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Economist Tyler Cowen of Marginal Revolution interviews Stanford economist Raj Chetty and borrows a number of his questions from my appreciative 2015 critique in Taki’s Magazine, “Moneyball for Real Estate,” of the flaws in Chetty’s methodology in his huge and much publicized study of how income mobility over the generations varies by county across the United States.

Chetty is trying to find out what are the local policies or customs that make one county a better place to raise your kids than another county. I think that’s a good topic, but he is still a long ways from finding those kind of subtle answers because his results are still clouded by three big methodological problems. As I concluded two years ago:

In summary, Chetty’s data still suffers from crippling problems with:

- Regression toward the mean (especially among races)
- Temporary booms and busts
- Cost of living differences.

Yet, these should not be impossible challenges for him to overcome in future iterations.

Here’s the transcript of the interview (and the podcast if you like listening rather than reading). Excerpts:

… On drivers of upward mobility

COWEN: Let’s go now to some of your research on mobility, which is maybe, at this moment, what you’re best known for. You can identify counties or parts of the United States where mobility for generations is going to be especially high. To what extent do you think that’s picking up that simply some of those regions end up with resource booms or other good events that is, in a sense, just random? It doesn’t per se have to do with the region? Or do you think we can adjust for that?

CHETTY: Yes. Some of what drives upward mobility, of course, is just having a very vibrant economy. To give you an example, parts of North Dakota, with the natural resource boom there, we see are having very high upward mobility. Of course if you discover natural resources, that’s going to help more people move up the income distribution.

But by and large, that is the exception rather than the key driver of the differences in upward mobility that we find across places. I say that for a couple of reasons. First, even if you hold fixed the rate of growth, the rate of economic growth, you find that some places have much higher rates of upward mobility than others.

To give you an example, Atlanta is a city that’s booming in terms of jobs and economic growth overall. But Atlanta’s one of the places with the lowest levels of upward mobility for kids growing up in low-income families there.

Chetty’s 2013 income mobility map: red=bad

Sorry, but an obvious explanation for why the Atlanta metro area has low upward mobility is the classical statistical phenomenon of regression toward the mean. Atlanta, unlike Chetty’s favorite metro area, Salt Lake City, is heavily black. Atlanta has one of the most prosperous and best educated black communities in America, but blacks in America still regress toward a lower mean income than do whites, so it’s almost statistically inevitable that Chetty would find that Atlanta has lower upward income mobility than Salt Lake City.

The second thing you see is these rates of upward mobility, to the extent we have data, they tend to be quite persistent overtime. It’s not like the places that have high upward mobility in one decade, suddenly a very low upward mobility in the next decade. It’s a pretty persistent phenomenon.

A striking example of that is states in the middle of the US, like Iowa for example, which historical data going back to work by Claudia Goldin and Larry Katz has always looked like a place with very good outcomes for kids in lower-income families. And what’s amazing about that is, Iowa suffers from a brain drain phenomenon where the most successful people often end up leaving the state, going to Chicago, going to New York, to get higher-paying jobs. Yet generation after generation, Iowa seems to produce very good outcomes for low-income families. So that again suggests it’s not about natural resources or temporary booms. It’s something more persistent.

Chetty’s single best county in America for blue collar kids’ upward income mobility is Sioux County, Iowa, where iSteve commenter The Last Real Calvinist is from. Somewhat like Mormon Salt Lake City, Sioux County is famously Dutch and socially conservative. Of course, like all the top 25 counties on Chetty’s list, it’s also extremely white.

But there is some evidence from Chetty’s research that social conservatism is good for blue collar kids’ future earnings. Unfortunately, he needs to adjust for the three big problems I identified above to test his hunch.

CHETTY: Yes. Where did that come from? Why does Iowa have good public schools?

COWEN: Right.

CHETTY: One of the strong correlates we find is that places that are more integrated across socioeconomic groups, that have lower segregation, tend to have better outcomes for kids. And that kind of thing in a rural area — you can see why that occurs and why it might lead to better outcomes.

Obviously, Chetty is being silly here. Sioux County, Iowa and his other 24 top counties are not at all what normal people would call “integrated.” They are extremely white.

