i hate taking time out from my usual routine of thinking/reading/writing about all-things-altruistic, especially when it means thinking/reading/writing about iq, ’cause 1) i’m far, far from being any sort of expert on iq, and 2) i’m not really interested in the topic (although i know, i know — iq is interested in me!) — but ron unz’s latest on iq (which i’m sure you’ve all heard about if you haven’t actually read) has forced me, ever so unwillingly, out of my comfort zone. plenty of folks smarter than me have already pointed out some of the ways that unz has got his thesis wrong — the thesis being that mexicans will catch up iq-wise to european-americans any day now just like previous immigrant groups to the u.s. did — but i’m going to add a couple of more to the innerwebs anyway.

here they are in no particular order:

– who are these irish-americans unz is talking about?

in his original article, unz makes a big deal out of the low-iq scores of irish people back in the 1970s and earlier versus their higher scores today. for example, unz says:

“The evidence today is that the tested IQ of the typical Irish-American — to the extent it can be distinguished — is somewhat above the national white American average of around 100 and also above that of most German-Americans, who arrived around the same time.”

a lot of “self-identified” irish-americans that i have met are, in fact, scots-irish folks (not that there’s anything wrong with that!). scots-irish people are a whole other kettle of fish than the native irish, and they’re not really found in the republic of ireland where, as i’ll talk about below, the modern pisa scores for “the irish” come from. rather, the scots-irish are found in ulster which is part of the u.k. so you’d have to weed out those irish-americans who are scots-irish and not native irish in order to compare irish-american iq scores with irish iq scores.

you’d also have to weed out anglo-irish scores from both irish-americans and the irish back in ireland ’cause they, too, are a whole other kettle of fish, and an awful lot of them have been quite clever so they might inflate either the irish-american or the irish iq scores if there were too many of them included in one of those groups.

also, like peter frost said:

“As for Irish American IQ, just what is an ‘Irish American’? Is Mariah Carey Irish? (She’s one quarter Irish, like me). It all comes down to self-identification and interest in Irish culture, music, etc. That factor alone would bias your sample towards the better educated.”


– who emigrated from europe?

unz dismisses the idea that there might’ve been any “self-sorting” amongst the immigrant groups that he talked about — southern italians, greeks or irish:

“Even if we ignore all contemporaneous evidence and argue that 19th century European immigrants to America and elsewhere somehow constituted the IQ elite of their originating countries, the theory of selective migration still remains implausible. It has long been established on both theoretical and empirical grounds that IQ scores generally follow a mean-reversion pattern, in which the children of outlying individuals tend to regress toward the typical levels of their larger population or ethnic group. So even if we hypothesize that the Irish, South Italians, Jews, and Greeks who immigrated to America constituted the smartest small slice of their generation — rather than, as seems more likely, often the poorer and most miserable — roughly half their relative IQ advantage would have dissipated after a single generation. Thus, the apparent one standard deviation gap between American Irish and Ireland Irish a few decades ago would have required an initial gap of something closer to two standard deviations at the time the immigration occurred, a difference so large as to be totally implausible.”

so unz doesn’t think that, perhaps, smarter individuals may have emigrated from europe leaving dullards behind, something which could account, for example, for the very low irish iq score of 87 from the 1970s. he thinks it more likely that it was “often the poorer and most miserable” — and presumably, therefore, those with the lowest iqs — that emigrated.

but that wasn’t the case. at least not according to thomas sowell, who unz actually referenced in his article (pgs. 22-23):

“Although the cost of a trip to the United States in the hold of a cargo vessel was less than ten pounds sterling (less than fifty dollars at contemporary exchange rates), the poorest of the Irish could not afford even that, so that immigration was very low from the poorest fourth of the Irish population. Those a notch above them on the economic scale emigrated in large numbers, often by selling their belongings, using up savings, and spending money sent by relatives already in America. From one-third to three-quarters of the Irish immigrations to America in the 1830s and 1840s was financed by money sent from North America.”

so it was not those with the least resources who immigrated to the u.s. — nor was it the “smartest small slice of their generation” either. the wealthy and, therefore, likely smartest people would probably have had little reason to leave their native countries. no. nineteenth century european immigrants to the united states were people who could afford passage to the new world — people with some resources — but also people with a reason to leave. in other words, most likely people with average-ish iqs. not on the top, but not on the bottom either.

emigration from ireland to britain, the u.s. and australia went on for 150 years (and counting!). and the population in ireland hit rock bottom in the 1960s and 1970s — just when lynn’s average iq of 87 for the irish was obtained (as part of a master’s thesis, btw):

iq scores started going up in ireland from the 1970s onwards not (just) because living standards improved (although better nutrition has probably helped), but because smarter irish folks chose to remain in the country (especially since the nation joined the e.u. which created more economic/job opportunities).

the irish iq score of 87 from the 1970s most likely reflects the fact that a vast majority of the average-to-bright irish individuals had left the country between roughly 1840 and 1960. the increase since the 1970s probably does have to do with some sort of regression to the mean (whatever it is). but it’s not obvious that this increase should give anyone hope that the same thing will happen in the mexican population since, afaik, they haven’t experienced the same sort of brain drain that ireland did.

