Dissertation: Foot in Mouth


Dissertation: Foot in Mouth

Do you know who Jason Richwine is? If not, an easy internet search will show many have labeled him a racist. Why? Because of what he co-authored and authored. Until recently, he worked at the conservative Heritage Foundation. There, he co-authored a study that forecasted a $6.3 trillion dollar burden on U. S. taxpayers if legal amnesty is given to all the current undocumented individuals residing in the U.S.

Another example of politics angling for a knee-jerk reaction by hitting a common nerve in public policy: the Tax Payer’s wallet.

But it wasn’t this study that caused him to resign from the Heritage Foundation. It was his 2009 dissertation titled: IQ and Immigration policy.

His proposed statement. His systemic explanation of principles of certain subjects.

His speculative, analytic, interpretations on selected themes.

His dissertation discusses immigrants and IQ, specifically, he establishes that (mainly Hispanic) immigrants in the U. S. today don’t have “the same cognitive abilities as natives.” Richwine goes on to state that the average IQ of immigrants is substantially lower than “the native white average.”

However, Richwine’s data did show that IQ scores did go up, “slightly,” in the second generation. Whew, I was worried. But  “scores” of Hispanics will “remain well below those of whites, and the differences persist over several generation.” Ouch.

Richwine attributes low IQ as the reason for a Hispanic underclass. His reasoning simple. Hispanics have “the inability to succeed at the same level,” therefore they have no choice but to “disengage from the cultural mainstream.” To be intelligent, complete assimilation is required. Who knew?

To be clear, Jason Richwine is not a racist against Hispanics because Hispanic is not a race. It’s a demographic—a group of multicultural and/or multi-ethnic people who have common Spanish and/or Latin American roots. A disengagement of the cultural mainstream may actually be an integration of multiple mainstream cultures.

He is, however, naïve, tactless, discriminatory, and socially oblivious to what it means to be part of a community, especially when this dissertation allowed him to achieve a Doctorate in Philosophy from Harvard.

Richwine’s dissertation is full of speculation, referencing cherry-picked citations from outdated sources. Sources include George J. Borjas, the chair on the Committee of Public Policy at Harvard—one of three who signed off on his dissertation. Borjas has also been in hot water over his views on immigration, even though he’s an immigrant from Cuba.

However, after the fallout of Richwine’s resignation, Borjas commented:

“In fact, as I know I told Jason early on since I’ve long believed this, I don’t find the IQ academic work all that interesting. Economic outcomes and IQ are only weakly related, and IQ only measures one kind of ability. I’ve been lucky to meet many high-IQ people in academia who are total losers, and many smart, but not super-smart people, who are incredibly successful because of persistence, motivation, etc. So I just think that, on the whole, the focus on IQ is a bit misguided.”

Another member of the committee who signed off was Richard J. Zeckhauser. He has this to say:

“Jason’s empirical work was careful. Moreover, my view is that none of his advisors would have accepted his thesis [if] his empirical work was tilted or in error. However, Richwine was too eager to extrapolate his empirical results to inferences for policy.”

No kidding.

IQ tests are, as Richwine has said in his dissertation, approximations. Yet, he continued to draw conclusions on dated material that may not have been up to speed with how accessible information has become. This can be a pitfall for those in research. Piecemealed sources of info are crystalized and frozen in time, while the world moves forward. New information comes to light on a daily basis. And the reductive methodology for finding a comprehensive formula of intelligence is constantly being revised. Per Richwine, IQ tests a basic common thread of intelligence, mainly scholastic levels. But there’s no test that can predict or determine an individual’s complete skill set, capabilities, and potential for increasing intelligence if given ample resources, let alone determining the complete average group of people. Small control groups and live environment can differ too radically. The best anyone can hope for is an approximation. And even then, results may be short-lived. This doesn’t even account for the creativity factor.

Did he really think his research wasn’t going to be used by opportunists who wanted ammunition against immigration reform as well? The Heritage Foundation has now distanced itself from Richwine, and he can’t legally discuss the conditions of his departure. He’s now become a scapegoat. Other’s now call him a cautionary tale. But he has inadvertently drawn attention back to topics that still need to be addressed: education, the continued and active dialogue about immigration reform, how more current information is needed when extrapolating conclusions, and most importantly, he’s shown that reductive science my not apply. As a silver lining, he may have even prompted a surge of even more future Hispanic Scholars, to further debunk his findings. However, that’s probably more credit than he deserves.

Is he apologetic? No. He “regrets” that he didn’t give more thought to how “the average lay person would perceive things, as opposed to an academic audience.”

He claims he’s not naïve. His stilted statement claims otherwise.