Thursday 10 September 2015

Migrant competence




Europe is experiencing enormous inflows of people from Africa and the Middle East, and in the midst of conflicting rhetoric, of strong emotions and of a European leadership broadly in favour of taking more migrants (and sometimes competing to do so) one meme keeps surfacing: that European Jews are the appropriate exemplars of migrant competence and achievements.

European history in the 20th Century shows why present-day governments feel profound shame at their predecessors having spurned European Jews fleeing Nazi Germany. However, there are strong reasons for believing that European Jews are brighter than Europeans, and have greater intellectual and professional achievements. There may be cognitive elites elsewhere, but they have yet to reveal themselves. Expectations based on Jewish successes are unlikely to be repeated.

I am old enough to know that political decisions are not based on facts, but on presumed political advantages. The calculation of those leaders who favour immigration seems to be that the newcomers will bring net benefits, plus the gratitude and votes of those migrants, plus the admiration of some of the locals for policies which are presented as being acts of generosity, thus making some locals feel good about themselves for their altruism.  One major ingredient of the leadership’s welcome to migrants is the belief that they will quickly adapt to the host country, and become long term net contributors to society. Is this true?

Given that Europe has invited in migrants since the 1950’s it is surprisingly difficult to get good quality data on their integration, social behaviour and economic contributions. Partly this is due to the feeling that even checking on migrant achievements would be to notice their genetic and cultural differences, and would constitute a denial of citizenship. France holds strongly to the view that a citizen is a citizen, and that is all that matters, even when they know that to be untrue in terms of scholastic attainments and employability. However, there is now data on first and second generation immigrant scholastic achievements, and these serve as a cautionary tale. Acculturation requires plenty of high quality educational input, and substantial gaps remain into the second generation.

I think it is time to turn to that data. Since I am a co-author on this paper I had previously mentioned it without comment in the middle of the last ISIR conference, but I think it calls for a little more explanation and attention now.

Heiner Rindermann and James Thompson


J. Biosoc. Sci., page 1 of 28, 6 Cambridge University Press, 2014

Immigration, immigration policies and education of immigrants alter
competence levels. This study analysed their effects using PISA, TIMSS and
PIRLS data (1995 to 2012, N 93 nations) for natives’ and immigrants’ competences, competence gaps and their population proportions. The mean gap is equivalent to 4.71 IQ points. There are large differences across countries in these gaps ranging from around +12 to -10 IQ points. Migrants’ proportions grow roughly 4% per decade. The largest immigrant-based ‘brain gains’ are observed for Arabian oil-based economies, and the largest ‘brain losses’ for Central Europe. Regarding causes of native–immigrant gaps, language problems do not seem to explain them. However, English-speaking countries show an advantage.
Acculturation within one generation and intermarriage usually reduce native–immigrant gaps (by 1 IQ point). National educational quality reduces gaps, especially school enrolment at a young age, the use of tests and school autonomy. A one standard deviation increase in school quality represents a closing of around 1 IQ point in the native–immigrant gap. A new Greenwich IQ estimation based on UK natives’ cognitive ability mean is recommended.
An analysis of the first adult OECD study PIAAC revealed that larger proportions of immigrants among adults reduce average competence levels and positive Flynn effects.

In Finland the natives had reading scores of 538, first-generation immigrants only 449, second-generation 493. The original first-generation difference of 89 points was equivalent to around 2–3 school years of progress, the second-generation difference of 45 points (1-2 school years) is still of great practical significance in occupational terms.

In contrast, in Dubai natives had reading scores of 395; first-generation immigrants 467; second-generation 503.  This 105 point difference is equivalent to 16 IQ points or 3–5 years of schooling.

Rather than look at the scales separately, Rindermann created a composite score based on PISA, TIMSS and PIRLS data so as to provide one overall competence score for both the native born population and the immigrants which had settled in each particular country. For each country you can seen the natives versus immigrant gap. By working out what proportion of the national population are immigrants you can recalculate the national competence (IQ) for that country. Rindermann proposes that native born competences need to be distinguished from immigrant competences in national level data.

