Have the lower classes been at it again, breeding like rabbits, to the detriment of the gene pool? Have the upper classes, far from defending their own fold, been inviting in hordes of lower class foreigners, to breed like even more fecund rabbits, thus lowering the gene pool even further, and in the process undercutting the wages of their local proletariat, to the benefit of the rentier class? According to Irwin Kirsch, Henry Braun, and Kentaro Yamamoto, and Andrew Sum something of that sort may be happening in the USA, that Western outpost of Europe set up by English non-conformists and free thinkers. The authors have written a policy report for the Education Testing Service with the uplifting title America’s Perfect Storm: Three Forces Changing Our Nation’s Future.
The three forces they identify are: race gaps in educational achievement; the high premium paid to the well-educated; and immigration.
The policy paper is well written, clear, and cautious in what it says, despite the dramatic title. Their language is absolutely nothing like my introduction to their paper, because in line with contemporary sensibilities it is written in a vacuum as regards intelligence and educability. For example, they describe the three threats as: divergent skill distributions, the changing economy, and demographic trends. However, when you look at their data they are talking about intelligence and racial differences, the premium on intelligence, and the inflow of Mexicans to the USA. Stripped of circumlocution, they are perturbed by African Americans and Mexicans who are going to create problems which are difficult to solve by conventional means. Nonetheless, they say the accepted right things, which is that steps must be taken to make the convoy of different ability tribes stick together. Far from being a total melting pot, Americans tend to spread out a bit, putting some distance between disparate groups, something the wide expanse of the continent facilitates.
Here are the author’s words, drawn from different sections of their report:
Given our country’s growing demographic diversity, [we could] imagine our nation as a convoy. Some of the boats are large, well built, and able to ride out the heaviest of seas. Others are somewhat smaller, less well-equipped, but still quite sturdy. But many are fragile, meagerly equipped, and easily swamped in rough waters. That convoy — the individuals, families and communities that make up our nation — is in the midst of a “perfect storm,” the result of the confluence of three powerful sets of forces: divergent skill distributions, a changing economy, and demographic trends.
Data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reveal that between 1984 and 2004 reading scores among 13- and 17-year-olds remained flat, and the achievement gaps were large and relatively stable. For mathematics the story is only slightly different. While the mean scores for both the nation’s 13- and 17-year-olds improved slightly, they did so across all groups, with the result that the average size of the Black-White and Hispanic-White achievement gaps remained large and relatively stable.
Comment: Heiner Rindermann and I had a look at these scores, and found that although scores did improve in the early 80s (for no very clear reason) the differences between Hispanics/African Americas and Whites/Asians remains large.
National surveys of our adult population indicate that large numbers of our nation’s adults, 16 years of age and older, do not demonstrate sufficient literacy and numeracy skills needed to fully participate in an increasingly competitive work environment. These skills are also needed to function effectively in our complex society, with its large bureaucratic institutions and its complex legal, health care, and retirement systems.
• More importantly, these skills are not evenly distributed across groups defined by race/ethnicity, country of birth, and socioeconomic status. In fact, there are substantial differences in average proficiencies among these groups that influence their social, educational, and economic opportunities.
• International surveys of student and adult populations indicate that while our average performance is no better than mediocre, our degree of inequality (the gap between our best and least proficient) is among the highest in OECD countries.
The second force comprises the seismic changes in our economy that have resulted in new sources of wealth, novel patterns of international trade, and a shift in the balance between capital and labor. These changes have been driven by both technological innovation and globalization, resulting in a profound restructuring of the U.S. workplace. Indeed, the labor markets of today are markedly different from those of earlier decades. For example:
• In 1950, manufacturing’s share of total employment in the United States was 33.1 percent. By 1989, it was down to 18.2 percent and, by 2003, it was 10.7 percent.
• Between 1984 and 2000 the number of employed persons 16 years of age and older grew by 29 percent, or some 30 million. At the same time, employment in jobs associated with college-level education grew by some 20 million, accounting for two-thirds of the job growth.
