Ron Unz on Richwine’s Argument — Taking the Bull by the Horn

Richwine’s Argument was:

1. 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

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

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

There have been innumerable objections to it but none to my mind have been even slightly dis-persuading. Most involve, as they say, throwing sand in the bull’s eyes.

As for the overall argument, Richwine’s conclusion follows reasonably well from both premises assuming that you grant the permissibility of being selective with regards to migrants. Arguments to the effect that there is something immoral about being so selective in order to reduce achievement gaps seem odd in light of the accepted policy of intranational racial discrimination implemented for the same end. How is it, one might ask, acceptable to via defacto quotas discriminate against Asians and Whites and for Hispanics and Blacks when it comes to individuals residing in the US but not acceptable to via the adverse impact of cognitive tests discriminate for Asians and Whites and against Hispanics and Blacks when it comes to accepting would-be immigrants? Given this situation, lest one wishes to take on the well established much supported practice of institutional ethnic and racial discrimination, to tame this Bull, one needs to get on top of it; to do that, one needs to grab a horn; and only the second is dull enough to handle.

As for the first premise, it has been sharpened to a point by the constant calls to dually “raise achievement” and to “narrow the achievement gap”. There can no denying that “raising achievement” and “narrowing gaps” is a national priority. So, in making a case against this argument, one has but one option — attack the point about inter generational transmission. Which is what Unz does. I will quote the relevant passages:

Richwine (2009): No one knows whether Hispanics will ever reach IQ parity with whites, but the prediction that new Hispanic immigrants will have low-IQ children and grandchildren is difficult to argue against….The totality of the evidence suggests a genetic component to group differences in IQ, but the extent of its impact is hard to determine … The degree to which IQ differences are due to environment versus genes does not imply anything about how long the differences will continue …The primary concern from immigration policy is that differences persist — for whatever reason.

Unz (2013): With regard to Richwine’s IQ arguments, last year I published a major 7,500 word article on exactly the same topic of Race/IQ, arguing that there was overwhelming evidence that the IQs of various ethnic groups were far more malleable and environmentally influenced than is widely believed by many of those interested in the topic….By the time the debate wound down, I think the accumulated evidence in favor of my position was absolutely decisive….
However, it is well known that nearly all previous immigrant groups—southern and eastern Europeans—who came here in poverty similarly scored very low on IQ tests in the decades after their arrival, with results that were sometimes far below those of today’s Mexican immigrants. Yet after a generation or two their tested intelligence had almost invariably converged close to the American mean.

On another matter, Richwine must be aware that Arthur Jensen and Hans Eysenck rank as two of the greatest figures in twentieth century psychometrics. Yet decades ago both these scholars reviewed the structural evidence of Mexican-American IQs, and reached conclusions almost identical to my own, namely that the acknowledged gaps to white intelligence scores were largely perhaps almost entirely due to environmental factors and would steadily disappear as the population became more affluent and acculturated.

Here we have Ron’s same old song and dance — unfortunately, it’s the best show in town. Ron again cites Jensen and Eysenck despite my having pointed out Jensen’s error. The psychometric characteristics of the Hispanic-White gap are consistent with a genetic hypothesis insofar as the differential shows a strong Jensen Effect, which it does. The most recent meta-analytic estimate is a correlation of 0.8 between g-loading — a perfect index of genetic loading — and the magnitude of the difference.

Ron also argues that the H/W gap is like the previous immigrant/native gaps. Yet, Richwine showed that in an important respect it isn’t. In doing so, he provided compelling evidence that the IQ gaps will persist for at least another couple of generations. The reasoning is simple: (a) prior to the closing of previous immigrant gaps, the gaps exhibited a narrowing across cohorts and generations; (b) this is consistent with theory, by which gaps, when intergenerationally environmentally transmitted, disappear by the third/fourth generation; (c) such a narrowing is not seen in the case of the Hispanic-White gap; (d) it is, therefore, unlikely that the Hispanic-White gap will vanish anytime soon.