The analysis of scholastic attainments in first and second generation immigrants shows that the Gulf has gained from immigrants and Europe has lost. This is because those emigrating to the Gulf have higher abilities than the locals, those emigrating to Europe have lower ability than the locals.

The economic consequences can be calculated by looking at the overall correlations between country competence and country GDP.

The largest immigrant-based gains, assuming a) no changing population, b) disregarding other factors such as economic freedom and mineral resources, and c)assuming that the future productivity of economies is largely based on cognitive capital, are estimated for the Emirates (5439 $, per capita and per year, ppp, 2008 $) and Qatar (3108 $). But the largest losses will be seen in Central European countries (on average 1554 $; population weighted: 1202 $), e.g. in Germany 1221 $ and France 888 $, and for the US the loss is 555 $ (see also Rector & Richwine, 2013).

Let us look at some country scholastic competence scores in the light of the current large influx, picking a few likely countries of origin taken from Table 1. (I am aware that many nationals of other countries are claiming to be Syrian at the moment).

The natives of the United Kingdom have a competence score of 519 (migrants to UK 499), Germany 516 (migrants to Germany 471), the United States 517 (migrants to US 489).  There, in a nutshell, is the problem: those three countries have not selected their migrants for intellectual quality. The difference sounds in damages: lower ability leads to lower status, lower wages and higher resentment at perceived differences. On the latter point, if the West cannot bear to mention competence differences, then differences in outcome are seen as being due solely to prejudice.

Here are the competence scores for some of the countries of origin of the current migrants: Syria 392, Iran 413, Algeria 396, Ghana 277, Morocco 326, Tunisia 405, Turkey 446. They vary somewhat, but all will impose at least a two generation disadvantage on the host countries. Currently nations differ in how they categorise  children of native-immigrant marriages, so those disadvantages may be disguised in the second and subsequent generations, though the genetic component will of course persist. A wider definition of being an immigrant leads to larger immigrant numbers in the population and to smaller gaps between natives and immigrants.

Table 2 shows all the country scores for natives and immigrants in the more familiar IQ format, with the UK natives IQ set to 100.



Overall, migrants have lower intelligence than natives, by almost a third of a standard deviation, sufficient to account for large differences at the upper end of the ability distribution, with implications for reduced entry into the most demanding occupations.

European leaders assume that acculturation is assured: it is merely a matter of additional investment in education and training. However, if immigrants keep their culture of origin, or create an isolated variant of it, then such “melting pot” ideals may not be met, and the host nations merely becomes a scattering ground of different cultural and genetic seeds.

Differences between immigrants of second and first generation. Generally, students of the second generation show better results, in the order of 1.84 IQ points (or 12 scholastic competence points). The gains are tending to become smaller, a hint that acculturation becomes weaker, e.g. due to creating own milieus leading to social and cultural separation, facilitated by increasing immigrant groups and world views such as Islamic religion.

However, there are countries in which second-generation migrants do worse: Qatar -57, Emirates -38, Chile -34, Latvia -25, Czech -24, Azerbaijan -22, New Zealand -19, Costa Rica -16, Trinidad -14, Ireland -3 and Jordan -2. These negative results show that acculturation is not the whole story in second- vs first-generation differences, but probably also that there are differences in origin among immigrant groups.

Attitudes to migrants tend to be short-term. Usually led by young men, richer and better qualified than their country folk, migrants are then followed by their families, both young and old. Rapidly the dependency ratio approaches or quickly exceeds the local norm. Immigrants age just like everyone else, so the temporary advantage of being young lapses quickly.

One of the most interesting features of this migration, and the European leadership response to it, is the belief that Europe is composed of territory, resources and institutions, and these will make Europeans out of everybody. Local Europeans are seen as the beneficiaries of Europe, rather than the creators of it. Odd, because Germany could not have bailed out Greece if it had Greece’s poor record as a tax collector. Europe works, to the extent that it does, because most northern Europeans are diligent, pay taxes on their earnings, and on their savings as well. Europe seems not to dare to say that Europeans built Europe, and that the achievement may have been due to characteristics of those Europeans.

