Jones on IQ and immigration

David Henderson has posted on a recent presentation by Garett Jones of George Mason University in which Jones discussed IQ and cooperation.

As Jones notes, higher IQ people cooperate more in repeated prisoner’s dilemma games, are more trusting, have lower levels of divorce and engage more in activities such as voting and organ and cash donation. Jones suggests that if this link between trust and IQ improves a country’s institutions, countries should seek to raise national IQ, and one way of achieving this is by boosting immigration of high IQ populations.

Henderson states that:

In Q&A, I asked him if he was suggesting something like Canada’s immigration rules that seem to put a higher weight on IQ indirectly or whether he would be happy with a Bryan Caplan solution that would allow pretty much anyone in who wanted to come. …. Garett seemed to lean to the former and said that one thing the government could so is, when an immigrant got a Ph.D., “staple a green card to it.”

It is interesting that Jones might suggest such an indirect method of achieving his objective. Would a simple IQ test be more effective? Or does Jones hope to capture people with other traits that a PhD might be indicative of, such as a propensity to work? Another question is whether a country should adopt such a passive method of giving residency to those who have already come to a country (which as Henderson notes, probably has some selection effects in itself)? Could a country be more aggressive and set up IQ testing stations in countries around the world and encourage immigration by all those who pass?

A natural implication of this policy is that it will lower the average IQ of the donor country, and following Jones’s logic, lead to poorer institutions in that country. The net effect for the high IQ person is likely to be overwhelmingly positive, but the long-run dynamic effects on the donor country could be negative.

Comments

  1. says

    One of the classic examples given to support the notion of an immigration/IQ v. physical capital in economic development is the post-WWII economies of Eastern Europe and America. In the years leading up to and immediately after WWII, many intellectuals fled Europe for the United States with little but the clothes on their backs, leaving the immense physical capital of the factories that they had invested in while in Europe behind. Yet, the mind rich U.S. thrived, while the physical capital rich Eastern Europe stumbled. It is, of course, more complex than that, but that is the heuristic model.

    One of the reasons tht Asian-Americans have become a “model minority” in America is that Asian immigrants disproportionately arrived on visas for medical professionals, scientists and engineers; we haven’t had Asian immigration for the purpose of providing an unskilled labor force since they stopped building the railroads, and the impact of immigrant Asian refugees has been localized and vanished statistically in statistics about Asian-Americans generally. Whatever the population at home was like, the immigrant population was highly elite.

    There is good reason to doubt that we should even care about IQ in immigrants however. As long as we trust people to be rational actors, and for the most economically “fit” individuals to take the arduous step of leaving behind everything they know for the promise of a better life without much of a safety net, immigrants, on average, in there total porfolio of traits, IQ and otherwise, are likely to be above average individuals who will be a positive contribution to society. They are like to be superior in pyschological traits like grit and non-IQ criteria for success, which also have heritable components, as well as IQ.

  2. Kiwiguy says

    Jason Richwine has a good survey of the literature, including Jones’ work on co-operation, here:

    “Some clear policy implications follow. What we want are immigrants who are most likely to be cooperative, trustworthy, and concerned about the welfare of the community. No one has any simple, reliable way of ascertaining whether an individual possesses these qualities. But we do have a simple, reliable way of measuring another quality that is correlated with them—cognitive ability, as measured by an IQ test or an educational credential. The smarter our immigrants are, the more likely they are to trust and cooperate, and the less likely they are to subtract from our existing stock of social capital.”

    http://www.american.com/archive/2009/august/dealing-with-diversity-the-smart-way

  3. gcochran says

    One of the reasons that the Chinese became a “model minority” in Malaysia is that they arrived as illiterate tin miners.

  4. gcochran says

    ohwilleke: you seriously think that the typical immigrant into the United States has a higher than average IQ? Would you like to hear the actual numbers?

  5. Kiwiguy says

    ***One of the reasons tht Asian-Americans have become a “model minority” in America is that Asian immigrants disproportionately arrived on visas for medical professionals, scientists and engineers;***

    The japanese are a ‘model minority’ in Brazil – higher earnings, a level of academic achievement. Remember that the Japanese largely arrived in Brazil as indentured labourers to work on coffee farms.

