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Race/IQ: Rejecting the Ostrich Response
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TAC-RaceIQ The central finding of my recent article “Race, IQ, and Wealth” was a simple one.

Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen today rank as perhaps the world’s leading academic advocates of the theory that the innate IQ of a given nation is fixed and determines its international success on a host of major economic and social criteria. Yet even a cursory analysis of the actual data which they accumulated and presented actually disproves their own hypothesis, given the huge IQ variations between genetically-indistinguishable groups and in national IQs over just a generation or less. So it strikes me as mighty peculiar that theory proposed in “IQ and the Wealth of Nations” had been immediately refuted by the evidence presented in “IQ and the Wealth of Nations”, but nobody seemed to have noticed this during a decade or more of heated, bitter discussion.

The Lynn/Vanhanen theory is hardly a totally obscure one. For example, if you Google the specific phrase IQ+”Wealth of Nations”, you will find some 103,000 search results, certainly small potatoes compared to “Lindsey Lohan”, but not exactly nothing. And many of those webpages are themselves blogposts, including vast numbers of comments, at least a portion of which were ferociously hostile to the ideas of Lynn/Vanhanen. One would think that Lynn/Vanhanen foes somewhere along the way would have thanked those scholars for graciously debunking their own theory.

I suspect the mystery behind this strange state of affairs might involve something appropriatedly called “the Ostrich Response.”

For decades now, many liberal intellectuals have tended to shy away from any scientific investigations involving “race” or “IQ”, or (especially) those two concepts in close proximity, perhaps fearing the dreadful Satanic truths which they might discover. As a perfect example of this, several of the individuals receiving my article told me they felt great trepiditation when they read my title, fearful at the possible factual conclusions presented therein, and were enormously relieved when these turned out largely to be the ones they might have most desired.

Unfortunately, one problem with avoiding debates on horrifying topics is that these debates take place nevertheless, but with only one side participating. Hence the 103,000 search results dealing with the Lynn/Vanhanen theory, of which an enormously high percentage seem totally laudatory.

An additional unfortunate consequence is that this absence of rational debate by serious thinkers means that the arguments of both sides remain crude, ignorant, and untested. As a perfect example of this, during just the last five days, my article has received close to 350 heated comments across several blogsites, with the vast majority of these—on both sides—being of very low quality.

For example, a typical anti-IQ commenter absurdly claimed that the DNA of Amerinds was “indistinguishable” from that of Chinese, hence the two groups must obviously have identical innate IQs.

Meanwhile, one of the most vigorous IQ-racialists has repeatedly denied that there exists any evidence whatsoever that the Irish had ever had IQs below 100, totally ignoring three large studies reported by Lynn which placed their IQ at 87 in 1972 and around 92 in 1992, studies representing a total sample size of nearly 6,500 individuals, a massive national total second only to that of Germany. Furthermore, Lynn himself has stated that his years of research in Ireland during the late 1960s had convinced him that the Irish were a low-IQ population, with a heavy government eugenics program being the nation’s only hope.

A more plausible criticism was that the Lynn’s 17 Buj IQ studies should be excluded, on the grounds that Buj restricted his testing to the capital cities of the countries he examined, and these are unlikely to be nationally reresentative. But excluding that large set of national samples from Lynn’s work sharply reduces his total dataset, and in addition actually tends to strengthen my own analysis, since the IQs of the various Southern and Eastern European countries become more uniformly low.

Another claim repeatedly made was that the implausible European IQs I had cited came from studies testing children, and these should be excluded on grounds of childhood unreliability. The totally ignorant commenter failed to realize that with the exception of the doubtful Buj studies, ALL of Lynn’s remaining IQ studies are based on samples of children, and if we exclude these—together with the Buj studies—Lynn’s total European dataset is reduced to exactly ZERO. Perhaps this indeed represents a means of salvaging Lynn’s thesis, since an analysis of zero datapoints is certainly consistent with anything and everything. All in all, it appears that an enthusiastic interest in engaging in IQ debates is no strong sign of actually possessing much of the attribute under discussion.

