Sunday, July 22, 2012

Cities Make You Smart

"The bourgeoisie has subjected the country to the rule of the towns. It has created enormous cities, has greatly increased the urban population as compared with the rural, and has thus rescued a considerable part of the population from the idiocy of rural life." The Communist Manifesto
There's a fascinating essay by Ron Unz on the issue of Race, IQ and Wealth in a recent issue of The American Conservative. It effectively debunks the idea that IQ is a primary driver of economic success.  Something that doesn't surprise me as I've blogged about this 'taboo' subject a few times before.

Curiously, Unz takes the Irish as a case study in how IQ doesn't matter! For example:
Perhaps the strongest evidence supporting this cultural rather than genetic hypothesis comes from the northwestern corner of Europe, namely Celtic Ireland. When the early waves of Catholic Irish immigrants reached America near the middle of the 19th century, they were widely seen as particularly ignorant and uncouth and aroused much hostility from commentators of the era, some of whom suggested that they might be innately deficient in both character and intelligence. But they advanced economically at a reasonable pace, and within less than a century had become wealthier and better educated than the average white American, including those of “old stock” ancestry. 
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.
Meanwhile, Ireland itself remained largely rural and economically backward and during the 1970s and 1980s still possessed a real per capita GDP less than half that of the United States. Perhaps we should not be too surprised to discover that Lynn and Vanhanen list the Irish IQ at just 93 based on two samples taken during the 1970s, a figure far below that of their Irish-American cousins 
...So we are left with strong evidence that in the early 1970s, the Irish IQ averaged 87, the lowest figure anywhere in Europe and a full standard deviation below than that of Irish-Americans, a value which would seem to place a substantial fraction of Ireland’s population on the edge of clinical mental retardation. 
...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.
Apart from casting doubts on the accuracy of some of the historical measures of IQ (one Irish estimate was based on a sample 75 school children), Unz points out that the biggest driver of IQ convergence between different ethnic groups has effectively been urbanisation. And as more of us will be living in cities in the future then we can expect average IQs across different ethnic groups to converge.

So Marx was right: 'the idiocy of rural life' seems set to decline as migration to cities makes us smarter.

1 comment:

  1. fyi. This blogger has broken down National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, TIMMS, PISA and GSS results for third generation Hispanics compared to third generation Whites.

    "The differences ranges from 0.35 SD (GSS) to 0.77 SD (TIMSS grade 8 science). The average of the differences comes out to 0.61 SD or, when averaging PISA, TIMSS, and PIRLS tests scores per year, per grade (e.g., PISA 2009 MAth + Reading), 0.59 SD. This is not largely different from the general intelligence difference reported by Roth et al. (2001), which is notable given what was said about Spearman’s hypothesis. On re-analysis, Ron Unz’s claim concerning the difference in the GSS sample was upheld; this claim, though, was contradicted by all other samples."

    In terms of the GSS he notes Murray (2007)

    The decline in the B–W difference in the GSS vocabulary test for persons born since mid-century is entirely attributable to a decline in white performance,...


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