Ron’s reply? None. He simply elides over this point. Now, we have seen these analogical arguments before. Flynn and Sowell, for example, compared the B/W gap, the origins of which is in question, respectively, to the Flynn Effect and to the Protestant Effect, the origins of which seem to be environmental. They argued that the Black-White gap is like the other gaps, and, therefore, the causes are alike. But analogical arguments work to the extent that the compared are similar in the first dimension being compared. The basic structure of the this type of argument is: Similarity Premise: Generally, case C1 is similar to case C2, with respect to X; Base Premise: A is true (false) in case C 1 with respect to x; Conclusion: A is true (false) in case C 2 with respect to X. With regards to the B/W differential: A is like B in psychometric nature, therefore A is like B in terms of etiology. Flynn and Sowell’s arguments failed because the compared gaps are highly psychometrically dissimilar — as such the similarity premise does not hold. In fact, the contrary arguments work better: The B/W gap is very unlike, in psychometric character related to genetic/environmental influence, the seemingly environmental FE and PE, therefore this suggests a non-environmental etiology to the B/W gap. Ron’s analogy fails because the comparison gaps behave dissimilarly when it comes to inter-generational transmission. And here too the contrary argument works better. But what about psychometric characteristics – how do the Hispanic immigrant/Native Whites and White immigrant/Native White gaps compare psychometrically? Unfortunately, no one has thoroughly explored this issue.*

Generally, Ron’s counter argument, if it can be called that, is pretty weak. And yet, it appears to be the best there is.

*A possible analysis: Using Richwine’s NLSY 79 data, we can to a limited extent, examine this issue. Richwine (2009) presented standardized Native White – immigrant differences and g-loadings. He also computed the correlation between subtest g-loadings and standardized differences. Based on the data presented in his tables 2.4 and 2.5 we can compute the point biserial correlations between group membership and group differences; these correlations can be said to represent the factorial loadings on group difference factors (Gordon, 1985). We can then compare the factorial similarity between the averaged group g-factors and the group difference factors using Tucker’s congruence coefficient. A congruence coefficient above 0.95 is indicative of factorial identity. When the congruence coefficient between the averaged group g-factors and the between group difference factors is greater than 0.95, one could interpret the group difference as being a difference in g (Jensen, 1987; Gordon, 1985). This analysis is done below using Native Whites, all immigrants, European immigrants, and Mexican immigrants:


The NLSY 79 Native White-Mexican immigrant difference can be interpreted as a difference in g, while the Native White -European immigrant difference can not, given standard interpretative rules. I note this merely as an example of an analysis that could be done to help clarify the issue.

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2 Responses to Ron Unz on Richwine’s Argument — Taking the Bull by the Horn

  1. soren says:

    I don’t buy Unz’s argument, but hispanic intermarriage rate is extremely high(IIRC, like 35% or so… they’re definitely “integrating” into every other ethnic group)… is it possible that their results are being skewed lower by many 2nd and later generations of hispanic-white offspring identifying as white non-hispanic?

    • Chuck says:

      Soren, you bring up a good point — one which I have touched on elsewhere. For background, read here, here, and here. When it comes to Hispanics, there is, indeed, a very high rate of exogamy. And most Hispanic-non Hispanic couplings are between Hispanics and non Hispanic Whites. The offspring of such mixed couplings tend to perform intermediate to the offspring of two Hispanics and of two non Hispanic Whites; and this intermediate performance shows up as a correlation between color and general intelligence within the Hispanic population.

      Now, in terms of biases in regards to the estimate of the “true” US Hispanic IQ, there are two issues. The first is that generation after generation, because of the high rates of exogamy (and because about 60% of the offspring of exogamous parings ID as Hispanic), Hispanics are becoming Whiter both genetically and culturally. They, as you say, are assimilating. The second is that the exogamous parings are assortative between populations. On account of this (and because 40% of the offspring of exogamous parings ID as non-Hispanic), there is a Hispanic “brain-drain”. Now these two factors work in opposite direction — when it comes to the Hispanics/NH Whites difference; on the one hand, some of the most successful Hispanics are being absorbed into the non-Hispanic White population and, on the other hand, the Hispanic population is becoming more White each generation. The question then is: What is the net result? I tried to calculate this a while back using data from the ADD Health survey and other sources. I don’t, however, recall what my exact estimate was. (The two factors, though, largely canceled each other out.) If you would want to try your hand at this, tough, I will be happy to help dig up some numbers for you.

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