2005 December 14 Wednesday
Immigrants Swelling Ranks Of Poor And Poorly Educated

The demographic news about immigrants to America is resoundingly bad.

  • The 35.2 million immigrants (legal and illegal) living in the country in March 2005 is the highest number ever recorded -- two and a half times the 13.5 million during the peak of the last great immigration wave in 1910.
  • Between January 2000 and March 2005, 7.9 million new immigrants (legal and illegal) settled in the country, making it the highest five-year period of immigration in American history.
  • Nearly half of post-2000 arrivals (3.7 million) are estimated to be illegal aliens.
  • Immigrants account for 12.1 percent of the total population, the highest percentage in eight decades. If current trends continue, within a decade it will surpass the high of 14.7 percent reached in 1910.
  • Of adult immigrants, 31 percent have not completed high school, three-and-a-half times the rate for natives. Since 1990, immigration has increased the number of such workers by 25 percent, while increasing the supply of all other workers by 6 percent.
  • Immigrants were once significantly more likely to have a college degree, but the new data show that natives are now as likely as immigrants to have a bachelor's or graduate degree.
  • The proportion of immigrant-headed households using at least one major welfare program is 29 percent, compared to 18 percent for native households.
  • The poverty rate for immigrants and their U.S.-born children (under 18) is 18.4 percent, 57 percent higher than the 11.7 percent for natives and their children. Immigrants and their minor children account for almost one in four persons living in poverty.
  • One-third of immigrants lack health insurance -- two-and-one‑half times the rate for natives. Immigrants and their U.S.‑born children account for almost three-fourths (nine million) of the increase in the uninsured population since 1989.
  • The low educational attainment of many immigrants and resulting low wages are the primary reasons so many live in poverty, use welfare programs, or lack health insurance, not their legal status or an unwillingness to work.
  • A central question for immigration policy is: Should we allow in so many people with little education, which increases job competition for the poorest American workers and the size of the population needing government assistance?
  • Immigrants make significant economic progress the longer they live in the United States, but even immigrants who have lived in the United States for 14 or 15 years still have dramatically higher rates of poverty, lack of health insurance, and welfare use than natives.
  • States with the largest increase in immigrants are California, Texas, Georgia, New Jersey, Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Washington, Virginia, Arizona, Tennessee, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, South Carolina, and Mississippi.
  • Immigration accounts for virtually all of the national increase in public school enrollment over the last two decades. In 2005, there were 10.3 million school‑age children from immigrant families in the United States.
  • Immigrants and natives exhibit remarkably similar rates of entrepreneurship, with 13 percent of natives and 11 percent of immigrants self‑employed.
  • Recent immigration has had no significant impact on the nation's age structure.Without the 7.9 million post-2000 immigrants, the average age in America would be virtually unchanged at 36 years.

Immigrants worsen the unfunded old age liabilities financial problem because poorly educated people earn less and pay less in taxes. The educational attainments level of Hispanics improve very little in subsequent generations. So the huge flood of Hispanic immigrants is dumbing down America with disastrous results in store for the future.

Also see my previous posts "Hispanic And Black High School Graduation Rates Very Low", "Mexican Immigrants To US Have 8th Grade Educations", "Immigrants Do Not Improve Academically In Later Generations", and "Hispanics Have Taken Bulk Of New Jobs In Last 4 Years".

Also see Edwin Rubinstein's recent article "November’s Job Numbers: Good for immigrants; Bad for the Rest of Us".

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2005 December 14 09:43 PM  Immigration Demographics

John S Bolton said at December 15, 2005 3:19 AM:

The information given in the above report does not really convey the low income status of foreign born in the US, as much as it could. The earned income tax credit transfers were mentioned, and these showed ~twice as many immigrants as natives eligible. What is relevant for observing the differential draw on net public subsidy by immigrants, in all its enormity, is to see something like median personal income relative to a transfer program like the above, which adjusts for number of children, and goes to the working poor. Median personal incomes of foreign born are so close to the level which triggers earned income tax credit, that almost half are eligible, in the comparison used in the above report. Median personal incomes of immigrants here are at the low income threshold, and this is highly significant in terms of net public subsidy, and the resulting increase of aggression on the net taxpayer, which follows from the arrival of an immigration cohort. The situation is so bad, that the regulated media and government officials and professoriate, do not dare to speak of it.

Marvin said at December 15, 2005 6:24 AM:

You should distinguish between low IQ and high IQ immigrants. Many of the ultra-elite scientists in this country were either recent immigrants or were children of recent immigrants.