Instead, he’s using “integrated” as a euphemism for “heavily white and/or Asian,” and “segregated” as a euphemism for “heavily non-Asian minority.” Liberal sociologist Philip N. Cohen pointed out:

Philip N. Cohen pointed out how Chetty’s 2014 paper tries to euphemize the role of blackness behind related factors like de facto “segregation:” in a 2014 blog post entitled “Where Is Race in the Chetty et al Mobility Paper?

Instead, they drop percent Black for racial segregation. I have no idea why, especially considering … [I]n these normalized correlations, fraction Black has a stronger relationship to mobility than racial segregation or economic segregation! In fact, it’s just about the strongest relationship on the whole long table (except for single mothers, with which it is of course highly correlated).

Back to the interview:

If you live in a big city, it’s very easy to self-segregate in various ways. You live in a gated community, you send your kids to a private school. You essentially don’t interact with people from different socioeconomic classes. If you live in a small town in Iowa, pretty much there’s one place your kids are going to go to school. There’s one set of activities that you can all participate in. And that is likely to lead to more integration.

But living in a small corn-farming town in Iowa will not lead to more racial integration.

COWEN: And you think that’s causal rather than just restating the same fact about the quality of the place?

CHETTY: We don’t have definitive evidence on this, and we’re working on trying to establish clear evidence. But our sense is that integration — actual contact with people from other backgrounds — is a strong predictor and likely a causal determinant of kids’ long-term outcomes. I suspect that that’s one major factor in what’s going on.

This is basically Charles Murray’s Coming Apart view that growing up in Newton, Iowa (home to Maytag) was a healthy social environment because the children of Maytag execs played with the children of local tradesmen. These days, however, Maytag executives mostly live in an upscale suburb of Des Moines and reverse commute 35 miles to Newton. But this doesn’t have much at all to do with racial integration.

It would be perfectly reasonable for Chetty to maintain a stance of agnosticism toward the ultimate causes of the national race gaps in mean income. He could admit that “Until whatever it is that causes the races in America to have different average incomes stops happening, it’s almost statistically inevitable that my methodology will show lower income mobility in heavily non-Asian minority counties than in counties that are heavily white and/or Asian.”

But he doesn’t want to admit that, perhaps because there isn’t much interest in America in how we can influence, say, whites to be more like the whites in Sioux County, Iowa and less like the whites in McDowell County, West Virginia.*

All the excitement and money and prestige is in Closing the Race Gap. Chetty encourages people to assume that his study will find out how to close The Gap between blacks and whites, even though his study is almost hopeless at finding that (because even though he has your IRS returns and mine, he doesn’t have the race of taxpayers due to the IRS not collecting it and the IRS anonymizing the data before giving it to Chetty).

* McDowell County, WV has been notorious since JFK’s famous visit for having the poorest, most backward, most self-destructive white hillbillies in America. And yet, even McDowell Co. does fairly well in Chetty’s measures of upward mobility: such is the power of Regression Toward the Mean. McDowell County comes in at the 46th percentile in Chetty’s rankings, just slightly below the average county in America.

It would be perfectly reasonable for Chetty to adjust for regression toward the racial mean in some fashion so he could look for more subtle drivers of income mobility.

If that’s not feasible, Chetty could simply end up doing what Charles Murray did in Coming Apart and in much of The Bell Curve: just compare highly white counties to other highly white counties. There might still be something interesting to find, although I suspect his white vs. white results would tend to echo David Hackett Fischer’s Albion’s Seed.

Overall, there’s a fair amount of evidence that Chetty’s study really is on to something, which is why I want him to clean up its three big remaining methodological problems of Regression Toward the Mean, Temporary Booms and Busts, and Cost of Living Differences.

If Chetty would take those problems seriously and fix them, he might actually get some results in what he’s been hoping to find out about government policies and social norms that make a difference, pro or con, for the next generation.

Commenter The Last Real Calvinist, who is from heavily Calvinist Sioux County, Iowa, Chetty’s #1 Best County in America explains the trick Chetty is pulling on audiences:

The Last Real Calvinist

I read the whole interview; it’s pretty remarkable stuff.

I think your take (and Steve’s) on this is right; Chetty is referring on one hand, initially, strictly to socio-economic — i.e. class — integration in places such as Sioux County. And he’s right; I went to school with the children of doctors and lawyers and bankers as well as those of farmers and manual workers.

