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Saturday, May 27, 2017

What intelligence research tells about social problems

I’ve been reading about intelligence, education and social behavior and some interesting things have been proven.  You probably suspected a lot of this.  All these stats are for white people only, no racial component.

Remember those plots that show if you have only a high school education you’ll likely make $30,000 a year, but if you have a bachelor’s you’ll make $50K and advanced degrees = $90K?  It turns out, while this is true, the distribution for each education level is extremely broad. There are Phds on welfare. There are CEOs who have 8th grade ed.   The correlation between education level and earnings is about .3 (1.0 or 100% correlation is perfect; zero is none whatsoever)  IQ correlates at about .6 so it is a better predictor of earnings. 

The people who study intelligence were highly persecuted in the 60s and 70s for their proofs that intelligence gives a lot of advantage and it is somewhat inherited.  That was the era when people believed that environment caused everything.  (Well, why try to breed smart sheepdogs? You could just make any old mutt a shepherd.) So the researchers went underground by the way they stopped talking about test scores and began talking about standard deviations away from the curve peaks.  Apparently it worked.  Media and many others couldn’t understand what they were talking about.  Then came the 90s demand for education accountability and testing.  Once again, intelligence measures became important.  A guy with 80 IQ doesn’t make a very good elementary particle physicist. 

The popular concept is that college education skyrocketed after WW II.  No, it actually began growing rapidly about 1920. 1920—2% of population had a bachelors; 1940—8%; 1960—16%;2016—35%.  That reflects the fact that in 1950 the traditional 55% of top quartile of SAT scorers went to college but by 1965 it was 80%.  And it was since about 1960 that the prestigious colleges began to compete for the top HS grads.  Why?  College costs quadrupled from 1950 to 1960, and a lot of middle class families could no longer afford it unless they had a smart kid who could get scholarships.

The result is that people of a certain intelligence and education often only associate with others of similar status, especially in urban areas where many technical people are employed.  The tech revolution has insulated many of the best and brightest from the rest of the people.  This explains why so many of our best politicians come, not from mega-metros but cities of 400,000 or smaller where everyone rubs elbows.  The tech skills are accountants, architects, engineers, professsors, dentists and physicians, mathematicians and scientists and the like.  These 8 jobs suck up 25% of the top 10% in IQ. And as the federal regulations have grown by a factor of six in the last 20 years, it takes a smart guy to start a successful business. Average Joe finds it hard.  Thus in 2014 for the first time in 400 years, America’s number of newly closed businesses exceeded the number of start-ups for the first time. 5-year running average) And interestingly the Supreme Court has forbidden employers from giving intelligence tests, yet these correlate better with successful job performance than anything else—reference checks, interviews, education, or age.  As kids are strongly encouraged to follow education as far as they can make it go, education is now strongly tied to intelligence.  The upper technical fields have seen a real salary increase of about 60% since 1963 while others are up only about 10% in constant dollars.  Hence the new success of Trump’s appeal to lower middle class.   And the nerds mate together just as they live close, thereby producing smart kids.  But it’s a loose correlation.  Ben Carson’s mom will surely object.

Let’s talk social difficulties.  Less intelligent women have most of the out-of-wedlock babies.  But of course there’s debate.  Some would say parent’s socioeconomic status (SES) is the cause.  It turns out that intelligence is more fundamental but SES plays a role too.  A graph of Americans below the poverty line is stunning.  Poverty decreased in a straight line from 1940 when 50% were “poor” to 1969 when the curve flat-lined in the 12-15% range it has had ever since.  The Great Society was supposed to reduce this!  Instead it halted the decline of poverty.  When a group goes from 50% to 15%, who is left behind?  Those who lack thrift, energy, determination and brains, it is likely. 

The statistics about unwed mothers are staggering.  Married women of lowest 2% of IQ are 18% likely to live in poverty.  Those in upper 2% are 1% likely.  But single moms of the lowest 2% IQ are 70% likely to live in poverty.  Upper 2% are still 15% likely. It is as if marriage makes you rich.   And the numbers cut across all reasons for single motherhood—widowed, divorced, and never-married.  This almost says, “If you want kids and means, get married and stay married.” Why are women so adversely affected?  I think it is because men are hard-pressed and measured by career while women who have children will often compromise a job if it adversely affects the children. Equal pay for equal work is the Law.

A HS education has become the norm. The dropout rate doesn’t correlate very well with SES but does correlate strongly with IQ.  It figures.  If you struggle with classes, you are more likely to drop out. The number of disabled and collecting Social Security has increased 50% during the Obama presidency, causing Bill O’Reilly to exclaim, “Has America gotten more hazardous?  That can’t be!”  No, but here’s what the stats tell us.  Low intelligence workers opportunistically claim far more disability.  There is a slightly better safety behavior among the intelligent workers, but the real story is that discouraged workers, finding it harder to keep and find a job, find it more socially acceptable to claim disability and get a sympathetic doc to approve it. And they won’t go crazy watching daytime TV and living leisurely.  Employment of teens who aren’t in school has gone from 85% in 1954 to 63% in 2009 to 51% today.  And when you study the SES of these workers, it suddenly gets interesting.  Unemployed teens drop in unemployment rate as they go to higher IQ.  But it’s the other way around for SES.  The ones who have wealthy parents are more long-term unemployed.  Living in the proverbial basement, I guess.    

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