Media Bias: Why can’t we talk about IQ?

Article author: 
Jason Richwine
Article publisher: 
Article date: 
9 August 2013
Article category: 
National News
Article Body: 

“IQ is a metric of such dubiousness that almost no serious educational researcher uses it anymore,” the Guardian’s Ana Marie Cox wrote back in May. It was a breathtakingly ignorant statement. Psychologist Jelte Wicherts noted in response that a search for “IQ test” in Google’s academic database yielded more than 10,000 hits — just for the year 2013.

But Cox’s assertion is all too common. There is a large discrepancy between what educated laypeople believe about cognitive science and what experts actually know. Journalists are steeped in the lay wisdom, so they are repeatedly surprised when someone forthrightly discusses the real science of mental ability.

If that science happens to deal with group differences in average IQ, the journalists’ surprise turns into shock and disdain. Experts who speak publicly about IQ differences end up portrayed as weird contrarians at best, and peddlers of racist pseudoscience at worst.

I’m speaking from experience. My Harvard Ph.D. dissertation contains some scientifically unremarkable statements about ethnic differences in average IQ, including the IQ difference between Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites. For four years, the dissertation did what almost every other dissertation does — collected dust in the university library. But when it was unearthed in the midst of the immigration debate, I experienced the vilification firsthand.

...When the firestorm is over, the media’s mindset always resets to a state of comfortable ignorance, ready to be shocked all over again when the next messenger comes along...

In terms of group differences, people of northeast Asian descent have higher average IQ scores than people of European lineage, who in turn have higher average scores than people of sub-Saharan African descent. The average score for Hispanic Americans falls somewhere between the white and black American averages...

So what did I write that created such a fuss? In brief, my dissertation shows that recent immigrants score lower than U.S.-born whites on a variety of cognitive tests. Using statistical analysis, it suggests that the test-score differential is due primarily to a real cognitive deficit rather than to culture or language bias. It analyzes how that deficit could affect socioeconomic assimilation, and concludes by exploring how IQ selection might be incorporated, as one factor among many, into immigration policy...

And what a backlash it was. It started back in May when I coauthored an unrelated study that estimates the fiscal cost of granting amnesty to illegal immigrants. Opponents seeking to discredit that study pointed to my dissertation, and the firestorm was lit. Reporters pulled the dissertation quotes they found “shocking”...

As with all the past incidents, most reporters learned nothing about IQ and seemed indifferent to any lessons for public policy...

But I see little value in speculating further about causes. Change is what’s needed. And the first thing for reporters, commentators, and non-experts to do is to stop demonizing public discussion of IQ differences. Stop calling names. Stop trying to get people fired. Most of all, stop making pronouncements about research without first reading the literature or consulting people who have...



Jason Richwine, Ph.D., co-authored the irrefutable study "$6.3 Trillion Fiscal Cost of Illegal Immigration and Amnesty to US Taxpayer", Heritage Foundation, May, 2013. The mainstream media, eager to grasp on to any straw that might deflate the significance of the report, attacked Richwine on the basis of his Ph.D. research.

In an act demonstrative of true cowardice, the Heritage Foundation' new inept management buckled under mainstream media pressure, forcing Richwine to leave the foundation.