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November 19, 2007



"The results of World War I mental tests conducted among American soldiers born in Russia--the great majority of whom were Jews--showed such low scores as to cause Carl Brigham, creator of the Scholastic Aptitude Test, to declare that these results "disprove the popular belief that the Jew is highly intelligent."

If not the same test, similar "IQ" tests from the period showed similar results. Of course, "IQ" tests then weren't like the ones now--they were loaded with cultural biases. IIRC fresh off the boat immigrants were asked questions requiring one knew what "Crisco" was. Indeed, the first SAT tests were loaded, too--for a reason. What quotas couldn't do, SAT tests loaded with questions designed for Episcopalian white boys could. It's only in recent r years that "orison" and "benison" disappeared from the reading tests.


My memory seems to be validated by what I find in IT land--like this"Race and IQBrigham testified about his findings to congress along with several members of the ImmigrationRestriction LeagueHelped pass the Immigration Restriction Act of 1924Restricted immigration of any group to 2% of their numberin the 1890 census, the last one with minimal numbers ofJews, Eastern and Southern EuropeansAimed at keeping new arrivals from swamping the “native-born” Americans and lowering national intel igence.1930 Brigham recanted along with other influentialleaders in the IQ testing communityArgued that the testing system was flawed and that thetests were measuring familiarity with American cultureand language, not intel igence!Too late to impact migration policy">Brigham's Folly

Now, why do I think this is important? Because no one could research this without finding it in 2 minutes. So why did the author play with this? Because he wants to make anyone who draws any connection with race and IQ look foolish?

I don't know if there's a connection. I don't know how much difference there is if there is one. But telling half truths to support one's argument suggests a certain weakness.

Rick Ballard

I'm not sure why a Russian born man whose family had managed to escape the Tsar would make any attempt to score well on a test that would enable him to advance in an army of an ally to the Tsar. It's comparable in a sense to the warm reception given by the Irish born New Yorkers of 1863-64 to being drafted, except that the Irish born were a bit more vociferous in their reaction.

First generation immigrants just aren't susceptible to simplistic comparisons to "melted" Americans.

James Carr



Well, there's that, too, Rick. My paternal grandmother smuggled my grandfather out of jail(for draft evasion) in womens clothing she'd smuggled in, put him on a haywagon and sent him overseas.
My other grandfather married my grandmother in a secret civil ceremony after spying her on the beach.The romantic offer he made,conveyed by a friend of his,"Lou wants to know if you'll marry him so he doesn't have to go into the army." It was sometime before his father found out and then he made them actually go thru a full wedding .It was only after his death that I learned that the wedding photo in the album was a bit of an after the fact ruse.


In any non-random pool of people, you can't deduce even average IQ from race.

Yeah, and the average IQ of any non-random group of people is likely to differ in some measure from the average IQ of a random group of people. Whatever factor you choose: height, weight, geography*, or hair color will result in differences from the global mean. Is it nature? Is it nurture? Does correlation equal causation?

If I can't maintain that race is a social construct lacking scientific basis, I can continue to argue that the question of racial average IQs is irrelevant to any rational public or private decision-making process.

An average is less meaningful than a median, and neither can accurately predict the actual intelligence of any particular individual. Given a subgroup of 900,000,000 and a standard distribution**, there is a non-zero probability that the particular member of that group with whom you are interacting is genius level or above. When the population is that large, the tail will reach well past 160 even if the mean is 15 points below the global average.

A person is a person is a person. I am a member of several subgroups. Some of those groups have higher than average intelligence (college graduates, chess geeks); some have lower (people who have worked as construction labourers, people who have been arrested*** twice**** or more). I'd hate to have my options in life circumscribed or defined by my membership in any of those groups.


* I had an international finance professor from Belgium who maintained that economic differences between European countries were due to inheirited characteristics of the inhabitants rather than variations in economic and fiscal policies. Fortunately, we wasted only one class session on that tripe.

