An Article I Hope I Don’t Come to Regret

I recently got back into contact with an old friend of mine from highschool, to find he’d gone completely off the alt-right deepend.

This started with the usual debate about prejudice. Aboriginals in Australia, blacks in the US, he stated that while they were disproportionately incarcerated relative to the general population, it was directly correlated to where you’d expect them to be relative to the crimes committed, and that most crime was minority-on-minority. It wasn’t prejudice, just reality the left found it inconvenient to admit to. You couldn’t say these things not because it wasn’t true, but because it wasn’t politically correct.

These might be arguments you’ve heard before or believe yourself. I freely admit that, when I was younger and growing up in a conservative-leaning family in some ways, I believed it myself.

However, he made a very interesting claim. The reason for this is because they are low-IQ races. If you look at the data, India’s average IQ is 90, and descendants of Europeans are much higher. This is because Europeans are inherently smarter. In fact, the average IQ of a child with one black parent and one white parent is halfway between the average of both parents’ races, proving it’s genetic.

Broadly speaking, and if you took only a superficial look at the data, this is correct. Where I disagreed, however, was his conclusion that this is genetic, and I made a joke that the reason you don’t talk about it in academia isn’t because it’s not ‘politically correct’, but because it’s so thoroughly debunked that it’s as reasonable to study as phrenology.

I was not expecting him to reply: “Why is phrenology not valid? There are structural differences in the skulls between races that correlate to brain mass. Brain mass, when you account for body mass, also correlates with intelligence.”

There was some confusion at first, because I assumed he was joking, but it became very clear he wasn’t. At which point, I said ‘I’m going to need a citation for that. Preferably something academic’.

He provided about a dozen. The first few were dismissed outright, as being a century dated, or not actually relevant. Some were only a sample size of a hundred, and only schizophrenic patients, hardly a representative of the general population. It became very clear that I was reading more of his citations than he had…

But then he linked this, which is perhaps one of the most interesting studies I’ve read.

The study cites that, on average, whites have 10% more brain mass, and deeper wrinkling, than blacks in the US population even when compensating for similar body mass. Both these factors do meaningfully correlate with intelligence, it also confirms.

Some key phrases, knowing that GMA stands for General Mental Ability:

Weighing brains at autopsy, Broca (1873) found that Whites averaged heavier brains than Blacks and had more complex convolutions and larger frontal lobes. Subsequent studies have found an average Black–White difference of about 100 g (Bean, 1906; Mall, 1909; Pearl, 1934; Vint, 1934). Some studies have found that the more White admixture (judged independently from skin color), the greater the average brain weight in Blacks (Bean, 1906; Pearl, 1934). In a study of 1,261 American adults, Ho et al. (1980) found that 811 White Americans averaged 1,323 g and 450 Black Americans averaged 1,223 g (Figure 1). Since the Blacks and Whites were similar in body size, differences in body size cannot explain away the differences in brain weight.


Heritabilities of 50%–80% are found for both brain size and GMA as well as the relation between them.


Evidence suggests that the age, SEP, sex, and population group differences are at least partly heritable because the heritabilities are about the same magnitude in all groups (Jensen, 1998; Plomin, DeFries, McClearn, & McGuffin, 2001).


The preponderance of evidence demonstrates that brain size is correlated positively with intelligence and that both brain size and GMA are correlated with age, socioeconomic position, sex, and population group differences.

So, was the racialist right?

Not quite. Let’s look at one of those inherited traits there, socioeconomic position.

The relationship between head size and occupational status has also been found after correcting for body size. Jensen and Sinha (1993) reviewed much of the literature.[…] Jensen and Sinha analyzed the head circumference data from the National Collaborative Perinatal Project (Broman et al., 1975) of approximately 10,000 White and 12,000 Black 4-year-old children and found a small but significant correlation with social class of origin within both the White and Black populations, after height was controlled for (r = 0.10). Jensen and Sinha also reanalyzed autopsy data reported by Passingham (1979) on 734 men and 305 women and found an overall correlation between brain mass and achieved occupational level of about 0.25, independent of body size.

[…]Johnson et al. (1985), who found that professional and semiprofessional groups averaged significantly larger head sizes (in both length and width) than unskilled occupational groups. Subsequently, Rushton and Ankney (1996) calculated cranial capacities from the summary by Johnson et al. (1985) of Galton’s head size data and found that cranial capacity increased from unskilled to professional classes from 1,324 to 1,468 cm3 in men and from 1,256 to 1,264 cm3 in women. These figures are uncorrected for body size.


Rushton (1992a) used the externally measured cranial size of 6,325 U.S. servicemen and found that officers averaged significantly larger cranial capacities than enlisted personnel either before or after adjusting for the effects of stature, weight, race, and sex (1,384 vs. 1,374 cm3 before adjustments; 1,393 vs. 1,375 cm3 after adjustments). The differences between officers and enlisted personnel were found for both men and women, as well as for East Asians, Whites, and Blacks.


The overall correlation between an individual’s IQ and his or her SEP of origin is between 0.30 and 0.40, and the correlation between IQ and attained SEP, or occupational level, is about 0.50 (Herrnstein & Murray, 1994).