And then he’s saying that this kind of integration is promoted by limitations on options, e.g., presumably, living in a boring, social-capital-scarce setting leads to better outcomes:

If you live in a small town in Iowa, pretty much there’s one place your kids are going to go to school. There’s one set of activities that you can all participate in. And that is likely to lead to more integration.

But then he conflates this class-based integration with — presumably, although he doesn’t come right out and say it — racial/cultural integration:

But our sense is that integration — actual contact with people from other backgrounds — is a strong predictor and likely a causal determinant of kids’ long-term outcomes.

At the least, he’s leaving the door open here to those who would like to interpret his findings in a way that fits The Narrative. That is, successful outcomes are the product not of Sioux County’s cultural homogeneity, but rather of its ‘diversity’.

Nice trick.

Surely there are no other identifiable factors that could possibly be leading to the good outcomes for Sioux County kids.

It’s also interesting to juxtapose this class-integration success narrative with Chetty’s own experience in his ‘outstanding college prep school’ as the son of an economist and a medical specialist. How intrepid he must have been to overcome his limited chances to integrate with the proletariat! I wonder how his school managed to compensate for its no doubt shocking deficit in magic class integration opportunities?

Or perhaps I’m assuming too much, and his school instead carefully assembled an alchemically-potent mixture comprising the correct proportions of children from all classes, no doubt mimicking the class breakdown in Sioux County’s schools?

By the way, in my Taki’s Magazine article on Chetty, I speculated:

Fertility is actually a promising avenue for Chetty to pursue in the future. As we’ll see below, his income calculations are stricken with problems, but he appears to have the data to estimate the answers to questions such as: where should you move if you want your child to present you with a legitimate grandchild by the time you are, say, 70? That is the kind of thing you aren’t supposed to discuss in public these days, but I’d be surprised if Mr. and Mrs. Chetty don’t worry about it.

It turns out my speculation was largely on the money:

On geography and gender

COWEN: Yes. Have you thought much about within this country, geographic differences in gender inequality? …

CHETTY: Yeah, that’s a very interesting question. We find sharp differences in outcomes by gender across areas for various reasons. Let me give you a couple of examples. One, we find that areas with more concentrated poverty — take the city of Baltimore, for example — we find very poor outcomes for boys in particular, relative to girls, and we think that that has to do with crime, and getting involved in gangs, and so forth — things that girls are less likely to do.

As a result, growing up in a place like Baltimore turns out to be extremely detrimental for boys. We estimate that you lose something like 30 percent of your earnings relative to if you’ve grown up in an average place in America. Whereas for girls, it’s slightly negative but not nearly as bad. There are a set of urban ghettos, places with concentrated poverty, that tend to have particularly negative outcomes for boys.

There are also other phenomena that are more subtle, related to things like marriage patterns. Relating this back to personal experience, I remember when working on these issues and thinking about our decision to move from Harvard to Stanford. At the time, we actually were expecting our first child, a daughter. And I noticed in our data that, for kids in affluent families in the Bay Area, daughters tend to have very low household earnings. And I found that kind of curious and we spent some time trying to dig into why what was, partly given my personal interest in the issue.

COWEN: So, your own moving decision was influenced by this research.

CHETTY: [laughs] In some ways.

COWEN: Yeah.

CHETTY: What you find is an interesting explanation, which is, if you look at individual earnings rather than household income, girls growing up here in the Bay Area do extremely well. However, when you look at household income, they don’t do so well, and that’s because they’re much, much less likely to be married than if they grew up somewhere else.


CHETTY: So if you’re in your mid-30s, only something like a quarter or less of girls growing up in the Bay Area are married, and we show in our paper that every extra year you spend growing up in the Bay Area, you’re less likely to get married. I remember telling my wife, “I don’t think we need to worry. Our daughter will be fine in terms of earnings. It’s just that she might not be married if we move to California.”

COWEN: So, you’ve lowered your expectations for grandchildren?

CHETTY: Yes. [laughs]

I’d be interested to know what Mrs. Chetty thinks about not having grandchildren.

• Category: Economics • Tags: Chetty, Inequality, Political Correctness 
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For decades, American economic sages such as Larry Summers, Tom Friedman, and Alan Greenspan have implied that manufacturing stuff was more or less obsolete—that the building blocks of the economy of the future would be cheap labor and expensive finance. The Chinese will make everything, while Americans will get rich selling each other ever more sophisticated financial instruments.

