About That Dissertation
On being the media’s villain of the week

Jason Richwine



Second, the prediction that IQ differences will persist over generations does not rely on assumptions of genetic transmission, but rather on observational data from past immigrant waves. The IQ differences have been persistent — for whatever reason — and nothing is happening to the education or socialization of the current generation of Hispanics that gives reason to expect a break with past experience. Therefore, it is literally “difficult to argue against” continued differences in the next generation — unless hope trumps experience, but I doubt my dissertation committee would have found that argument compelling.

Why did I discuss differences between Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites at all? Because the largest portion of the post-1965 immigration wave has come from Latin America. Studies of Hispanic IQ are naturally useful in estimating overall immigrant IQ and its intergenerational transmission.

That last point bears elaborating: There is absolutely no racial or ethnic agenda in my dissertation. Nothing in it suggests that any groups are “inferior” to any others, nor is there any call to base immigration policy on ethnicity. In fact, I argue for individual IQ selection as a way to identify bright people who do not have access to a university education in their home countries.

I realize that IQ selection rubs some people the wrong way, but it can hardly be called “extremist.” Canada and Australia intentionally favor highly educated immigrants. My proposal is based on the same principle they use (pick skilled immigrants), but it offers a much better chance for disadvantaged people to be selected.

If the dissertation were taken seriously, its real contribution would be to open a forthright debate about the assimilation challenge posed by the post-1965 immigration wave. Because regardless of what one believes IQ scores really measure, or what determines them, they are undeniably predictive of a wide variety of socioeconomic outcomes that people care about.

We’re still waiting for that assimilation debate to start. I am not aware of a single major news outlet that acted as if my results merited real discussion. The reporters scanned the text for damning pull-quotes, giddily pasted them into stories about “extremism” on the right, and presented my statements as self-evidently wrong. Liberal bloggers piled on with ignorant condemnations. Even some conservative supporters of the Schumer-Rubio amnesty eagerly joined the hatefest. At no time did the critics seem to wonder whether what I was saying might be true.

The reason for that is simple. The media were never interested in me or in the substance of my dissertation. They wanted only to use my work to embarrass the Heritage Foundation and, by extension, all opponents of amnesty. It’s a familiar formula for “gotcha” journalism: Uncover an “extremist” associated with a mainstream organization, then demand to know how the organization could possibly associate itself with him. Keep turning up the pressure, hour after hour, with “shocking” new revelations.

To see how the furor over my dissertation is so inextricably linked to today’s heated debate over immigration, consider that no less a mainstream-media institution than the New York Times reported on some of my dissertation’s ideas in 2009. The newspaper’s Idea of the Day blog discussed my proposal for IQ selection in neutral terms. No moral panic ensued. What’s different now is that immigration reform is at stake, and the whole conversation is hopelessly politicized.