In studies of intergenerational social mobility, Mascie-Taylor and Gibson (1978) and Waller (1971) obtained GMA scores of fathers and their adult sons. They found that, on average, children with lower test scores than their fathers had gone down in SEP as adults, but those with higher test scores had gone up. A within-family study was also conducted by Murray (1998), who found that among the 1,074 sibling pairs in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth who had taken the Armed Forces Qualification Test, the sibling with higher GMA achieved a higher level of education, a higher occupational status, and greater take home pay than the sibling with lower GMA.

I’m trying not to trim these as much as possible, because I want to minimize my own editorializing here.  But from these paragraphs we can draw a notable conclusion:

Those born in higher social classes tend to have larger brains, and those who have larger brains tend to reach higher social classes. The inverse is also true.

This bears out with information from the US College Board:


Now, there are better studies to show this case, like 2017’s “The Paradox of Intelligence: Heritability and Malleability Coexist in Hidden Gene-Environment Interplay” by Bruno Sauce and Louis D. Matzel of Rutgers university.

The reason I am not using those studies is because I am trying to make this case off the same study presented to me as damning proof of racial genetic inferiority.

I come to another possible conclusion from the paper. Family income correlates to better access to education, better nutrition and likeliness to have lead in their water, and those correlate well with growth and development.

In short, there is an observable difference between the races, and that difference is dictated by median income.

In 1970, when many people in this study were raised, the median income for whites was $7,011, while for blacks it was $4,157 — around half. That difference in income is so drastic, it may account for, on average, as much as 50g of brain mass gained between the ages of 4 and 24.

According to the World Bank, hardly a left-leaning organization, income inequality predicts about half of the variance in murder rates between US states, and between countries around the world.

“Crime rates and inequality are positively correlated within countries and, particularly, between countries, and this correlation reflects causation from inequality to crime rates, even after controlling for other crime determinants.”

Income inequality predicts crime rate better than any other variable. But the other variables you might think of; access to education, mental health, and lead levels, all also correlate heavily with income inequality and poverty.

There are many racists who actually know this and have used this socioeconomic trap with malicious intent. There’s Lee Atwater’s infamous Southern Strategy, after all:

You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”

So let’s look at that. Marijuana is made illegal in the year 1970, by the controlled substances act. Today, according to the ACLU, blacks are incarcerated at a far higher rate per capita than whites. In fact, we can even show that visually.

Black-white drug arrests

Now, I couldn’t possibly be suggesting that marijuana was made illegal just to target minorities, could I?

“The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin. And then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities,” Ehrlichman said. “We could arrest their leaders. raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

As you can see hinted by the issues referenced in the Southern Strategy, racism has been a very effective tool at keeping black people poor, but interestingly these issues that are pushed are usually non-racially targeted. As Atwater says, you’re using that rhetoric to push policies that disproportionately hurt black people, but what that means in practice, when you can’t explicitly put race into the law, is making it suck more to be poor.

So here we come to a harsh truth. As Bernie Sanders famously said;

“A black male baby born today, if we do not change the system, stands a one-in-three chance (of) ending up in jail. This is (an) unspeakable tragedy.”

If you go through all the data you find two things, two conclusions.

One: There is horrible discrimination in the United States, right now, against black communities.

Two: If the United States were completely race-blind these are still similar to the outcomes you would expect.

Even though blacks are twice as likely to be shot by police than whites, that number correlates neatly to where you’d expect it to from their lower income bracket, their position of inequality.

From FiveThirtyEight:

Black Americans were especially likely to be killed in poorer neighborhoods. Of the 136 African-Americans killed by police who are in the Guardian’s database, 56 — more than 40 percent — died in tracts in the poorest 20 percent nationally. But that may say more about overall racial inequality than about policing per se: African-Americans were killed in low-income areas at roughly the same rate that they live in them.

That last line seems tautological, but it’s really meant to be hammering home this is a poverty problem, and blacks are disproportionately poor.

And we can see it at a physical, biological level too, looking at that paper above. Sure, if you work really hard, social mobility is possible. But being poor prevents a lot of people from achieving their potential, which keeps them poor. Which messes up their kids.

That cycle of poverty is real. To steal a Thomas Piketty quote from the previous article:

The main force pushing toward reduction in inequality has always been the diffusion of knowledge and the diffusion of education.

However, as we can clearly see, that diffusion isn’t perfect in the US system. Household incomes still have a strong effect as to what your child’s potential is likely to be and where they’re likely to end up.

And we also see where so many of these ‘the poor are stupid, lazy and undeserving’ stereotypes come from. We have a system that tries to ensure intelligence rises — intelligence was found to correlate even higher with attained level of income, after all. The current system is acceptable if the ‘deserving’ are rescued from it, in some way.

As a result, we are led to believe that those at the bottom deserve to be there, and could save themselves with individual merit. We see success cases of those like neurosurgeon Ben Carson rising to the top. From poverty, he taught himself to read, struggled through med school, even practiced as a neurosurgery Senior Registrar in Australia for a year! 