Taboo subjects avoided by well-informed and intelligent participants tend to regenerate into these battles of competitive ignorance, which is hardly a good outcome for scientific topics with major public policy ramifications.


Fortunately, such forbidden topics may also attract enormous interest once they are broached under reasonable circumstances. For example, my current article is now on track to receive more pageviews in its first 7 days than my Hispanic Crime article did in its first 90, and has already accumulated more Likes and Tweets than all my previous articles combined. Furthermore, a vigorous debate on some of the important issues raised may gradually act to sand off some of the rough edges of confusion and error, and such a debate is beginning to occur, as a number of reasonably prominent websites have been discussing my article and often attracting significant numbers of commenters, though ones overwhelmingly hostile to my views. Here are a few of the most prominent links:

Race, IQ, and Wealth, Steve Sailer

Has Ron Unz Refuted “Hard Hereditarianism”?,

The new Ron Unz piece on IQ, Marginal Revolution

Race, IQ and wealth: A preliminary reply, Political Correctness Watch

Ron Unz on Race, IQ, and Wealth, Peter Frost’s Evo and Proud

Cities Make You Smart, Turbulence Ahead

IQ and the Wealth of Nations?, Social Democracy for the 21st Century

Of these, the VDare article, represents the strongest and most detailed rebuttal to my analysis, so I will confine my response to its arguments.

Some of the points VDare makes about the “noisiness” of the Lynn/Vanhanen IQ data are perfectly correct, though I myself had emphasized this in my own text. For example, the 1979 Irish study which yielded an outlying IQ of 98 was so tiny—just 75 adults—that it probably should be discarded on statistical grounds, likely having been drawn from a single unrepresentative location. Meanwhile, attempting to precisely compare the non-convertible currencies of Communist East Bloc countries with those of Western Europe for GDP purposes is foolish. However, the overall pattern is that the wealthier, more urbanized East Bloc countries did tend to have much higher measured IQs than their poorer, more rural allies, and the same was generally true for Western European countries during that same period.

However, given that VDare ranks as America’s premier “hard core” anti-immigrationist website, the primary focus of the article is (naturally enough) my claim that Mexican-American IQs seem to have risen quite rapidly in recent decades. My argument had relied heavily upon the analysis of GSS Wordsum-IQ data by The Inductivist blogger, who showed that although the figures for American-born Mex-Ams had generally been 84-85 during the 1970s and 1980s, they had risen to around 92 during the 1990s and then 95 during the 2000s. As it happened, two of the three Mex-Am IQ samples quoted by Lynn/Vanhanen for the 1970s and 1980s had been in the exact same 84-85 range, tending to support the validity of the Wordsum-IQ analysis.

The VDare column points out that a different and later book by Lynn, Race Differences in Intelligence, contains a much larger collection of 20 Hispanic IQ results, and that these show considerable fluctuations, with no clear pattern, but generally with lower results than I had suggested.

First, the analysis I quoted had been restricted to Mex-Ams, while two of these other studies are actually of Puerto Ricans, and many of the remainder are of Hispanics in general, who constitute a somewhat different population. Furthermore, the sharp rise in Wordsum-IQ had been restricted to the American-born Mex-Am cohorts, and none of these other IQ tests apparently make the distinction. Finally, an important advantage of the Wordsum-IQ data is that it is based on nationally representative samples, while all of these other IQ samples are localized, as well as often quite small and probably non-representative. For example, one of the IQ tests was based on an absurdly tiny sample size of 37, while four of the others had samples in the 100-163 range, considerably reducing their validity. Indeed, the wide fluctuations of these local samples tend to underscore the value of national results derived from the GSS and the NLSY.