  6. Kiwiguy says

    *** arduous step of leaving behind everything they know for the promise of a better life without much of a safety net, immigrants, on average, in there total porfolio of traits, IQ and otherwise, are likely to be above average individuals who will be a positive contribution to society.***

    @ ohwilleke,

    I’d recommend Jason Richwine’s National Review article, ‘The Congealing Pot’. It suggests that this is definitely not the case with the low skill migration coming into the US from Mexico. As Alex Aleviev has written:

    “A recent study by UC Santa Barbara’s California Dropout Research Project estimates that high-school dropouts in 2007 alone will cost the state $24.2 billion in future economic losses.
    Even those who graduate aren’t necessarily headed to success. According to one study, 69 percent of Latino high-school graduates “do not meet college requirements or satisfy prerequisites for most jobs that pay a living wage.” It is difficult to see how the majority-Hispanic labor force of the future can provide the skills that the sophisticated Los Angeles economy demands. Already studies show that as many as 700,000 Los Angeles Latinos and some 65 percent of the city’s illegal immigrants work in L.A.’s huge underground economy….

    Perhaps even more important than the collapse of educational achievement among the lower strata is a deterioration of the higher education that was for decades the basis of California’s preeminence in science and technology. California currently ranks 40th among the 50 states in college-attendance rates, and it already faces a significant shortage of college graduates. Studies have shown that the economy will need 40 percent of its workers to be college-educated by 2020, compared with today’s 32 percent. Given the aging white population (average age, 42), many of these new graduates will have to come from the burgeoning Latino immigrant population (average age, 26). By one estimate, this would require tripling of the number of college-educated immigrants, an impossibility if current trends hold. The state’s inability to improve the educational attainment of its residents will result in a “substantial decline in per capita income” and “place California last among the 50 states” by 2020, according to a study by the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems.”

    (National Review Online, 14 Aug 2009).

  7. says

    @ Kiwiguy:

    The econometric estimates cited in the National Review are certainly not a consensus view. Estimates are all over the map and seem to track the political inclinations of the authors and sponsors of the research. There is plenty of public finance research that reaches the opposite conclusion on economic impact for the public purse (such as a study released this past week on the subject). Likewise, there are respectable econometric estimates of the wage impact of undocumented immigration that suggest that the group of workers who are affected is very narrow and that than magnitude of the impact is very modest (in the single digit percentages).

    The amount of socio-economic advancement in a single generation in low education immigrant communities is also considerable greater than in low education non-immigrant communities, something that fits the general model of rapid, near complete assimilation in the second generation and later generations shown in other areas like English language fluency. The hypothesis about non-IQ traits being high in immigrant populations is largely a generalization of what is known as the “fit immigrant” hypothesis that is well validated.

    Examples of unskilled immigrant success in Malaysia and Brazil, because there is still self-selection of immigrant status that itself screens populations, does not undermine the notion that the recent U.S. experience also includes strong overt selection for education and IQ in Asian immigrant populations.

    “you seriously think that the typical immigrant into the United States has a higher than average IQ? Would you like to hear the actual numbers?”

    This is almost certain true in the case of work and education related visas (which cover the lion’s share of Asian immigration to the U.S.), because education is a pretty good proxy for IQ and education is a major factor in granting those visas. The U.S. has very close to the highest high school completion and college completion rates in the world, so someone from abroad who moves to the U.S. with comparable levels of education is likely to be at least as smart on average as an American with that level of education.

    I think it is also highly likely that the typical immigrant into the U.S. has a higher average IQ than individuals in the source community, for the same reason that a whole lot of socio-economically advantageous decisions are made disproportionately by those with high IQ, although the general proposition that aggregate IQ and not-IQ fitness of people who immigrate to the U.S. exceeds the average of people in the communities thath they leave is more strongly and directly supported.

    The closest thing I have seen to that kind of measurement was an analysis of the IQ of blue collar union leaders in manufacturing businesses in the 1940s or 1950s, when finances were a barrier to higher education to a greater extent than they are today. In that analysis union leaders had about the same average IQ as college graduates. When access to education is limited, low education may underestimate IQ.

    I don’t know what the average IQ of a typical non-work related visa or undocumented worker is, and I have never heard of anyone doing a study that would reveal that. It is not, however, reasonable to assume that the average IQ of a high school dropout in a country with a low rate of high school graduation is likely to be about the same as the average IQ of a high school dropout in a country with a high rate of high school graduation. Similarly, the average IQ of college attendees today when about 60% of people go to college for at least a while, is probably much lower than it was before the GI Bill when something closer to 10% of people went to college for at least a while, and that the average IQ of high school graduates was greater when graduating from high school was less common (e.g. in my grandparents generation).

Comments, thoughts, suggestions?