– who’s taking these pisa tests?

unz said:

“Furthermore, the most recent 2009 PISA international student academic tests sponsored by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development provide us with results that raise further doubts about the correctness of the Lynn/Vanhanen IQ scores from a wide range of European countries…. During the early 1970s, a huge national sample had placed the Ireland IQ at 87, the lowest in all of Europe, but today Ireland’s PISA scores are about average for the continent and roughly the same as those for France and Britain, while Irish per capita incomes have pulled a little ahead.”

i wondered over @evoandproud about which irish kids in ireland have been taking the pisa tests. i was concerned that perhaps the pisa tests were mostly conducted in and around dublin which would bias the sample (i.e. include more anglo-irish and smarter folks who had moved to the city), but i’ve read (quickly) through the 2009 pisa report for ireland [opens pdf] and the samples seem to have been drawn from around the country, so … never mind!

however … there does seem to have been a slight bias in the selection of participating schools which may have resulted in an inflation (perhaps only slight, i dunno) of the 2009 irish pisa scores.

there are, apparently, different sorts of high-schools in ireland: voluntary secondary schools, vocational schools, and comprehensive or community schools. the breakdown of what percentage of students attends each type of school looks like this:

voluntary secondary schools = 57%
vocational schools = 28%
comprehensive/community schools = 15%

but the breakdown of schools included in the 2009 pisa tests looks like this (pg. 129 – opens pdf):

voluntary secondary schools = 61.5%
vocational schools = 23.1%
comprehensive/community schools = 15.4%

so, 28% of high-school age kids in ireland attend vocational schools — you know, where you can learn a trade — but the kids at these schools only made up 23% of the pisa test takers. the missing 5% seems to be over in the voluntary secondary schools which are privately owned.

somehow i imagine that more well-to-do parents in ireland prolly try to get their kids into such private schools rather than vocational schools. i smell a bit of a bias in the irish pisa scores. maybe they wouldn’t be quite as high as they are without this bias. dunno for sure. just a thought.

furthermore — re. who’s taking these pisa tests? — unz also said:

“During the early 1970s, a huge national sample had placed the Ireland IQ at 87, the lowest in all of Europe, but today Ireland’s PISA scores are about average for the continent and roughly the same as those for France and Britain, while Irish per capita incomes have pulled a little ahead.”

indeed, the overall 2009 pisa scores for france, britain and ireland were (respectively): 496, 494, 496. so, yeah, the irish are just as smart nowadays as the french and the british, right? not necessarily.

today’s “french” population includes ca. 19% (11.8M) foreign born immigrants or their direct descendants, about one-third (4M) of whom are from north africa. and the u.k. had 7.86% minorities as of the 2001 census (and it’s well known that those rates have gone up since then). ireland just had ca. half that as of 2011. in other words, we’re just not comparing apples with apples here. it’s very possible that the average pisa/iq scores of ethnic french or british kids are higher than their current national scores and, therefore, higher than the pisa score for ireland.

you don’t think the immigrants in these countries could bring down the pisa scores? think again. the irish have actually experienced this even with the comparatively small number of immigrants they have (pg. 188 – opens pdf):

“There have been some marked demographic changes in the school-going population in Ireland since 2000. One such change was the increase in both the percentage of students with immigrant status and the percentage who spoke a language other than English or Irish at home (Table 9.2; see also Tables 6.19 and 6.20). Furthermore, the relationship between immigrant status, language spoken at home and achievement changed since 2000. In 2000, immigrant and ‘other language’ students had higher mean scores than native students, while in 2009, immigrant students and ‘other language’ students did significantly less well than native students. This is likely to be due to the differing composition of these two groups in 2000 and 2009 (e.g., in 2000 ‘other language’ students had a higher socioeconomic status than the students who spoke English or Irish whereas in 2009 the socioeconomic status of the two groups did not differ) (Cosgrove, et al., 2010).”

so, the more immigrants ireland got, the lower their pisa scores became. terrific.

– what about new mexicans?

plenty of other people have pointed this out in comments elsewhere, but what about the success rates — or lack of — of the mexicans that have been in new mexico for several generations now? steve sailer has repeatedly written about this (see here and here for example), and the awesome epigone found that new mexico ranks 49th as far as average state iqs go (just in front of mississippi and washington d.c.). why haven’t the mexicans in new mexico caught up with european-americans given they’ve been here for several generations now?

– what about african americans?

african americans apparently haven’t caught up with european-americans iq-wise either even after a couple hundred years. why not?

and given those last two points, why would ron unz conclude that the average iq of mexicans in america will increase to match those of european-americans? even if that did happen with the southern italians, greeks and irish, which is by no means certain, we already have examples of that not happening with mexicans (and african americans) so … well, i dunno … i don’t know what he’s thinking.

i’m not a “hard hereditarian.” environment matters. nutrition matters. neglecting kids when their brains are developing seems to matter. the flynn effect is a real phenomenon. h*ll, evolution happens! — so a population’s average intelligence is hardly written in stone for eveh. but different populations are different because we’ve had different evolutionary histories. differences that prolly won’t be overcome overnight — or even in a generation or two, no matter how much ron unz (or i) would wish that to be possible. and it seems very cavalier to me to risk an entire society on the basis of a wish.

and don’t forget: iq isn’t the only thing to consider when thinking about the immigration of masses of people.

tomorrow … back to the regularly scheduled programming.

footnote: pardon me for indulging for a sec in one of those annoying innate behaviors that women (apparently) possess: shaming.

in this debate over his article, ron unz has resorted on more than one occasion to personal attacks on commenters. example:

“All in all, it appears that an enthusiastic interest in engaging in IQ debates is no strong sign of actually possessing much of the attribute under discussion.”

unnecessary and uncalled for. the points of the discussion — the evidence — will stand or fall on merit. there is no need for argumentum ad hominem.

that is all.

(note: comments do not require an email. italian immigrants.)