The level of ambition and drive in immigrants can also lead many of them to work their way out of poverty and low income status. The problem is all the government programs that tempt them to stay poor and suck the poisoned milk.

Also, sometimes when a situation in the home country improves, part of the migration goes the other way.

Bob Badour said at December 15, 2005 1:16 PM:


Do you have any statistics to back your claim regarding hard-working immigrants working their way out of poverty? I think the story makes for feel-good fiction. The statistics Randall has posted numerous times seem to contradict the myth.

Invisible Scientist said at December 15, 2005 8:07 PM:

It would be a very wise idea to modify the Annual Green Card lottery that gives permanent residency (and hence citizenship) to 50,000 foreigners.

In order to participate in this lottery, simply require that the candidates should have some minimum qualifications such as advanced degrees, very high grades, high intelligence test scores, and demonstrated abilities to make significant contributions to the United States. (All these qualifications are correlated with IQ.) Additionally, the lottery should give higher priority for higher abilities by means of a certain "point system" that is used in Canada or New Zealand. The minimum IQ-Equivalent qualification should be in the top 1 % percentile intelligence for this category of immigration. This way if the United States brings in 50,000 people per year in the top 1 %, then this will gradually start to make a very positive influence for the future growth and success of the country in all areas.

seelow heights said at December 16, 2005 1:51 AM:

"In order to participate in this lottery, simply require that the candidates should have some minimum qualifications such as advanced degrees, very high grades, high intelligence test scores, and demonstrated abilities to make significant contributions to the United States. (All these qualifications are correlated with IQ.)"
I'd go for IQ tests alone. Many Third World universities are known for corrupt professors who are easily bribed. Also trafficking in false documents is very common, especially in places like Nigeria.

silchiuk said at December 16, 2005 10:11 AM:

Senetor Keenedy and Kery are wanting stupid immigrants for citisens. These are wanting to vote for these two senetors and there friends.

Invisible Scientist said at December 16, 2005 8:52 PM:

Seelow Heights wrote:
""In order to participate in this lottery, simply require that the candidates should have some minimum qualifications such as advanced degrees, very high grades, high intelligence test scores, and demonstrated abilities to make significant contributions to the United States. (All these qualifications are correlated with IQ.)"
I'd go for IQ tests alone. Many Third World universities are known for corrupt professors who are easily bribed. Also trafficking in false documents is very common, especially in places like Nigeria."

I agree 100 %, but the required qualifications will also include demonstration at home, where the applicant will personally demonstrate abilities by means of GRE tests or similar tests in English. English proficiency requirements will also exceed the majority of Americans for THIS category of immigrants, where all applicants will be in the top 1 % percentile not only intellectually, but additionally they will be required to be healthy and at a young age. A bogus advanced degree won't be enough. Additionally, suppose the applicant claims to have a PhD in electrical engineering. It is very easy to verify if this engineer really has a working knowledge of the field: just require a high test score in the advanced engineering section of the GRE, in addition to the aptitude section of the GRE. All the applicants who want to participate in this lottery have to be in the top 1 % percentile of the aptitude section of the GRE, if they are not there, they just need to immigrate under a different category for immigration, not the lottery.

The benefits of this lottery can be phenomenal for the United States. Within 10 years this would add 500,000 very
gifted young professionals to the United States, and maintain the leadership of the U.S. in all areas, such as Arts, Science, Engineering, Literature, etc.

Borodino said at December 17, 2005 2:14 AM:


I've ruminated over such a skills lottery myself. For the sake of playing Devil's Advocate (b/c these arguments have been used against me while vouching for such a system, for one thing): This system would work for some professions, but not really for others. In medicine for example, the number of graduating professionals is very tightly controlled, and it's insanely difficult for foreign medical graduates-- even the creme de la creme-- to come to work in the United States. The exception would be for low-paying primary-care scutwork in middle-of-nowhere towns in North Dakota or Fairbanks Alaska, where authorities are indeed trying out creative solutions to bring in specialist MD's. (A very large number of these people, for whatever reason, are Muslims from places like Iran and Egypt-- I guess escaping their corrupt countries, as you're suggesting.) This innately sort of diminishes the luster of immigration in the first place, but there's really no way around it w/o some radical restructuring of US graduate medical education. Supply is very precisely controlled in the USA when it comes to MD's, and of course there's the added issue that small differences in standards and basic practices can be a real problem for new MD's, who have to be retrained in the US system. I've known of foreign MD's brilliant beyond most of our imaginations, at the top of their fields, publishing in top journals, fluent in five languages, with solid and documented track records who nonetheless get rejected at every single residency program they apply-- dozens, sometimes. And note that is often *after* having endured the grueling series of exams (GRE, MCAT, Boards) to even qualify in this country-- so they invest years and tens of thousands of their own dollars here, only to come up totally empty, broke, and severely depressed.

