Roundup on race and IQ

Jason Richwine’s 2009 Harvard dissertation IQ and Immigration Policy has been all over the news for the past few days, after the circulation of a controversial Heritage Foundation report on immigration with which he was involved.  A lot of thoughtful people have written on the topic and provided a better analysis than I can in a short blog post. So instead, I’ve collected a reference list of a dozen links for anyone who wants to read more. I’m trying to focus on articles that discuss the science and philosophy of the issue, not politics or whether his dissertation was properly reviewed.

  • Heritage study co-author opposed letting in immigrants with low IQs from The Washington Post. This article seems to have been the spark that lit the fire of this controversy.  “Toward the end of the thesis, Richwine writes that though he believes racial differences in IQ to be real and persistent, one need not agree with that to accept his case for basing immigration on IQ. Rather than excluding what he judges to be low-IQ races, we can just test each individual’s IQ and exclude those with low scores.”
  • What We Mean When We Say ‘Race Is a Social Construct’ from The Atlantic. “When the liberal says ‘race is a social construct,’ he is not being a soft-headed dolt; he is speaking an historical truth.”
  • Why People Keep Misunderstanding the ‘Connection’ Between Race and IQ also from The Atlantic. “Among rich kids, good opportunities for developing the relevant cognitive skills are plentiful, so IQ differences are driven primarily by genetic factors. For less advantaged kids, though, test scores say more about the environmental deficits they face than they do about native ability.”
  • Two from the American Anthropological Association: RACE – Are We So Different? and the 1998 AAA Statement on “Race”  “At the end of the 20th century, we now understand that human cultural behavior is learned, conditioned into infants beginning at birth, and always subject to modification. No human is born with a built-in culture or language. Our temperaments, dispositions, and personalities, regardless of genetic propensities, are developed within sets of meanings and values that we call ‘culture.'”
  • Race And IQ. Again. on Andrew Sullivan’s The Dish. “But please don’t say truly stupid things like race has no biological element to it or that there is no data on racial differences in IQ (even though those differences are mild compared with overwhelming similarity). Denying empirical reality is not a good thing in any circumstance.”
  • Six Reasons Why Race-and-IQ Scholarship is an Intellectual Dead End from, largely a response to Sullivan [via @savageminds] “Let’s say it were discovered that one American racial group was, once all the effects of nutrition, healthcare, education, income, parenting, and every other environmental factor were controlled for, on average innately slightly less intelligent than another. Would that finding justify discriminating against the less intelligent group in employment, education, or any other realm of endeavor?”
  • Should Research on Race and IQ be Banned? from the Scientific American Cross-Check blog.  “Irony Alert: It just occurred to me that two recent films, The Great Gatsby and Django Unchained, feature villains who spout pseudo-scientific theories of white superiority. The films imply that these theories are ludicrous relics of our racist past and that no modern person could possibly believe them. If only.”
  • The IQ Test from Slate. “’I have never worked on anything even remotely related to IQ, so don’t really know what to think about the relation between IQ, immigration, etc,’ Borjas told me in an email. ‘In fact, as I know I told Jason early on since I’ve long believed this, I don’t find the IQ academic work all that interesting. Economic outcomes and IQ are only weakly related, and IQ only measures one kind of ability.'”
  • Flynn, Ceci, and Turkheimer on Race and Intelligence: Opening Moves from Cato Unbound (2007). Don’t miss the links to response essays at the bottom of this article. “Take, for example, health care. Patients differ enormously in intelligence level, and these differences have life and death consequences for them. Individuals of lower health literacy, or IQ, are less likely to seek preventive care even when it is free, use curative care effectively when they get it, understand and adhere to treatment regimens, or avoid health-damaging behavior.”
  • A Talk with Jason Richwine from The (Washington) Examiner.  (speaking about making an even more controversial statement in a 2008 panel) “What I emphasized was that ethnic group differences in IQ are scientifically uncontroversial. That being said, there is a nuance that goes along with that: the extent to which IQ scores actually reflect intelligence, the fact that it reflects averages and there is a lot of overlap in any population, and that IQ scores say absolutely nothing about the causes of the differences — environmental, genetic, or some combination of those things.”
  • And finally, a 2009 Guardian review of Stephen Jay Gould’s The Mismeasure of Man. “This book should make any sensible person wary of attaching too much value to IQ tests (there’s some glorious stuff on the quixotic allotment of IQ ratings) and should make anybody very suspicious of statements about ‘group IQ’ or the presumption that some races are innately more clever than others.”