many financial firms then played a game of Hot Potato with each other, repackaging the garbage loans and selling them on to rich but but even more clueless folks, or insuring themselves with AIG against losses.

Thus, the term "predatory securitizing" may be more useful for describing much of what happened during the Housing Bubble than "predatory lending."

A Google search shows that nobody has used the term "predatory securitizing" before, and only a handful have used "predatory securitazation." I would prefer the former version -- "predatory securitizing" -- since it's in the same format as "predatory lending."

The Guns of Singapore (Cont.)

As I've repeatedly noted, America has a huge data-collecting and data-interpreting infrastructure serving a political and media juggernaut designed to make sure that minorities get plenty of mortgages. In contrast, we have virtually no infrastructure to let us know whether minorities are getting too many mortgages to pay them back.

Our system for making sure minorities get enough lending is like driving a car rigged up with a complex safety system that warns you loudly and incessantly to make sure you don't drift too far in your lane to the left, and that makes it hard to turn to the steering wheel to the left, but totally ignores any drifting you do to the right. Not surprisingly, you are eventually going to wind up in a ditch on the right.

So, social scientists are still debating last century's question -- are minorities being discriminated against by lenders? -- while largely ignoring this century's big questions about minorities and mortgages.

Here's a new study from economists at the New York Fed on the question that the media has been much more up in arms over: did minorities get charged higher mortgage interest rates? You've read plenty of articles complaining that minorities who deserved prime mortgages were selectively discriminated against into getting subprime mortgages. Are they true?

A new study by economists at the New York Federal Reserve says "No."
Subprime Mortgage Pricing: The Impact of Race, Ethnicity, and Gender on the Cost of Borrowing
Andrew Haughwout, Christopher Mayer, and Joseph Tracy

Some observers have argued that minority borrowers and neighborhoods were targeted for expensive credit in 2004-06, the peak period for subprime lending. To investigate this claim, we take advantage of a new data set that merges demographic information on subprime borrowers with information on the mortgages they took out. In a sample of more than 75,000 adjustable-rate mortgages, we find no evidence of adverse pricing by race, ethnicity, or gender in either the initial rate or the reset margin. Indeed, if any pricing differential exists, minority borrowers appear to pay slightly lower rates, as do those borrowers in Zip codes with a larger percentage of black or Hispanic residents or a higher unemployment rate. Mortgage rates are also lower in locations that previously had higher rates of house price appreciation. These results suggest some economies of scale in subprime lending. Yet there are important caveats: we are unable to measure points and fees at loan origination, and the data do not indicate whether borrowers might have qualified for less expensive conforming mortgages.

They looked at 75,000 subprime loans with 2-year teaser rates handed across the country out in August 2005 for which they were able to match the race/ethnicity info in the federal government's Home Mortgage Disclosure Act database with the expensive creditworthiness data from LoanPerformance, which is considered the gold standard of mortgage creditworthiness. With this breakthrough in data, they found:
"In contrast to previous findings, our results show that if anything, minority borrowers get slightly favorable terms, although the size of these effects are quite small."

Bloomberg reports on the study:

The authors said they were not able to determine whether minority borrowers were forced to pay higher upfront costs in points or fees, or whether the subprime borrowers might have qualified for less expensive conforming loans.

From what we know about car-buying -- blacks tend to be poorer negotiators, perhaps because they don't want to look like cheapskates to the salesman, perhaps because they have less information -- I would have thought it's inevitable that blacks and perhaps Hispanics would, on average, be more likely to get stuck with loan terms less favorable than, say, Armenians or Koreans would manage to extract. I mean, if you were Angelo Mozilo of Countrywide or Roland Arnall of Ameriquest or Bill Cook of of ConquistAmerica, why wouldn't you hire a whole bunch of Spanish-speaking mortgage peddlers to pursue the burgeoning Uneducated and Innumerate Latino Market?

On the other hand, there are vast government and NGO resources devoted to fighting discrimination against legally-protected minorities. So, maybe they just tried even harder to market subprime loans to dumb whites to make their race numbers balance out. Who knows?

As Peter Brimelow pointed out in 1992 after the inane Boston Fed study about mortgage discrimination kicked off this whole catastrophic cycle, the researchers shouldn't be focusing on the inputs (e.g., FICO scores) but on the outputs (i.e., default rates).

