An American Dilemma

Today we’re seeing clear evidence of genetic differences between classes: causal differences.  People with higher socioeconomic status have ( on average) higher EA polygenic scores. Higher scores for cognitive ability, as well. This is of course what every IQ test has shown for many decades.

It’s driving regional migration in the UK:  people with higher scores in depressed areas (like mining towns) are leaving for London, leaving those towns even more depressed.

There is ongoing decline in those polygenic scores, as observed in other studies and as predicted by demographers and science-fiction writers many years ago.

So we have classes that are genetically different, with upper classes genetically smarter.  Could we have populations or ethnic groups that were genetically smarter?  Obviously: simply create one by dropping a bunch of high-SES  ( or high-scoring) people on a deserted island.  Do we already have such populations? ( although, if I’m not mistaken, that would be racist.)

Well, sometimes a group has high scores, high ability because it is a far-from-random sample, while not being particularly genetically distinct or separate. ( either today or in the past).  College professors are smarter than average, at least in fields like math and natural science, but they are drawn from many populations and do not marry entirely or primarily  within their group. In fact they hardly breed at all, nowadays.  Los Alamos High has the highest test scores in New Mexico: that’s an unrepresentative sample.

Nigerians in the UK seem to be a very non-random sample, highly selected: most of them have at least some college while maybe 5% of the general population in Nigeria does.  I was was somewhat surprised to see this: most of the migrations I’m more familiar with (mostly US major immigration streams) are not so unrepresentative. Of course if they stayed in the UK and almost entirely married among themselves, they’d be a new, smarter-than Nigerian ethnic group. But that, too, would be racist.

Let’s look at Ashkenazi Jews in the United States. They’re very successful, averaging upper-middle-class.   So you’d think that they must have high polygenic scores for EA  (and they do).

Were they a highly selected group?  No: most were from Eastern Europe. “Immigration of Eastern Yiddish-speaking Ashkenazi Jews, in 1880–1914, brought a large, poor, traditional element to New York City. They were Orthodox or Conservative in religion. They founded the Zionist movement in the United States, and were active supporters of the Socialist party and labor unions. Economically, they concentrated in the garment industry.”

And there were a lot of them: it’s harder for a sample to be very unrepresentative when it makes up a big fraction of the entire population.

But that can’t be: that would mean that Europeans Jews were just smarter than average.  And that would be racist.

Could it be result of some kind of favoritism?  Obviously not, because that would be anti-Semitic.


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68 Responses to An American Dilemma

  1. magusjanus says:

    I sometimes wonder if US had not allowed that massive wave of immigration from 1880-1925 from Eastern Europe, what the butterfly effects would be on the US (and world) for 20th century/21st century. Would make an interesting alt-history.

    • syonredux says:

      “I sometimes wonder if US had not allowed that massive wave of immigration from 1880-1925 from Eastern Europe, what the butterfly effects would be on the US (and world) for 20th century/21st century. Would make an interesting alt-history.”

      Well, US involvement in WWI and WWII would have occurred in approx the same fashion.Pace Kevin MacDonald, it’s also quite possible that the ’65 immigration act would still have been enacted…..Off-hand, the only thing that would really be different would be US policy in the Middle East…

      • Frau Katze says:

        The same immigrant policies were applied in Europe, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Not nearly as many Jews in these places.

        The father of our current prime minister Justin Trudeau was instrumental in the immigration changes. His idiot son carries on the same policy with great enthusiasm (I voted against him, but he survives in a minority government.). Not many Jews compared to the US but the exact same policy. If not worse. Justin is very stupid.

    • Anonymous says:

      More interesting to consider the converse: if the wave had gone on unabated rather than being terminated in 1925.

