May 1, 2009

Why not also give AP tests in September?

Here's a report from the Fordham Institute on the ever-growing trend toward Advanced Placement testing of high school students for college course credit.

Generally speaking, the AP phenomenon has been a success.

The big problem with AP now is the assumption that you need to take an AP course in high school to take the AP test. Nah, there are a bunch of AP tests where you can just walk in without taking the course and wing it having merely boned up for a month or two from study guides.

My older kid got 7 courses worth of college credit from AP testing, and if I knew then what I know now, I would have pushed him to take 2 or 3 more AP tests.

For example, he got a 5 on World History without ever taking a world history course (the night before the test we studied up on Chinese dynasties), and a 4 in Comparative Government without taking that class in high school. (He took American Government AP and got a 5 on that, so it was easy to just buy a $20 guidebook to the Comparative Government test and study up on the structure of six foreign governments.)

I think he could have passed Human Geography without too much work, so I wish he'd taken that. If your kid is interested in Art History, that sounds like something that could be passed by studying in his spare time.

The reform I would propose is that AP exams should be offered not just in May, an extremely busy time of the year, but also in September for students who study on their own over the summer. (It's not like they have summer jobs anymore.)

This won't happen, though, because the current system is a conspiracy between the College Board and the teachers to make it seem like the crucial elements in the system are not the AP tests, but the AP classes. If you let kids study on their own over summer, you'd be letting the cat out of the bag.

If you can AP out of a year's worth of introductory courses, why not enter as a sophomore and graduate in three years?

Well, there are some reasons why that might not be such a great idea. A relative aced a ton of AP exams, entered the tough U. of Illinois as a sophomore engineering major, and immediately flunked out.

The conundrum is that kids who can pick up ten or eleven courses worth of credit are likely to be attending hard schools and/or have hard majors. If you show up as an Electrical Engineering major at Cal Tech or Berkeley and enroll in all 200 level math and science courses, you'd better bring your A game.

On the other hand, if you show up as an English major at a liberal arts college, why not blow through in three years and save your parents a chunk of change? When I got to Rice having placed out of English 101 and 102, I immediately took a 300 level course on T.S. Eliot. I wasn't missing anything because, in contrast to, say, math, English is only a vaguely cumulative subject.

I spent four years in college and wound up triple majoring, which is more a sign of too much time on my hands than anything else. I can't say I really needed to stick around for that fourth year. Fortunately, the tuition at Rice in 1980 was only something like $2700 per year, and they gave me a sizable academic scholarship, so it was a low stress, idyllic year.

Still, one of the things America needs to get better at is hustling its brighter young people along to maturity faster, rather than let them dawdle endlessly in academia on daddy's dime.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Miller: The role of blank slateism in consumerist capitalism

In Spent: Sex, Evolution, and Consumer Behavior, Geoffrey Miller writes:
The fetishization of youth and disparagement of wisdom in consumerist social judgment

The accuracy of person perception tends to improve with age, as we learn, gradually and painfully, which behavioral cues are the most reliable indicators of personality, intelligence, and moral virtues. We learn which situations reveal the most diagnostic information about someone’s true character. We learn how to see through first impressions.

This explains why the dating choices made by teenagers have always seemed appallingly stupid to their parents. Teenagers are overly influenced by the traits that are easiest to assess (physical attractiveness and status among peers). By contrast, parents have decades more experience in assessing the harder-to-discern traits, such as conscientiousness, agreeableness, emotional stability, and intelligence, and in appreciating the longer-term benefits that these traits convey in any human relationship. This ability to judge character was considered a major part of wisdom, and a cardinal virtue, before consumerist capitalism made concepts like character, wisdom, and virtue sound unfashionable.

... [B]y the mid-twentieth century, it became crucial for marketers to convince young people that they could judge one another’s individuality more effectively through consumerist trait displays than their elders could through wise observation. Judgments of one’s peers and dates by the older generation had be made to seem old-fashioned, uncool, irrelevant, biased, and prejudiced. In this, the marketers succeeded spectacularly, assisted by two key twentieth century ideologies: (1) the egalitarian rejection of the idea that an individual’s personality, intelligence, mental health, and moral virtues are useful concepts worth evaluating accurately and discussing socially, and (2) the environmentalist rejection of the idea that these traits show stability within individuals (across situations, relationships, and ages) and within families (through genetic inheritance).

Consumerist capitalism has depended on youth’s embrace of these blank-slate ideologies, which were sold as thrillingly rebellious and thoughtfully progressive.

Throughout most of the twentieth century, they seemed validated by psychology, social science, progressive politics, and the self-help movement. In popular culture, the blank-slate ideology convinced the young that the purchase of any new product designed to display some personal trait was a heroic rebellion against the older generation’s outmoded belief in the existence, stability, and heritability of personal traits. In the behavioral sciences, the blank-slate ideology biased generations of scientists against trait psychology, personality research, intelligence research, behavior genetics, and any other area concerned with individual differences. Instead, the focus turned to psychological processes that were allegedly similar across all humans: child development, social cognition, neural information processing.

As long as advertising never actually used the old-fashioned terms for traits (character, intelligence, virtue), the young could buy, display, and admire the trait-displaying products, make the social judgments they needed to make about one another’s traits, and pretend that they were living in a radical new post-trait world. The whole discourse of traits went underground, discreetly hidden in the rhetoric and semiotics of branding and marketing. It remained just visible enough for the young to recognize, unconsciously, which products would display which traits, but it was just elusive enough that their anti-trait ideology was never threatened, and the person-perception wisdom of their parents never seemed relevant to their lives.

For example, rap music producers such as Dr. Dre realized in the 1990s that the real money lay in convincing white middle-class suburban boys that by buying and playing rap, they could display their coolness, attitude, and street cred (that is, their aspirations toward low conscientiousness, low agreeableness, and high promiscuity.) The white boys obliged by pouring billions of their parents’ dollars through the local music retailers’ hip-hop sections, while dissing their parents’ concerns that white girls might actually prefer to date boys who display high conscientiousness, agreeableness, and chastity. But if the parents couldn’t distinguish between DJ Spooky, DJ Spinna, and DJ Qualls, how could they possibly claim that the whole rap music industry was just another marketing-driven set of costly, unreliable trait displays, or that the trait displays their children considered cool were actually repulsive to potential mates, friends, and employers?

Thus, the blank-slate model of human nature, far from challenging the principles of consumerist capitalism, forms consumerism’s ideological bedrock. It makes the trait-perception wisdom of older generations seem outdated and irrelevant, and makes the trait-display aspirations of younger generations seem to require buying the appropriate goods and services, while allowing them to pretend that they live in a brave new post-trait world. Most importantly, it undermines everyone’s confidence that their traits are real enough and visible enough to be appreciated without being amplified and externalized by careerism and consumerism.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Poor old William Saletan

Slate's "Human Nature" correspondent got such a beat-down from his friends when he said a few things in defense of James D. Watson in 2007 that he's decided that it's best just not to think about race anymore:
True, False, or Neither?
The perils of analyzing test scores by race.

