David R. Henderson  

Garett Jones on IQ and Economic Growth

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I'm at the same APEE meetings in Nassau that Arnold's at and I saw another paper presented by Garett Jones. It was titled "A Political Coase Theorem for the Intelligent." It was on how high-IQ pairs in experimental games do significantly better on trust and cooperation. He then reasoned from that to higher IQ creating more solutions to cooperation problems and, therefore, creating more economic growth.

He pointed out a number of times in his presentation that, given how many variables researchers had studied in trying to understand differences in cooperation in experiments, adding IQ to the mix should have been done in the 1960s. It shouldn't have had to wait 40 years.

One implication for countries that want more growth, he said, is to get higher-IQ immigrants. In Q&A, I asked him if he was suggesting something like Canada's immigration rules that seem to put a higher weight on IQ indirectly or whether he would be happy with a Bryan Caplan solution that would allow pretty much anyone in who wanted to come. In the latter case, I noted, maybe self-selection takes care of the problem: maybe the people who come here, even without a government selection device, self-select and so maybe we end up with higher IQ people anyway. Garett seemed to lean to the former and said that one thing the government could so is, when an immigrant got a Ph.D., "staple a green card to it." That sure would have saved me a huge amount of hassle and uncertainty with the INS in the 1970s.


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The author at Evolving Economics in a related article titled Jones on IQ and immigration writes:
    David Henderson has posted on a recent presentation by Garrett Jones of George Mason University in which Jones discussed IQ and cooperation. As Jones notes, higher IQ people cooperate more in repeated prisoner’s dilemma games, are more trusting, ... [Tracked on April 14, 2011 4:48 AM]
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Floccina writes:

What would happen Americans could sell there citizenship? Perhaps our worst workers would sell their citizenship to the most ambitious Mexicans and move to Mexico live off the money at a low cost of living.

Steve writes:

While high IQ individuals may have a tendency to generate more economic growth, wouldn't the Ph.D. cancel it out? If most Ph.D.'s go on to become college professors, then I can't imagine that stapling a green card to a Ph.D. is going to spur entrepreneurialism.

Is my premise wrong? Do college professors create much economic growth (other than the Keynesian argument that they make and therefore spend money)?

Zippy writes:

Just make sure it's a PhD in a real subject, not Womyn's Studies or the equivalent.

One thing we could do is limit family reunification to spouses and minor children, and then just give the remaining slots to the folks with the highest IQ scores.

Oh and I'd suggest adding hot women to the mix, just to piss off the Womyn's Studies professors

Drea writes:

@Steve: Professors may not add any value, but luckily most PhD's don't end up as professors anyhow.

@Zippy: Don't we already have the special imigration track for hot women? You just need to pre-commit to marrying them before they run out the visa.

Ted writes:

I'd like to see the paper in question. It's a pretty big leap from experimental games to macro phenomena. The contextual environment always matters for optimizing behavior and it is simply a fallacy to generalize the way Jones seems to have done. I honestly have no idea whether results from something like a stag hunt game have any implications for economic growth - and neither does Jones.

@Steve

A lot of PhDs students are not professors. The economic value-added of a given PhD candidate obviously depends on what the PhD is in. A PhD in philosophy or English literature will have little economic value-added; but a PhD in biochemical engineering may be high. Also, some professors value-added to the economy comes in two forms. In general, there are a small group of professors with enormous economic returns. An admittedly extreme example is someone like James Maxwell whose discovery of Maxwell's equations has led to trillions of dollars in economic growth. Obviously most scientists don't have anywhere near the impact of James Maxwell on economic growth, but you get the ideas. Also, professors economic value can also come from teaching PhD students. While each PhD student working in the real world might have a small economic value-added themselves, collectively the professor might have a large indirect contribution to economic growth.

