Why This ‘Dumb Hispanics’ Study Is Dumb
This is Jason Richwine, who argued in his Harvard dissertation that Latino immigrants have lower IQs than whites.
Hispanic immigrants are dumb and their children will probably be dumb too. That’s the essence of the misguided 166-page Harvard dissertation published by Jason Richwine, who now works as a senior policy analyst for the conservative think tank, the Heritage Foundation.
Earlier this week, the think tank sparked intense controversy by publishing a different study which estimated the costs of the immigration bill at $6.3 trillion. It was deemed “deeply flawed” by pro-immigration Republicans like Sen. Marco Rubio.
But, on Wednesday, The Washington Post discovered that Richwine was actually one of the authors of the Heritage study, saying his Harvard dissertation provided context for the think tank’s most recent findings.
Heritage has distanced itself from the co-author’s former work, saying it didn’t have anything to do with their current study, and released this statement:
“This is not a work product of The Heritage Foundation. Its findings in no way reflect the positions of The Heritage Foundation. Nor do the findings affect the conclusions of our study on the cost of amnesty to the U.S. taxpayer.”
Maybe so, but how does one ignore what Richwine’s ideas conjure up?
In 1923, eugenicist and Princeton professor Carl Brighman made almost the same conclusions about European immigrants being dumber than Americans. Again in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s, scholars like Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein tackled the topic again, publishing a book supposedly proving a hierarchy of genetic IQ called “The Bell Curve,” and serving as the primary inspiration for Richwine’s dissertation. (Last year, Murray suggested that Latinos weren’t hard-working using bad statistics, I debunked that theory here.)
Heritage Foundation also said in their statement that, “Dr. Richwine did not shape the methodology or the policy recommendations in the Heritage paper; he provided quantitative support to lead author Robert Rector. The dissertation was written while Dr. Richwine was a student at Harvard, supervised and approved by a committee of respected scholars.”
Aside from it being ethically questionable, and “racist” in the words of critics like GOP strategist and CNN analyst Ana Navarro, here are the points where the 166 pages, which I looked over, seem a bit fishy:
1. On its face, the conclusions are premised on a very simplistic view of race and ethnicity.
“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,” Richwine writes.
Well, this fails to acknowledge that half of us (as per 2010 Census estimates) identify as both white and Hispanic, because Hispanic is an ethinicity and not a race, making these categories by no means mutually exclusive. Most of us have complex racial make-up with roots tracing back to many European countries, so Richwine’s categorizations themselves are extremely simplistic.
2. Conveniently, Richwine doesn’t trust eugenicist statisticians who came to his exact same conclusions about European immigrants in 1923 as he did about Latino immigrants in 2009.
“European immigrants in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were similarly unskilled, but fears that they would damage American society proved to be baseless,” Richwine writes.
Wait, why did they prove to be baseless? Because they were way smarter than modern Latino immigrants, he argues. And how does Richwine prove that? Well actually, he can’t really, he gets that by measuring Americans with European ancestry, and extrapolates backwards. But, in 1923, eugenicist Carl Brigham came to the conclusion that new European immigrants, especially some from non-Nordic backgrounds, had lower IQ’s than natives. Richwine rejects his premise, too.
“[European immigrant intelligence] was certainly not as low as Brigham claimed,” he writes, because those tests he claims, “were not good measures of intelligence.”
Ah, yes, very convenient. (Interesting fact: Brigham also designed the SAT after he had a change of heart on immigrants)
3. The dissertation assumes Latinos won’t assimilate well, but turns out, we are assimilating in lots of ways.
Approximately 1 in 4 Latinos in this country marry a non-Latino, according to a 2011 Pew Study — the highest rate of intermarriage of any other race or ethnic group. The American Prospect’s Jamelle Bouie wrote earlier this week that the definition of “white” will likely change as Latinos intermarry and become part of the mainstream, as it has for Italian, Irish, and Polish immigrants before. David Leonhardt of the The New York Times agrees, writing that the second generation is thriving and we “are already following the classic pattern for American immigrants.”
4. But, most of all, Richwine’s dissertation stands on many of the same shaky premises of measuring IQ that Murray’s ‘The Bell Curve’ also stood on.
In 1996, the American Psychological Association convened a special Task Force on Intelligence after the publishing of The Bell Curve, to interpret its findings. Their task force concluded that “there is certainly no such support for a genetic interpretation” for difference of IQ’s between racial groups.
The idea that you can measure a group’s genetic IQ isolated from individual education, socioeconomic standing and life experience has been widely criticized by fellow academics and even Richwine admits that genetic makeup might not be a primary factor to explain supposed IQ differences. But even attempts to take environmental factors into account in such IQ studies have been subject to heavy criticism from the academic community. Michael Weinstein, a Professor of Applied Mathematics at Columbia University said Murray created for himself a “biased… statistical mirage.”
“So what the authors call immutable intelligence turns out to be what others call skills — indeed, teachable skills,” Weinstein wrote after the publishing of The Bell Curve.
“Put simply, the more students study in school, the better they do on the test,” he argued.
“[The author’s] mistake turns the message of the book on its head. Instead of its sighing surrender to supposed genetic destiny for poor children, there’s a corrected message: Teach them.”
Richwine writes in his introduction to his 2009 dissertation “there is no racial or ethnic policy agenda here.”
Really? Then why spend 166 pages and years of your life trying to prove these alleged differences? It just doesn’t make all that much sense to me.
Here’s Richwine explaining his thesis in 2008:
(Photo Credit: Heritage Foundation)