    • Rich Rostrom says:

      The “butterfly effects” would be the complete shake-up of all subsequent history. That’s because a “butterfly effect” is a change in an event so sensitive to starting conditions that the most minuscule event (say, an extra beat of a butterfly’s wing) is enough to disturb the outcome.
      For instance, the cubic centimeter of air disturbed by the wingbeat contains about 28M radioactive carbon-14 atoms (incorporated in CO2 molecules) . Churn it up, and every one of those atoms will have a different trajectory through the air, the tissue of plants that absorb CO2 and the bodies of animals that eat those plants. Some of those atoms will be (or won’t be) incorporated into genetic DNA in germ cells when they decay, causing (or not causing) mutations, with additional downstream effects., snowballing until the whole world is different at the micro level. That will have macro level effects when the animals affected are humans; i.e. every sperm/egg combination will be different, so that (at the very least) half of all downstream people are different sexes, transforming history.

      The foreseeable consequences of a macro-level change such as the US adopting a selective immigration law in 1880 or so would be knock-ons – like sequential impacts of billiard balls. For instance, our host has asserted that if Lee’s Confederate army was destroyed in the wake of the battle of Gettysburg, “we’d all be better off…” (which is speculative but likely) “but the Civil War would occupy considerably less territory inside people’s heads today”, a solid, specific knock-on.

    • gothamette says:

      And I sometimes wonder how many Richard Feynmans and Murray Gell-Manns the Nazis murdered. I’m not one of them numerate Yids (better at languages and music), so you guys can work that one out statistically.

      We all wonder different things!

  2. Frau Katze says:

    I was surprised to hear about the UK Nigerians too. Generally it’s based on class, the ability to emigrate like that. I suppose the upper classes in Africa as a whole must be more intelligent. Still, clawing one’s way to the top usually involves other skills as well.

    I’m going by what the English Youtuber Sargon of Akkad said about the Nigerians.

    It doesn’t seem operative amongst Saudi Arabians in Canada. But they’re all recent descendants of a single man. No particular selection in the few decades since. They come here to attend university, with some of them not realizing that this involves going to classes and attempting to learn the course material. Well, my one informant said they appeared to think they could use bribery. This failed with my informant and they were given failing grades, having attended no classes nor handed in any of the assignments.

    The US altered a policy about Saudis and apparently they’re going the US now.

  3. Steven E. Sailer says:

    I suspect West Virginia is suffering the same kind of brain drain as coal mining towns in England and Wales.

    • Frau Katze says:

      Read JD Vance’s book, “Hillbilly Elegy.”. It’s more than just intelligence. The hillbillies he describes are still living in a shame-honour society.

      He himself was able to escape. I’m sure the whole area has been brain drained.

  4. wagering says:

    Sowell claims that Jewish IQ scores were low at the turn of the century.
    How accurate is this?

    • gcochran9 says:

      Well, when they stepped off the boat they often didn’t speak English.

      • AnonFinn says:

        “Davis accused Gould of having misrepresented a study by Henry H. Goddard (1866–1957) about the intelligence of Jewish, Hungarian, Italian, and Russian immigrants to the U.S., wherein Gould reported Goddard’s qualifying those people as “feeble-minded”; whereas, in the initial sentence of the study, Goddard said the study subjects were atypical members of their ethnic groups, who had been selected because of their suspected sub-normal intelligence. Countering Gould, Davis further explained that Goddard proposed that the low IQs of the sub-normally intelligent men and women who took the cognitive-ability test likely derived from their social environments rather than from their respective genetic inheritances, and concluded that “we may be confident that their children will be of average intelligence, and, if rightly brought up, will be good citizens”

    • Lot says:

      I’ve looked at several of these old studies. Fresh off the boat Jews scored below the native white mean in the early 20th century, but were still well above the FOB Italians.

  5. teageegeepea says:

    I was wondering what “EA” stood for. For similarly confused readers, the linked Nature paper uses it for “Educational Attainment”.

  6. sprfls says:

    I’ve thought before how truly representative late 19th/early 20th century Jewish immigration was (think I mentioned this before on the blog). To be clear I do think it was representative, but I can also see an argument that it did have some sort of subtle sorting effect as well.