You might ask: What about the 98 percent of Americans who aren’t cut out for working for Goldman Sachs?

Well, you see, all we have to do is fix the schools. Then everybody will work for Goldman!

The Germans, however, never got this memo. All those speeches at Davos and articles in The Economist about how expensive skilled labor is the road to ruin might have worried them, but didn’t convince them. Thomas Geoghegan’s entertaining new book about the triumph of the German economy, Were You Born on the Wrong Continent? How the European Model Can Help You Get a Life, explains why.

Ignoring the anti-manufacturing bias of Anglo-American economists, the Germans have kept their files to the grindstone. Germany exports more each year than America, despite having only 27 percent as many people. German machinery is more than competitive on the world market, even with Germany’s high wages, six-week vacations, strong unions, and workers getting half the seats on many corporate boards.

Despite having to bail out the profligate Greeks, the German economy in 2010 is expanding and unemployment dropping. Germany runs a trade surplus. And, as illustrated by the blockbuster sales in Germany of Germany Abolishes Itself [VDARE.COM note: review coming soon!], Thilo Sarrazin’s new book criticizing immigration, the self-respect of the German nation is finally coming out of the closet.

The Anglo-American mantra of low wages being “good for the economy” has provided the intellectual keystone for pro-immigration pundits in the U.S. Although Geoghegan avoids mention of immigration in America, his analysis of why the German economic dynamo keeps humming subverts by analogy the case for immigration.

Geoghegan (whose Irish Catholic surname rhymes with Reagan) is a political anomaly in 21st Century America: he’s a 1940s-type pro-union Democrat. Geoghegan has scratched out a career defending in court (he’s a labor union lawyer) and in print (his first book was Which Side Are You On? Trying to Be for Labor When It’s Flat on Its Back),the interests of the least fashionable people in America: beefy, middle-aged, working class white guys in windbreakers.

Geoghegan is well aware that his new book’s central topic—German factory pay—isn’t stylish. (In his breezy manner, he entitles one chapter I’m Sorry I Picked the Germans.) He’s also comically cognizant of his shortcomings as an expert on Germany: Geoghegan doesn’t speak much German, he’s spent less than a year in the country, and, like a lot of the Germans he tries (and often fails) to interview, he’s introverted and doesn’t strike up quotable conversations easily.

Yet, the subject is so important, and so ignored in the U.S., that somebody had to do it. And Geoghegan is a fine choice. He’s a witty writer, especially at mocking his own neuroses, much like his old friend Mickey Kaus. In 2009, Geoghegan made a quixotic run for the Democratic nomination for the North Side of Chicago House seat that was previously held by three of the most power-crazed (and hard-to-spell) big names in politics: Rahm Emanuel, Rod Blagojevich, and Dan Rostenkowski. (I suspect Geoghegan’s losing campaign inspired Kaus’s equally quixotic run against incumbent Senator Barbara Boxer in the 2010 California Democratic primary.)

Geoghegan and Kaus disagree vociferously, however, over unions. I think much of the reason is that Kaus is a Los Angeles car guy, while Geoghegan is a Chicago Elevated guy. The LA car hierarchy of prestige is: BMW at the top; then Japanese brands made in Japan (e.g., Lexus); then, at the bottom, Japanese brands made in America (e.g., Honda). People on the Westside of Los Angeles have heard rumors that there exist American cars with exotic names, such as “Chevy”,that are made in United Auto Worker-organized plants. But nobody knows anybody who has bought one.

One day, I would like to read a discussion between Geoghegan and Kaus over why General Motors and the UAW have floundered—while BMW , and the giant IG Metall union, have fought yet flourished.

Which Side Am I On: labor or management?

You know, the more I think about it, the more it seems that these quaint-sounding 1950s-style windbreakers v. suits arguments are the kind that dominate politics in a healthy, cohesive polity, such as America in the 1950s. In a democracy, you have to argue over something, and fighting over which interest group gets how much money is, at least, honestly crass.

In contrast, the more ethnically diverse a state is, the more the elites of each ethnicity get to manipulate, and the more democratic debate is suppressed as being “angry”.

For example, Geoghegan celebrates how well-read the average German voter is about meat-and-potatoes politics. Far more passengers read newspapers and books on German public transit than on the El in Chicago—even on Geoghegan’s own upscale Brown line through Lincoln Park.