"'No Child' Law Is Not Closing a Racial Gap." That's the New York Times headline about a report issued this week on school test scores. The Times story begins:

The achievement gap between white and minority students has not narrowed in recent years, despite the focus of the No Child Left Behind law on improving the scores of blacks and Hispanics, according to results of a federal test considered to be the nation's best measure of long-term trends in math and reading proficiency. Between 2004 and last year, scores for young minority students increased, but so did those of white students, leaving the achievement gap stubbornly wide, despite President George W. Bush's frequent assertions that the No Child law was having a dramatic effect. Although Black and Hispanic elementary, middle and high school students all scored much higher on the federal test than they did three decades ago, most of those gains were not made in recent years, but during the desegregation efforts of the 1970s and 1980s.

The Times implies that the racial angle is important because it shows the No Child law failed. But the same angle is being touted by exponents of hereditary differences in intelligence. In fact, they're quoting the Times story to validate their point. "NYT: NAEP Racial Gaps Haven't Magically Disappeared," says the headline at Steve Sailer's blog, which serves as a headquarters for believers in "human biodiversity." "Study after study, yet no one wants to introduce ol' reliable Occam," observes one commenter. Another cites a well-known paper on race, heredity, and IQ, asking: "Why don't they read this—it explains a lot."

The Washington Post, in its article about the test-scores report, doesn't focus on race. " 'Nation's Report Card' Sees Gains in Elementary, Middle Schools," says the Post headline. The article begins:

Math and reading scores for 9- and 13-year-olds have risen since the 2002 enactment of No Child Left Behind, providing fuel to those who want to renew the federal law and strengthen its reach in high schools. Performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which offers a long view of U.S. student achievement, shows several bright spots. Nine-year-olds posted the highest scores ever in reading and math in 2008. Black and Hispanic students of that age also reached record reading scores, though they continued to trail white peers. But results released yesterday were disappointing for high school students. Seventeen-year-olds gained some ground in reading since 2004, but their average performance in math and reading has not budged since the early 1970s.

You can find the same information about the racial gap in this summary. But it isn't the focus. It's just one detail among many.

Why categorize and measure students by race?

Well, one reason is because the second paragraph of the No Child Left Behind legislation reads:

An Act
To close the achievement gap with accountability, flexibility, and choice, so that no child is left behind.

What is the "achievement gap"? In the NCLB's Statement of Purpose, it says:

(3) closing the achievement gap between high- and low-performing children, especially the achievement gaps between minority and nonminority students, and between disadvantaged children and their more advantaged peers;

In 2001, Ted Kennedy and George W. Bush, on behalf of all right-thinking people everywhere, placed a bet with, more or less, me -- as the public face of the tiny minority of despicable bad people who follow social science statistics the way George W. Bush (or Stephen Jay Gould) followed baseball statistics.

Now, the results are coming in on the bet and Saletan says we should stop counting them.

Saletan continues:

Aren't there better ways to organize the data? "Lower-performing 9- and 13-year-olds make gains," says one section of the NAEP report [PDF]."No significant change for 17-year-olds at any performance level," says another. "Reading scores improve for 9-year-old public and private school students over long term," says a third. "Score increases for 17-year-olds whose parents did not finish high school," says a fourth. These tables organize the data by factors that can help us target and adjust educational policy: kids with low scores, kids in public school, kids in high school, kids whose parents didn't graduate. I'd like to see tables for income and spending per pupil, too.

It's not hard to look up NAEP scores yourself. Here's the 2007 8th grade Reading scores broken down by race and income. White kids whose parents are so poor that they are eligible for the National School Lunch Program outscore affluent black kids by four points and affluent Hispanic kids by one point. The gap between poor whites and poor blacks is 19 points, and the gap among not poor whites and not poor blacks is 21 points. That's what you normally get -- sizable racial gaps anyway you slice it. And, of course, the percent of poor blacks and Hispanics is higher, as you'd expect from their lower test scores, since the NAEP and the marketplace measure overlapping abilities.

But race? Does that category really help? And what message does it send to kids when headlines assert a persistent "racial gap"?

On this question, I'm in no position to throw stones. I've come to my cautionary view the hard way. Liberal creationists—people who think no genetically based difference can be admitted in average ability between populations—are mistaken. But that doesn't make race a useful or socially healthy way of categorizing people.

Beware looking and settling for racial analysis when some other combination of categorieseconomics, culture, genetics—more accurately fits the data. As the NAEP coverage illustrates, that's a warning worth heeding on the left as well as the right.

The reason people all over the world and of all different ideologies can't help but be interested in race is a racial group is, fundamentally, an extended family. So, race is about who your relatives are, which is an inherently interesting topic.

Saletan has been arguing that we should just group people by looking at one gene at a time. (Of course, on average, individual gene differences will tend to follow racial lines.) But, more fundamentally, what he doesn't get is that racial groups have an existence independent of genetics. They are fundamentally genealogical entitities--who begat whom. Unsurprisingly, when you stop and think about it, the genes tag along with the begats.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

David Brooks on what Mozart and Tiger Woods had going for them

NYT op-ed columnist David Brooks, I have been told on reliable authority, is a regular reader of my stuff. The one time he mentioned me by name, back in 2004, he was subjected to so much sputtering rage from the kommisars that he hasn't dared since. In his recent career change toward Malcolm Gladwell-style political correctness, I seem to have served as his off-stage anti-muse, inspiring Brooks to write columns telling New York Times readers that the things they and everbody they socialize with already publicly endorse are actually daring new scientific breakthroughs.

Here's a Brooks column so Gladwellian that it could be the Reader's Digest condensation of Chapter 2 ("The 10,000-Hour Rule: 'In Hamburg, we had to play for eight hours") from Gladwell's recent bestseller Outliers. It's the kind of All-American B.S. that we've heard over and over our whole lives from motivational speakers:
Genius: The Modern View

Some people live in romantic ages. They tend to believe that genius is the product of a divine spark. They believe that there have been, throughout the ages, certain paragons of greatness — Dante, Mozart, Einstein — whose talents far exceeded normal comprehension, who had an other-worldly access to transcendent truth, and who are best approached with reverential awe.

We, of course, live in a scientific age, and modern research pierces hocus-pocus. In the view that is now dominant, even Mozart’s early abilities were not the product of some innate spiritual gift. His early compositions were nothing special. They were pastiches of other people’s work. Mozart was a good musician at an early age, but he would not stand out among today’s top child-performers.

Oh, boy ... How much do Gladwell and Brooks actually know about Mozart? The point is not that the symphonies that Mozart wrote as an eight or nine year old boy are derivative and unsophisticated, but that a little boy wrote symphonies that were good enough to be played in public at all.

Would Mozart "not stand out among today’s top child-performers?" Of course he would. He was the most famous child prodigy performer in Europe when he was a little boy.
What Mozart had, we now believe, was the same thing Tiger Woods had — the ability to focus for long periods of time and a father intent on improving his skills. Mozart played a lot of piano at a very young age, so he got his 10,000 hours of practice in early and then he built from there.

Right. Because look how many other Tiger Woods have come along in golf since Tiger first became famous around 1991 and showed everybody Earl Woods's cookbook recipe for how to raise a prodigy. All that younger talent that came along in Tiger's wake is why, when Tiger was out for eight months with knee surgery, the PGA Tour barely missed him because of all the charismatic younger superstars who have taken over the golf world, like ... you know, uh ... Anthony Kim! ... And ... that other guy, you know, the one with the shirt. And those middle aged guys from Ireland and Argentina. And, don't forget, there's red hot Kenny Perry. (Oh, wait, he's 48-years-old. Never mind.)