    Perhaps the average emigrant was poorer; if you’re doing well in the Old Country, there is way less incentive to leave. Of course most people (Jews included) were poor.

    This reasoning came about from 1) anecdotes from my own family and 2) trying to explain why the more recent wave of Russian Jewish immigrants (late 70s to early 90s) are way more conservative politically than the earlier wave of Russian (now American) Jews.

    Some branches of my family that stayed in Russia were quite wealthy. A few years ago my mother’s 3rd cousin found me on 23andme (naturally, a professor at MIT). He told me his grandfather was working for my g-g-grandfather who was “exploitive” (lol), so he left to America. Why would my g-g-grandfather emigrate, when he owned a ton of land and was successful in agribusiness? It seems like this would be a fairly common occurrence: poorer people unhappy with life under the Tzar would leave, wealthier people doing well in the current system would not.

    Similarly, the emigration patterns from this more recent wave maybe weren’t random as well — going to the US versus going to Israel were choices.

    • gcochran9 says:

      I think that the Russian Jews that emigrated to the US may well have been poorer than average, although I wouldn’t bet the farm on it. Steerage was pretty cheap by then.

      As for conservatism in recent Russian Jews, there’s always the effect of having experienced a lot of liberalism-in-a-hurry. I hear it fades in the second gen.

      Jews in Russia liked the Bolshies, sorta, at least for a while.Not unconnected with their prevalence among the old Bolsheviks: the first Politburo was 53% Ashkenazi by ancestry, a bit higher than the fraction in the general Russian population. Surely less so after the Soviet government turned against them in the late 1940s, banned them from the diplomatic academy and the Frunze academy and, generally, from the nomenklatura.

      • Анисимов Дмитрий says:

        Russian Empire was quite anti-semitic to it’s no wonder Jews were over-respresented amongst revolutionaires of all kinds, so you could expect natural regression in numbers, even without any backslash.

        • Ivan says:

          Your hypothetical explanation of Jewish over-representation among various revolutionaries is rather simplistic.

          All my Russian-Jewish friends who emigrated about 25-30 years ago are very conservative, without a single exception, and vote republican if at all. All their children, without a single exception, are extremely left-leaning (open borders, Trump is a Nazi devil, government control of everything, gender/race is a social construct, you name it) to the degree that one of them stopped talking to his parents. Is anti-semitism in this country to blame for the younger generation now in their 40’s for their literally Pavlovian reflex to any subject beyond purely mathematical (show a Trump picture, they will froth at the mouth) ? Their reaction to any subject is so predictable that it’s boring to anticipate. I used to find the predictability funny but not any more.

    • Labayu says:

      The pattern you observe holds true in Israel as well. The Ashkenazi Jews who arrived during the post-Soviet aliyah are typically quite right wing.

    • Frau Katze says:

      Recent Jewish migrants who remembered living under Communism might have been inoculated against pie in the sky dreamers. Cubans escaping Castro were a rare group: Republican Hispanics.

      Communism is making a comeback here in the West, mostly with people who are too young to remember even reading about it. The die hards like Noam Chomsky are mostly gone, although he is still alive, born 1928.

    • Ilya says:

      Test. Am I blocked?

  7. We are still land-based in our geographic thinking and identification of groups, but many other cultures were not. Medieval Venice thought of itself as an Adriatic rather than Italian power. With that in mind, those coming from the coast of the North Sea seem to have done well in America and Canada wherever they settled.

    Though maybe that is solely because of the wild-caught fish they ate, eh?

    • Frau Katze says:

      A few (very few) went to Argentina. I’ve never read if they formed a permanent class or if they simply intermarried. I suspect the latter. Che Guevara had Irish and Basque ancestry and was a trained doctor so he couldn’t have been all that low class.