As it happens, two of the IQ samples provided in this Lynn collection are drawn from the 1920s, which raises another interesting issue. I had noted the extremely low 80-85 IQ scores for 1920s European immigrant populations collected by Thomas Sowell, and most of his data had been drawn from “Intelligence and Immigration”, a volume published in 1926 by Clifford Kirkpatrick, a prominent researcher of the time who maintained a very welcome tone of scientific objectivity. Although America’s Mexican population was relatively small during that era, Kirkpatrick included them in his analysis, but since their language, socio-economic status, and IQ scores were all very similar to those of Italians and Portuguese, he grouped these three ethnicities together in the same broader category of “Latins,” and noted that their results were far below that of mainstream Americans. So given the considerable rise in Italian-American and Portuguese-American academic performance during subsequent generations, perhaps we should not be too surprised to see a similar rise in Mexican-Americans.

Finally, the VDare column correctly notes that GSS Wordsum is a highly imperfect proxy for IQ, having a correlation of 0.71, compared to an IQ correlation of 0.81 for the SAT. The article then links to an analysis claiming that the the SAT gap between whites and Hispanics has held steady at 0.6-0.8 between 1980 and 2010, which would seem to indicate that Hispanic ability has stagnated rather than sharply risen during those decades. My own IQ claims referred to the subset of American-born Mex-Ams rather than all Hispanics in general, but since it seems plausible that a rising percentage of those Hispanic SAT scores came from the former group, the SAT non-trends might seem a little surprising.

These SAT findings would constitute a serious blow against my analysis except for the fact that the SAT-takers are obviously not a nationally representative sample of their ethnic population. Just a fraction of students take the SAT, and—more importantly—that fraction may change dramatically over time. As it happens, there has been a huge rise in the number of Hispanic SAT-takers, which grew 150% just between 2001 and 2010, while the overall Hispanic population expanded only by 43% and the cohort of 18-year-olds even less than that; thus, the fraction of Hispanics taking the SAT roughly doubled, while the fraction of whites taking the SAT changed only slightly, perhaps in the 15% range. Although I haven’t yet managed to locate similar SAT demographic data going back to 1980, I strongly suspect that the huge 2001-2011 relative rise in Hispanic test-takers merely continued a trend extending back for decades.

Now in general, it seems very likely that students taking the SAT tend to be drawn from the most able and best prepared slice of their ethnic group, so if the percentage of Hispanics taking that test has doubled, tripled, or quadrupled since 1980, those students will tend to be drawn from much lower levels of the performance pool, and we would expect to see a sharp drop in mean test scores. Instead, the scores have remained roughly constant relative to the white average, almost certainly implying a rapid rise in average Hispanic academic performance. Thus, instead of contradicting the Wordsum-IQ results, a more careful examination of the ethnic SAT data actually tends to confirm them.

Incidentally, I am grateful to the pseudonymous VDare author for directing me to Lynn book “Race Differences in Intelligence.” My own analysis had been based on the data in his “IQ and the Wealth of Nations,” supplemented by his sequel “IQ and Global Inequality,” but Lynn is an exceptionally prolific scholar, and the third book contains a wealth of useful additional data, much of which seems to further support my analysis. As an example, he reports two sizable IQ studies from Lithuania in the post-Communist early 2000s, which place the national IQ at 90 or 92. These seem implausibly low figures to me, and probably reflect Lithuania’s rural character and that its average income was less than one-third that of Germany during that period.


Finally, I must note the tragic loss which we all suffered in the passing of Alexander Cockburn, one of America’s most courageous and honest journalists, as well as co-editor of the Counterpunch webzine. Many were the mornings I’d read endless amounts of absurd, dishonest nonsense in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, only to discover a far more plausible and accurate discussion of world events on Counterpunch’s bright pages. Alex was very decidedly a man of the Left, indeed of the second generation, given that his father Claud had been one of the leading Communist journalists of the 1930s. But the severe compression of the allowed ideological landscape in American journalism had also established him as a port in the storm for leading conservative writers as well. A few years ago, I happened to be glancing through old issues of Buckley’s National Review from the 1980s and was stunned to notice how many of those authors, having been purged by Conservativism, Inc., now used Counterpunch as the primary distributor of their current writings. As I told Alex at the time, perhaps he was actually the true heir of William Buckley, Jr.