Oh, well, I guess there just hasn't been anybody else like Tiger to come along in the last 13 golf seasons. There must not have been anybody else out there besides Tiger with "the ability to focus for long periods of time and a father intent on improving his skills." You know, it must be the notorious shortage of Sideline Dads out there. If only more fathers were intent on improving their sons' athletic skills, there'd be Tiger Woodses everywhere.

Look, to say that Mozart wasn't special because he was just like Tiger Woods is the kind of skull-crushingly stupid thing that you can only get away with saying if you're telling everybody what they want to hear.

Tiger Woods is 33 years old. He's been celebrated on national television for his golf skills for over 30 years. Here's a video (starts 0:45 in) of a two and a half year old Tiger being interviewed by Bob Hope and Jimmy Stewart on a nationally syndicated TV talk show.

The truth is, unsurprisingly, that Tiger Woods is special. And so was Mozart.
The latest research suggests a more prosaic, democratic, even puritanical view of the world. The key factor separating geniuses from the merely accomplished is not a divine spark. It’s not I.Q., a generally bad predictor of success, even in realms like chess. Instead, it’s deliberate practice. Top performers spend more hours (many more hours) rigorously practicing their craft.

How many people whom you've never ever heard of have also put in 10,000 hours? How many people you've never heard of wanted to put in 10,000 hours of rigorous practice but couldn't find anybody to subsidize them because they lacked potential?

And why did Tiger Woods choose golf to put 10,000+ hours of rigorous practice into golf? Why didn't he choose, say, symphony composing instead? Could it be that he liked golf more than composing? And could it be that the reason he like golf more than composing was because he had more natural talent for golf?

Putting in 10,000 hours at something definitely helps, but it really ought to be the right thing.

How many kids lives get wrecked by this kind of thinking by their parents? When you read about 23-year-old Anthony Kim, who got a prototypical Korean-American maniacal drilling upbringing at the driving range where I hit balls when I was a kid, it's a story that appears now to have a happy ending. But just two or three years ago, Kim looked like he was headed for Skid Row, he was drinking so heavily in rebellion against his domineering parents. His parents now tell other Korean parents who ask how they too can mold a pro golfer: Don't even try.

You only see the stories with a happy ending. The stories you don't see would be about all the Asian kids whose parents thought they could have a Tiger Woods too, and turned their kids' childhood into a hell.

The rest of Brooks's column about effective ways to practice is fine, but the opening is such a load of tripe ...

April 30, 2009

Parallel Parking and Disparate Impact

A recent study showed that IQ and similar tests were highly useful at predicting who would make it through a year-long truck driving training course. In comments, though, several of my readers (who tend not to be deficient in IQ) pointed to their own troubles during their abortive truck driving careers, which usually involved backing a big rig up.

Backing up can be a tricky cognitive problem. I suspect (on no particular evidence) that being good at backing up is not hugely related to g, the general factor in intelligence. So, a specific test of backing up skill could be useful. Backing up a trailer is harder than backing up car, but for applicants to truck driver training programs, a parallel parking test using the applicant's own vehicle might make a good first cut (along with paper and pencil tests). If somebody is bad at parallel parking his or her own vehicle, that might indicate something about the likelihood that they'll wash out of trucking school.

Parallel parking isn't easy, even for professional heavy equipment drivers. From the June 2005 issue of Concrete Producer trade magazine:

Back for its third year at World of Concrete, the John Deere Load America competition has become a popular mainstay outside the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Participants were more eager than ever to hop inside the cab of a John Deere 544J front-end loader and take on a formidable obstacle course for some terrific prizes. Participants received points for successfully executing a variety of maneuvers such as backing up, parallel parking, and driving up a ramp to drop a ball into a barrel.

Of all the obstacles, parallel parking usually give participants the biggest challenge ...

As a society, we don't benefit when people wash out of expensive training programs for predictable reasons.

So, why wouldn't a trucking firm at least consider a parallel parking test for job applicants?

Well, how about "disparate impact?" What if a legally protected demographic group such as, say, women turned out to pass the parallel parking test at less than four-fifths rate of the highest scoring demographic group?

I have no idea who tend to be the best and worst parallel parkers, but I wouldn't be surprised if women are below average at it. A key part of parallel parking is psychological rather than cognitive: it's the feeling that you damn well deserve to block traffic while you take your time so you can do it right the first time. (I'm reminded of something a PGA rival said about why Arnold Palmer sank so many crucial 20 foot putts: That Arnold had more confidence barely begins to describe the gap between him and the lesser mortals on the golf tour. The key was that Arnold just felt he deserved to sink 20 foot putts.)

And big rig drivers face much harder parking challenges. There's a reason that truck drivers in popular culture are stereotyped as insensitive: sensitive types who worry about how they are blocking other drivers while they try to backup through a three-point reverse turn into an alley 18" wider than their trailer tend to get flustered and mess up.

In a sane, effectual society, questions of disparate impact would be answered once and then we'd move on. We'd check to see if, say, parallel parking was a valid test that provided useful information about who is likely to become a good truck driver. If the parallel parking test had a disparate impact on women, we'd check to see if the unlikely might be true and the test had something odd about it that made it less valid for women. But, once it turned out that, yes, women tend to make lousier truck drivers and, yes, this test merely reveals that, we'd move on.

And yet the Ricci fireman promotion test case shows that when it comes to disparate impact, we don't move on. Fireman promotion tests have been studied and litigated longer than many of you reading this have been alive. Nothing ever changes. But we're all supposed to act like it could change at any minute. That provides a lot of money to discrimination lawyers (e.g., Barack Obama), testing firms, consulting firms that pick the testing firms, etc. etc.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Rick Perlstein almost figured out the Mortgage Meltdown in 2007

Mike at RortyBomb just pointed out to me an insightful four-part series from way back in July 2007 called "The Foreclosing of America" by liberal journalist Rick Perlstein, author of Nixonland, which is all about evil Republican racists. Perlstein's theme was how the Bush Push for the "Ownership Society" led to the Housing Bubble:
What with all the best-dressed Republican strategists speaking of homeownership for one and all as the royal road to permanent Republican rule, what with Bushies constantly boasting of increasing a homeownership rate of 65 percent in 1996 to 69 percent in 2002 - well, might some order for all these regulators to stand down come directly from the White House?

That's a question above my pay grade. It's the kind of question only historians are able to answer decade later, sifting through memoranda in presidential libraries (which is why this White House kneecapped the Presidential Records Act that puts such memos in the public domain; lawyers call this "mens rea").

What we do know now is that that the positive policies the Bush White House has actually put forward to realize greater homeownership bear no relationship whatsoever to the importance, politically and policy-wise, the White House claims to place on the problem. For all intents and purposes, it's been but a single program - the American Dream Down-payment Fund, funded at a paltry $200 million. Let's do a little math. There are, by last count, 73.4 million homeowners. Rough-and-ready, without adjusting for population increase, a homeownership rate of 67.4 percent in 2000 and 68.9 percent in 2005 - and stat-heads, correct me if I'm wrong - we're talking about approximately 1.1 million new homeowners. That's a one-hundred-eight-one buck subsidy for new homeowner. I have to imagine, if Karl Rove was relying on more homeowners to help mint more Republicans, he'd be making some greater effort above and beyond this?