      Many of the original Russian Communists were better than average educated. You can be intelligent and educated and still believe stupid things like Communism.

      I have read about how popular Communism became in the 1930s. Whitaker Chambers’ book gives great insight. After the show trials and bad publicity Communism lost most of its popularity. The new spies were no longer ideological for the most part but in it for the money.

      Chambers reckoned from his own experience that young people were susceptible. They didn’t know any better.

      • teageegeepea says:

        There was a somewhat recent study on Italian immigrants to Argentina vs the U.S:

        • Frau Katze says:

          Interesting. It would be easier for Italians to learn Spanish than English. He concludes that people immigrated to places with relatives or at least a community already there. That certainly makes sense.

          Now I think of it, the current Pope is of Italian ancestry born in Argentina (name “Jorge Mario Bergoglio”).

          • Jacob says:

            My Piedmontese ancestors immigrated to the US, but they had close relatives move to Argentina as well. Both branches of the family continued winemaking in the new world. Our southern relatives founded a winery, and sold it. That’s nice.

            We, however, were foolish enough to move to a Protestant country. An old great-great-aunt was imprisoned for the very serious crime of vinification.

            The warden, being an intelligent man, appointed her as his personal chef for the duration of her sentence, and I will have you know that he ate very well for exactly as long as she was locked up there.

            • Frau Katze says:

              Well that’s not very good about your aunt.

              Are you still in contact with the Argentinian branch of the family? There is a merchant class there and I don’t know what life would be like.

              I read a lot of memoirs and that often gives me some insight into life in their countries (tip: avoid Iran, 100% of numerous memoirs are negative). For some reason or other a great many Iranians have written memoirs.

              I’ve only read one from South America, by a woman in Colombia during the war. She was fearful of the uprising (can’t remember their name) because her family was moderately well off.

              I also worked with a woman from Venezuela, from what she called upper middle class. She was unimpressed by Chavez. I retired before it got really bad there and lost touch. She was trying to get her sister out.

              • Jacob says:

                I appreciate your sympathy, but we’re actually sort of proud of it. Family apocrypha contends that she was the first-ever female convict in the state of Colorado, although I’m fairly sure that’s bullshit.

                No, unfortunately. I couldn’t tell you whatever happened to them after they sold the winery. They’re pretty distant: third cousins, fourth cousins, etc.

  8. Anonymous says:

    You used to be able to resolve this dilemma by saying Jews just work harder, because there was a time when they did. Now I suppose the excuse is inherited class advantage, which in fairness actually is the second-biggest factor in Jewish success. But you have to whisper about it.

    • Frau Katze says:

      There’s a similar situation with the Chinese, although the IQ gap is a lot smaller. The parents are very concerned with getting the kids educated.

      • Jim says:

        Brain size in Northeast Asians is about 2% larger than in Europeans.

        • Анисимов Дмитрий says:

          yeah, but brain-to-body ratio is more than 2% greater and there are other improvements as well.

          • Brain and Body says:

            BMI and height information tends to suggest that for males, Germans today are about 83 kgs and Koreans about 72 kgs. So if indeed the brain of Koreans were only 2% larger than Germans, this could imply a 20% Korean absolute advantage, normalized to mass.

            But, if you compare French to Germans, since French have a lower BMI and a lower height, assuming the same brain size, French would also have a 10% advantage over Germans. This does not relate to any IQ advantage that I know of.

            The same is also true comparing Koreans and Japanese, where Japs would have a 5% advantage over Koreans.

            Assuming brain size adjusted for body mass relates to intelligence also implies that we’ve gotten dumber as we’ve become more obese and our body mass has gone up proportionately to height. Not really true as far as IQ tests show. And as Greg memorably said (to paraphrase), if body:brain ratio matters, then Nero Wolfe is a really dumb guy (implying that, of course, it does not really matter, or at least very little).

  9. Jim says:

    I wonder, are there really many people in our society who are unaware that American Jews are smarter than American Goy?