(Republished from The American Conservative by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Race/Ethnicity • Tags: IQ, Race/IQ 
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  1. Chuck says:


    I checked the GSS data and was unable to replicate Inductivist’s results. Could you specify the variables used? Also, would you mind providing a reference for the NLSY 97 data? I have been unable to find scores disaggregated by Hispanic nationality. As for IQ scores for Mexican-Americans, Linda Gottfredson presents a couple in “Implications of Cognitive Differences for Schooling Within Diverse Societies.” The difference ranges from .55 SD to .65 SD for studies from the middle of the 20th century. The Coleman report, which was representative, showed a difference (on non-verbal IQ tests) of .65 SD.

    Generally, it’s not sound methodology to make a case based on two data points, one of which was gleaned from a blog entry which provided no explanation of methodology.

  2. gcochran says:

    Ron, this analysis reminds me of your estimate of 500,000 Vioxx-induced deaths (when the serious epidemiologists said 40-50,000), also of the idea that there are still a number of POWs left in Indochina.

    In each case, look for a few crumbs of data that support your thesis and ignore all the rest.

  3. TomB says:

    I read your article on I.Q. in the paper TAC version, Mr. Unz, and I too suspect that your Ostrich Theory regarding the reaction to it has some validity. It’s just an issue that is disturbing to some people. Better than calling it an Ostrich Response or Theory however I think the more accurate name might just simply be cognitive dissonance: No need to see any new phenomenon at work.

    On the other hand one can just simply read your article and be unpersuaded by your thesis, or regard it as an extremely preliminary, untested-in-any-depth one, no matter how welcome it may be to one’s prejudices.

    Nevertheless you are right that people shouldn’t shy from confronting issues such as this given it leaves the field open to others with certain predispositions, but, in a very different way than you regard it I too see this as extremely unfortunate with your article.

    The reason is that it seems to me that far from strengthening your basic idea—what I would call the “urbanization makes you smart” hypothesis—the data you celebrate seems to me to go much farther in calling into question the fundamental and always naggingly suspicious idea of the validity of “I.Q.” or “g” itself as the pros—and you—regard same today.

    No doubt your “I.Q.” and “g” measure *something,* that is, but it’s one thing to say that it exists because it correlates extremely well with … success in modern urban Western living, and another to say that it comes even close to capturing the fullness of what human intelligence is or means.

    And yet indeed the latter is what you guys so devotedly (which itself ought to raise some flags) believe, no matter how obviously possible and thus dangerous it is for humans to come to believe that something really independently exists … merely because they can come up with a fancy name for it. (The reification danger, that is.)

    Look for instance at your data and your thesis about urbanization: As the law professors say, it might be said to prove much too much: “My God,” that is, “how fast does your vaunted I.Q. and ‘g’ go up for huge populations … just simply after they’ve heard that Californie is the place they oughta be and so loaded up the truck and moved to Beverly!”

    I mean … isn’t this data nothing less than a bloody *wonder* given how intractable I.Q. scores have seemed to be otherwise and non-responsive to other changes? Just … get away from those potato fields and … wham! An entire standard deviation just melts away in a mere generation or so!

    In other words … instead of a miracle drug just simply a miracle move?

    Instead of grasping this data as you do then and just running with it I far more wish you had addressed what seems the far more likely possibility that what it means is some substantial damage to the assumptions that have been made about the nature of “I.Q.” and “g.”

    I.e., are they really independently existing qualities of nature that we’ve (somehow! miraculously!) both stumbled upon and have figured out how to test? Or, more likely it seems to me, are they just measures of something that correlates well with some particular qualities that—just for right here and right now and in some circumstances—we find particularly relevant and important? E.g., one’s ability to live successfully in a big, urban, modern Western environment?

    It just doesn’t make sense to me to believe that people who, for generations and perhaps even from time immemorial have lived—and then absolutely *thrived*—in *extremely* trying and difficult environments, are just somehow existentially “dumber” than the Suits roaming New York City today.