Was Karl Rove relying on all those NINJA loans instead? Was the White House, sub rosa, encouraging them? It's not hard to imagine. If so, how well and truly rogered the Republicans finds themselves. One more Bushian house of cards has collapsed. If only the damage could be contained within the political fortunes of the Republican Party.

I wish I had read Perlstein's series earlier. Despite his insightfulness, Perlstein got zero traction with this line of argument.

One obvious problem was that he didn't present any direct evidence of Bush sending secret signals.

And yet, Perlstein didn't need to speculate about secret signals from the White House to federal regulators about backing off on enforcing credit standards and to mortgage lenders to Go For It. Instead, Bush's messages were sent in the form of Presidential Addresses.

Heck, Bush had an official mural painted to get his message across, presumably so that his point wouldn't be missed by even potential minority subprime borrowers who happened to be illiterate.

So, why didn't Perlstein simply quote Bush's speech from the October 15, 2002 White House Conference on Increasing Minority Homeownership in which Bush said down payment requirements were the chief barrier to adding 5.5 million minority homeowners to eradicate the racial gap in access to the American Dream?

Now you can see just how powerful was the juju that Bush and Rove were wielding. Here's Rick Perlstein, as fine a hater as you can want, and yet it's more important to him and his readers to denounce Republicans as racists than to denounce Republicans effectively. If Perlstein had tried to quote Bush's speech on "Increasing Minority Homeownership," his head would have exploded.

"Three Victorian Questions" by Geoffrey Miller

Here's a 2001 essay by Geoffrey Miller, author of the upcoming Spent, answering literary agent John Brockman's question: "What questions have disappeared, and why?"
"Three Victorian questions about potential sexual partners: 'Are they from a good family?'; 'What are their accomplishments?'; 'Was their money and status acquired ethically?' "

To our "Sex and the City" generation, these three questions sound shamefully Victorian and bourgeois. Yet they were not unique to 19th century England: they obsessed the families of eligible young men and women in every agricultural and industrial civilization. Only with our socially-atomized, late-capitalist society have these questions become tasteless, if not taboo. Worried parents ask them only in the privacy of their own consciences, in the sleepless nights before a son or daughter's ill-considered marriage.

The "good family" question always concerned genetic inheritance as much as financial inheritance. Since humans evolved in bands of closely-related kin, we probably evolved an intuitive appreciation of the genetics relevant to mate choice ‹ taking into account the heritable strengths and weakness that we could observe in each potential mate's relatives, as well as their own qualities. Recent findings in medical genetics and behavior genetics demonstrate the wisdom of taking a keen interest in such relatives: one can tell a lot about a young person's likely future personality, achievements, beliefs, parenting style, and mental and physical health by observing their parents, siblings, uncles, and aunts. Yet the current American anti-genetic ideology demands that we ignore such cues of genetic quality ‹ God forbid anyone should accuse us of eugenics. Consider the possible reactions a woman might have to hearing that a potential husband was beaten as a child by parents who were alcoholic, aggressive religious fundamentalists. Twin and adoption studies show that alcoholism, aggressiveness, and religiousity are moderately heritable, so such a man is likely to become a rather unpleasant father. Yet our therapy cures-all culture says the woman should offer only non-judgmental sympathy to the man, ignoring the inner warning bells that may be going off about his family and thus his genes. Arguably, our culture alienates women and men from their own genetic intuitions, and thereby puts their children at risk.

The question "What are their accomplishments?" refers not to career success, but to the constellation of hobbies, interests, and skills that would have adorned most educated young people in previous centuries. Things like playing pianos, painting portraits, singing hymns, riding horses, and planning dinner parties. Such accomplishments have been lost through time pressures, squeezed out between the hyper-competitive domain of school and work, and the narcissistic domain of leisure and entertainment. It is rare to find a young person who does anything in the evening that requires practice (as opposed to study or work) ‹ anything that builds skills and self-esteem, anything that creates a satisfying, productive "flow" state, anything that can be displayed with pride in public. Parental hot-housing of young children is not the same: after the child's resentment builds throughout the French and ballet lessons, the budding skills are abandoned with the rebelliousness of puberty ‹ or continued perfunctorily only because they will look good on college applications. The result is a cohort of young people whose only possible source of self-esteem is the school/work domain ‹ an increasingly winner-take-all contest where only the brightest and most motivated feel good about themselves. (And we wonder why suicidal depression among adolescents has doubled in one generation.) This situation is convenient for corporate recruiting ‹ it channels human instincts for self-display and status into an extremely narrow range of economically productive activities. Yet it denies young people the breadth of skills that would make their own lives more fulfilling, and their potential lovers more impressed. Their identities grow one-dimensionally, shooting straight up towards career success without branching out into the variegated skill sets which could soak up the sunlight of respect from flirtations and friendships, and which could offer shelter, and alternative directions for growth, should the central shoot snap.

The question "Was their money and status acquired ethically?" sounds even quainter, but its loss is even more insidious. As the maximization of share-holder value guides every decision in contemporary business, individual moral principles are exiled to the leisure realm. They can be manifest only in the Greenpeace membership that reduces one's guilt about working for Starbucks or Nike. Just as hip young consumers justify the purchase of immorally manufactured products as "ironic" consumption, they justify working for immoral businesses as "ironic" careerism. They aren't "really" working in an ad agency that handles the Phillip Morris account for China; they're just interning for the experience, or they're really an aspiring screen-writer or dot-com entrepreneur. The explosion in part-time, underpaid, high-turnover service industry jobs encourages this sort of amoral, ironic detachment on the lower rungs of the corporate ladder. At the upper end, most executives assume that shareholder value trumps their own personal values. And in the middle, managers dare not raise issues of corporate ethics for fear of being down-sized. The dating scene is complicit in this corporate amorality. The idea that Carrie Bradshaw or Ally McBeal would stop seeing a guy just because he works for an unethical company doesn't even compute. The only relevant morality is personal ‹ whether he is kind, honest, and faithful to them. Who cares about the effect his company is having on the Phillipino girls working for his sub-contractors? "Sisterhood" is so Seventies. Conversely, men who question the ethics of a woman's career choice risk sounding sexist: how dare he ask her to handicap herself with a conscience, when her gender is already enough of a handicap in getting past the glass ceiling?

In place of these biologically, psychologically, ethically grounded questions, marketers encourage young people to ask questions only about each other's branded identities. Armani or J. Crew clothes? Stanford or U.C.L.A. degree? Democrat or Republican? Prefer "The Matrix" or "You've Got Mail'? Eminem or Sophie B. Hawkins? Been to Ibiza or Cool Britannia? Taking Prozac or Wellbutrin for the depression? Any taste that doesn't lead to a purchase, any skill that doesn't require equipment, any belief that doesn't lead to supporting a non-profit group with an aggressive P.R. department, doesn't make any sense in current mating market. We are supposed to consume our way into an identity, and into our most intimate relationships. But after all the shopping is done, we have to face, for the rest of our lives, the answers that the Victorians sought: what genetic propensities, fulfilling skills, and moral values do our sexual partners have? We might not have bothered to ask, but our children will find out sooner or later.

April 29, 2009

UPDATED: Why aren't we paying unemployed illegal immigrants to go home?