The claim that blacks and Hispanics took out so many subprime loans because they were discriminated against when they were really highly creditworthy borrowers who should have been getting prime loans is, in effect, claiming that black and Hispanic subprime borrowers should have been, on average, more creditworthy than white borrowers because a lot of minorities of prime creditworthiness had been forced down into the subprime ranks by The Man.

This prevalent theory is hard to reconcile with the facts of higher default rates among blacks and Hispanics.

Obviously, the gigantic default losses in heavily minority regions such as Southern California's Inland Empire (where about 9% of all defaulted dollars lost in the country went down the drain) suggest that subprime borrowers weren't charged enough interest to make up for the risk. But, we're not supposed to talk about that.

We know from the Boston Fed's recent study of subprime foreclosures in Massachusetts that foreclosure rates have long been significantly higher for blacks and Hispanics, at least in that state:

Similarly, FHA loans, which served, more conservatively, the least creditworthy, saw much higher default rates among blacks and Hispanics in the 1990s, when there wasn't a housing bubble, suggesting that we are dealing with a deeper pattern extending back before the recent housing follies.

So, either high quality black and Hispanic borrowers were being forced into the subprime category, as the conventional wisdom holds, which implies that blacks and Hispanics should have had lower default rates. Or, the NY Fed economists were right, and the system worked in a colorblind fashion, which should give us equal default rates among Non-Asian Minorities.

And yet, we still see higher default rates among NAMs.

What all this default data suggests is the opposite of the conventional wisdom: that colorblind systems of assessing creditworthiness tend to overestimate the creditworthiness of black and Hispanic applicants. Apparently, if a lender wants equal default rates among his white, black, and Hispanic borrowers, he needs to hold the blacks and Hispanics to higher standards -- i.e., to attain equality of outputs, he needs to discriminate against NAMs in terms of inputs.

Of course, he's not allowed to do that.

Another insight is the wisdom of anti-usury laws that set some sort of upper limit on interest rates. These can serve to prevent loans likely to go bad, which tend to impose widespread economic liabilities. Of course, in the giant push to get more lending to minorities from 1968 onward, these laws were in bad odor because they have a "disparate impact" -- the tighter the caps on interest rates, the fewer NAMs will get mortgages.

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

Assimilation, 21st Century-style: The NYT starts to get it

In VDARE.com in 2001, I wrote:
ConEstablishment types assume that "assimilation" works automatically, sort of like "osmosis," to solve any minor cultural problems created by heavy immigration. They tend to have this 19th Century picture of assimilation in action: The huddled masses stumble off the docks in Boston, only to notice the Cabots and Lodges glowering at them for their uncouth behavior. Chastened, the newcomers resolve to begin the long struggle to become good Americans just like those august families.

Of course, these days, the descendants of those Puritans are working as program officers for foundations telling the newly-arrived immigrant how much better the culture back home in, say, Guatemala was than the culture created by their Boston Brahmin ancestors - who, as you will recall, were so criminally insensitive as to glower.

There is, however, one vibrant, self-confident culture in modern America: hip-hop. ... Hip-hop is doing what whites no longer have the will or means to do: assimilate the children of Hispanic immigrants.

Of course, Dr. Dre, Puff Daddy, and the rest are leading Latino-Americans toward the African-American model. As I wrote last year, "Currently, 22% of white births are illegitimate compared to 69% of black births. Among immigrant Latino mothers, 37% of their new babies were illegitimate. But among American-born Latino mothers, the illegitimacy rate rises to 48%."

The New York Times is finally catching on. Jason DeParle writes in "Struggling to Rise in Suburbs Where Failing Means Fitting In" about the children of Latino immigrants in the suburban slums of the Washington D.C. metroplex:

As Jesselyn [8th grade dropout daughter of Salvadoran immigrants] tells it, she assimilated to the surrounding values of gangsta rap. Writing in her eighth-grade yearbook, she celebrated friends as “my n****!” and labeled enemies “crackers,” “bamma” and “whyte.” ...

Part of what sets the area apart is the strain between immigrant parents and their Americanizing children, who wince at their accents and dirty jobs. Langley Park is an immigrant neighborhood where it is an insult to be called an immigrant. Teenagers call the rough-looking newcomers “hinchos,” or “hicks.”

“Hinchos try to look black, but they’re not as good at it as we are,” said Jesselyn’s 14-year-old brother, Victor Jr.