    And yet that’s exactly what I.Q. theorists so often say, with you now coming along and spotting the urban/rural discrepancy and instead of saying “aha, boy does this ever throw into question the validity of our conception of “I.Q.” and “g,” no, you essentially say instead “See! it’s the impoverishment of living and working otherwise than in the Crystal Cities of today that really afflicts people!”

    So yeah, there’s no doubt some Ostrich/cognitive dissonance effect, but I can’t help but feel that the more I.Q. has been the subject of general thinking, the deeper and deeper the unease has become about its most fundamental proposition.

    Sorry to have not been more concise and articulate here; not much time to write, but ever since reading your article I very much wanted to hear what you might have to say about these perceptions so I’ll quick grab this opportunity in the hope we can hear more from you regarding same.

  4. Ron Unz says:

    Chuck: I checked the GSS data and was unable to replicate Inductivist’s results.

    I looked at your blog posting and I think you have severe reading comprehension difficulties. The GSS calculation performed referred to AMERICAN-BORN Mex-Ams, as was heavily emphasized both in the original Inductivist posting and my own article. I just now went back to the GSS system, and by an amazing coincidence replicated his findings precisely. The GSS variables to use are: WORDSUM, YEAR, ETHNIC=MEXICO, BORN=YES. Without attempting any Wordsum-to-IQ conversions, the raw figures I got were:

    Avg Wordsum for American-Born Mex-Ams: 1970s=4.17, 1980s=4.04, 1990s=5.11, 2000s=5.58

    Avg Wordsum for Whites: 1970s=6.12, 1980s=6.14, 1990s=6.33, 2000s=6.41

    Avg Wordsum Mex-Am/White Delta: 1970s=1.95, 1980s=2.10, 1990s=1.22, 2000s=0.83

    The Mex-Am sample for the 1970s is tiny—just 12—so let’s focus on the 1980s forward. We see that between the 1980s and the 2000s, the Wordsum-IQ gap between American-Born Mex-Ams and whites has dropped from 2.10 to 0.83 or about 61%. I loosely described this as “almost two-thirds”

    As for the NLYS-97 Mex-Am IQ calculation, the results were provided to me by a somewhat prominent rightwing blogger who is strongly anti-immigration and highly-skilled in quantitative matters. Unfortunately, he asked me not to reveal his identity. But now that he’s read my article and found it quite impressive, I’ve asked him whether I can reveal the source of my result.

    gcochran: this analysis reminds me of your…idea that there are still a number of POWs left in Indochina.

    Well, I realize that “gcochran” is an individual of totally unparalleled genius in all matters throughout the universe. But perhaps people should consider the overwhelming evidence compiled by one of America’s foremost Pulitzer Prize winning Vietnam War journalists, who later served as a top editor of the New York Times. Incidentally, his detailed claims have been backed by two other New York Times Pulitzer Prize winners as well as a couple of former Republican Congressmen with an Intelligence background, and were privately confirmed to me by various other reasonably credible individuals.

    Read and decide for yourselves:

    Was Rambo Right?

    McCain and the POW Cover-Up

  5. I think society is moving away from the nature vs nurture debate and into epigenetics. The answers will be found and everyone can have designer children. Also out of ignorance I wonder if the IQ debate is overly simplified. Genetic heritage is complicated (Thomas Jefferson has East African/Middle East ancestry), IQ tests and DNA tests are not taken together. Also is there any studies that shows that a normal person can’t be taught the skills to do well on IQ test? The brain is plastic. Then there is gene expression (a feral child may have been blessed genetically but he is going to miss critical developmental milestones), and we are only beginning to read and manipulate the book of life.

    Whatever happened to the swift boating of John McCain? I thought he was going to get the Kerry treatment in 2008.

  6. Chuck says:

    “Chuck: I checked the GSS data and was unable to replicate Inductivist’s results.

    I looked at your blog posting and I think you have severe reading comprehension difficulties.”

    Not unlikely. Whatever the case, your analysis is still faulty.

    The GSS results — using weights (and including only people born in the US), we have:

    Whites: 1980s M=6.17, SD=2.08; 1990 M=6.31, SD=2; 2000s M=6.41, SD=1.86

    Hispanics: 1980s M=4.09, SD=2.23; 1990s M=5.05, SD=2; 2000s M=5.44, SD 1.75.