Yet, as demonstrated by Sarrazin’s being forced out of his Bundesbank job for writing his book, crucial diversity issues are even more censored in Germany than in the U.S.

On that subject, Geoghegan can’t bring himself to talk about the millions of Turks in Germany on more than three pages of his 318-page book—most of it in a gigantic stream-of-consciousness paragraph on pp. 291-292 in which he tries to convince himself that ethnicity isn’t relevant to worker rights.

Of course ethnicity is relevant. But Geoghegan doesn’t have the courage to admit explicitly that the key to the German worker solidarity he lauds is the German ethnic solidarity that everybody is supposed to deplore.

Germans look out for each other more than Americans do, just as Germans look out for their forests more than Americans do. Why? Because they feel Germany isn’t just a node in the global market network. Instead, Germany is the homeland of the German people, now and in perpetuity. As all the underground support for Sarrazin suggests, the modern multiculturalist dogmas of the English-speaking world have left the Germans more cowed than converted.

Similarly, the German welfare state works reasonably well among Germans because they generally feel some shame about exploiting other Germans. In contrast, Turks in Germany feel less guilty over ripping off Germans by going on disability the first chance they get. As Christopher Caldwell pointed out in his Reflections on the Revolution in,their average retirement age is 50:

One of the most amazing statistics in the history of European immigration is that the number of foreign residents in Germany rose steadily between 1971 and 2000—from 3 million to about 7.5 million—but the number of employed foreigners in the workforce did not budge. It stayed rock steady at roughly 2 million people.”

In other words, since the first oil crisis in 1973, Germany hasn’t imported all that many foreign workers to do the jobs Germans just won’t do. For the last third of a century, Germany has instead largely been victimized by German-based foreign clans using arranged marriages to foreigners back home to concoct for themselves “family reunification” immigration visas.

(On the other hand, if you insist upon being scammed by foreign layabouts, Turks, who tend to be sedate and respectable, are a better choice than, say, the car-burning “youths” of the Paris suburbs.)

Leaving aside that vast but no doubt prudent shortcoming, Were You Born on the Wrong Continent? is an illuminating book.

Geoghegan outlines the counter-intuitive (for Americans) reasons why Germany is thriving in 2010:

“… German firms are successful because, unlike U.S. firms, they don’t have any illusion they can compete on cost. … They don’t have the illusion that they can bust the unions, in the U.S. manner, as the prime way of competing with China … Germany, Sweden, and France ignored the advice of the Anglo-Americans, the Financial Times, the people in financial services … They did not wreck their unions. And it was the high labor cost that pushed those countries into making higher ‘value-added’ things. Where is Germany competitive? It’s in high-end, precision machinery, made by people with the highest skills.”

This anti-cheap labor philosophy is not unique to Europe. In fact, Singapore’s extremely hardheaded government mandated 30 percent wage hikes in the early 1980s. When the rag trade protested that they couldn’t stay in business, Lee Kwan Yew said that was part of his plan. He wanted to force Singapore to develop better businesses than sweatshops. (Of course, this only works if you have the human capital to earn higher wages.)

Americans, Geoghegan says, reacted to Chinese industrial competition by surrendering and outsourcing:

… we got out of manufacturing because the labor costs were too low. We took the path of least resistance, competing on the basis of labor costs. Then, when that didn’t work, it was so much easier to shut down.”

In contrast, the Germans respond to the rise of China by selling the Chinese the high-end machine tools to manufacture the plastic crud the Americans gave up making.

Geoghegan makes a subtle point about how Germany’s restrictive labor laws lead to high quality exports:

“Our elite, scoffing, might say that there is just not enough labor-market flexibility to allow Germany to adapt to globalization as we do. But it’s precisely because of our flexibility that we can’t compete. What the laws manage to do in Germany is to keep people together and to hold onto their skills in groups … especially in engineering and quality control. … It’s the kind of group knowledge that our efficient ‘flexible’ labor markets so readily break up and disperse.”

Geoghegan, a lifelong man of the left, scoffs in turn at the American fixation on fixing the schools:

“Putting more money into education is a waste of effort.

“Then here’s the biggest shock I can give: yes, Germany is outcompeting us by far, but the schools are a mess. They don’t send enough people to college. The vocational schools are falling apart. Because of all the money used to bail out the East Germans [perhaps $2 trillion over two decades], the schools are broke.

