Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Arnold Kling vs. IQ

Arnold Kling has an article in TCS on Race, IQ and Education. Kling has written about this subject before, so I was more skeptical than Half Sigma about Kling's newfound "race realism."

Kling draws an analogy between the World Series and the Nobel Prize:

I do not think that anyone believes that the result of the World Series says something about the people of Boston per se. No one thinks that if you replaced Josh Beckett and David Ortiz with citizens selected at random from the Boston phone book you would still have a championship team.

In contrast, I think that people believe that the result of the Nobel Prize in economics says something about Jews per se. And yet, if you were to replace, say, Eric Maskin, with a Jew selected at random, the result would be as absurd from a Nobel Prize perspective as replacing Ortiz or Beckett on the Red Sox with random Bostonians.

In order for someone to believe that a Red Sox win tells us something about the superior innate aptitude for baseball among Bostonians, he must believe four things:

1. That an independent measure of baseball aptitude shows a higher mean among Bostonians than the population at large;

2. That the common factor of Red Sox players is that they are all Bostonians;

3. That the Red Sox wins a disproportionate share of World Series; and

4. That selection for the Red Sox is random.

Clearly, three of these are false. There is no independent measure of baseball aptitude. The common factor among Red Sox players is that they were recruited to play for the Red Sox because of their demonstrated skill at baseball; the common factor is not that they are Bostonians (unless "Bostonian" includes Californians recruited to play for the Red Sox).

Now consider Jews and the Nobel Prize:

1. Independent measures of the intelligence of Jews show a mean IQ of about one SD above the U.S. mean;

2. Jews do not become Jews by virtue of their success at science; they are Jews first;

3. The over-representation of Jews among Nobel laureates goes back to their emancipation; and

4. The only common factor among Jewish nobelists is . . . their Jewishness, not membership in a team!

Kling wants everyone to be evaluated as an individual, and laments the race-consciousness of our society. So let's imagine a world in which everyone's individual IQ (and "law-abiding quotient", and "assimilability quotient", and "cooperativeness quotient", and "enterprise quotient", etc.) is known and available. Then we could evaluate each individual individually, and be done with group distributions.

We should realize that we are as far from that ideal as we are from any other utopia. In the mean time: it matters who your relatives are, because absent additional knowledge, these are useful proxies for who you are, or will be, or who your children will be. This is reality, and it ought to inform social policy in a rational way, not just because racial identity is stronger that municipal identity as Kling maintains.

What we presently do is live in a fantasy world of public discourse that our elites have constructed for us, in which the underperformance of non-Asian minorities on a battery of academic and social outcomes is now and forever blamed on the irrational racism of white America, and our social policy is formulated to combat this disparity based on this belief. If the belief in white racism is, in fact, not the correct explanation for this disparity; if the correct explanation lies in the innate mean aptitudes of non-Asian minorities; then our social policy is a sham and destined to fail.

Update: Noah Millman's discussion of race and IQ, jumping off from Saletan's Slate article that put this back in the news is better, and less mean-spirited, than my own. But this jumped out:

The left is already comfortable with the idea of multi-culturalism and race-consciousness.

These are not the same thing. To be specific: the left prescribes multiculturalism for Northern European, and specifically Anglo-Protestant, culture, and race-consciousness for everyone else. This is the summary formula for the destruction of the West. As the growing evidence supports the idea that what we call civilization -- liberty, self-government, the rule of law, enterprise, cooperation, and transparency -- is a uniquely Northern European heritage, we might be roused to defend ourselves against the claims of the multiculturalists, and this the left will not abide.


bobvis said...

Didn't I mention how much I hate analogies? :)

You do a great job, but I think another way to debunk Kling is this:
If the existing Red Sox team were destroyed and replaced with Bostonians, there is very little chance that they would win the World Series. If the existing Nobel Prize winners were destroyed, there is still a reasonable probability that the new winner would be some other Jewish person.

Then again, Kling says "The point of this example is to show how important group identity seems to be." If that is all he means to claim by the analogy, then I'd say he is correct.

Φ said...

Bob: You and Kling make a fair point: our racial/national/cultural identity(ies) are far more potent, both in the way that we are perceived by others and the way we perceive ourselves. In contrast, with only a handful of exceptions ("I'm a New Yorker" comes to mind), few Americans draw much if any of their identity from their municipality.

But: I do not believe that what we observe here are merely personal preferences. I do not think that we chose, ex nihlo to put more stock in our nation than in our polis, for instance. Rather, the fact that we regard some identities as more important than others reflects underlying social and behavioral realities at the distributional, if not the individual, level of analysis.

bobvis said...

Hmm, I think the units we put stock into depend on the set of people we pay attention to. If you are talking football, you identify with metropolitan areas. After 9-11, we became more aware of things outside the States, so we identified more with our American-ness. (Remember the explosion of nice-ness?) At the district science fair, you identify with those from your same school; at the state level, you identify with your city; at the national level, you identify with your state.

Related topic: I wish we Indians would stop being proud of our ancestors having conceptualized the number zero.