I'm less sure about other professions, but for many where we're already encountering a glut (some branches of e.g. engineering and computer science, for example) it's not clear that even very talented immigrants will have all that much in the way of job prospects. Moreover, many of the best foreign technical graduates who do train in the US for a while, are pretty much obligated to return after a couple years, almost on pain of death. The US has many reciprocal treaty agreements-- in part because, in other countries, even post-secondary technical education is free and paid for by the government (unlike in the US), a service that would be withdrawn if too many of the graduates were to emigrate-- so those grads for practical purposes really can't immigrate to the USA. If they overstay their visas by a single day, they wind up having to pay back taxes *plus a brutal penalty* for all the years that they stayed in the US! Instant bankruptcy.

Another argument that I've heard advanced against this idea, is that this practice-- which would almost certainly be imitated by other wealthy countries-- would utterly devastate poor developing countries that are already desperate to retain their elites. France, Britain, Germany and Italy for example all absorb a large number of well-educated immigrants from Africa and India. While India has enough educated grads to spare and doesn't need to worry much about the loss, Africa is sorely lacking, and the loss of well-educated nurses, scientists and physicians from those countries, lured to Europe, is utterly crippling Africa's economy even further, worsening AIDS and (probably) increasing the prospect of failed states and maybe even terrorism. Now, my own counterargument to this, is that such a brain drain should be convincing corrupt political leaders in African governments to reform! But OTOH, the recruiting from the West is quite aggressive and really is siphoning off the best and brightest from these desperate places. I don't have an easy answer to it, though at a basic level I feel as though individual choice should be most important here.

[BTW Germany, interestingly, has become the world's highest-immigration country per capita, with up to 1 million newcomers each year. Turks are a big fraction but not as big as many believe; interestingly enough, Germany is now becoming one big melting pot for Eastern Europe, plus there's an enormous influx from SE Asia (esp. Thailand), E Asia (esp. Korea for some reason), S. Asia (big inflows from India and Sri Lanka), and even South America (many ethnic Germans returning to the "Heimat." Germany like the USA doesn't screen immigrants for skills, but due to sheer geographical good fortune, they're probably getting a higher percentage of educated immigrants in general.]

One final note-- in the past 5 years there's been a very rapid decline in the number of educated immigrants from China, Korea, and India coming to the USA, alongside an increasing rate of return of US-educated immigrants back to their home countries (the famous Chinese "sea turtles"). Some have blamed this on the post-Sept. 11 visa restrictions, but this seems to be due more to the revitalization of the economies in those countries than barriers placed here. In fact, ironically enough, the largest gain in the area of highly educated immigrants to the USA, is among immigrants from the Muslim Middle East. (Check out e.g. the Statistical Abstracts at a major urban library-- fascinating stats.) Iran, Pakistan, Egypt, Syria, Bangladesh-- all are sending many of their best talents to the USA in surprising numbers. So we're developing a Muslim upper crust in the USA, oddly enough.

Randall Parker said at December 17, 2005 8:52 AM:


A few points and questions:

1) Where do the tax penalties come from that you speak of? Which countries of origin levy taxes against their students abroad if the students do not return?

2) Whether screening immmigrants by intelligence would work for all professions is besides the point. The goal is to bring in higher IQ people regardless of what jobs they will work in. Smarter people will have smarter children. Smarter people who can't get jobs in, say, medicine will switch occupations and do well on average in their new occupations.

3) Smarter people will have smarter children.

4) I do not think that smart people have a moral obligation to live among dumb people to support dumb people.

5) Dumb people will only have more babies if the smart people help to support them. So the problem is made worse in subsequent generations.

6) Smart people can produce far more in total if they are among smart people. The world's entire GDP will rise more rapidly and technology will advance more rapidly if smart people are concentrated in a small number of countries.

Hugh Angell said at December 17, 2005 10:51 AM:

In fairness though the need for a large population of uneducated immigrants is largely
driven by affluent educated people.

Who needs Juan Mower and his leafblowereros but the affluent? Busboy, Bellboy, nanny,
maid, security guard etc are not hired by people or even utilized to the same extent by
people making average incomes. When they go on vacation they, typically, do not stay at
a hotel with busboys. A motel is more like it. They do not eat out as often or at places
that require the same kind of kitchen staff as a good restaurant.