Weak parental authority abets strong gangs. The dominant force in many young lives is Mara Salvatrucha-13, or MS-13, which is known for its violence and international reach. But there are scores of lesser cliques — Street Thug Criminals, Sexy but Stupid — that strive to live up to their name. ...

In addition, the scholars say, a seductive youth culture encourages poor teenagers to denigrate work and school and find valor in violence. Unwilling to take bad jobs, unable to get good ones, teenagers like Jesselyn often seek satisfaction in the streets.

“I’m not going to scrub someone’s toilet,” she said.

Though “assimilation” and “upward mobility” are often used as synonyms, Mr. Portes and Mr. Rumbaut emphasize that they are not the same thing. Some groups move up by resisting assimilation; they study and work in ethnic enclaves. Others assimilate to values and behaviors of the American ghetto.

That is what Jesselyn said she and other poor, streetwise Salvadorans had done: followed the example of poor streetwise blacks.

“They’re like a role model,” she said. “We’re a lot like them.”

Sometimes she said that both groups simply react to the same forces of poverty and prejudice. (“We’ve lived the same thing.”) But she also talked of consciously imitating what she sees as the strengths of poor blacks. (“They don’t let themselves get pushed around.”)

Either way, she saw herself behind a color line, with success beyond her reach.

“I thought the American dream was just meant for white people,” she said. “The big house with the two beautiful kids, the dream car, and the dream career — when the hell you hear a Spanish has that?”

During the Housing Bubble.

As I pointed out most of a decade ago, let's say Latinos are only 1/3rd as likely as African Americans to fall into the underclass. Well, then, in a few decades when the Latino population is three times the size of the current black population, we've created for ourselves a new Hispanic underclass as big as the current black underclass.

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


Does anybody out there know a good (and cheap) source for foreclosure/delinquency data? RealtyTrac appears to be the main source cited in the media. What I'm looking for is a database that can tie foreclosure rates to census tracs or to the Census Bureau's "metropolitan statistical areas" (e.g., Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario). Realty Trac used to issue press releases of foreclosure rates in the top 100 MSAs, but I haven't seen one since Q2 2008. Lately, they've just been publicizing foreclosure rates by states.

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

A bizarre anomaly in New Haven

The Washington Post's top story is:
Supreme Court Poised to Review Civil Rights Laws

Justices to hear cases challenging government efforts to ensure equality in voting, employment at time of national dialogue on race and diversity.

The Supreme Court has an opportunity to reaffirm or reshape the nation's civil rights laws as it faces a rare confluence of cases over the next two weeks, including a high-profile challenge brought by white firefighters who claim they lost out on promotions because of the "color of their skin."

The cases also touch on the Voting Rights Act, the need to provide English classes for immigrant children and, more tangentially, discriminatory mortgage lending. [Because minorities not getting enough mortgage money is a big problem in America in this decade.]

The most emotionally charged case is from the New Haven, Conn., firefighters, whose complaints define the real-life quandary that sometimes accompanies government efforts to ensure racial equality.

The firefighters accuse city officials of violating civil rights laws and the Constitution by throwing out a promotions test on which they performed well but no blacks scored high enough to be eligible. The city responds that relying on test results with such wide racial discrepancies could have violated federal law and left them open to being sued by minorities.

When the results of the 2003 exams came back, only white firefighters, including one who is Hispanic, scored high enough to be considered for the openings for lieutenants and captains. All 27 black firefighters who took the test were below the cutoff.

After tumultuous public hearings, with minority groups arguing that the tests were flawed and the white firefighters saying officials were caving to political pressure, the city's Civil Service Board voted not to certify the results. The promotions remain in limbo.

The city argues that the test it commissioned, in which 60 percent of the score came from a multiple-choice questionnaire and 40 percent from an interview, must have been biased, despite its best intentions. It is not specific about the problems with the test, though it says the exam did not measure "command presence" and should have given more weight to the interview.

At any rate, the city says it was bound by Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which requires employers not to rely on hiring or promotional tests that have a "disparate impact" on minorities unless they can show a "business necessity."...

The Obama Justice Department mostly sides with New Haven officials.

Were the test results anomalous? Unlike everybody else commenting on the Ricci case, I've actually calculated the racial gap in standard deviations for the New Haven firefighters' promotion tests and compared them to the racial gap in the Law School Application Test used by a certain law school in New Haven.

More to come ...

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