From Business Week, here's the latest on places with Depression-level unemployment rates: A couple are in Greater Detroit, but most are in California, and are heavily Hispanic. By the way, in El Centro, the place with the worst unemployment in the country, minorities got 84.3% of all conventional home purchase mortgage dollars in 2006 (prime and subprime) according the federal Home Mortgage Disclosure Act database (see page 2 of this government report). In Merced, the only other place in the country where unemployment is over 20%, minorities got 79.7% of the 2006 mortgage dollars.

Of the top 203 metropolitan statistical areas in Q1-2009, "Merced, Calif., had the second highest [foreclosure] rate, according to RealtyTrac.

So, our bipartisan policy was to lure in illegal immigrants "to do the jobs Americans just won't do" building the houses Americans just don't need and that Hispanics, American or illegal, turned out to just not be able to afford.

Cities With Jobless Rates of 15% or More
Metro Area State March 2009 Jobless Rate Rise From March 2008
El Centro CA 25.1% 7.5
Merced CA 20.4% 6.7
Yuba City CA 19.5% 6.8
Elkhart-Goshen IN 18.8% 13
Visalia-Porterville CA 17.7% 6.1
Modesto CA 17.5% 6.3
Bend OR 17.0% 9.2
Fresno CA 17.0% 6
Redding CA 16.8% 6.6
Hanford-Corcoran CA 16.7% 5.4
Stockton CA 16.4% 6.2
Bakersfield CA 15.9% 5.2
Salinas CA 15.7% 5
Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton NC 15.4% 9.1
Flint MI 15.3% 4.6
Madera-Chowchilla CA 15.3% 5
Yuma AZ 15.3% 5.4
Ocean City NJ 15.0% 4.2

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

NYT: NAEP Racial Gaps Haven't Magically Disappeared

From the New York Times:

'No Child' Law Is Not Closing a Racial Gap

by Sam Dillon

The achievement gap between white and minority students has not narrowed in recent years, despite the focus of the No Child Left Behind law on improving the scores of blacks and Hispanics, according to results of a federal test considered to be the nation’s best measure of long-term trends in math and reading proficiency.

Between 2004 and last year, scores for young minority students increased, but so did those of white students, leaving the achievement gap stubbornly wide, despite President George W. Bush’s frequent assertions that the No Child law was having a dramatic effect.

So, everybody is learning more. And this is a problem?

Perhaps the federal government should just hit all the white kids over the head with a ballpeen hammer. That would narrow the gap.

Although Black and Hispanic elementary, middle and high school students all scored much higher on the federal test than they did three decades ago, most of those gains were not made in recent years, but during the desegregation efforts of the 1970s and 1980s.

No, I think most of the black advantage was picked up from ending the Jim Crow system of segregated schools in the South in 1969-1970, which really were bad.

That was well before the 2001 passage of the No Child law, the official description of which is “An Act to Close the Achievement Gap.”

“There’s not much indication that N.C.L.B. is causing the kind of change we were all hoping for,” said G. Gage Kingsbury, a testing expert who is a director at the Northwest Evaluation Association in Portland. “Trends after the law took effect mimic trends we were seeing before. But in terms of watershed change, that doesn’t seem to be happening.”

The results no doubt will stoke debate about how to rewrite the No Child law when the Obama administration brings it up for reauthorization later this year. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has said he would like to strengthen national academic standards, tighten requirements that high-quality teachers be distributed equally across schools in affluent and poor neighborhoods, and make other adjustments. “We still have a lot more work to do,” Mr. Duncan said of the latest scores. But the long-term assessment results could invigorate those who challenge the law’s accountability model itself.

Despite gains that both whites and minorities did make, the overall scores of the United States’ 17-year-old students, averaged across all groups, were the same as those of teenagers who took the test in the early 1970s. This was largely due to a shift in demographics; there are now far more lower-scoring minorities in relation to whites. In 1971, the proportion of white 17-year-olds who took the reading test was 87 percent, while minorities were 12 percent. Last year, whites had declined to 59 percent while minorities had increased to 40 percent.

So, how's that massive demographic change working out for us?

The percentage of Hispanic 13-year-olds in the NAEP sample increased from 7% in 1984 to 21% in 2008.

The scores of 9- and 13-year-old students, however, were up modestly in reading, and were considerably higher in math, since 2004, the last time the test was administered. And they were quite a bit higher than those of students of the same age a generation back. Still, the progress of younger students tapered off as they got older.

Some experts said the results proved that the No Child law had failed to make serious headway in lifting academic achievement. “We’re lifting the basic skills of young kids,” said Bruce Fuller, an education professor at the University of California, Berkeley, “but this policy is not lifting 21st-century skills for the new economy.”

But Margaret Spellings, Mr. Duncan’s predecessor under President Bush, called the results a vindication of the No Child law.

“It’s not an accident that we’re seeing the most improvement where N.C.L.B. has focused most vigorously,” Ms. Spellings said. “The law focuses on math and reading in grades three through eight — it’s not about high schools. So these results are affirming of our accountability-type approach.”

Whether anyone knows how to extend the results achieved with younger students through the turbulent high school years remains an open question.

The math and reading test, known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress, Long-Term Trends, was given to a nationally representative sample of 26,000 students last year. It was the 12th time since 1971 that the Department of Education administered a comparable test to students ages 9, 13 and 17. The scores, released on Tuesday in Washington, allow for comparisons of student achievement every few years back to the Vietnam and Watergate years.

You can look at the 2008 NAEP scores versus old scores here.

April 28, 2009

Diversity in Action

Here's a New York Times article:

NY Councilman's Role in Sister's Hiring Is Examined

by Ray Rivera and Russ Beuttner

A few years ago, when New York City was pressuring advertising agencies to hire more black executives, City Councilman Larry B. Seabrook, chairman of the Council’s Civil Rights Committee, approached one of the largest companies with a plan to address the issue.

The company, the Omnicom Group, ultimately endorsed Mr. Seabrook’s plan to create a high-powered diversity committee and agreed to spend $2.25 million on initiatives. It also decided to retain a consultant from Atlanta whom Mr. Seabrook had proposed to help run the committee.

The City Council speaker, Christine C. Quinn, praised the plan. H. Carl McCall, a former state comptroller, agreed to serve on the committee. And Omnicom saw the plan as an effective response to concerns that just 2 percent of the higher-ranking jobs at New York advertising firms were held by blacks.

But Ms. Quinn, Mr. McCall and the company say they were never told that the candidate recommended by Mr. Seabrook in early 2007 was his sister.

Omnicom officials said they did not learn of the sibling relationship until they discovered it on their own, shortly before they settled on Mr. Seabrook’s sister, Priscilla A. Jenkins, for the job of coordinating the committee’s work.

Ms. Jenkins was a former college administrator who ran a consulting business out of her home. Company officials said they were not concerned that Mr. Seabrook never mentioned the relationship to them. And the officials would not say what the company pays Ms. Jenkins.

The company decided to retain Ms. Jenkins as the committee’s executive director because of her “extremely impressive résumé,” said Weldon H. Latham, the company’s outside legal counsel on diversity.

“Her experience in management, administration, education, diversity and corporate and community liaison made her an attractive candidate,” added Mr. Latham, who said he could not release her résumé. He said that apart from recommending Ms. Jenkins, Mr. Seabrook played no role in the decision to retain her.