You might have laughed at him on the political circuit, but the man performed hemispherectomys, the most invasive surgical procedure still practiced. He could remove half your brain and you would survive. He was brilliant in his field.

The same man is now raising rent on government provided low-income housing.

“The way we calculate the level of assistance to our families is archaic and has perverse consequences, like discouraging these residents from earning more income,” he says.

The Associated Press adds:

“He has long promoted the idea that too much government support creates a culture of dependency among the recipients. During a 2016 speech at his alma mater, Yale University, Carson said: “Government should not keep people in a dependent state. It should be used as a springboard, and not as a hammock.”

The national average income of families in these houses is $12,000. Yes, that seems to be in 2018 dollars.

Not even growing up and living in these situations yourself makes you immune to the social mobility narrative, as these people kick out the ladders they used themselves. But it pays to remember that ‘pick yourself up by the bootstraps’ was an expression originally meant to mean doing the impossible.

And as we see above, it’s a lot easier to not be poor if you’re born already-not-poor. It’s not an equal or even playing field.

The situation is getting worse. Already in England, income inequality is the worst it’s been since the 1930’s, and that charts directly with its 11% increase in crime annually — from last week’s article.

In the US, between 2009 and 2013, the top 1% took 85% of income growth. And, of course, there’s perhaps my favourite graph of all time:EverythingWrongWithLateStageCapitalism

This means that capital ownership is outpacing workers ability to afford it — the only way to earn money is to already own money. Currently, the bottom fifty percent ‘owns’ more debt than capital. That’s growing too.

This just means that income inequality is going to keep getting worse.

So here’s where we come full circle. In short: it turns out that phrenology is right in some cases! Who knew?

It also turns out, because blacks in the US are disproportionately lower income than the general population as a result of previous racial discrimination, we can now use them as gauge of economic discrimination in the US. In one sense it’s more problematic. Middle class minorities have resources and representation against racial discrimination. The poor lack even those tools.

And, of course, double whammy if you’re a poor minority.

But the problem is becoming more universal. While Charles Murray — that racialism peddler that my former friend from highschool was quoting at the start — might blame it on black genetics mixing through the gene pool, making white people ‘blacker’ and corrupting their IQ…

The United Nations is finding that the US is regressing to the political and economic state of a developing nation. Minorities, I’m afraid to say, just make for a low tide mark.

So there you have it.

On a final short summary: Yes, black people do get shot/incarcerated fairly relative to their offense rates. But that correlates with socioeconomic factors, and from the last year of reliable data I can find, the average black male still earns only 2/3s of what the average white male earns. The income gap hasn’t changed since 1996. Which means that, yeah, there actually might legitimately be a systemic problem there.

My final note here was different, but less than three days before this posted, I got into a debate with Reddit user Titanium_Dragon, who gave some choice quotes in a public Discord server:

Titanium Dragon:
Criminals tend to be poor people, because all the things that predict criminality also predict poverty – poor impulse control, low IQ, low empathy, ect. The “poor people are criminals” stereotype comes from the actual reverse – it isn’t that poor people are criminals (as seen in the Great Recession, and Great Depression, when crime didn’t go up) but that criminals tend to be poor.
Casuality is reversed there.

Ross James:
How so?
Honestly, I’m just trying to explain why black people aren’t poor because they’re all criminals

Titanium Dragon:
That’s not what I said.
Income correlates with higher test scores because the US (and other developed countries) are meritocracies
IQ, for instance, correlates with income to about .4 to .5.
And IQ has a heritability in the US of .75 to .85
People with higher income parents
Are MUCH more likely to have high IQ parents
I voted for Hillary Clinton
You lose.

I don’t say this to pick on the guy, but because I want to make something very clear: What I am talking about above is widely believed by a very certain subsect of otherwise very clever, educated people. And these people will then take this belief, and go on to argue things like poor people aren’t really poor.

Titanium Dragon:
Most “poor” people in the US don’t actually live in material poverty because of our social welfare programs.

I think beliefs like these are genuinely dangerous, especially at this point of history, and I think it is very important to address them whenever you see them.

The people who believe this won’t often tell you in those terms. They know it’s not ‘politically correct’, as the former highschool friend phrased it.  Like the Southern Strategy, they won’t say they believe the poor deserve to be poor, but they will say; “The data just shows-” or “You need to change the culture-”

Remember that the data itself is objective. Their interpretation of it might not be. Remember that the socioeconomics came long before the culture, not after.


2 thoughts on “An Article I Hope I Don’t Come to Regret

  1. “You need to change the culture-”

    I happen to agree. I just happen to think that the people that say that are part of the culture that needs to be changed.


  2. The one thing that you brush up against, that most people just ignore, is why poverty and the such cause the result. One of the reasons is that what a kid gets to eat has massive affect on their development. Even if all other things as equal, if you starve one kid and feed another big healthy meals every day then yeah, when they get older one is going to be smarter than the other as a general rule. It’s not genetics a lot of the time. It’s most often lead in the water or lack of food.


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