Evan writes:
In the latter case, I noted, maybe self-selection takes care of the problem: maybe the people who come here, even without a government selection device, self-select and so maybe we end up with higher IQ people anyway.
I don't see any problem to solve. If we end up getting a mix of low and high IQ people, that will be fine. The high IQ people will find solutions, to problems and the low IQ ones will copy them so that they'll be productive too. Comparative advantage and all that. It's why African Americans are so much more productive on average than native Africans. Economic growth isn't a zero sum game, so all that matters is that the absolute number of high-I.Q. people increase, not the average number.
Mark writes:

Around here a lot of the high school valedictorians seem to be named Nguyen. Did their parents have high IQ scores?
My father attended no schools beyond age 14, and my mother ended her schooling at age 16. When we arrived in the USA, my parents took minimum wage jobs because they had no other skills and were not proficient in English. I have an MD degree and my sister has a JD (we are a bit embarrassed by her low attainments.)
I think that there are too many low IQ native-borns in the USA. We should ship them back to their natal lands.

Steve Sailer writes:

"maybe the people who come here, even without a government selection device, self-select and so maybe we end up with higher IQ people anyway."

Except that, on average, the opposite is happening. Here, for example, is the bottom of the 2010 list of Most Literate Cities in America:

Bottom of the list:

59 Riverside, CA
60 Houston, TX
61 Los Angeles, CA
62 San Antonio, TX
63 Henderson, NV
64 Fresno, CA
65 Mesa, AZ
66 Glendale, AZ
67 Santa Ana, CA
68 Long Beach, CA
69.5 Corpus Christi, TX
69.5 El Paso, TX
71 Arlington, TX
72 Anaheim, CA
73 Bakersfield, CA
74 Aurora, CO
75 Stockton, CA

Notice anything?


Bill writes:

Notice anything?

Yes. I we force CA and TX to secede, we will raise the nation's IQ.

Evan writes:
Notice anything?
Yes, that in spite of all the Hispanic immigration, they still managed to rank in the top 100 of the roughly 19,000 cities in the USA. Evidently it has a lower impact IQ than you'd think..

Of course, it doesn't matter since the absolute number of IQ is what's important, not the average number. Adding more low IQ people does not make the high IQ people in the country stupider.

Scrutineer writes:

Adding more low IQ people does not make the high IQ people in the country stupider.

It only means the average voter will be "stupider," so no problem.

Evan writes:

I went back and looked at the CCSU webpage and it looks like they limited their study to cities with a population of over 250,000. So the data is a lot more compelling than it looked at first glance. It's not really that relevant though, the purpose of low-skilled immigrants isn't to be literate, it's to free up literate people to do jobs more befitting their intellectual caliber. Again, law of Comparitive Advantage.

It only means the average voter will be "stupider," so no problem.
Comments like this make me suspect that most people don't actually read "The Bell Curve," they just skip to the chapter on race and IQ and ignore the rest of the book. The reason I say this is that right before the chapter on race and IQ, there's a chapter on civic responsibility and IQ, which points out that low IQ people rarely vote. For that reason worries about low IQ voters taking over the vote are largely baseless.
D writes:

If I'm not mistaken, even 3rd generation Hispanics have incredibly high HS drop out rates. This may indicate self-selection, but not the kind we'd hope for.

Scrutineer writes:

...right before the chapter on race and IQ, there's a chapter on civic responsibility and IQ, which points out that low IQ people rarely vote. For that reason worries about low IQ voters taking over the vote are largely baseless.

No, it says that political participation correlates strongly with one's level of education, and that education is a decent proxy for IQ. The authors don't give voting numbers broken down by IQ, but they do note that someone with a college education is 40% more likely to vote than someone with less then five years of school.

You apparently have translated this to mean "low IQ people rarely vote." If you are arguing that voters with low IQ do not and cannot have a significant effect on elections, I don't think you can extract that conclusion from the book.

Scrutineer writes:

*less than...

Zippy writes:

It's true that low IQ folks are more productive here than in the Third World. But low IQ people create negative externalities: crime, squalor, general social disorganization, demand for social services.

And at some point, it all breaks. My local grocery store has a retarded bagger -- I think he has Down Syndrome. He bags things very carefully (if slowly), and he's very friendly. Great! He feels good about himself, gets to live a semi-independent life, feels like he's earning his keep. He may even be a (small) net social producer.

But an entire grocery store couldn't operate if they were all like this guy. Lots of jobs he just can't do. And the attempt to take on, say, a dozen retarded employees could sink the ship.