• The country’s employment growth is expected to continue through the rest of this decade and into the next, with college labor market clusters (professional, management, technical, and high level sales) expected to generate about 46 percent of all job growth between 2004 and 2014.
Fuelled both by higher birth rates and by immigration, the Hispanic share of the population is expected to grow from 14 percent in 2005 to slightly more than 20 percent by 2030.
In 2004, nearly 57 percent of the 16- to 64-year-old Hispanic population in the United States was foreign-born, up from 46 percent in 1990. More than half of these immigrant Hispanics lacked a high school diploma.
• The lack of a high school diploma by such a large proportion of Hispanic immigrants is of concern given the fact that almost 80 percent of immigrants who have not earned a high school diploma report not speaking English well or at all.
Comment: Mexicans are unlikely to bound ahead scholastically if the last 6 generations are any guide to the future. Greg Cochran has an interesting post on this, with a long term sample which at least measures college level qualifications. This is in line with other findings on Hispanic progress.
The authors show the result for “literacy”, for which the better description would probably be everyday intellectual ability. Levels 4 and 5 have been merged because of their rarity, but the white figures trace the familiar bell curve even on four categories.
Those in the 4/5 high ability level: White 17%, Asian 9%, Black 3%, Hispanic 3% give you a relative indication of what proportion of each race will flourish in the global economy. If you want to be gloomy, look at those in the low 1 and 2 categories, which are those who will flounder in any modern economy: Hispanic 82%, Black 77%, Asians 61%. (Asian scores seem a bit low in this survey).
Having shown these results, the authors then forget about them, and in Tables 1 and 2 talk about the relatively low standing of the US compared with other nations on the PISA scores. This is all very well at the national level. However, the racial breakdown of those scores shows that White kids are doing pretty well: the national scores are dragged down by Blacks and Hispanics.
The authors then project what the figures might be like in 2030 if current trends continue. That is a big “if”, but illustrative nonetheless.
There will be significant losses of ability at the higher levels. The US will become dumber.
Figure 5 shows the figures for out of wedlock births, often seen as a proxy for absent fathers. The economist Thomas Sowell point out that these figures were much lower for Black families decades ago. However, the current picture is unlikely to boost scholastic
I am in sympathy with the points that the authors have made, and agree that they are raising important issues. I also think that this paper has been written in hostage language. The captive is led before the cameras and with unconvincing passions sings the praises of his captors, praises their humane treatment, heaps criticism on unrelated parties, usually focussing on his home government, and then get decapitated. He cannot talk straight because he fears, quite rightly, the horrors which threaten him.
These authors know full well that the educational system is not going to be able to pull a rabbit out of a hat. That hope was a bit of a stretch even in the early 70s when funding for compensatory education increased significantly. The 80’s showed some improvements, for unclear reasons, but after that very little gains were made. It seems that such low hanging fruit as was available has been picked already. Education cannot compensate for differences in ability. Rather as a hostage blinks out the Morse code message “Help Me” the authors are begging for change (and I think they don’t mean cunning new ways of getting rap artists to teach English Literature).
Unless we are willing to make substantial changes, the next generation of Americans, on average, will be less literate and have a harder time sustaining existing standards of living.
These are stirring words, but the authors do not spell out the substantial changes which would be required. These might include screening would-be immigrants for educational achievements and intellectual abilities. They might include giving up racially-based compensatory education policies and putting those funds into the general education budget, with the stipulation that the amount of public money spent on each child should be roughly the same. They might include strengthening the examination systems to ensure absolute rigour, and entry to college based on common, exam-based criteria. Perhaps some of you can provide some more detailed policy suggestions.
I seem to remember that in 2013 some guy said that Hispanics were not achieving the scholastic standards of white Americans, and was drummed out of his job.
As far as I can see, these three authors are raising the same issue, but have wisely, for their own preservation, done so using “demographic diversity” as a code for race, and “literacy” as a code for intelligence. I hope they will not be incommoded by the uncouth rabble.
Can a society which cannot bring itself to mention intelligence continue to be an intelligent society?