  10. Pingback: Not-So-Random Thoughts (XXIV) | POLITICS & PROSPERITY

  11. G.marsden says:

    Has me a bit scared , genetics trace me mostly to east end London, within the sound of Bow Bells

    • ghazisiz says:

      You should be proud. London was a population sink until the the 20th century — mortality rates dramatically higher than in its hinterland. If your ancestors successfully bred, through multiple generations, in East London, then you are among the toughest people on Earth.

  12. J says:

    The current population of Scotland has lower average IQ than England. 150 years of emigration did it. Migration is a kind of selection. West Hunters must have been better hunters than East Hunters.

    • Frau Katze says:

      I long suspected this, but there is a shortage of information about it. Highly politically incorrect.

      You see some really stupid comments. Like wondering why the working class as a whole scores lower. The working class of the UK have a bad reputation in continental Europe,, starting fights at sporting events, that type of thing.

      Personality as well intelligence likely played a part. I expect that the influx of Eastern Europeans to the UK will bring up average scores. But I don’t expect to read about that.

      • J says:

        In polite society, it is called brain-drain.

      • No White Eastern European Advantage says:

        I think the results on cognitive ability tests in England and Wales basically show no advantage for incoming White Eastern Europeans over the population as a whole. So no change.

        See – . White Other mostly = Polack Children. No cognitive ability test advantage. . GCSE results. Again White Other mostly = Polacks and no GCSE advantage for White Other over White British.

        Eastern European migrants as a whole may have some advantage over some subset of the Brits. But not as a whole. (The idea of selecting from Poland and Eastern Europe if you want to avoid football hooliganism is fairly laughable though; its far worse of a problem in those countries, in 2019. As is binge swilling vodka.).

        Eastern Euros probably if anything slightly worse considering they cluster in urban areas with stronger schools.

        French and Germans and other Western Europeans are different though; somewhat positively selected based on income data. But there are far fewer of them of course, since you’re only selecting off the top range that could earn more money in the City of London.

        • Frau Katze says:

          Perhaps in the current era where travel is easy NOBODY wants to live in Scotland, especially the Highlands. I’ve only seen photos of the Highlands (3 of my grandparents left from here) and it looks extremely bleak. It’s largely deforested and overcast in most photos.

          It’s pretty far north so the winter days would be short and darkish.

          I admit that Vancouver Island gets rainy winters too, but I would not consider living in the areas of Scotland that was my grandparents’ home.

          (I’ve grown somewhat more appreciative of our rainy winters after reading about California and the hot Santa Ana winds. No paradise anywhere it seems. We also are at high risk of earthquakes in the Pacific Northwest.)

      • Jovien says:

        It is clear that one of the origins of the higher hooliganism in the UK was the absence of a military service. Identification with a virile, violent and courageous group.

    • dearieme says:

      That must be recent. Measurements in the 1950s were the other way round, though the gap was small.

      In the 19th century the Scots were widely believed in England to be more intelligent though that might have been hard to distinguish from their being better educated.

  13. Анисимов Дмитрий says:

    Greg you know there is no dilemma. You, by, trying to explain those things, are racist and antisemitic, and by extension readers of your blog as well xD

  14. Philip Neal says:

    @greg I posted a comment, forgetting to fill in my details and then posted it again with email etc but it did not appear. I hope I am still permitted to comment here.

  15. "All Within Group..."? says:

    @greg, on topic, have you seen this post by Birney et al that is doing the rounds –

    Birney and his cohort seem to imply that they believe IQ differences within group are heritable and genetic but between group differences are not. Aka effectively, to a high educational attainment White audience, reassuring them, “That dopey Whitey in your school class certainly was dumber than you, genetically…. but the apparently equally dopey Black guy wasn’t!”.