That's why the libertarian open-borders types are wrong. Sure, low IQ unskilled immigrants are better off in the United States, or any First World country. But 100 million low IQ immigrants later, the United States won't be a First World country any more.

Evan writes:

The majority of low IQ immigrants are not retarded. They are capable of living normally in society. I think a major reason IQ-centric closed border types are so vehemently against immigration is that they subconsciously translate "low-IQ" to "violent retard." A market society has a near-infinite capacity for low-IQ workers because of the workings of Say's Law, supply creates demand (although admittedly the minimum wage kind of screws with this).

It's true that some low-IQ people create negative externalities, but most don't. And even when they do, immigrants tend to congregate in ethnic neighborhoods, so all the externalities they create harm only each other.

I consider arguments that consider "demand for social services" to be externalities to be intrinsically invalid, I think they're so flawed I even wrote a paper on the subject as a project for a class back when I was in college. Such arguments:
1. Show a lack of understanding of the budget process. Social services tend to have fixed budgets that do not increase just because there is more demand. There have not been any recent tax increases caused by a need to pay for social services.
2. Blame the wrong people. If a mugger stole money and donated some of it to a soup kitchen, the proper response would be to be angry at the mugger, not the soup kitchen. Politicians are the ones taking your money, not low-IQ people.
3. Can be used to justify horrible statist interventions. The Left makes the same arguments in order to justify oppressing fat people, smokers, etc.
4. Get priorities wrong. Services to the poor are insignificant compared to other big money drains like Social Security. SS has 400 times the budget of TANF. The only reason they get more notice is because of hatred of poor people and immigrants.
5. Are rarely motivated by actual budget concerns. No one uses these arguments because they're really worried about the budget, they're just using it as an excuse to bash groups they don't like for subjective, aesthetic reasons.

gcochran writes:

[Comment removed pending confirmation of email address and for rudeness.--Econlib Ed.]

M Schwartz writes:

***One implication for countries that want more growth, he said, is to get higher-IQ immigrants. ***

I thought this was pretty clear from research by the likes of Heiner Rindermann? Jason Richwine has also made this argument, citing Jones' research.

"In summary, higher IQ people appear to be more morally sophisticated, altruistic, and forward-looking. They exhibit higher levels of civic participation, more strongly adhere to middle-class behavioral standards, and cooperate more readily. This evidence, taken as a whole, confirms that intelligence and social capital are strongly related."


M Schwartz writes:
Adding more low IQ people does not make the high IQ people in the country stupider.

No, but you do increase a number of negative socio-economic outcomes (ie. welfare dependency, poor health, poor academic results, increased crime etc).

Kiwiguy writes:
Bryan Caplan solution that would allow pretty much anyone in who wanted to come.

I thought Milton Friedman pointed out why this was a bad idea? You can't have a welfare state _and_ unrestrained immigration.

JL writes:

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Kiwiguy writes:
In the latter case, I noted, maybe self-selection takes care of the problem: maybe the people who come here, even without a government selection device, self-select and so maybe we end up with higher IQ people anyway.

If you read Jason Richwine's national review article 'The Congealing Pot', you'll see that a substantial number are low academic achievers. In fact Richwine notes that this is the case over several generations. Alex Alexiev's article 'Stop Illegals, Save CA' notes:

"This is not an immigration problem, or even an illegal-immigration problem, per se. A strong case could be made that, in terms of educational achievement, industriousness, and entrepreneurial acumen, Asian immigrants to California have proven superior to white natives of the state. Therefore, if California were to experience a wave of mass immigration from Asia, its long-term economic prospects would be improved. Today's Hispanic immigrants would probably have the same effect if they came from the top 10 to 20 percent of their society according to those same measures of human capital rather than from its bottom rungs. But the influx has instead been composed mainly of the poorly educated, the unskilled, and the illiterate. Such immigrants will likely soon dominate the state's overall population and politics...

Given the aging white population (average age, 42), many of these new graduates will have to come from the burgeoning Latino immigrant population (average age, 26). By one estimate, this would require tripling of the number of college-educated immigrants, an impossibility if current trends hold. The state's inability to improve the educational attainment of its residents will result in a "substantial decline in per capita income" and "place California last among the 50 states" by 2020, according to a study by the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems."
(National Review Online, August 24, 2009).

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