So, the current influx of people is bewildering. Australia towed migrant boats away, and traffic stopped. Europe has towed migrant boats in, guaranteed entry, and traffic has sky-rocketed.  Mostly young men from countries with low competences, these immigrants will age like all people age. The typical pattern they will follow will be to bring in wives, children, elderly parents and extended family members from low competence countries. This is certainly the case in the UK, where “family reunification” is a massive source of inward migration. Even by the second generation their competence levels will not reach the levels of the natives, additional educational resources not-withstanding.

You can read the whole paper here:


  1. "Differences between immigrants of second and first generation. Generally, students of the second generation show better results, in the order of 1.84 IQ points (or 12 scholastic competence points). The gains are tending to become smaller, a hint that acculturation becomes weaker"

    Is that really true? Doesn't that simply mean that a ceiling is hit?

  2. "will age like all people age": oh, Doctor T, for shame!

    As you say the facts don't matter, especially when the facts are so easily guessed at anyway. Personally I advise the young to emigrate in spite of the fact that my immigrant friends are a fine bunch. But they are utterly atypical.

  3. Addendum

    Argentinian natives ''look'' for me average iq similar to Spain but probably little, like russian - - portuguese averages.

    Immigrants to Argentina

    chineses, bolivians, peruvians...

  4. Ok, Paraguay, Bolivia, Chile and Peru represent higher % of immigrants, but their avg iqs are not lower than 80.

    Seems, Pisa exames is not treatead seriously in some south american education systems, ;)

  5. All this "evidence" is faulty until one understands the basis for what we call "intelligence" and "iq." "Intelligence," as observed by many leading researchers in the matter (I can cite studies produced at both MIT and Harvard) is not agreed upon, and virtually every definition is different than every other. IQ is far, far more dangerous, as it was NEVER meant to be equated with intelligence (which we have no way of defining), and the dangers of doing so were espoused its creators, as well as just about everyone who has "developed" the test since. Also, researchers at many of the world's most prestigious universities CANNOT DEFINE ethnic groups or "races," other than to offer one actual truth: they do not exist. That is, "white" was invented at the end of the 17th century as a means artificial definition. Latino was invented in the 70s. It was never used before then. And try--TRY!--to find some way to group all of the complexity and diversity within, let's say, Argentina, into one "ethnic" group. It's insane, and thinking people know it's insane. This is a dangerous website, and it is based on defunct and dangerous assumptions, particularly those that go under the label "social darwinism" and the like.

    1. Who cares about race. Race is irrelevant.

      The factors that decides the IQ is surely the culture, and the education and upbringing, both by parents and by formal school.

      Since the poorest backward nations, say due to restrictive religions, or a general lack of education, progress, and general knowledge available in the population, this will naturally affect the general IQ of the population of that nation.

    2. For a simple introduction to current intelligence research, use the search bar for "Intelligence in 2000 words". For a more up to date book, use search bar for "Stuart Ritchie. Intelligence: All that matters". On classification of people by ancestry then best person to read is Razib Khan.

    3. Dear Mr Thompson. When testing boys and girls at age 15 the girls have an advantage but not later on. Then the boys go ahead because they mature later. When immigrants get into puberty earlier I will assume that the difference will increase when you in older age groups. Is that correct?

    4. Sex differences are a contentious issue, but it seems likely that boys are a little ahead of girls, and men ahead of women. There will be a new paper by Richard Lynn, with commentaries from others, published soon. This will re-ignite the debate about sex differences in intelligence.

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  7. I fail to see exactly what you hope to gain from all this crap. Seriously, I don't understand what you're getting at here. I mean, who in the real world actually gives a damn about average IQ scores? Sure, they might have some kind of weight to real life matters, but who really looks to something like that when it comes to making big decisions like who should be let into a country or not?

    Like hell I'd want to live in a world like that, where my intelligence determines if I have a chance to leave my war-ridden so I can look for a better life.

    I'm sorry, but fuck that shit.