For example, in pre WW1 Britain, the largest occupational group was domestic service, i.e.
a servant. There were more of them than factory workers! Prior to the rise of the middle
class, in the British sense of that term, only the aristocracy had servants. But the rise
of the middle class in the 19th century meant lots more people could afford them. They
might not have a title or a grand country house but they could damn sure have a parlor maid
and a cook.

I think we have something like that going on in America. Our modestly affluent may not all
have nannies, cooks or maids, though some now do, but they do enhance their status and
standard of living by employing people they might not otherwise have been able to do had
they to pay wages American workers had come to expect to perform service they previously
might have had to do themselves such as taking care of the yard. My father used to have
me do that task, now he hires a contractor who employs Mexicans for the job. He even
bitches about all the Mexicans living in the county now not seeing the cause and effect.
His golf course is maintained in the sameway.

People complain about TB cases in their children's schools or property tax increases to
build more schools and provide other services in their communities but do not bat an eye
when, remodeling or putting an addition onto their McMansion, the contractor pulls up with
a crew of Latino workers. Well, where do they think these people commute from? Mexico?

Just as the British middleclass had to give up their domestic servants after WW1 due to
changed economic relationships between the middle and working class, so too our own middle
class will have to confront the reality of the situation and either accept some change in
the income distribution in this country or understand that in order to have these services
provided to them by low wage immigrants the overall quality of life in their communities
is going to deteriorate.

John S Bolton said at December 17, 2005 11:52 AM:

The National Assessment of Adult Literacy has just released its results showing a stunning deterioration in literacy since 1992 among Hispanics attributable to indiscriminate immigration from south of the border. Anticivilizational family values don't stop at the Rio Bravo del Norte, apparently.

Borodino said at December 17, 2005 12:43 PM:


Many European countries in particular have treaty agreements with the USA whereby their students are allowed to study and/or work (usually a mixture of both, in US research universities for example) for a fixed amount of time, say 2 or 5 years or for the duration of an educational degree, depending on the treaty/visa terms. For the period that the European students are in the USA, they basically get to stay tax-free, and the offices in the European countries provide them with all kinds of assistance to help smooth the trip, transfer credits, arrange for the jobs and housing, and so on. However, if they overstay by a single day in the US (except for special cases with petitions), the penalties are extremely harsh-- they have to pay the taxes that they would have otherwise been paying beforehand, plus interest on those taxes, plus a penalty for not paying the taxes before, plus another steep penalty for violating the US terms of the visa, plus another penalty to the home country in some cases. It can literally ruin people financially if they bend the rules. Those of us who work in academia have to deal with this all the time-- you have to specifically plan the training and activities in your office/classroom/company/lab so that the temporary immigrant can be sure to finish up well before their date of return, otherwise they're in enormous trouble.

Again, I'm not sure why these treaties and visa restrictions are in place, but I suspect it has something to do with the differing educational systems in the USA vs. Europe. In the US of course, students have to pay their own way to a significant extent, making them loss costly to the taxpayer. In Europe by contrast, secondary school and university education (including doctorates) are uniformly funded by the state up to 90-95% of the cost, which means that taxpayers over there spend many millions of dollars on the training of an advanced PhD or MD student. Thus part of the "implicit social contract" here is that graduates of these institutions will stay to work in the home countries, otherwise this virtually free education (with rising but still minuscule university fees, compared to costs in the USA) would be withdrawn and a fee system introduced for tuition, as we have in the US. Both the USA and the European countries mutually benefit from this arrangement since the students go to the USA for a while and work in advanced laboratories and companies on the cutting edge, benefiting the US institutions while here and taking their newfound knowledge back home with them to Europe. But that's the key-- they have to return, or the system really breaks down.

Of course, this applies mostly to *Europe* and possibly some countries in Asia, not to third-world developing countries, which is why so many educated Arabs and Iranians are now in the upper echelons of US engineering and medical disciplines. In part because students from Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Morocco, and Algeria have such constrained and miserable opportunities back home, the best-educated among them tend to go abroad, with the USA being a prime destination. If you go to many an advanced engineering department, company R&D division, or teaching hospital in the US, you'll be surprised at the number of Ahmeds, Muhammads, Omar, Alis, and Kareems you'll encounter-- a remarkable fraction of these top positions are being won by grads from the Middle East, since their paltry opportunities back home make it worth it for them to brave all the substantial costs and barriers of setting up shop in the USA.

