“Richwine’s Syllogism”

Fashioned after “Herrnstein’s syllogism” (I know, it’s not a proper syllogism):

If we want a more intelligent — i.e., higher g-score — future population and if we want smaller “achievement” — i.e., smaller g score — gaps between ethnic/racial populations

If traits are intergenerationally transmitted on the family and on the subpopulation levels

Then we should tailor immigration policy to assure that immigrants are more intelligent on average and that ethnic/racial differences in intelligence are minimized.

The first volley of replies was directed against the empirical fact of ethnic/racial g score differences. But facts are facts. The second volley of replies has been directed against a genetic model. But as Richwine (2009) noted, the nature/nurture debate is not central to his argument; what matters is that differences are stubbornly intergenerationally transmitted. Which they seem to be:


The third volley of replies is being directed against the proposition that we want a more intelligent future population. Ok. But then why all the hub bub about raising achievement? And, more importantly, about narrowing intelligence gaps?

Image 9

Conor Friedersdorf’s argument, for example, that it wouldn’t matter if IQ averages and differences were congenital and that we should just look at individuals and not consider group differences when it comes to policy seems mighty queer in light of the obsessive focus on group differences and in light of the hostile attack on individuals who have made a similar focus-on-the-individual, given genetic differences, arguments (e.g., Jensen & Rushton and Murray and Herrnstein).


It is a widely accepted fact of behavioral science that there is great variability within each racial group and there is an ethical consensus that we treat people as individuals. Although no specific policies necessarily follow from knowing about the causes of group differences, they may serve as guides to action on some issues. The conclusion reached in Sections 13 and 14 —that about 50% of the variance in mean Black–White group differences in IQ is due to heredity—is compatible with a wide range of recommendations, from programs for the disadvantaged and laissez-faire approaches to selection and opportunity grouping in certain educational and vocational situations. In The Bell Curve, Herrnstein and Murray (1994) offered some specific policy recommendations based on their conclusions about genetic variation and IQ, which are generally concordant with political conservatism, such as scaling back affirmative action, reducing the intrusiveness of government, and returning to individualism. Most political conservatives, however, support these recommendations, no matter how the nature–nurture question is “resolved,” an argument with which Murray agreed (Miele, 1995). Arthur Jensen, also writing from the hereditarian perspective, recently opined that giving primacy to individual rights maximizes fairness, which he pragmatically defined as the ability of each individual to reach his or her full potential (Miele, 2002). He therefore argued for a restructuring of the educational system by tailoring methods to fit the individual and letting the group outcomes become what they may, rather than allowing claims of differential performance to justify group rights over individual rights.

In a sane world, one wouldn’t be able to have it all ways.

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3 Responses to “Richwine’s Syllogism”

  1. John says:

    Can you please tell me where you got the data for the table on student and mother nativity? Thank you!
    P.S. the below isn’t a real email, I was hoping you could just provide a link on here.

  2. Garrett says:

    Any explanations for that steep decline among 3rd generation Asian-Americans? It seems to be corroborated by other patterns…

    “In 2007, Asians earned 33% of PhD’s but only 2% of those were American born Asians.”


    “The findings suggest a “third-generation decline or flattening” for Asian American and white men as well as Asian American and white women. For each of these groups, the mean of years of schooling among the 2.5 and third generations is lower than among the first and second generations. This pattern is most pronounced among Asian Americans. ”


    Likewise, cheating and application fraud among 1st generation Asian immigrants has become something of a stereotype. Even liberal lefty sites like HuffPost can’t help but take notice:




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