Thursday, May 09, 2013


By now you have probably heard the revelation that one of the co-authors of the notorious Heritage Foundation screed attacking immigration reform, Jason Richwine, authored a Harvard PhD dissertation that opined that Latino immigrants were intellectually inferior.  Not surprisingly, the Heritage spokespeople rushed to the microphones to point out that the dissertation was not "a Heritage Foundation work product," which is true. Richwine was an AEI Dissertation Fellow while creating the work product that was his dissertation.  MOTHER JONES has reported further on a public conference where Richwine " told an audience at the American Enterprise Institute that 'major' ethnic or racial differences in intelligence between the Irish, Italian and Jewish immigrants who flocked to the United States at the turn of the 20th century and the immigrants coming to the US today justified severely restricting immigration."

There is a long history, post phrenology, of this nonsense, stretching through the racist interpretations of WWI Army IQ testing, to such "scholars" as William Shockley, Arthur Jensen, J. Phillipe Rushton, and of course the Bell Curvers, Herrnstein and Murray. There is never any shortage of people who want to drape a veneer of scientific respectability across racism.  Sad to say, the media are invariably happy to give them a great deal of ink, witness the NY TIMES MAGAZINE cover feature on Herrnstein and Murray when BELL CURVE was published.

So, Richwine is just the latest in this lineage of shame.  But I was curious to know who at Harvard was signing off on such idiocy these days.  The signatories to his PhD committee page are: George J. Borjas, Richard J. Zeckhauser and, wait for it . . . Christopher Jencks.  Jencks, you may recall, was among the early scholars to dispute the correlation between education and income. Goldberg and Mills did a pretty good job of pointing out how misleading Jecks's presentation of his data has been.  Others have pointed to deep flaws in his mode of argument. At bottom, though, Jencks had an agenda, one that may well have biased him in favor of passing on a dissertation that includes the statement: "[n]o 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. From the perspective of Americans alive today, the low average IQ of Hispanics is effectively permanent." Dissertation committee members need not agree with the conclusions of their students, nor do they always find those conclusions agreeable.  Still, they are supposed to look to the intellectual honesty and accuracy of the dissertation's work. At least one of these fellows should have pointed out to Richman that it is not at all hard to argue against the proposition that Hispanic immigrants will have low IQ offspring.  What's hard is to understand how that PhD defense went -- 

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