Agree with the rest of your points, please reread what I wrote originally-- I basically agree with the intrinsic desirability of bringing in qualified, bright, motivated people into places where they can accomplish the most good, which in the modern era would be the handful of countries (Western Europe, the USA, Japan, China, India, maybe a couple places in South America). I'm just saying that, when I've argued this point before, I've been jumped on by quite a few people, both Americans and especially (and quite discouragingly) would-be immigrants themselves, who point out the practical snags to making something like this actually work. I know what you're saying about highly qualified would-be doctors and how they should be able to find a job in another high-tech field, but unfortunately-- as I found out to my own dismay-- this is far too idealistic, and the real world for this is much harsher. Doctors are so thoroughly trained and in such a specialist manner that it's not too easy for them to transfer skills, since so many other fields (besides medicine) now have strict standards and require many years of training to be even considered qualified. By the time a person's become a fully-trained physician, you're already in the mid- to late-30s, around the time that most people have started families and are settling down somewhere. It's just not feasible to up and re-train in another field, unfortunately, and trained physicians in foreign medical schools-- if they can't get jobs as physicians here-- really don't have very good options. Yes, a handful can get jobs in pharmaceutical companies (though those boomtimes are long over), and others can get jobs as teachers or working in labs, but they they've essentially wasted many many years of that specialized training. The rise of uniform standards and the tremendous time burden of training in specialized fields (and adapting to the very particular standards of each country and state) really have created a massive barrier to switching careers, and it's not easy to surmount. Wish it were otherwise, but that's world we live in.

Borodino said at December 17, 2005 12:59 PM:

I hate to sound pessimistic here, but another factor discouraging the recruitment of bright foreigners to technical/specialist/business fields in the USA is affirmative action. If you're a bright, motivated foreigner who has the misfortune of coming from Europe or Asia at least, you get to look forward to instant, government- (and often corporate-) mandated discrimination against you as soon as you arrive on US shores. I find it laughable when people try to downplay how damaging such racial and gender preferences are. If you open up any issue of Science, Journal of the American Chem Society, Cell, or other top scientific journal, you'll be shocked if you go to the want-ads and employment section, since almost every damn job offer has, in italic print at the bottom, some message about being an "affirmative action employer"-- women and minorities strongly encouraged to apply. Now, this is all well and good if it were simply a pitch to try to get more qualified people from these groups to apply, with standards maintained uniformly across the board. Unfortunately, in practice-- as anyone in the business knows-- it means that, if you're applying to get an assistant professorship at a university or a synthetic chemistry position in a company, you'll be moved to the back of the consideration pile automatically if someone with the last name of "Lopez" is applying (unless he's incorrigibly bad, and even then...).

This doesn't just occur in isolated circumstances-- such affirmative action preferences are pervasive, firmly in place across the educational spectrum, at all levels of employment and recruitment. You can usually get *a* job of one kind or another if you're not in one of the "preferred groups," but it's usually a substandard job that's well below what you trained and worked for. This is especially infuriating for hard-working, motivated immigrants from Europe and Asia who come to this country, only to face discrimination merely b/c they're not black or Hispanic. It adds an extra obstacle to the process of gaining employment here, and I've known more than a few would-be immigrants who've returned to their home countries with frustration at the preference system being a prominent factor (or, for that matter, have gone to some European countries, where such race-based preferences aren't really much of a factor). It amuses me sometimes how much older, educated, accomplished white Americans, in positions of power, seem to utterly hate their younger white (and Asian) counterparts, scrapping for a position of their own, that they'd consciously have a policy that discriminates against them like this. But I guess that somehow just makes for good PR, even if it means that the institution winds up with substandard personnel-- the negative effects of which, I guess, are outweighed by the PR gains obtained from our obsequious and fawning mass media which coos at an institution's "commitment to diversity" when it recruits blacks and Hispanics, with thin regard to qualifications, but screws over candidates with last names like Chen and Pulaski in the process.

Bob Badour said at December 17, 2005 1:14 PM:


Can you point to any statistics to support your thesis regarding discrimination against european and asian immigrants--especially regarding the prevalance of these immigrants accepting positions below their training?

Invisible Scientist said at December 17, 2005 3:14 PM:

Borodino wrote:
"I'm less sure about other professions, but for many where we're already encountering a glut (some branches of e.g. engineering and computer science, for example) it's not clear that even very talented immigrants will have all that much in the way of job prospects."

