Immigrant Selection and Regression

So half of the mystery has been solved.

West African immigrants do better than indigenous US African-Americans because of immigration selection. In her exhaustive analysis, Suzanne Model shows that the relative West African success can be explained in total by selection and, moreover, that West Africans do no better than internally immigrating African Americans. From a condensed version of the book [1]:

To review, West Indian immigrants have long fared better economically than African Americans. This generalization holds even when immigrants and natives are assigned the same age, education, location, etc. Experts have proposed four distinct explanations for this state of affairs: West Indians are positively selected immigrants, Caribbean slavery taught West Indians valuable skills, socialization in an all-black society is psychologically beneficial for blacks, and white Americans discriminate less against West Indians than African Americans. When the four explanations are tested empirically, only positive selection receives support. This is not to say that growing up in an all-black society might not provide psychological benefits or that whites might not respond positively to blacks with a Caribbean accent. But even if these relationships hold (which has yet to be demonstrated), there is no empirical evidence that they enhance West Indian economic attainment. Rather, West Indian success can be attributed entirely to the greater talent and ambition of those who choose to move. Similarly, the subset of African Americans who are voluntary internal migrants are better off than their less venturesome counterparts. Once this point is clear, it is easy to see why West Indian success offers no lessons for African American improvement.

So, self selected African immigrants have a relatively higher IQ and take advantage of racial quotas. No surprises there. This leaves the other half of the mystery. Why do the offspring of West Indian Black immigrants — unlike those of some other immigrants — regress socioeconomically [2]…

…and perhaps otherwise?

[1] Model, 2008. The Secret of West Indian Success

[2] Sakamoto, et al., 2010. Does an Immigrant Background Ameliorate Racial Disadvantage? The Socioeconomic Attainments of Second‐Generation African Americans.

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4 Responses to Immigrant Selection and Regression

  1. JL says:

    The name Suzanne Model rang a bell for me. She wrote a rather weird review of Richard Nisbett’s “Intelligence and How to Get It” for Contemporary Sociology. She seems to be generally hostile to the idea that genes contribute to IQ differences even within populations. She wrote:

    Fifteen years ago, Herrnstein and Murray (1994) offered a similar argument in The Bell Curve. Going even further, they contended that modern labor markets so effectively sort individuals by cognitive ability that the resulting inequalities are fair. Not surprisingly, these statements stimulated a stream of rebuttals. Even the American Psychological Association felt impelled to issue a position paper (Neisser et al. 1996).

    It is in this tradition that psychologist Richard Nisbett has published Intelligence and How to Get It, which opens with the claim that: ‘‘Many, if not most experts on intelligence in the late twentieth-century believed that intelligence and academic talent are substantially under genetic control . . .’’ (p. 1). However, this is not the interpretation offered in the American Psychological Association position paper described above. To be sure, the hereditarians have not yet died: in 2005, J. Philippe Rushton and Arthur Jensen re-iterated their genetic claims. But their viewpoint does not attract many followers in the academy. Perhaps most laypeople believe that mental ability is substantially genetic in origin.

    Apparently she thinks that the Neisser et al. report is some sort of anti-hereditarian statement, and that only laypeople believe in the heritability of IQ. In general, it seems that she knows very little about IQ research, and I can’t fathom why she was chosen to review the book. On the plus side, she takes Nisbett to task for claiming that the success of West Indian immigrants is due to superior culture, citing her own research on immigrant selectivity.

    Interestingly, she nevertheless seems to be open to the idea that Jewish IQ advantage is genetic:

    Finally, Nisbett considers Jews. Unlike Asians, the IQs of Ashkenazi (European) Jews are above average, but, like Asians, their academic achievement is higher than their IQ predicts. Nisbett would like to attribute these findings entirely to Jewish culture, but the evidence he presents on this point is not compelling. The best one can say is that the verdict is still out on the determinants of Jewish ability.

    In other words, all groups have the same genetic potential, except Jews who might be naturally superior. I think Ms. Model might be Jewish herself.

    Fortunately, the same issue of Contemporary Sociology also contained a rather negative review of Nisbett’s book by University of North Carolina sociologist Francois Nielsen. He seems to be an HBDer.

    • Chuck says:

      You beat me to it. I was going to post on Nielson and Model’s quasi liberal biorealism. As it was, I came across Model by way of Nielson. The latter seemed to argue that Model’s findings cast doubt on the environmental-cultural explanations.

      “Nisbett’s book may well be the most sophisticated exposition of the non-hereditarian thesis on the origin of IQ and achievement differences written to date. It is instructive, entertaining, and hopeful. Many readers will be encouraged by Nisbett’s thesis that IQ differences among individuals, and between classes and racial and ethnic groups, are fundamentally cultural and thus, perhaps, reducible by cultural and environmental means. There is an insatiable thirst for this message, and the book will no doubt be highly successful. Given the strengths of the hereditarian case, however, the author’s claims may well be illusory.”

      Nielson, 2010. Intelligence of Culture. Contemporary sociology.

      “What about the cognitive skills of disadvantaged minority children? As Nisbett shows, there has already been some improvement. Evidently, he believes that in order for further improvement to occur, Americans must be convinced that the remaining shortfalls are wholly environmental in origin. But this seems unnecessary…[A]s long as some portion of group differences is attributable to environment (either directly or through interaction with genes), environmentally induced change is possible.”

      Model, 2010. The IQ Wars Reconsidered. Contemporary sociology.

      Here, Model seems open to the possibility of HBD.

  2. statsquatch says:


    Did not Neisser et. al. state ” All these conclusions are wholly consistent with the notion that both genes and environment, in complex interplay, are essential to the development of intellectual competence. ” Does she really think that Neisser’s document is an anti-hereditarian statement or is she just trying to spread misinformation to those too lazy to read it?

  3. Pingback: QI, réalisme contre dogmatisme « analyse economique

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