    Or in the parlance of the paper under discussion in this thread: “People from the coalfields in England (and ‘country folk’) really are dumber than people from the cities. But people from Nigeria aren’t dumber than English..” (Presumably the group difference between urban and coalfield people, in this model, would be the first in history, never having happened before…).

    That seems to imply a hierarchy between individuals within US society such that comparing individuals with equal accomplishment, genetically, Black>White>Chinese>Jewish. And presumably targeting of educational resources and reproductive strategies accordingly (if you want your kids to top up with “good genes”, then of an equal accomplishment Chinese and Black person, bet on Black). But that seems a pretty deeply racist outcome and argument, compared to today’s reality where individuals of similar IQ from different groups are mostly treated the same.

    Do you think Birney understands that, and has simply neglected to mention it? Do you think he’s capable of understanding it? Or is any repugnant social inequality acceptable in the name of no genetic groups differences between Blacks and Whites?

  16. jovien says:

    I have never succeeded in finding something on the IQ differences of the offspring in relation to the social status of the parents : while the race obsesses, there is an astonishing lack of interest for the class.(in these comments too).
    The same can be said on the difference of personnality in relation to the social status of the parents.

    Normally, the differences should increase, with the passing of gernerations in a meritocratic society, with the fact that women now study, and work even in the upper class, and with the increase of egalitarism in education.
    But how great are the differences now ?
    How much does it explain the fact that high achivement in school is so much correlated with the social status of the parents ?

    • gcochran9 says:

      Close to entirely.

      • Jovien says:

        I have difficulty not to see some exageration in your “almost entirely”, because it is unpleasant to go down socially, so, the upper the parents are, the upper their ambitions and those of their offspring are, and ambition (of the parents and of the offspring) makes a significative difference in academic success (as for instance the academic success of the Chinese immigrants demonstrates). (I remember having read Raymond Boudon in France on this line).
        I would be very interested if you provide us some information and some reading on the topic.

  17. Frau Katze says:

    NYT is insisting that Mexican and Dominican immigrant sons are doing well

    Immigration to the United States has consistently offered a route to escape poverty — if not for poor immigrants themselves, then for their sons.

    New research linking millions of fathers and sons dating to the 1880s shows that children of poor immigrants in America have had greater success climbing the economic ladder than children of similarly poor fathers born in the United States. That pattern has been remarkably stable for more than a century, even as immigration laws have shifted and as the countries most likely to send immigrants to the United States have changed.

    The adult children of poor Mexican and Dominican immigrants in the country legally today achieve about the same relative economic success as children of poor immigrants from Finland or Scotland did a century ago. All of them, in their respective eras, have fared better than the children of poor native-born Americans. If the American dream is to give the next generation a better life, it appears that poor immigrants have more reliably achieved that dream than native-born Americans have.

    I still think merely choosing to emigrate likely puts you above average IQ for any ethnicity.

    Still, I have also heard that Hispanics, even those here over a few generations, continue to underperform compared to Europeans.

  18. Gilbert Green says:

    I don’t quite follow the logic here. You say they are smarter and more successful than the average American. Then say the immigrant average would not have been unrepresentative of Ashkenazi Jews in general. So even though they were backward in thought (Orthodox) and working class at first (garment industry) they did rise up due to a better group average intelligence. Or did they acquire better scores and prospects from something internal to their group. Presumably a combination of, Taking advantage of education and scholarships, easier access to capital, accelerated social advancement ( a leg up), (all potentially influenced by in-group preference), plus diligence and hard work ( reinforced by anti- out-group cultural training founded on out group fear). hence anxiety and disconnection from nature is the inheritance of the modern Ashkenazi and thus we all suffer indirectly. ?

  19. What’s the state of play after “The Chosen People: A Study of Jewish Intelligence and Achievement” (Richard Lynn, 2011; Washington Summit)? Is it basically captured by the Nathan Cofnas vs. Kevin MacDonald and Edward Dutton exchange from last year? (See: responses to, some available via:

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