This is due to the recently deteriorating phenomenon of "Labor Arbitrage" where a lot of white collar jobs in all areas are getting transferred to pporer countries like India and China. This is why many American engineers are unemployed. This is a worrisome trend, but at the same time, IF we raise the IQ of the United States by enriching the gene pool, we shall have new leadership in totally revolutionary areas of engineering where America does not have competition. Although it is true that many standardized areas of engineering, electronics, software development jobs are transferrable to India, China, Korea, and Japan, there are certainly emerging revolutionary areas of biology, chemistry, applied physics type engineering, nanotechnology, etc where the United States still has leadership due to the fact that the American elite, still remains the cream of the crop when compared to the elites of other nations. This is what I am talking about. I agree that many of the Immigration Lottery participants would have a tough time finding jobs in the United States, but at the same time, by virtue of having demonstrated mental aptitudes in the top 1 %, this breed of immigrant would very easily adapt and gain leadership in the United States. If you want, we can also create a special subdivision of the Immigration Lottery where 30,000 genius children who are just about to finish high school, would be given green cards if 1) they are accepted to top 20 American Universities on scholarships AND 2) if they are in the top 0.1 % percentile in SAT and achievement tests. This way, these kids who already have green cards during their undergraduate years in the United States, would certainly have no trouble adapting to the American system, since they are in the top 0.1 % percentile with and IQ equivalent aptitude score over 155. This would be special immigration quota for the national survival of the United States. Atheist Arab and Iranian genius kids are most welcome in this quota.

Marvin said at December 17, 2005 7:08 PM:

Invisible points to the key problem in the US today. Not immigration, not Bush, not energy prices. The problem is the lack of innovation and lack of production of new industry. The US was once the land of opportunity where innovative people flocked, because the US was once pro-innovation and pro-new industry. Recently the US has become just another retirement home, like Europe. Barriers to new innovations and new industries have been set so high by trial lawyers, government bureaucrats, and regulators and tax collectors at all levels. Now the United Nations parasites want to be able to control what american businessmen can do inside american borders.

Anti-commerce attitudes prevail in the bureaucratic mentality of Europe and the UN. Tax them till they drop, then sue them for their dismembered assets.

New industries. They have to be created constantly for the health of any economy. Choking the garden with taxes, regulation, lawsuits, government preferences toward old rusting enterprises, and other poisons makes the economy stagnant and dying. Illegal immigration and bad immigration policy is just one more problem to add to all the others. Not the main problem.

Mike Quinlan said at December 18, 2005 8:28 AM:

Perhaps your best solution is to only allow geniuses to breed. You guys are throwbacks to the eugenics movement. Its time you re-examined your thinking.
Studies such as "The Bell Curve" seem to confirm IQ differences amongst supposidely distinct and identifiable racial groupings. Unthinking racists have seized upon these findings and sought to reify them into a genetic classificatory scheme that ranks races. Black americans dont perform as well on IQ tests as their white bretheren ? Why? The conclusion is obvious, they are less evolved and carry the genetic handicap of their race. Its pure balderdash and the product of simple minds seeking easy self-satisfying answers.
Fortunately, much of the accumulated scientific research debunks the notion that genetics as opposed to social conditions provides the explanatory framework for the IQ differences measured.
In 1961, Klaus Eyferth, a German researcher, performed a study where he sought to measure the IQ of children born of caucasian german mothers fathered by blacks and whites who formed part of the army of occupation following the second world war. He was unable to detect any appreciable differences in terms of IQ between the two. In a socially homogenous environment, the racial divide disappeared.
Later in 1974 a british researcher studying black and white kids raised in the same orphanages, found that once again there was no difference in terms of IQ found between the groups raised in the same identical environment.
Better still, was a fundemental discovery made by James Flynn in 1984. He observed that during the period from 1930 to 1980 the average American IQ had increased significantly, despite the fact that its genetic baggage hadn To me the conclusion is obvious, Blacks and other racial groupings, do not in fact suffer from a collective genetic disadvantage, what they suffer from is a legacy of racial subordination and injustice imposed on them collectively.

Note to those who want to limit immigration to the US of only those with a tested IQ of 155 or more, I strongly suspect that not one of you would qualify. Then again, with a supposed IQ of 147 I wouldn't either. But then, intelligence and coherent thinking arent necessarily linked. How else can one explain that a group as supposidely intelligent as you are can be so limited in their thinking?

Randall Parker said at December 18, 2005 8:48 AM:


You are back! And you still believe in liberal myths about IQ.

The Bell Curve is not a study. It is a survey of what was known about psychometrics at the time it was written. Psychometricians think it is an excellent survey.

You are taking some liberal talking points on studies you know little about and using them to parrot the standard liberal line on psychometrics. You ignore critiques of those studies and you ignore the much larger body of evidence that contradicts them.

