Malcolm Gladwell gives me a talking point on race and IQ

September 15, 2010

From his December 2007 New Yorker article, “None of the Above“:

[T]he question of whether Asians have a genetic advantage in I.Q. … has led to great excitement among I.Q. fundamentalists in recent years. Data showing that the Japanese had higher I.Q.s than people of European descent, for example, prompted the British psychometrician and eugenicist Richard Lynn to concoct an elaborate evolutionary explanation involving the Himalayas, really cold weather, premodern hunting practices, brain size, and specialized vowel sounds. The fact that the I.Q.s of Chinese-Americans also seemed to be elevated has led I.Q. fundamentalists to posit the existence of an international I.Q. pyramid, with Asians at the top, European whites next, and Hispanics and blacks at the bottom.

Here was a question tailor-made for James Flynn’s accounting skills. He looked first at Lynn’s data, and realized that the comparison was skewed. Lynn was comparing American I.Q. estimates based on a representative sample of schoolchildren with Japanese estimates based on an upper-income, heavily urban sample. Recalculated, the Japanese average came in not at 106.6 but at 99.2. Then Flynn turned his attention to the Chinese-American estimates. They turned out to be based on a 1975 study in San Francisco’s Chinatown using something called the Lorge-Thorndike Intelligence Test. But the Lorge-Thorndike test was normed in the nineteen-fifties. For children in the nineteen-seventies, it would have been a piece of cake. When the Chinese-American scores were reassessed using up-to-date intelligence metrics, Flynn found, they came in at 97 verbal and 100 nonverbal. Chinese-Americans had slightly lower I.Q.s than white Americans.

The Asian-American success story had suddenly been turned on its head. The numbers now suggested, Flynn said, that they had succeeded not because of their higher I.Q.s. but despite their lower I.Q.s. Asians were overachievers. In a nifty piece of statistical analysis, Flynn then worked out just how great that overachievement was. Among whites, virtually everyone who joins the ranks of the managerial, professional, and technical occupations has an I.Q. of 97 or above. Among Chinese-Americans, that threshold is 90. A Chinese-American with an I.Q. of 90, it would appear, does as much with it as a white American with an I.Q. of 97.

There should be no great mystery about Asian achievement. It has to do with hard work and dedication to higher education, and belonging to a culture that stresses professional success. But Flynn makes one more observation. The children of that first successful wave of Asian-Americans really did have I.Q.s that were higher than everyone else’s—coming in somewhere around 103. Having worked their way into the upper reaches of the occupational scale, and taken note of how much the professions value abstract thinking, Asian-American parents have evidently made sure that their own children wore scientific spectacles. “Chinese Americans are an ethnic group for whom high achievement preceded high I.Q. rather than the reverse,” Flynn concludes, reminding us that in our discussions of the relationship between I.Q. and success we often confuse causes and effects. “It is not easy to view the history of their achievements without emotion,” he writes. That is exactly right. To ascribe Asian success to some abstract number is to trivialize it.

Note that Thilo Sarrazin could still use this sort of reasoning to vilify German Muslims. All he would have to do is claim they aren’t applying themselves. Hmm, now I want to know more about the situation in Germany. I’m guessing it’s a two-way-street kind of thing, but I have no idea. Pipe up if you see any good links on the subject.


3 Responses to “Malcolm Gladwell gives me a talking point on race and IQ”

  1. Galtonian Says:

    Flynn is wrong. Overwhelming empirical evidence now indicates that Chinese-Americans really do tend to have substantially higher IQs (especially on the quantitative and spatial components of IQ) than non-Jewish White Americans. It is not just in the USA but also in Canada, Australia, England and elsewhere, the Chinese students are smarter than the White students, especially in spatial and math abilities.

    Math ability is highly correlated with working memory and the g-factor (the scientific term for the concept of IQ-type intelligence). Data indicates that the same genes that influence g also influence math ability. See papers by experts such as John DeFries, Robert Plomin, Stephen Petrill, Ian Deary, Matt McGue, Dorret Boomsma, and Nick Martin.

    In California, after 6th grade the smarter students are separated out into more advanced math tests, but in the 6th grade all students still take the same test together. So the 6th grade math test is a good survey of the range of intelligence of students from multiple ethnoracial groups in California.

    Percentages of 6th grade students who scored advanced on the 2010 California Standards Test in Mathematics:
    11 % Black
    13 % Hispanic
    13 % American Indian
    18 % NHPI
    24 % Cambodian
    34 % Filipino
    33 % White
    49 % Vietnamese
    53 % Asian Indian
    55 % Japanese
    65 % Korean
    66 % Chinese

    These data clearly indicate that Chinese-American students tend to be significantly more intelligent than the White students, and the Chinese-American students as a general rule are far more intelligent than the Black and Hispanic students.

    The USA should curtail immigration of lower IQ people and only allow higher IQ college graduates to immigrate. Otherwise we will soon find our country to be burdened with a huge majority of lower IQ mestizos (aka Hispanics); and this could adversely affect our standard of living and perhaps our democratic society.

  2. JR Minkel Says:

    Congratulations! You are either an IQ racist or a troll. Either way, please return to whatever woodwork you crawled out of. Thanks!

  3. Galtonian Says:

    If Hans Eysenck, Arthur Jensen, Philippe Rushton, Richard Lynn, Linda Gottfredson, Richard Herrnstein, Charles Murray, and other well known “IQ racists” (per your term) are factually correct; then you have the choice of either pretending to believe in a completely bogus theory (the Boasian theory of ethnoracial group IQ equalitarianism) and be a “good non-racist” or you can believe in the TRUTH and be a “bad IQ racist”.

    Whatever, you of course can choose to do what you wish and ignore the truth for the sake of conforming to political correctness, but I will stick with my rational efforts toward seeing the real truth as shown by the empirical evidence. Thanks!

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