**Anyone know if the median/mean variation and population standard deviation are consistent across 'races'?

***Well, curfew laws are stupid from the perspective of a 17-year-old.

****Isn't it a civic duty to disobey unjust laws? When you are twenty years old? "Honestly, ociffer, this is my first beer. Can't we let this slide?"


I can continue to argue that the question of racial average IQs is irrelevant to any rational public or private decision-making process.
Sure, but you'll be wrong. The IQ differences Saletan is talking about are staggering. The mean (or the median - they'll be on top of each other for a 9-figure sample size of a 3-digit variable if the distribution is anything like normal) for Africa is 30 points below the global average, not 15. That puts 97% of white people above the African average.
In England, the prison population is 13 points below average. Again, the African continent is 30 points below. Assuming 200 million white people in America with a mean IQ of 100, there should be 6337 with an IQ at or above 160. In Africa? Out of 900 million? One person*.

Now, to the extent we're dealing with individuals, none of that matters. You date and hire individuals, not races. But in public policy, I think it's important to know if IQ gaps this size are real, and if so, whether they are remediable.

*And China, with mean 106 and 1.2 billion people? 190,975.


Also, there is a huge difference between one's genetic endowment (potential IQ) and what you actually end up with after the environmental effects of pregnancy and childhood. Anyone who has ever been pregnant knows that you can lower your baby's IQ by drinking, smoking and/or maternal malnutrition during pregnancy. Anyone who has ever been a parent knows that malnutrition, especially during infancy, and lack of intellectual stimulation will lower IQ once a baby is born. Modern infant formulas will lower a kid's IQ by 5 points -- back when the only alternative to breastfeeding was unpasturized unrefrigerated cows milk sold out of an open barrel with a dipper, a baby fed that was lucky to survive to his first birthday, and brain damage was pretty standard. So you have immigrants, who were desperately poor in the old country, and so their IQs went down from malnutrition, and then they came here, and they were desperately poor during their own childrens' childhoods, and so the first generation was also lower IQ. Then they succeeded, and the 2nd generation's genes were able to express themselves...


I guess I should've actually done the math. Looking back, the '85' is the African-American average. My bad.

One person? Truly harsh.

For the sake of that one person, though, I'll still refuse to assume that I meet are representative.

After all, average white Americans underestimation of the ethics and intelligence of Africans is a large factor in the success of Nigerian bankers.

Another bgates once said, when opening a new research facility, that the US has some 300 people who are "one in a million". China has 1,200.

hit and run

From the Department of Day Late and Dollar Short But Too Important To Miss:

My paternal grandmother smuggled my grandfather out of jail(for draft evasion) in womens clothing she'd smuggled in, put him on a haywagon and sent him overseas.

If you are not saying to yourself, "hey, that sounds familiar" then drop everything.


Eulogy to my father

Truly must-read material.

I just came across it the other day for the first time. It's publication was before my time and I had never seen it before.

Wait. Did you finish this post before reading the article? I told you to read it now.



Scientists have attempted to measure the average IQ of different nations. Israel comes in with a 94, behind America and most Eurpean countries, as well as China, Japan, and Korea.



Not all Jews have the super high IQ of the Ashkenazim. Sephardic Jews and other oriental jews have mean IQs that hover around 100. Israel also has a large population of Arabs, which, given their below average population IQ, would bring down Israel's population average.


I should point out that William Saletan discusses the value of population IQ stats in the third part of the series Tom linked to above.

Oddly enough, while he comes down on the same side as I, his answer is much more clear (and mathematically accurate) than mine. Perhaps he belongs to more helpful groups than I.

He speculates that the difference between Africa's mean of 70 vs. African-Americans' 85 average is due primarily to nutrition. I then speculate that the IQ distribution in Africa is not normal, as nutrition is not normally distributed in Africa and is better in some regions/countries than others.


Thank you, C.

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