How do you explain away the Minnesota trans-racial adoption study? Read the appropriate section of The Bell Curve. How about the more recent Korean adoption study? They both demonstrate the power of genes over environment and completely contradict the false liberal worldview that environment triumphs over genes.

This is from a comment I made to a previous post:

In fact, the power of genetic factors over environment is so strong that an adoption study of Korean babies in the United States found no economic benefit to being raised in upper class households. Also see the follow-up post by Alex Tabarrok on misconceptions in some reactions to that report. Note that this study found that for the range of economic classes examined there is not some marginal lasting nurture benefit from being raised in higher income families. This strongly argues that genes are far more important than environment over a large range of environments found in families in America. This isn't going to hold true in, say, India or China. But it does hold true in the United States.

From some other previous commments I've made:

If you care to read the hereditarian arguments I can offer a number of pointers: Start with The Bell Curve. Also read Intelligence,Race, and Genetics: Conversations with Arthur R. Jensen by Jensen and Frank Miele and The g Factor: The Science of Mental Ability by Arthur Jensen. If you want a free book on IQ then check out the free download of Chris Brand's IQ book g Factor (same title, different book). I haven't read Brand's book.

Here and here (both PDF format) are two recent papers by Jensen and Rushton on the IQ, heredity, and environment. You can also read Linda Gottfredson's paper (again PDF) reacting to the first of those two papers.

More to read: The NURTURE ASSUMPTION: Why Children Turn Out the Way They Do by Judith Rich Harris and also The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature by Steven Pinker. Note that Pinker sidesteps the whole IQ controversy. Also, Harris is not focused on that as her topic either. Still, they present arguments that undermine the assumptions of the left-liberal conventional wisdom about the importance of environmental influences which are due to parents.

Randall Parker said at December 18, 2005 8:58 AM:

As for Eyferth, here's a debunking of this great liberal hope for environment over genetics (PDF Format)

Three studies of racially mixed individuals at first appear to support the culture-only hypothesis against the genetic hypothesis. Eyferth (1961; Eyferth, Brandt, & Hawel, 1960) reported IQ data for out-of-wedlock children fathered by soldiers stationed in Germany after World War II and then reared by White German mothers. The mean IQs for 83 White children and for 98 racially mixed children were both about 97 (97.2 for the Whites, 96.5 for the racially-mixed). As Loehlin et al. (1975, pp. 126-128) noted, however, these results are ambiguous for three reasons. First, the children were still very young when tested. One-third of the children were between 5 and 10 years of age, and two-thirds between 10 and 13. As discussed in Section 5 (see Figure 3), behavior genetic studies show that while family socialization effects on IQ are often strong before puberty, after puberty they dwindle, sometimes to zero. Second, 20 to 25% of the "Black" fathers were not African Americans but French North Africans (i.e., largely Caucasian or "Whites" as we have defined the terms here). Third, there was rigorous selection based on IQ score in the U.S. Army at the time, with a rejection rate for Blacks on the pre-induction Army General Classification Test of about 30%, compared to 3% for Whites (Davenport, 1946, Tables I and III).

The second study reports a nine-point IQ advantage for the four-year-old offspring of couples with a White mother and a Black father (mean IQ = 102, N = 101) compared to those from the offspring of a Black mother and a White father (mean IQ = 93, N = 28). Assuming White mothers provide better pre- and/or post-natal environments for their children than do Black mothers, Willerman, Naylor, and Myrianthopoulos (1974) interpreted their data as more consistent with a cultural than a genetic hypothesis (see also Nisbett, 1998). However, Loehlin et al. (1975, p. 126) noted that the mixed-race pairs with White mothers averaged almost a year more schooling than did the pairs with Black mothers. Thus the White mothers may have had a higher average IQ than the Black ones. The mid-parent IQs have to be the same for the results to be interpretable. Also, the two sets of mixed-race children averaged an IQ of 98, intermediate to the White and Black children in the sample from whom the mixed-race children had been drawn (IQs = 105 and 91, respectively; Broman, Nichols, & Kennedy, 1975, p. 43). The third study seeming to support the culture-only hypothesis is a subsidiary analysis by Moore (1986) (see Section 8) of a small number of seven-year-old children adopted by middle-class White parents. Moore found no difference in IQ between those children with only one and those with two Black biological parents. The mean IQ for the group of 9 adopted children with two Black biological parents was 109, and the mean IQ for the group of 14 children with one Black and one White biological parent was 107. Given the young age of these children, a follow-up to adolescence would be informative.