“What’s that mean?

“It means schools don’t matter as much as we think.”

The increasingly outdated talking points of left and right are being displaced by a new realist synthesis. Geoghegan’s Were You Born on the Wrong Continent? book is an important contribution to that synthesis.

For example, Geoghegan asks:

“I’m no European socialist. But as a patriot I would like to ask: which model, ours or theirs, is more likely to keep us out of the clutches of foreign creditors? … I know on the right and even the center I am dismissed as a European-style liberal. But my question for those on the right is as follows: do they care about the sovereignty of our country?”

Good question.

Now, if we could only get Geoghegan to ask his friends on the left the same question about immigration …

Yet, there’s a hint here of a new, more sophisticated way of thinking aborning. This new view rejects the reigning globalist / multiculturalist clichés of cheap labor and open borders embedded in, say, corporate image ads.

Instead, American patriots could begin to unite around American government’s fundamental proposition—a proposition that has, however, been mostly ignored in recent decades—that U.S. government exists, in the words of the Preamble to the Constitution ,“to promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity …”

[Steve Sailer (email him) is movie critic for The American Conservative. His website features his daily blog. His new book, AMERICA'S HALF-BLOOD PRINCE: BARACK OBAMA'S “STORY OF RACE AND INHERITANCE”, is available here.]

(Republished from VDare by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Economics • Tags: Inequality 
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Social scientist Charles Murray, the co-author of the 1994 bestseller The Bell Curve, is perhaps America’s premier data analyst. His 1984 book Losing Ground provided the intellectual impetus for the successful 1996 welfare reform law. His 2003 work Human Accomplishment is a delightful statistical romp among the most eminent scientists and artists in global history.

Now, Murray is back with a landmark essay, The Inequality Taboo,”in the September issue of Commentary. The printed text alone totals 7,500 words, and the web version contains over 10,000 additional words of notes and sources. If published just by itself, Murray’s 1,500-word Footnote 44 would rank as the crucial statement on the recent trends and future prospects of the white-black IQ gap.

Known among his friends for his remarkable judiciousness, Murray is a rather sensitive soul. The foul calumny he has been subjected to over the last eleven years must have been tiresome.

Murray hadn’t crafted an essay about IQ since his little known (but important) 1999 effort reporting the then latest results of the enormous military-funded National Longitudinal Study of Youth look at IQ and life outcomes. This year, however, the absurd denunciations visited upon Harvard president Larry Summers for offering what Murray calls “a few mild, speculative, off-the-record remarks about innate differences between men and women in their aptitude for high-level science and mathematics,” persuaded Murray that intellectual discourse in America had decayed so shamefully that he needed to return to the fray.

The Inequality Taboo” consists of three parts:

  • A defense of Summers’s discussion of why brainiac math nerds are more likely to be male than female;
  • An updating on the last decade’s worth of new findings on the white-black IQ gap;
  • And a ringing call to Americans to start discussing honestly the group differences that we see every day:

“What good can come of raising this divisive topic? The honest answer is that no one knows for sure. What we do know is that the taboo has crippled our ability to explore almost any topic that involves the different ways in which groups of people respond to the world around them—which means almost every political, social, or economic topic of any complexity.”

Murray suggests that both high-end male-female cognitive differences and the white-black IQ gap appear to be more or less “intractable”—he writes:

“Whatever the precise partitioning of causation may be (we seldom know), policy interventions can only tweak the difference at the margins.”

Murray’s defense of Summers is well-done, although the stupidity and bad faith of the attacks on the Harvard president were so blatant that lesser analysts managed to make most of Murray’s points last winter.

One interesting fact that Murray doesn’t mention is that the much-demonized IQ researcher Cyril Burt was the first to determine that women were equal to men in intelligence. British psychometrician Chris Brand writes:

[I]n 1912, the British psychologist Cyril Burt overturned Victorian wisdom by finding males to have the same average general intelligence as females (using the new Binet tests from France), [and] this finding was replicated in countless investigations (and qualified by the observations that males have a wider range of IQs—thus producing more geniuses and more mental defectives—and that adolescent boys only temporarily lag behind adolescent girls in mental development).”

The majority of psychometricians, including, most notably, Arthur Jensen, support Burt’s finding of mean gender equality. (However,Richard Lynn has a paper coming out arguing that men average a third of a standard deviation—or five points—higher in IQ).