    Since Whites are much more numerous, their SDs can be used in calculating cohen’s d. We have: 1980s 1, 1990s, 0.63, 2000s, .52. That would be a reduction only one half.

    The NLYS-97 claim — Hearsay is not convincing evidence.

    Other data points — curiously, you didn’t seem interested in the ADD health sample. Even for third generation Mexicans, the gap was 0.6 SD. You can double check for yourself using the online analyzer.

    I also, more recently, looked at the PISA (2000,2009), TIMSS (2007), and PIRLS (2001,2006) results. All of which can be analyzed online using the International Explorer. These tests are nationally representative and have been found to be highly correlated with IQ. They are at least as good of an index of IQ as is Wordsum. (Wordsum correlates with IQ at 0.7 (Wolfle, 1980); for reference, a standard achievement tests correlates with factor analyzed g at 0.7.) The difference between third generation Hispanics and non-Hispanic Whites ranged from 0.5 to 0.8 SD. Since Mexicans comprise over two-thirds of 3rd generation Hispanic population and since there was little difference in the scores between 3rd gen Hispanic and Mexican in the GSS and Add health samples, we can reasonably conclude that the Hispanic score closely tracks the Mexican score. (But if the Mexican/Hispanic difference is really an issue for you — we can look at the raw data, which includes a country of birth variable.)

    But is the 3rd gen Mexican/Hispanic-White gap narrowing? Well, aggregating scores, it’s now no less than 0.6 SD. If you wish to argue that it really was much larger before, despite Rowe et al.’s meta-analytic findings, you can. But this doesn’t change the current magnitude of the difference.

  7. Unz wonders why the ostrich like hiding by liberal types at hard evidence debunking cherished “truths” of the heriditarian faithful. He is right in part to point to liberal fear that their HBD opponents might be right after all, so they bury their heads in the sand. This would suggest a certain element of liberal hypocrisy.- a topic several black spokesmen like Malcolm X have addressed.

    Another possibility is that while the “HBD” school has a vigorous amen corner, liberals may consider it marginal and irrelevant because they already share standard HBD assumptions of “lesser breeds” and so on tacitly. They see no need to keep beating a dead horse publicly, see no need to maintain some sort of public master race posture (thus sparking draining battles as minorities push back), and do not want to openly appear harsh, racist or mean-spirited.They need to maintain that more virtuous than thou posture. (They could of course point to IQ patterns indicating liberals are smarter than duller right-wingers as well, per the data of Kanazawa et al)

    Another bonus of a reputedly more ‘caring’ posture is that engagement with minority stalking horses provide excellent fodder for liberal agendas. Hence black civil rights memes can be pressed into service to advance gay agendas . Interestingly, gays themselves also posting better IQ metrics per assorted HBD data.

    In short the ostrich approach may yield a further two-fer:
    1-that more virtuous than thou – posture contrasted against the sneering, racist HBd brigades, and

    2- with the posture established, flexibility in manipulating various social issues to further their agendas (socialist/leftist/anti-traditional values/whatever)

    A final possibility os that there is already plenty of debunking of Lynn, Vanhanen and assorted HBD claims but such debunking is heavily focused in academia- from race, to anthropology to IQ specialists. There is noa shortage of academics who have exposed deep holes in the HBD narrative. Wicherts for example referenced above is just one example. Oubre 2007 in her 2 volume set is another. Then there are the legions of modern anthropologists blowing deep holes in assorted HBD “truths” such as reputed “wandering Caucasoids” flitting about the ancient African continent to bring the natives civilization. Many such HBD narratives, oft declared with messianic fervor, are frankly, laughable, when credible scholars with hard evidence are brought to bear. With all that in place, the mainstream media is lazy and does not want to address what may be quite technical details. It may be easier to ignore it since the heavy damage has already been done by academics. This lazy approach, as Unz notes however, concedes the field, at least in popular arenas to the racialist brigades.

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