IQ is known to become more genetically determined with age. There's a few reasons for this. The most notable is that intelligence doesn't stop rising due to neuronal growth until late adolescence. People with genetic variations that make their brains grow for a longer period of time will not show the advantage of those genetic variations until their mid to late teens. So comparing 5 to 10 year olds (see the commentary on Eyferth above) really misses a large portion of genetically determined brain development.

Mike Quinlan said at December 18, 2005 12:47 PM:

Dear Randall,
Its nice to be missed. How do you explain that Flynn found that for the period of his study, the increase of black IQ's was greater than that measured for the white population?
In your last post you seem to allude to some research that suggests there are measureable differences amongst racial groupings in terms of biological brain development. Please expand on this.
With regard to your critique of Eyferth, I think you are way off the mark. Since when is comparing 5 and 10 year olds not valid. Individual differences clearly exist at that age. I very much doubt if a latter follow up of the kids in the study would reveal developmental differences once they reached 20.
With regards to Tabarrok's findings I am not swayed and I find they are more apropos about a replicating american class structure and who gets excluded rather than being indicative of racial IQ. Imagine my surprise at finding out that visible american minorities come to be excluded from upper class participation later in life, despite being raised in privilege, as compared to the biological children of that same class. Purely innate intelligence at work here? I think not.
With respect to the whole nature nurture debate, I think our knowlege of the human has gone beyond such simplistic formulations. Intelligence expresses itself in different ways and its expression depends on many factors.
Personality typologies are fascinating, as are the interactions amongst individuals who exhibit and experience different orientations towards our shared reality. You can be born with the best genetic baggage on the planet, but throw in some form of childhood abuse which affects mental and emotional development, and you will find that what results is stunted growth. The potential is not realized. Social conditionning plays a huge role in developing the intelligence of individuals, and in their emotional maturation.

People regress to earlier, more primitive behavior when conditions become too challenging for them. People who have been extreemely abused and hurt (emotionaly, mentally, sexually or physically) as chidren have to build huge defenses to protect themselves. Under these conditions, they never learn healthy coping skills and are highly vulnerable to slipping into self destructive patterns. Now reflect upon your history as a country and the impact of earlier generations experiences on successive ones. Which of the races have benefited from better social and material conditions? Looks an awful lot like the racial IQ numbers to me. What if furthering the expansion of human intelligence
could be achieved faster by improving the living conditions of the majority of humanity, rather than planning on selected inclusions to the american gene pool based on IQ. You need to embrace humanity and not just the USA and its hegemonic interests.

Bob Badour said at December 18, 2005 2:06 PM:


If you are correct about whites holding back minorities through oppression, how do you explain the success of asians? Especially the Korean adoption study results already cited by Randall?

I grew up in an abusive home, and that never seemed to affect my grades any. Do you have any quantitative evidence to back the tired socialist talking point about abuse affecting intelligence? Do you even have any quantitative evidence to suggest blacks in particular suffer more abuse?

Might I suggest that many of the great thinkers of all time were raised according to standards of parenting and in standards of living we would consider both abusive and neglectful by current standards? If your thesis had any merit, one would never expect to find a Newton or a Tesla or an Archimedes or a Ptolemy or even a Gauss in our history.

Hugh Angell said at December 18, 2005 3:16 PM:

Mr. Quinlan in his effort to deny the obvious seems to be making a new, and perhaps even
more insulting argument, about negroes. He seems to suggest that they are poor parents.
That they abuse and neglect their children at rates so much higher than do whites or Asians
that they have left their children intellectually crippled.

Central Repository of Canadian IQ Scores said at December 18, 2005 6:09 PM:

Dear Mr Quinlan,

We regret to inform you that our records show your IQ to be 47, not 147 as you claim. The erroneous insertion of the extra digit occurred due to clerical error by a records clerk whose IQ was only 37, the average IQ for government bureaucrats, at least Canadian government bureaucrats.

Please make the necessary changes in your records to reflect your somewhat lower than previously thought IQ score. Although most of your acquaintances will have suspected the above mentioned error, you should make certain to apprise them of this information.



Proborders said at December 23, 2005 5:52 PM:

Bob, since many, if not most, of the Asians in the USA are immigrants, quite a number of Asian immigrants have likely been discriminated against in favor of blacks and Hispanics with lower test scores and grades.

Blacks and Hispanics do benefit from affirmative action (see “The Color of Meritocracy,” “Affirmative Action: the Robin Hood Effect,” and “The Death of Meritocracy”).

Bob Badour said at December 23, 2005 7:45 PM:

Exactly! The influence of society directly contradicts Mike's thesis and works against the actual outcomes.

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