Ms. Quinn referred the matter this month to the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board and the Council’s Standards and Ethics Committee after learning of the relationship from a reporter.

City regulations prohibit elected officials from using their positions to obtain financial gain or personal advantage for themselves or close family members. ...

Ms. Jenkins’s duties include administrative, communication and coordination tasks, and she plays a role in setting the committee’s agenda, the company said. In addition to hourly consulting fees commensurate with industry standards, Ms. Jenkins is compensated for her expenses, including travel costs from Atlanta, Mr. Latham said. The committee and its subcommittees have met numerous times and “have been instrumental in helping shape and enhance Omnicom and its agencies’ diversity efforts,” he said.

When Mr. Seabrook came up with his plan to address diversity, the city’s Commission on Human Rights, a mayoral agency, was just finishing a two-year investigation of hiring practices in the advertising industry.

The commission had investigated 16 of the city’s largest agencies and was threatening to hold potentially embarrassing hearings if the companies did not sign pacts agreeing to set hiring goals and to report on their progress annually. Patricia L. Gatling, the agency’s commissioner, said she had not been aware that Mr. Seabrook was working with Omnicom on a separate plan.

Most of the companies signed agreements with the commission. But four agencies affiliated with Omnicom objected to numeric hiring goals and instead pursued the proposal by Mr. Seabrook, who was also planning hearings.

As a result of its discussions with Mr. Seabrook, the firm agreed to provide $1.25 million to the eight-member committee over five years to finance programs on diversity and to devote an additional $1 million to establish a marketing and communications curriculum at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn. Omnicom’s plan with Mr. Seabrook did not satisfy the Human Rights Commission, however, and two weeks later, the company signed the pact with the commission.

In the most recent numbers released by the city, the advertising industry reported that it was largely meeting the hiring targets that it had agreed to with the commission. In 2008, for example, 30 percent of those hired into upper-echelon positions were minorities, according to the industry numbers.

Before assuming her role with Omnicom, Ms. Jenkins, 55, directed the Center for Academic Excellence and Leadership at Morris Brown College in Atlanta. She worked at the small historically black college for 15 years, until 2003. Many staff members left the college after it lost its accreditation in 2002. The program she had managed was designed to offer remedial assistance and to help students find internships, and she oversaw a staff of two to four people, according to Milford W. Greene, a former professor and a former assistant dean at Morris Brown. ...

According to city records, Ms. Jenkins has also done consulting work for at least three Bronx-based nonprofit groups financed by Mr. Seabrook through City Council discretionary funds.

The groups, the Mercy Foundation, the Northeast Bronx Redevelopment Corporation and the African-American Legal and Civic Hall of Fame, were run at the time by Gloria Jones-Grant, a close associate of Mr. Seabrook’s. The groups are among those that investigators are scrutinizing as part of an investigation that began last year into how the Council spends its discretionary funds.

Since Mr. Seabrook joined the Council in 2002, the groups have secured more than $1 million in city contracts, mostly through Mr. Seabrook.

The Mercy Foundation, which paid Ms. Jenkins $7,500 in 2007 to help with what city records describe as an immigration seminar, has received nearly $200,000 in grants from the Council. It is unclear how much Ms. Jenkins has been paid by the groups in total because the city would not release additional documents, citing the continuing investigation.

In the mid-1990s, when Mr. Seabrook was a state legislator, federal investigators looked into his role in financing the Northeast Bronx Redevelopment Corporation and how the money was spent. The investigation did not produce any criminal charges, but a state audit later criticized how the group had spent $260,000 it had received, saying that it should return $46,000 because it had not adequately documented the expenses.

In approaching Omnicom, Mr. Seabrook envisioned an industrywide committee, with a full-time executive director, that would work with the Council and use a combination of public and private money, Mr. Latham said. Later, Mr. Seabrook gave the company a list of recommendations for committee members and one name for executive director, Ms. Jenkins’s, Mr. Latham said.

As discussions continued, he said, Omnicom realized that it would be the only source of financing and that this would be, essentially, its committee. Omnicom made the executive director position part time, Mr. Latham said, and discovered that Ms. Jenkins was Mr. Seabrook’s sister. He said the company never brought it up with Mr. Seabrook.

Mr. McCall, the Omnicom committee’s chairman, said of Ms. Jenkins: “The fact is she had a job and she did the job. I don’t know how she got the job.”

Why is this sort of a scandal, but the First Lady having the equivalent make-work diversity racket job at the U of Chicago Hospitals, and getting paid $117k when her husband was chairman of the Illinois Senate Health and Human Services Committee and then getting her salary more than doubled when her husband got elected to the U.S. Senate, not a scandal?

The best answer I can come up with is that Civil Service laws are supposed to prevent favoritism in government hiring. Still, private interests, like the U of C hospitals, really aren't supposed to bribe elected officials by hiring their loved ones to make work jobs and then giving the loved ones huge raises when the elected official gets elected to a higher office. (The existence of the Diversity Racket makes all this easier because it's obviously unimportant whether they accomplish anything. The less they accomplish in, say, getting no-bid contracts for minority firms, the better for the general public). Maybe it's not illegal, but isn't it a little unseemly? Especially since Mr. Obama carefully positioned Mrs. Obama as this home-and-children-first Earth Mother during the campaign, so how in the world can she be said to have "earned" $317k in the year after his election to the Senate?

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

April 27, 2009

Mrs. Stephen Jay Gould sponsors lawsuit against Jared Diamond

Last year, Jared Diamond published a long account in The New Yorker of stories his driver in New Guinea had told him about a bloody feud he'd led in the New Guinea highlands. (I commented on it here.) Now, the driver and another man are suing Diamond for $10 million, saying the story isn't true.

From Chronicles of Higher Education:

“While acting on vengeful feelings clearly needs to be discouraged, acknowledging them should be not merely permitted but encouraged,” wrote Jared M. Diamond in an essay in The New Yorker last April.

Now two of the subjects of that essay are acknowledging their own vengeful feelings. This week a lawyer filed a $10-million defamation claim in a New York court on behalf of two Papua New Guinea men whom Mr. Diamond described as active participants in clan warfare during the 1990s.

Mr. Diamond, a professor of geography at the University of California at Los Angeles and the author of the best-selling Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies (W.W. Norton, 1997), and Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (Viking, 2004), based the essay almost entirely on accounts given to him by Hup Daniel Wemp, an oil-field technician who served as Mr. Diamond’s driver during a 2001-2 visit to New Guinea. (The full text of the essay is open only to New Yorker subscribers, but a long summary is available here.

Mr. Wemp is now one of the lawsuit’s two plaintiffs; the other is Henep Isum Mandingo, a man who, according to Mr. Diamond’s article, was attacked and paralyzed on orders from Mr. Wemp.

For nearly a year, Mr. Diamond’s article has been scrutinized by Rhonda Roland Shearer, director of the Art Science Research Laboratory, a multifaceted New York organization with a sideline in media criticism. Ms. Shearer, a sculptor and writer, is the widow of Stephen Jay Gould, who preceded Mr. Diamond as a widely esteemed public interpreter of science.

Gould's widow sure likes lawsuits. A few years ago she filed suit for malpractice against the doctor who had saved Gould's life from cancer in 1982.