Nor is there any dispute that, just as Summers said, at the extreme right edge of the Bell Curve, from which Harvard’s math and science professors are drawn, there are more men than women.

One of the most newsworthy aspects of “The Inequality Taboo” is Murray’s view that the white-black IQ gap may have narrowed slightly in recent years. According to Murray’s article, the three most recent re-normings of major IQ tests came up with a mean white-black gap of 0.92 standard deviations, or 14 points.

That doesn’t sound like much of a change from the one standard deviation (15 points) racial gap that IQ realists have been talking about for decades. But, in reality, they’ve been intentionally understating the traditional size of the difference. A 2001 meta-analysis of eight decades of data suggested a 1.1 standard deviation gap (16.5) points. So, if this new 14 point gap found in the three recent re-normings holds up as more data comes in, we may have seen some significant progress on this massive social problem.

Currently, though, the evidence remains far from clear. Murray writes in a footnote:

“Forced to make a bet, I would guess that the black-white difference in IQ has dropped by somewhere in the range of .10–.20 standard deviations over the last few decades. I must admit, however, that I am influenced by a gut-level conviction that the radical improvement in the political, legal, and economic environment for blacks in the last half of the 20th century must have had an effect on IQ.”

Murray is too honest, however, to skip over the other, more disturbing, possibility: that the greater fertility of lower IQ women has had a dysgenic and/or “dyscultural” effect. Murray has calculated that 60% of the babies born to black women who began participating in the National Longitudinal Study of Youth in 1979 were born to women with IQs below the black female average of 85.7. Only 7% were born to black women with IQs over 100.

I hope that the improved nutrition, health care, and other environmental enhancements that have allowed African-Americans to come to dominate basketball, football, and sprinting in recent decades have also driven up black IQ scores more than the tendency of intelligent black women to remain childless has driven them down.

But the overall situation remains murky. It needs more research than is currently being funded.

Does part of the white-black IQ gap have a genetic basis? Murray suggests an experiment that might prove conclusive:

“To the extent that genes play a role, IQ will vary by racial admixture. In the past, studies that have attempted to test this hypothesis have had no accurate way to measure the degree of admixture, and the results have been accordingly muddy. The recent advances in using genetic markers solve that problem. Take a large sample of racially diverse people, give them a good IQ test, and then use genetic markers to create a variable that no longer classifies people as ‘white’ or ‘black,’ but along a continuum. Analyze the variation in IQ scores according to that continuum. The results would be close to dispositive.”

I bet, however, that Murray’s critics won’t rush to fund this study and put their money where their mouths are.

In his coda, Murray says:

“Thus my modest recommendation, requiring no change in laws or regulations, just a little more gumption. Let us start talking about group differences openly—all sorts of group differences, from the visuospatial skills of men and women to the vivaciousness of Italians and Scots. Let us talk about the nature of the manly versus the womanly virtues. About differences between Russians and Chinese that might affect their adoption of capitalism. About differences between Arabs and Europeans that might affect the assimilation of Arab immigrants into European democracies. About differences between the poor and non-poor that could inform policy for reducing poverty.”

Sounds like the table of contents for!

Murray concludes:

“Even to begin listing the topics that could be enriched by an inquiry into the nature of group differences is to reveal how stifled today’s conversation is… Let us stop being afraid of data that tell us a story we do not want to hear, stop the name-calling, stop the denial, and start facing reality.”

I’m sometimes asked why I come up with more new insights than the typical pundit. (Here’s a list of four dozen things I’ve either discovered myself, accurately forecasted, or scooped the rest of the press about).

It’s not because I’m smarter. It’s because I just tell the truth.

The great thing about truths is that they are causally connected to all the other truths in the world. If you follow one truth bravely, it will lead you to another.

In contrast, lies, ignorance, and wishful thinking are dead ends.

The Great American Inequality Debate is in one of those dead ends. Charles Murray—and we here at VDARE.COM—are trying to rescue it.

[Steve Sailer [email him] is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and movie critic for The American Conservative. His website features his daily blog.]

(Republished from VDare by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Economics • Tags: Charles Murray, Inequality 
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Steve Sailer
About Steve Sailer

Steve Sailer is a journalist, movie critic for Taki's Magazine, columnist, and founder of the Human Biodiversity discussion group for top scientists and public intellectuals.

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