The Stinky Journalism website run by her Art Science Research Laboratory says:
Art Science Research Laboratory (ASRL) is a not-for-profit, 501(3)c, founded by Stephen Jay Gould, and Rhonda Roland Shearer in 1996.

The notion of Stephen Jay Gould founding a website to combat "stinky journalism" is hilarious. This is a writer whose biggest bestseller, The Mismeasure of Man, remains the epitome of stinky journalism. High class stinky journalism is what made Mr. and Mrs. Gould rich. As the AP reported on Mrs. Gould's lawsuit against her late husband's doctor:
"The lawsuit does not specify the damages being sought, but says that Dr. Gould earned $300,000 a year from speaking engagements alone, that "a seven-figure income was his norm" and that when he died he was about to enter into a book contract for more than $2 million."

Here's Stinky Journalism's endless, poorly organized, poorly edited, and minor error-filled diatribe against Diamond.

This lawsuit against Diamond is also part of the cultural anthropology profession's war against Diamond (which I discussed in 2007), who has become a best-selling author by mixing the human sciences with Darwinism (while clinging hard enough to political correctness to stay in the money). Although Diamond has made a fortune by coming up with politically correct rationalizations for the obvious huge gaps in achievement among the races, to cultural anthropologists, he's not politically correct enough.

Forbes reports:
Complicating Wemp's case, perhaps, is an interview he gave to Shearer's researchers, in which he stated that the stories he told Diamond were in fact true.

But a Wemp friend and legal adviser, Mako John Kuwimb, explains: "When foreigners come to our culture, we tell stories as entertainment. Daniel's stories were not serious narrative, and Daniel had no idea he was being interviewed for publication."

Pacific Islanders are notorious for yanking the chains of visiting Western academics -- just look at how Samoan girls snookered Margaret Mead in the 1920s. Moreover, guys like to tell stories about how tough they are, so when your driver tells you about how many men he's killed protecting his family's honor, you shouldn't necessarily take him all that seriously.

So, I have no idea if this story is true or not. Diamond's article was, literally, a story about a bunch of savages slaughtering each other in the jungle. That's the kind of thing that doesn't leave much of a paper trail.

I imagine Wemp would be happy to settle out of court for $100,000 or whatever, which is serious cash in PNG. Wemp's lawsuit is ridiculous because obviously Diamond didn't just make up the story. He heard it from Wemp, the plaintiff. The story Wemp told may or may not be true. If it's not, the other parties named in it may have some kind of case against Diamond for negligence in credulously believing a blowhard's tall tales. But Wemp doesn't have a leg to stand on.

But all this raises once again the question that comes up practically every time The New Yorker prints a Malcolm Gladwell article, such as the one libeling Charles Murray that led to a shaming retraction from Gladwell's editor David Remnick: Whatever happened to The New Yorker's famous Bright Lights, Big City-style factcheckers? Or have I answered my own question?

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

What Obama hasn't figured out yet: "Better Teachers" mean "_____er Teachers"

These days, everybody is in favor of having Better Teachers in our public schools: Barack Obama, Arne Duncan, Bill Gates, the whole gang. Everybody is in favor of hiring Better Teachers and easing out Worse Teachers.

Heck, I'm in favor of Better Teachers.

But guess what Obama et al haven't figured out yet about Better Teachers? It's something that James S. Coleman discovered in working on his 1966 Coleman Report.

I'm reading Race and Education: 1954-2007 by U. of Delaware historian Raymond Wolters. It's an academic study that's well-written enough to appeal to a mass audience. It's unusual in that it covers both the well-trodden ground of Supreme Court decisions about race and public schools, from Brown v. Board of Education onward, while at the same time recounting exactly the unintended consequences of what those august deliberations did to real children in the classrooms and hallways and lavatories.

A major figure in the book is quantitative sociologist James S. Coleman, who was given $1 million by the 1964 Civil Rights Act to study how much blacks were shortchanged by the public schools. But his 1966 Coleman report proved disappointing to LBJ Administration. Wolters writes:
The achievement gap troubled Coleman. As a sociologist he was inclined to ascribe the differences in black and white test scores to the influence of the social environment, and he also knew that attributing even part of the difference to racial inheritance would place him outside the pale of his profession and render him ineligible for future grants. For Coleman and for many other educators and sociologist who studied his report, the key variables were family background and neighborhood. There was no correlation between test scores and per-pupil spending, age of textbooks, and a host of other measures. But there was a correlation with family background, the education and occupations of parents, and the number of books in the home. ...

For Coleman, these findings were unwelcome. Personally, he favored more spending for education. And Coleman's dismay was compounded by another correlation that emerged from the data. Both black and white children seemed to do better on tests if their teachers had done well on a standard test of vocabulary. This was especially problematical because black teachers were "on the whole less well prepared, less qualified, with lower verbal skills, than their white counterparts." This led to "the conjecture that [students] would do less well on average under black teachers than under white teachers." If so, "a major source of inequality of educational opportunity for black students was the fact they were being taught by black teachers." Yet this possibility was so heterodox that the Coleman report did not pursue the matter. In 1991 Coleman expressed regret over the decision "not to ask the crucial question." "A dispassionate researcher," he wrote, "would have gone on to ask the question we did not ask." ...

Poring over the statistics, he noted that African American teachers, on average, had slightly more years of formal education than their white counterparts. But the black teachers lagged behind whites in vocabulary and reading comprehension.

In other words, what Obama hasn't figured out yet, although James S. Coleman figured it out back in 1966, is that Better Teachers means Whiter Teachers.

When it finally dawns on Obama that if we actually start firing worse teachers and hiring better teachers, we'll be, on net, firing blacks and hiring whites, you can expect this whole effort to get buried so far under affirmative action that nothing good comes of it.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Who benefits from "cap & trade?"

I know the answer to that question about who benefits from Obama's global warming-fighting strategy is supposed to be "Gaia," but don't their have to be individual winners and losers? Maybe I'm just paranoid, but I'm guessing that losers will tend to include suburbanite and rural vehicle owners, while winners will include urban rapid transit users. And, I'm guessing, that that's just fine with Obama.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Truck driving and cognitive skills

Years ago, a reader who owned a trucking firm asked me if IQ testing could help his firm pick truck drivers who wouldn't quit on them, wouldn't get lost, and wouldn't get into costly accidents. The U.S. military often assigns low scorers on the AFQT to truck driving duties, but, keep in mind, virtually the lowest scorers allowed to enlist from 1992 thru 2004 were 92 IQs, who aren't stupid by any means. Truck driving involves a fair degree of cognitive demands, but not as much as, say, driving a tank, so the military figures it can get away with putting its 2 digit IQs into truck driver spots.

It sounded like an interesting project, but I never got around to it, and have felt guilty about it ever since.

Now there's a paper (found via on a study of 1066 trainee truckers in the U.S.:
Cognitive Skills Explain Economic Preferences, Strategic Behavior, and Job Attachment, by Stephen V. Burks, Jeffrey P. Carpenter, Lorenz Götte, and Aldo Rustichini

In large firms of the type we study, the American Trucking Associations consistently report that annual turnover rates exceed 100% (21). Most driver trainees, including our subjects, borrow the cost of training from their new employer, a debt which is forgiven after twelve months of post‐training service, but which becomes payable in full upon earlier exit. Yet over half our subjects exit before twelve months, which makes predicting survival of considerable interest.

The social scientists gave the trainee truckers the Ravens non-verbal IQ test, an ETS test of numeracy, and had them play a quantitative game called Hit 15. They also had them engage in the kind of Vernon Smith behavioral economics experiments that help measure future orientation and the like.
Figure 4 displays the survival curves for distinct values of a typical socio‐economic variable (marital status), as well as for each quintile for the Hit 15 Index. The difference between married and un‐married is small, while the difference among the quintiles in any of the cognitive skills scores is large. Marital status is typical of other socio‐economic variables, such as credit score, number of dependents, prior job, and so on: these explain little of the variation in survival. The survival curves are similar for the IQ Index and the Numeracy. The difference between survival levels at different scores is particularly large for the Hit 15 Index: the survival for the top scorers is twice as large as for the bottom ones.

IQ, numeracy, and the Hit 15 game were all correlated with graduation rates from the one-year training program. The Hit 15 game was a particularly good predictor of who would graduate from the training program. Interestingly, the top quintile in numeracy had a worse graduation rate than the next highest quintile. Perhaps the most numerate tended to get alternative employment as bookkeepers, or whatever, jobs where you get to go home every evening.

Their abstract:
Economic analysis has said little about how an individual’s cognitive skills (CS's) are related to the individual’s preferences in different choice domains, such as risk-taking or saving, and how preferences in different domains are related to each other. Using a sample of 1,000 trainee truckers we report three findings. First, we show a strong and significant relationship between an individual’s cognitive skills and preferences, and between the preferences in different choice domains. The latter relationship may be counterintuitive: a patient individual, more inclined to save, is also more willing to take calculated risks. A second finding is that measures of cognitive skill predict social awareness and choices in a sequential Prisoner's Dilemma game. Subjects with higher CS's more accurately forecast others' behavior, and differentiate their behavior depending on the first mover’s choice, returning higher amount for a higher transfer, and lower for a lower one. After controlling for investment motives, subjects with higher CS’s also cooperate more as first movers. A third finding concerns on-the-job choices. Our subjects incur a significant financial debt for their training that is forgiven only after twelve months of service. Yet over half leave within the first year, and cognitive skills are also strong predictors of who exits too early, stronger than any other social, economic and personality measure in our data. These results suggest that cognitive skills affect the economic lives of individuals, by systematically changing preferences and choices in a way that favors the economic success of individuals with higher cognitive skills.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Greenspan to testify on immigration

L. Gordon Crovitz writes on the WSJ op-ed page:
We Need an Immigration Stimulus

... Which brings us to our own era, and the debate on immigration reform beginning this week with congressional hearings that include an appearance by former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan. President Barack Obama says he wants to address the issue by the end of the year.

So begins the media rehabilitation of Alan Greenspan: Sure, he helped cause the housing bubble and the mortgage meltdown, but now he's making it up for it by coming out on the side of truth and justice by being for immigration. He's an ideologue screw-up on everything else, but at least he's right about immigration.

How much you wanna bet that nobody at the hearing will ask him about the link between immigration and the mortgage meltdown? What link? Whoever heard of such a thing?

We've all been brainwashed so many time over the last 1 to 2 generations about how Diversity Is Our Strength that it was only natural for the Smart Money to see the flood of Diverse Immigrants into California, Arizona, Nevada, and Florida as a sure thing investment. The supply of land is fixed, but the demand for land in the Sand States keeps going up due to Hispanic immigration, so houses there must rise in price forever.

It usually pays to be skeptical about immigration reform, given the alliance between nativists and labor unions for tighter borders. Still, an economic downturn is the right time to move on immigration, one of the few policy tools that could clearly boost growth.

The pace of lower-skilled migration has slowed due to higher unemployment. This could make it less contentious to ease the path to legalization for the 12 million undocumented workers and their families in the U.S.

The Open Boarders crowd isn't even trying to make sense these days, are they? They just intend to muscle this thing through, babbling whatever nonsense it takes.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

April 26, 2009

Supreme Court Justices and Ricci

From my new column:

Last week, the Ricci reverse discrimination case came up before the Supreme Court for oral questioning. A lawyer representing the New Haven firemen—who are suing the city for refusing to promote them for the last half decade because zero blacks passed the 2003 promotional exams—was grilled by the liberal justices. The Obama Administration’s representative, Deputy Solicitor General Edwin Kneedler , and a lawyer representing the city were roasted by the conservative justices.

New Haven’s attorney claimed that the city had strong evidence for discarding the test as invalid after finding out the results by race. But Justice Samuel Alito pointed out the preposterousness of that claim in a scalding rhetorical question:

"[The city] chose the company that framed the test, and then as soon as it saw the results, it decided it wasn't going to go forward with the promotions. The company offered to validate the test. The City refused to pay for that, even though that was part of its contract with the company. And all it has is this testimony by a competitor, Mr. Hornick, who said—who hadn't seen the test, and he said, I could do a better test—you should make the promotions based on this, but I could give you—I could draw up a better test, and by the way, here's my business card if you want to hire me in the future.

“How's that a strong basis in the evidence?"

Nor was Chief Justice John Roberts impressed by New Haven’s claim that they had to junk the completed test results because of the danger of being sued for discrimination against blacks under the “disparate impact” interpretation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. (Which is now, apparently, more important than the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment). He said:
"CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: It seems to me an odd argument to say that you can violate the Constitution because you have to comply with the statute."

Deputy Solicitor General Ed Kneedler barely got a chance to open his mouth before Roberts scoffed at the Obama Administration’s sincerity on race:
"MR. KNEEDLER: Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court: This Court has long recognized that Title VII prohibits not only intentional discrimination but acts that are discriminatory in their operation.

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: With respect to both blacks and whites, correct?


CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: So, can you assure me that the government's position would be the same if this test—black applicants—firefighters scored highest on this test in disproportionate numbers, and the City said we don't like that result, we think there should be more whites on the fire department, and so we're going to throw the test out? The government of United States would adopt the same position?"

The last thing Obama wants is for the Supreme Court to issue a landmark, precedent-setting decision in the Ricci case. The public finds the courageous fireman plaintiffs to be sympathetic and the justice of their complaint to be commonsensical. Quotas could easily be scuppered based on this case.

Accordingly, the Administration is calling for the case to be remanded all the way back to a jury trial over whether the city acted with racial malice—i.e., Obama wants Ricci to go away, far away.

In reality, however, Ricci is not an unusual case with particularly complicated facts. It’s just business as usual in American society.

When President Obama graduated from Harvard Law School, he chose, out of hundreds of job offers, to work for a Chicago law firm that specialized in suing over purported discrimination against blacks. For example, as I point out in America’s Half-Blood Prince: Barack Obama’s “Story of Race and Inheritance,” Obama made one of his rare court appearances to accuse Citibank of not giving enough mortgage money to minorities. The Chicago Sun-Times reported in 2007:
"Obama represented Calvin Roberson in a 1994 lawsuit against Citibank, charging the bank systematically denied mortgages to African-American applicants and others from minority neighborhoods." [As Lawyer Obama Was Strong, Silent Type December 17, 2007 By Abdon M. Pallasch]

(By the way, how’s that working out for us these days?)

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer