May 14, 2005

Chicago Sun-Times Review Blows Away 4th Grade Quality Book Report on Freakonomics in New York Times Book Review:

The little girl whose book report said, "This book told me more about penguins than I cared to know," brought a more critical perspective to analyzing Steven D. Levitt's abortion-cut-crime theory than Jim Holt's Freakonomics review in the NYT, which simply consists of elementary school-style summarization with zero skepticism or outside Googling to find the facts that Levitt is covering up. Holt burbles:

And the balance [of the crime decline]? Here is where Levitt and his collaborator, John Donohue of Stanford Law School, showed unsettling originality. Since abortion was legalized in 1973, around a million and a half women a year have ended unwanted pregnancies.


But, as Levitt has admitted, many of those abortions were of pregnancies that wouldn't have been conceived without legalized abortion.


Many of the women taking advantage of Roe v. Wade have been unmarried, poor and in their teens. Childhood poverty and a single-parent household are two of the strongest predictors of future criminality.


Of course, the percentage of children raised in single-parent families soared as abortion became common, and didn't start to level off until after the abortion rate started to drop in the early 1990s. The 1996 study "An Analysis of Out-Of-Wedlock Births in the United States" by George A. Akerlof and Janet L. Yellen of the Brookings Institute and the Federal Reserve Board, respectively, shows the impact of legalized abortion on outmoding the shotgun marriage. So, one effect of legalizing abortion was to increase "unwantedness" because it reduced pregnant women's moral leverage in getting their boyfriends to marry them.


As it happens, the crime rate started to drop in the early 1990's, just as children in the first post-Roe cohort were hitting their late teens, the criminal's prime.


For the one millionth time, the crime rate was dropping in the early 1990s among those born before legalization. Among those born after legalization, it was rising, with both the murder and serious violent crime rates among youths 17 and under peaking in 1993 and 1994.


Hence Levitt and Donohue's audacious claim: the crime drop was, in economists' parlance, an ''unintended benefit'' of legalized abortion.

A controlled experiment to test the truth of this theory is obviously out of the question. In ''Freakonomics,'' however, Levitt does the next best thing, teasing out subtle correlations that render the abortion-crime link more probable. (States like New York and California that legalized abortion before Roe v. Wade, for example, showed the earliest drops in crime.) In the social sciences, that is about as close as you can get to demonstrating causation.


It's remarkable how many reviewers cite this early decline in crime in New York and California as Levitt's devastating trump card, because anybody familiar with the history of gangsta rap ought to remember that those were among the first places where the teen crime rate went up. As Levitt admitted to me in 1999, “[T]he high abortion places like New York and California tended to have a bigger crack problem, and tended to have crack arrive earlier.” In other words, the two big urban areas that were the first to enjoy the purported crime-fighting benefits of legalized abortion in 1970, New York City and Los Angeles, were also the ground zeroes of the teen murder rampage that began, perhaps not coincidentally, about 16 years later. That the crack wars burned out there earlier too is hardly proof that abortion drove down the crime rate overall.


I realize that book reviewing doesn't pay enough to rationally justify doing any work other than this kind of summarization, but don't any of these people who have swallowed Levitt's theory hook, line, and sinker have any self-respect? Doesn't anybody anymore feel a thrill when watching Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon tell the seductive but homicidal femme fatale "I won't play the sap for you"? Why does the punditariat these days positively want to play the sap for deftly-marketed hooey?


I hope my review of Thomas Sowell's new book Black Rednecks and White Liberals that will appear Sunday night in VDARE.com shows what a motivated reviewer can actually accomplish in adding to the public's understanding rather than just summarizing a book.


IN SHARP CONTRAST to the laziness and credulity of the NYT "critic," the reviewer in the more blue-collar Chicago Sun-Times, Thomas Roesser, actually did some Google work before writing his review of Freakonomics, which is headlined "A good book errs on link between abortion, crime rate:"


Magazine writer
and blog-meister Steve Sailer sails in with more data. Murder rates are now rising, says the FBI. From 1999 through 2002 (the latest data available), the murder rate jumped 17 percent among 25- to 34-year-olds born long after Roe. ''[T]he most obvious explanation for the ups and downs of the murder rate is the ups and downs of the crack business,'' he says. ''This generation, born right after legalization, is better behaved today in part because so many of its bad apples are now confined to prisons, wheelchairs and coffins.''

These are interesting challenges to a book that is causing Americans to debate its findings at office water coolers and at cocktail parties. It turns out that Sailer had debated Levitt on these facts before the book was published. Why weren't Sailer's facts taken into consideration when Levitt wrote the book? This he doesn't seem to do -- at least when confronted by Bill O'Reilly on Fox News the other night. It's a good book. Now, if Levitt would respond to Lott's and Sailer's challenge in our letters to the editor, it would be even better!


My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

May 13, 2005

Elvis Levitt

A reader with experience as an inner city social worker points out that Steven D. Levitt is the Elvis of Economics in more ways than one:

A couple of further observations on abortion and crime:

First, it's fascinating to see Conventional Wisdom taking shape right before my eyes. Usually the process is not nearly so obvious, and has to be pieced together after the fact.

Second, reading about Levitt's theory that abortion cuts crime by culling unwanted babies reminds me of that old Elvis Presley song called "In the Ghetto." It went:

As the snow flies
On a cold and gray Chicago morn
A poor little baby child is born
In the ghetto
And his mama cries
Cause if there’s one thing that she don’t need
It’s another hungry mouth to feed
In the ghetto

Remember that one? It's the one where The King showed how sensitive and politically aware and stuff he was.

What the fans of Elvis and Levitt fail to get is that poor women don’t necessarily see their situation the same way middle class folks do. They may actually love their little bastard babies!

Middle class types see poor unwed teenage mothers as Scum of the Earth and a Terrible Social Problem. But poor women don’t see themselves that way. Instead, they think of themselves as human beings facing the age-old challenge of getting along in the world -- and, if they're lucky, passing their genes on to the next generation.

Unbelievable, I know. But bear with me for just a minute and try to see it from their point of view.

If you're a young underclass woman, one of the first things you notice is that there are not many marriage-worthy men in your social milieu. A whole lot of them are unemployed or in prison or dead.

So even though you may want to get married, you figure your prospects are pretty dim. If you wait to marry before having children, you probably won't have children.

You might as well have them now because, well, why wait? You're not getting any younger. More to the point, your mother and other female relatives are not getting any younger. And since they're the ones you'll have to rely on for child care and support, it's important to have your kids before they develop Type II diabetes and kidney failure and all the other health problems that tend to afflict black underclass folks more than white privileged types.

Will having kids hold back your career? Well, if you have an IQ of 80 and are looking for a reason to drop out of high school anyway, then no.

You’ve probably already figured out that your prospects of a good job are dim, and getting dimmer by the day, especially with immigrants flooding in by the millions to take the few jobs you're qualified to do.

So for you, its not a choice of a ghastly life as a welfare mother or good life in the burbs. Fate and the immigration mavens have already decreed that you will get mostly crumbs from America's bounteous economic table. The only choice you have is between a crummy life with kids or a crummy life without kids.

Your lack of career prospects just makes having kids look that much more attractive. Children are about the only thing you can produce that people will view as being truly valuable.

Besides, if you can't count on a spouse for love and companionship, kids become doubly important because they'll be the only family you’ve got.

So becoming a single mother makes quite a bit of sense to you. You realize it’s a scary prospect and a hard life, but what are your options?

You may not exactly be looking to get pregnant, but when it happens -- well, is it really all bad? Lots of others have done it before you. In fact, in your neighborhood, girls who have babies out of wedlock are becoming the norm.

The only people who can't seem to grasp what is going on here are the Really Smart Guys. Even though it should be getting pretty obvious by now, especially since the black illegitimacy rate is close to 70 percent. Admittedly, most of these out of wedlock pregnancies may not have been "planned" or "intended" in any sense that a middle class observer could understand. But that doesn’t mean they're necessarily "unwanted."

Seen from this perspective, poor women who have abortions are likely to be the strivers and achievers. They're the ones who see some prospect of improving their lives, and realize it may hold them back if they have five kids by four fathers. They're the ones who are trying, in their own way, to make good.

Inability to grasp what is wrong with Levitt's argument seems to be a case of "I'll see it when I believe it." Maybe all the bright guys who can't believe what's going on in the underclass world should ditch Elvis and listen to Fantasia Barrino sing:

Nowadays it's like a badge of honor
To be a baby mama...
Cause we the backbone of the hood.


My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Wolfowitzian History:

George F. Will writes a laudatory column about Paul Wolfowitz entitled "Paul Wolfowitz: A Realist -- Really" that begins:

As he retires as deputy secretary of defense and becomes head of the World Bank, the man most responsible for the doctrinal justification of the Iraq War, and who has been characterized as representing Woodrow Wilson's utopian, rather than the realist, strain in American foreign policy, begs to differ. The question, he says, is who has been realistic for almost four decades.

The sprouting of freedom through the fissures in the concrete of dictatorships began, he recalls, in Greece, Spain and Portugal in the mid-1970s. This, he believes, disturbed Soviet leaders, and should have;...

That's a ... novel interpretation of the history of the mid-1970s.

Uh, Paul, the mid-1970s were not disturbing times for the Brezhnev regime. No, 1974-1979 were the glory years.

Along with the communist takeover of Southeast Asia in 1975, which was not a triumph of freedom and a humiliating defeat for the U.S. besides, the leftist military coup that overthrew the right wing Portuguese dictatorship in 1974 allowed the Soviets to make Portugal's ex-colonies Mozambique and Angola into satellites, giving the Soviets an excuse to inject Cuban troops into Africa. (Granted, Mozambique and Angola are worthless countries to have on your side, but at the time that wasn't as clear, and picking them up gave the Soviets the appearance of having momentum and historical inevitability on their side. Indeed, the Kremlin almost turned Portugal itself into a satellite in 1975.

The Greek colonels who fell in 1974 had only been in power for seven years, and their regime collapsed due to their incompetent adventuring in Cyprus, which brought about the Turkish military seizure of the northern part of the island. That two NATO members were at the brink of all-out war with each other did not disturb the Kremlin.

Finally, Franco's dictatorship lasted his entire lifetime and expired only when he did in 1976. In contrast to the chaos that played into Soviet hands in Portugal and Greece, Franco's designated successor, King Juan Carlos, remains head of state today.

As Greg Cochran always says: nobody remembers anything. Apparently, George F. Will doesn't remember the 1970s because he doesn't call Wolfowitz on his BS.

Bloggers are constantly dislocating their shoulders patting themselves on the back about how they are checking up on the powers that be, but is their any evidence that public figures are less inclined to spout self-serving nonsense today than in the past?


My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

May 12, 2005

"Crash" with Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon, Sandra Bullock, Brendan Fraser, by Paul Haggis

My review in The American Conservative will be available to electronic subscribers this weekend. To read my film reviews while the movies are still in the the theatre, you have to subscribe):

On Los Angeles' Wilshire Boulevard in 1991, during the murderous crack era, two young black men shoved snub-nosed .38s in the faces of screenwriter Paul Haggis and his wife and car-jacked their new Porsche. Out of that horrifying incident grew Haggis' directorial debut, the ensemble drama "Crash."

More than making up for the phoniness of his portrayal of women's boxing in "Million Dollar Baby," Haggis's "Crash" is perhaps the most honest movie yet about how America's racial patterns in crime generate corrosive, but sadly accurate, ethnic prejudices...

As two African-American men emerge from an expensive restaurant, one (played well by rapper Ludacris) entertainingly rants about how their waitress gave them poor service just because they are black. While his sidekick points out that she was black, too, they pass L.A.'s district attorney (Brendan Fraser of "The Mummy") and his Brentwood socialite wife (Sandra Bullock of "Speed"). Although heavily Botoxed, she visibly flinches at the sight of black guys just walking past her. This blatant racism enrages Ludacris, so he chooses the DA's Lincoln Navigator as tonight's vehicle to car-jack.

Afterwards, the DA groans, "Why'd they have to be black?" Calculating that the news is going to cost him either the black vote or the "law-and-order vote," he immediately instructs his aides to find some black to publicly promote.

Meanwhile, a black LAPD detective (Don Cheadle of "Hotel Rwanda") is investigating a road rage incident in which a white undercover policeman shot an out-of-control off-duty black cop. The DA's oily Irish-American fixer (character actor William Fichtner) lets Cheadle know the boss wants to prosecute the white cop to appease black voters, so he's not happy when Cheadle reveals the dead black officer had $300,000 in his trunk. (This is based on a 1997 LAPD scandal.)

The politico blurts out his frustration at how the tidy deals he engineers are constantly undermined by black malfeasance. "Why do blacks get themselves thrown in prison eight times more often per capita than whites?" he demands of Cheadle, who has no answer. Cheadle finally agrees to frame the innocent white cop in exchange for a promotion and the dropping of felony charges against his younger brother (who turns out to be one of the car-jackers).


Despite its admirable candor, "Crash" is not a realistic film. The immensity of L.A. means that Angelenos seldom run into other people they know by accident. Some L.A. screenwriters respond by crafting intricate coincidence-driven plots about a fantasy L.A. where everyone knows everyone else, as in Paul Thomas Anderson's "Magnolia" or Alex Cox's brilliant "Repo Man." Similarly, "Crash" slams together the lives of about 16 Angelenos of every ethnic group (except, oddly enough, Jewish) in a chain-reaction of racial conflicts.

Haggis imposes two more implausible but intensifying rules. Each character has clich├ęd qualities, both good and bad. The Irish cop (superbly portrayed by Matt Dillon of "Drugstore Cowboy") resents blacks' affirmative action privileges but risks his life to save a black woman he once abused. The immigrant Iranian shopkeeper is industrious yet also a touchy hothead. The Mexican locksmith is a good family man, while sporting alarming gang tattoos on his neck.

Finally, every character in "Crash" must bark out his innermost negative views about the race of every other character he collides with. In the opening scene, for example, an impolite Korean woman rear-ends the car driven by a Latino lady, who explains to her exactly what she (and everyone else in L.A.) thinks of Asian women drivers.

The mostly minority L.A. audience at my showing found this unlikely in-your-face frankness a hoot, an enjoyable holiday from the public politeness prevailing among Angelenos, whose social template was laid down long ago by upbeat Midwesterners.

Moreover, since 1992, when the LAPD, rather than be further condemned for brutality after Rodney King's beating, let a drunken mob run amok at Florence and Normandie, resulting in much of the city being burned down, law-abiding citizens have bought lots of guns for self-defense. And, as Robert A. Heinlein pointed out, "An armed society is a polite society."

"Crash" is too contrived to be a great movie, but it's a contrivance of an unusually high order.

Rated R for language, sexual content and some violence.



My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

The Pathetic State of Book Criticism

The prestigious Economist runs a review of Freakonomics that's characteristic of contemporary book reviewing, which has become merely a larger-vocabulary version of the old book reports you did in grade school: just a summary of what the book says with negligible critical analysis. The Economist's anonymous reviewer simply recaps Levitt's arguments for his abortion-cut-crime theory. How hard would it have been for him to discover from Google that there is a bit of an empirical controversy over the subject? But book reviewing has become merely a branch of expository writing.

What's amusing about the Economist review is that one bit of evidence the reviewer cites in support of Levitt actually contradicts him:

One of his best-known, and in some quarters notorious, findings concerns America's falling crime-rate during the 1990s. Towards the end of that decade, confounding the expectations of most analysts, the teenage murder rate fell by more than 50% in the space of five years;

Okay, but abortion was liberalized in 15 states in 1970 and legalized in 1973, and now you are saying that the teenage murder rate fell sharply more than 20 years later??? Somebody forgot to count on their fingers.

Levitt claims the NYT is going to give Freakonomics a rave this weekend. Let's see if that reviewer does any work on the issue...

In contrast, Ann Marlowe does a lot of heavy lifting in reviewing Freakonomics for the New York Observer, raising serious questions about the abortion-cut-crime hypothesis.

By the way, Ann was the one who asked Ahmed Chalabi about my article on cousin marriage and whether the high degree of inbred clannishness in Iraq would work against democracy.


My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Statistics on "Unwanted Pregnancies"

Levitt's simplistic model of how abortion would cut crime by reducing "unwanted" births founders when you look at two facts: that, as Levitt admits, legalizing abortion greatly increased the number of unintended pregnancies, and that a lot of those unintended pregnancies go on to get born.

Physicians for Reproductive Health and the Alan Guttmacher Institute provide data that shows Levitt's simplistic model of "unwantedness" is a joke when applied to the real world. According to 1994 data, a full 48% of the 6.3 million pregnancies in the U.S. were unintended. Out of those 3.1 million unintended pregnancies, 47% were aborted, 13% miscarried, and a full 40% were born, or close to 1.25 million unintended births annually -- all with legalized abortion! This makes a hash out of Levitt's neat little model. I don't know what the overall effect is on who gets born, and he doesn't either.


My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

It Takes a Selectionist to Catch a Selectionist

Because "selectionist" thinking is so verboten in American intellectual life today, the chattering classes have no practice in thinking critically about selectionist theories, as opposed to demonizing them as Thoughtcrime. So, they are saps for a selectionist, like Steven D. Levitt, when he tells them something they wanted to hear. As I pointed out in my Slate debate with Levitt way back in 1999:

The widespread assumption that your theory must be correct reveals just how many people deep down believe, whether they admit it publicly or not, that "certain people" are just permanently more incorrigible than others. As a contender for the World's Least Politically Correct Human, I'm sympathetic. It's ironic, but because I've been arguing for years that genetic diversity affects society, I was one of the few to notice in this particular case that crime has risen and fallen not because we are aborting the poor and black and unwanted, but because of that staple of genteel liberal commentary, Cultural Forces (e.g., crack).


My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Gay men and pheromones:

A lot of attention has been paid to Nicholas Wade's NYT article "For Gay Men, an Attraction to a Different Kind of Scent" about a study that found:

Using a brain imaging technique, Swedish researchers have shown that homosexual and heterosexual men respond differently to two odors that may be involved in sexual arousal, and that the gay men respond in the same way as women.

It's not terribly amazing that gay men are more like women than straight men on a particular trait. (Back in 1994 in "Why Lesbians Aren't Gay," I listed three dozen common traits for gay men and found they were more like straight women than straight men on roughly half the measures, just as lesbians are more like straight men than straight women about half the time. Gays are most like lesbians on only a few traits.)

However, the story is drawing attention for the two reasons Wade summarizes:

The new research may open the way to studying human pheromones, as well as the biological basis of sexual preference.

As Wade makes clear later on, pheromones have long been an underachiever. A decade ago they held the promise of revealing a sixth sense among humans, a sort of subsonic or infrared sense of smell. Perfume companies tried to bring out pheromone-based products that would drive the opposite sex wild, but nothing much panned out. So, any positive finding about pheromones is news, although the odds remain high that pheromones aren't terribly important among humans.

And, of course, anything about the biology of sexual orientation tends to be a nine-days-wonder. I do need to point out that the normally highly reliable Wade muffs up an important point about the putative gay gene when he writes:

Some researchers believe there is likely to be a genetic component of homosexuality because of its concordance among twins. The occurrence of male homosexuality in both members of a twin pair is 22 percent in nonidentical twins but rises to 52 percent in identical twins.

That's from an outdated study, unfortunately, which had some methodological problems with how it recruited its sample (advertising in a gay newspaper) that biased it in favor of a higher concordance rate, because concordant gay twins had twice the chance of seeing the ad in the gay newspaper than nonconcordant twins. I asked Prof. J. Michael Bailey of Northwestern U. about what is the state of the art in this field. He replied:

That figure is mine, and it was the best I could do at the time. A better figure was from 2000 and was about 20%, still well above 2-4%, the base rate in the population.

So, if one member of a pair of male identical twins is gay, four out of five times the other twin will be straight. (I don't believe Bailey is fully satisfied with this second study of his either, but by starting with the Australian government's official twin registry, it's an improvement over the first study ).

That 20% is a rather low concordance rate compared to other traits. So, about all that we can safely say about the cause(s) of male homosexuality is that the topic remains one of leading scientific mysteries of the 21st Century.


My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Steven Pinker debates Elizabeth Spelke over the Larry Summers issue

here. Pinker is so strong at debate that the only way to have made it a fair fight is to make him argue the incorrect side of the topic. One highlight:

SPELKE: In science, the judgments are subjective, every step of the way. Who's really talented? Who deserves bigger lab space? Who should get the next fellowship? Who should get promoted to tenure? These decisions are not based on clear and objective criteria. These are the cases where you see discrimination persisting...

PINKER: But that makes the wrong prediction: the harder the science, the greater the participation of women! We find exactly the opposite: it's the most subjective fields within academia — the social sciences, the humanities, the helping professions — that have the greatest representation of women. This follows exactly from the choices that women express in what gives them satisfaction in life. But it goes in the opposite direction to the prediction you made about the role of objective criteria in bringing about gender equity. Surely it's physics, and not, say, sociology, that has the more objective criteria for success.

Unable to come up with a reply, Spelke changed the subject.

As I wrote last winter in The American Conservative :

The more meritocratic the field, the more feminists accuse it of discriminating against women. In mathematics, new proofs either quickly fail or are accepted forever. In contrast, women flourish most in notoriously faddish, cliquish domains like the humanities. In Harvard's English department, 20 out of 51 professors are women, and at less exclusive colleges, they often comprise a majority.


My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Beating Up on Russia Is Easy and Fun

precisely because Russia is so weak today. The problem is that its new status as the Sick Man of Eurasia is similar to that of the old Ottoman Empire's role as the Sick Man of Europe in the 19th and early 20th Centuries, which caused so much trouble. The U.S. needs a Russia that's not falling apart to keep the Chinese from thinking about the many uses of a strong military and instead keep the Chinese focused on playing well with others.

In "Don't let Russian bear take US eyes off Chinese dragon," John Hughes writes in the Christian Science Monitor:

... the most significant change in China is that the government has eliminated funding for the majority of newspapers and media outlets. They must be self-supporting. Hence the executives in a modern, 50-story building in southern China which produces a bunch of newspapers with state-of-the-art technology are hungry, in their new profit-oriented orientation, to learn foreign management techniques.

In the 1890s, new printing technology lowered the cost of newspapers to a penny apiece, creating a paying mass audience for news for the first time. New York press barons William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer responded to less sophisticated new readers by hyping Spanish atrocities in Cuba (which, by the way, were pretty awful). This played a major role in bringing about America's war with Spain. Will the new Chinese mass market for capitalist news be too different?

Hughes continues:

What this and other evidence suggests is that the world's concern should be not so much with the eroding communist ideology in China that has failed almost everywhere else in the world, but the vigorous Chinese nationalism that seems gradually to be supplanting it.


My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Dan Seligman on the Decline in Crime:

In Forbes, Seligman writes:

The New York Times can't quite grasp the concept, but there's a stunningly simple explanation for the huge drop in crime rates: The villains are behind bars. A big story, inadequately memorialized by the media, is that crime in America has become a much smaller story. Crime rates have declined by a third since the early 1990s. Violent crimes--defined by the U.S. Justice Department as homicide, rape, robbery and assault--are down by some 60% since 1993.

Counterintuitive as it might seem, this happy result came about via a massive government social program. The program did not promote job training or administer therapy to thugs. Instead it consisted of putting them behind bars. Today's jail and prison population of 2.1 million is 53% above the 1993 number and roughly triple the 1984 number.

The connection of incarceration to crime rates is hard to ignore. The number of Americans in prison during 1984-2003 correlates -0.71 with the number of violent crimes in the country. That powerful negative coefficient says that increases in the prison population go hand in hand with declines in crimes committed.

The only part of this argument that makes sense is the assertion that our "three strikes and you're out" laws and drug laws are putting away a certain number of relatively harmless folks. But the magnitude of this problem has been wildly overstated. The "nonviolent" prison population is indeed sizable, but it isn't harmless. Last year the Justice Department's statistical bureau turned in a group portrait of inmates who were about to be released after serving time for nonviolent offenses. The data tell us that 95% had an arrest history before the arrest that led to their current imprisonment. On average they had 9.3 prior arrests and about a third of these had been for violent crimes. The fact is that a sizable proportion of criminals sentenced for nonviolent offenses like buying dope is, in fact, chronically violent.

Several weeks ago Charles Murray wrote an article for the London Times on the United Kingdom's growing criminal underclass. The U.K. is, it happens, one of the European countries with incarceration rates far lower than America's. England and Wales combined have a prison population of around 75,000 and a crime problem widely identified as out of control. Citing the American experience, Murray suggested that the British could substantially reduce crime if they were willing to go to an inmate level of around 250,000. Maybe, if enough Brits get mugged in coming years, they would be willing.

Murray was quoted in the Sunday Times:

“The US has dealt with the problem of the underclass by putting 2m people in jail, which has had a big impact. We haven’t rehabilitated anyone but just kept them out of society. It is not a happy solution but it is the only solution.”


My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Well, at least Levitt has a theory!

Dave Friedman blogs something that I've seen in similar words in many other places:

"All the arguments opposed to Levitt's that I have seen merely argue that Levitt is incorrect. They do not provide an alternative explanation for the reduction in crime. A successful critique of his argument would, I think, propose an alternative explanation."

That's not how science works. For example, if I take some scientific mystery that's not well understood, such as "What Came Before the Big Bang?" and I assert that the Big Bang was caused by commie pinkos fluoridating the water supply, well, the fact that you might not have an alternative hypothesis doesn't mean I win, or even that my idea should be treated respectfully.

The essence of the scientific method is the falsification of hypotheses. The falsifiers may not be as attractive figures as the hypothesizers, but their job is just as necessary.

Anyway, it's not as if we lack alternative hypotheses. Levitt himself lists a number of perfectly reasonable factors that he believes helped bring about the decline in crime -- the end of the crack wars, the vast increase in imprisonment, the addition of policemen, etc. I suspect those are correct and they may just have had an even larger influence than Levitt claims they did. Further, there are plenty of plausible theories he has never investigated. The crack wars permanently snuffed out the criminal careers of tens of thousands of the most dangerous young criminals by getting them murdered by other young criminals. I'd also point to the growth in popularity of smoking marijuana instead of crack among urban youths. Another likely factor is the increased moral traditionalism that emerged in the early 1990s: the abortion rate dropped sharply and the illegitimacy rate plateaued after a long, long increase.

Also, a lot of Levitt's supporters tend to assume that because some observers predicted an increase in crime in the late 1990s, then, because they were wrong, Levitt deserves credit as a seer. But, of course, Levitt didn't predict anything. He wrote in 1999, using crime data through 1997, by which time the big drop in crime was already in the books. It's easy to pick Giacomo to win the Kentucky Derby after the race is run. The funny thing, of course, is that the Levitt Effect doesn't even match up with what happened in the past when the history is looked at at the appropriate level of detail.

Now, lets make a prediction based on the putative Levitt Effect. The abortion rate per 1000 white women aged 15-44 dropped steadily from about 19 in 1991 to about 11 in 1999. (The black abortion rate dropped too, although not by not as large a percentage.) If Levitt believed in the Levitt Effect, then he should be predicting a sizable increase in the white juvenile (17 and under) violent crime rate over the decade or so beginning about 2007. Yet, I haven't heard Levitt raising the alarm about the coming generation of less culled white boys.

Of course, the Levitt Effect signally failed to predict the past, so it's effectiveness at predicting the future is doubtful as well.

Indeed, it's interesting that the decline in the abortion rate occurred during the same period as the decline in crime. Similarly, the illegitimacy rate among blacks started falling about 1995. In Levitt's "unwantedness" model, it's implied (but never stated) that abortion fights illegitimacy. Yet, when the abortion rate was going up in the 1970s, so was the illegitimacy rate. When the abortion rate among blacks was going down in the 1990s, the illegitimacy rate went down.

I suspect that what happened was that the catastrophe of the crack years inspired a rebirth of moral traditionalism that helped bring down, crime, abortion, and illegitimacy.


My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

May 11, 2005

Well, at least Levitt has a theory!

Dave Friedman blogs something that I've seen in similar words in many other places:

"All the arguments opposed to Levitt's that I have seen merely argue that Levitt is incorrect. They do not provide an alternative explanation for the reduction in crime. A successful critique of his argument would, I think, propose an alternative explanation."

That's not how science works. For example, if I take some mystery that's not well understood, such as "What Came Before the Big Bang?" and I assert that the Big Bang was caused by fluoridation of the water supply, well, the fact that you might not have an alternative hypothesis doesn't mean I win, or even that my idea should be treated respectfully.

The essence of the scientific method is the falsification of hypotheses. The falsifiers may not be as attractive figures as the hypothesizers, but their job is just as necessary.

Anyway, it's not as if we lack alternative hypotheses. Levitt himself lists a number of perfectly reasonable factors that he believes helped bring about the decline in crime -- the end of the crack wars, the vast increase in imprisonment, the addition of policemen, etc. I suspect those are correct and they may just have had an even larger influence than Levitt claims they did. Further, there are plenty of plausible theories he has never investigated. The most obvious is the increased moral traditionalism that emerged in the early 1990s: the abortion rate dropped sharply and the illegitimacy rate plateaued after a long, long increase.

Also, a lot of Levitt's supporters tend to assume that because some observers predicted an increase in crime in the late 1990s, then, because they were wrong, Levitt deserves credit as a seer. But, of course, Levitt didn't predict anything. He wrote in 1999, using crime data through 1997, by which time the big drop in crime was already in the books. It's easy to pick Giacomo to win the Kentucky Derby after the race is run. The funny thing, of course, is that the Levitt Effect doesn't even match up with what happened in the past when the history is looked at at the appropriate level of detail.

Now, lets make a prediction based on the putative Levitt Effect. The abortion rate per 1000 white women aged 15-44 dropped steadily from about 19 in 1991 to about 11 in 1999. (The black abortion rate dropped too, although not by not as large a percentage.) If Levitt believed in the Levitt Effect, then he should be predicting a sizable increase in the white juvenile (17 and under) violent crime rate over the decade or so beginning about 2007. Yet, I haven't heard Levitt raising the alarm about the coming generation of less culled white boys.

Of course, the Levitt Effect signally failed to predict the past, so it's effectiveness at predicting the future is doubtful as well.

Indeed, it's interesting that the decline in the abortion rate occurred during the same period as the decline in crime. Similarly, the illegitimacy rate among blacks started falling about 1995. In Levitt's "unwantedness" model, it's implied (but never stated) that abortion fights illegitimacy. Yet, when the abortion rate was going up in the 1970s, so was the illegitimacy rate. When the abortion rate among blacks was going down in the 1990s, the illegitimacy rate went down.

I suspect that what happened was that the catastrophe of the crack years inspired a rebirth of moral traditionalism that helped bring down, crime, abortion, and illegitimacy.


My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

The White Michael Vick:

For years, football coaches attempted to convert black quarterbacks to wide receivers, defensive backs, or other less prominent positions where the black quarterbacks' typically greater athleticism made them more of a sure-thing at making the team than at quarterback, but now the tide has turned. For example, the phenomenally gifted Atlanta QB Michael Vick was recently given the biggest contract in the NFL even though he has yet to prove he has NFL-quality accuracy as a thrower.

Now, it's white quarterbacks who are getting short-changed.

Perhaps the most phenomenal athlete in this year's NFL draft was Arkansas's 6'-6" 242 lb. quarterback Matt Jones who rushed for over 2,500 yards in college (6.6 yards per carry) and threw for 5,800 yards (55% completion rate) and 55 touchdowns with 30 interceptions. He ran a 4.37 40 yard dash, comparable to the most reliable reported time for Vick of 4.36 (although there is a lot of speculation about Vick being faster than that). Jones has a 39.5 inch vertical leap. He was also a starter on Arkansas's basketball team. His Wonderlic score was a little low for a quarterback (19 or IQ of 98) but not atrocious. And he made the honor roll while playing Division 1-A football and basketball, which is impressive.

Jones doesn't have Vick's rocket arm, but he is a half-foot taller which means he can see over huge linemen much better.

But, Jones is white, so in the post-season collegiate all star games, he played as a receiver, where he dazzled scouts with his hands. One observer compared him to USC's awesome Mike Williams, saying Jones is taller, heavier, faster, and has better hands.

Of course, wide receiver is mostly a black position, so lots of NFL guys tried to talk Jones into playing tight end, a position where whites are more common. Chris Mortensen of ESPN wrote:

"You know, it's funny," one AFC head coach told me last week. "We asked [Jones] about putting on some weight and playing tight end, and he made it clear that he thought it was foolish. He said, 'So you want me to put on 20 pounds and be a 4.57 guy instead of a 4.37 guy?' When you put that into context, you have to admit he makes sense.

Still, why not take a chance on this guy turning into a run and pass quarterback in the mold of Vick and Donovan McNabb? If he was black, there'd be an outcry against turning him into a receiver as racial prejudice in action, but because he's white, it's simply assumed that he can't run well enough to be adequate at QB until he learns how to be a good passer (just as McNabb didn't become a really good passer until last season, his sixth in the league, and Vick isn't there yet).

*

Caste Football has some irritable but interesting reflections on the draft.


My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

May 10, 2005

Malcolm Gladwell on the Flynn Effect

When Gladwell isn't crippled by political correctness or by his hunger for corporate ka-ching, he remains an insightful commentator. Here he writes about Steven Johnson's book on the Flynn Effect:

Being “smart” involves facility in both kinds of thinking—the kind of fluid problem solving that matters in things like video games and I.Q. tests, but also the kind of crystallized knowledge that comes from explicit learning. If Johnson’s book has a flaw, it is that he sometimes speaks of our culture being “smarter” when he’s really referring just to that fluid problem-solving facility. When it comes to the other kind of intelligence, it is not clear at all what kind of progress we are making, as anyone who has read, say, the Gettysburg Address alongside any Presidential speech from the past twenty years can attest. The real question is what the right balance of these two forms of intelligence might look like. “Everything Bad Is Good for You” doesn’t answer that question.

America's stumbling into the War in Error in Iraq does not suggest that we know more today than in the past. Our taste for thinking hard about serious things does not appear any greater, especially when we have so many clever distractions so readily available.

For example, the number of IQ points burned every year these days in the study of baseball statistics is phenomenal. A funny (or perhaps not so amusing) example of this is how much more critical comment Steven D. Levitt has elicited by attacking Michael Lewis' book Moneyball, which praises Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane's use of advanced statistics to find winning ballplayers for cheap, than by trumpeting his Swiss Cheese theory that abortion-cut-crime, an assertion that most commentators have accepted on faith. You can see the red-hot controversy over Levitt's heresy on the Oakland A's here, here, and here.

Gregory Cochran looked at how much adult Americans know today about things of real world importance versus in the past for The American Conservative and discovered the answer in both cases was: not much.

Still, I'm tired of hearing comparisons of the sophistication of "The Sopranos" to lowbrow old time mass market TV shows, as in this quote from Gladwell:

To watch an episode of “Dallas” today is to be stunned by its glacial pace—by the arduous attempts to establish social relationships, by the excruciating simplicity of the plotline, by how obvious it was. A single episode of “The Sopranos,” by contrast, might follow five narrative threads, involving a dozen characters who weave in and out of the plot.

Look, "Dallas" was for morons then, too. I took a train ride in Italy in 1980, sharing a compartment with two English hooligans on their way to Turin for a soccer riot. They asked where I was from, but they'd never heard of Houston. So, I said Houston was near Dallas. "Who shot J.R.?" they excitedly exclaimed in unison.

The market has simply changed. There were three networks and almost no cable then, so shows had to obtain a huge audience to survive.

In contrast, have movies gotten more intellectually sophisticated? Does "Kingdom of Heaven" have a more subtle script than "Lawrence of Arabia?" The market has changed there, too, getting more juvenile and global and thus screenplays are now more puerile and illiterate.


My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

White guy wins NBA MVP award:

Steve Nash, the South African-born and Canadian-raised point guard who joined the Phoenix Suns this year and led them from 29 wins to a league-high 62 wins, edged out Shaquille O'Neal for the National Basketball Association's Most Valuable Player Award. Dirk Nowitzki from Germany was a distant third. Nash is the first white guy to win the top individual honor since Larry Bird took the MVP award three times in a row from 1984-1986.

While only one data point, this reflects the general decline in African-American basketball performance over the last decade, best exemplified by the U.S. Olympic Team's poor performance in Athens last summer. Along the same lines, Kobe Bryant, who is probably the league's most talented player, was not even one of the 16 players who received any points in the MVP voting -- an apt reflection of his role in destroying the Lakers dynasty by forcing out Shaq.

As I wrote after the Athens Olympics:

Darryl Dawkins, the former NBA center who called himself "Chocolate Thunder," has become an insightful minor league coach. "Black basketball is much more individualistic," he told Charlie Rosen of FoxSports. "With so many other opportunities closed to young black kids, … if somebody makes you look bad with a shake-and-bake move, then you've got to come right back at him with something better, something more stylish… It's all about honor, pride, and establishing yourself as a man."

Dawkins, whose showboating Philadelphia 76ers lost to Bill Walton's Portland Trailblazers in an epic 1977 NBA Finals confrontation between the black and white games, now says, "The black game by itself is too chaotic and much too selfish… White culture places more of a premium on winning, and less on self-indulgent preening and chest-beating."

Arguing that the best teams combine both styles, Dawkins pointed out, "In basketball and in civilian life, freedom without structure winds up being chaotic and destructive."

Of course, white Americans remain underachievers at basketball, with foreign-born players providing most of the new spark in the game.

This raises a more general question about the state of African-American culture. On a variety of measures, blacks are doing better than in the early 1990s: crime is way down, illegitimacy is down, and abortion is down.

But, African-America's flagship, the NBA, is culturally stuck in the gangsta rap era that began about 1988 with NWA's "Straight Outta Compton" album, which spread the crack dealer's ethos nationwide. The typical NBA star in his prime today was an impressionable adolescent during the worst years of the crack era, about 1988-1994, and his selfish play and squabbling demeanor reflects the culture of that era. It will be interesting to see whether African-American players with better attitudes are coming along. Perhaps Lebron James, who finished sixth in the voting at the age of 20, is a hopeful harbinger.

Miami Herald sports columnist Dan Le Batard protested the award, writing:

How much of this has to do with race?

A lot?

A little?

Or ''zero,'' as Miami Heat president Pat Riley said before the little white guy beat the big black guy for MVP?

I don't pretend to know these answers. There is no good way to do these measurements with science or math. And I, too, am tired of seeing racism thrown like a Molotov cocktail into discussions where racism doesn't exist.

But don't you have to ask these questions when confronted with something unprecedented?

Or do we just continue laughing and making noise at our playoff cocktail party while ignoring the pinkish elephant standing in the middle of the room in a Nash jersey?

No one who looks or plays like Steve Nash has ever been basketball's MVP. Ever. [Uh, how about Bob Cousy?] In the history of the award, a tiny, one-dimensional point guard who plays no defense and averages fewer than 16 points a game never has won it. But Nash just stole Shaquille O'Neal's trophy, even though O'Neal had much better numbers than Nash in just about every individual statistical measurement except assists, so it begs the question:

Is this as black and white as the boxscores that usually decide these things?

Nobody is suggesting voters made their selection while wearing Klan hoods. Today's racism rarely is that overt. It tends to be hidden better than that, as it is with the NBA's proposed age restriction, a rule that would ostensibly affect all creeds and colors but really affects only one...

The book Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell, explores how these measurements aren't made by a conscious part of our brain. Very few people would admit to themselves or others that, yes, as the puppets sing happily in the Broadway show Avenue Q, ''everyone's a little bit racist.'' We don't like what it says about us, or makes us feel. But Blink gives example after scientific example of, say, car dealers in Chicago giving a worse deal to black buyers even though A) white men and women were sent in to the same dealers dressed the same way and giving the same background information and, B) every car dealer in Chicago probably isn't racist.

The car salesmen weren't doing this with a conscious part of their brain any more than the MVP voters might have been. But if you need a tiebreaker (and Shaq and Nash could have certainly been co-MVPs), ''different'' and ''underdog'' might work for you as a rationalization better than, ``I'll take the white guy.''

Ah, Malcolm Gladwell, the guru of politically correct idiots everywhere.

It's not like Shaq had a great year statistically. He was 14th in scoring at 22.9, seventh in rebounding at 10.4, and sixth in blocked shots at 2.3. He was second in shooting percentage at 60.1%, but he shot a lousy 46% from the free throw line, one of the worst performances in the league. Everybody always says that Shaq is better than his numbers indicate, because he makes the other team change its strategy to stop him, but the point is that the other teams can come up with a strategy to stop him (such as Hack-a-Shack: foul him constantly and make him shoot free throws). Still, Shaq was a good team player this year who improved his new franchise a lot and deserved to finish second.

Nash led the league in assists by a mile at 11.5 (compared to the runner-up's 9.0), was one of only two guards in the league to make over 50% of his shots, and was in the top 10 in free throw shooting at 88.7%. The crucial fact, though, was that Nash's arrival suddenly made Phoenix the best offensive team the NBA has seen in years, and that's what the NBA has to get better at: team offense.


My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

May 9, 2005

"Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith"

"Star Wars: Episode 3 -- Revenge of the Sith:" It debuts on May 19th, but I saw it last Thursday. This shows that Lucas thinks he has a winner on his hands compared to "Episode 2 -- Attack of the Clones," which I, as a critic, wasn't allowed to see until a few hours before it was released to the public.

How is it? As Abraham Lincoln would have said, people who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like.

It's hard to think of anything new to say about the Star Wars, but one thing that stands out is that while the original 1977 movie may have been one of the best-paced films ever (aided by George Lucas's ex-wife's editing), Lucas's sense of pacing has deserted him. The first "Star Wars" didn't have a big enough budget for a lot of space ships, aliens, or gadgets, so the camera lingered lovingly over what they could afford -- the cantina scene's aliens, the two suns setting over Luke's desert planet, the enormous battle cruiser in the famous opening shot. Today, Lucas, because he owns his own special-effects shop, can afford to create an enormous number of different contraptions to stuff his movie with, so each one gets about 2.5 seconds on camera before it disappears and is replaced by some other prodigy of the imagination.

I presume he expects fans to buy the DVD and freeze frame each new space ship or space monster and study it in detail, but it's annoying for the theatre-goer as you feel like you are missing all the most interesting parts of the movie, since the clanking dialogue and Mystery Science Theatre 3000 quality-acting, even from the normally-expert Ewan McGregor, aren't worth the price of admission.

Still, "Sith" carries a certain nostalgic emotional charge: the visit to old friend Chewbacca on the Planet of the Wookies was greeted by the audience with particular warmth. Moreover, because the plot of Episode 3 directly sets up the plot of the beloved original Episode 4, "Sith," while lacking in tension due to its predetermined outcome, offers the satisfaction of seeing all the pieces fall into place. So, Episdoe 3 seems less pointless than the two previous films.

I still think, though, that it was a mistake for Lucas to follow up Episodes 4-6 with Episodes 1-3 instead of Episodes 7-9.

Still, the quality of "Sith" seems irrelevant. I sense that a lot of people who haven't seen the movie yet have made up their minds that, because it is presumably the last Star Wars movie ever, they are going to like it, so it should be a big hit.

*

Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me Dept. -- The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reports:

"[Hayden] Christensen [who plays the young Darth Vader] also confirmed recently that Lucas got a helping hand with the script for Revenge of the Sith. In an interview with Playboy, he said the rumours about playwright Tom Stoppard working on the dialogue for the film are true.

"Stoppard, known for stage works like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, gave the Lucas-penned screenplay a more "human" dimension, Christensen said. "

Stoppard is my favorite playwright, but Lucas's original script must have been really lacking in the human dimension if Stoppard, whose strong suit is inhuman brilliance, could add humanity to it!

Perhaps Stoppard wrote some of Chancellor Palpitation's lines, which do seem to be better than the rest.

By the way, if you saw "The Interpreter," did you notice how Catherine Keener, who played Sean Penn's tough cookie Secret Service partner, sounded like she had hired her own private (and superior) screenwriter? Every time she came on screen, she seemed like she was in a different, and better, movie than Penn and Nicole Kidman.

Keener blew away Sean Penn and she held her own with the titanic Daniel Day-Lewis a few weeks ago in "The Ballad of Jack and Rose." That's impressive.


My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Affordable Family Formation

"Affordable Family Formation:" The Neglected Key To the GOP's Future -- My new VDARE.com column is up.

Now that the triumphalism rampant within the GOP after last November's election has died down, and Republicans realize that their current ascendancy is not a historical inevitability but a tenuous margin that needs careful cultivating, it's time to review the fundamental factors making some states red (Republican) and others blue (Democratic).

The key reason why some states vote Republican, I've found, can be summed up in the three-word phrase:

Affordable Family Formation.

The more economical it is to buy a house with a yard in a neighborhood with a decent public school, the more Republicans you'll find.

The more expensive it is, the fewer families with children you'll find, and thus the fewer Republicans.

Some of this is because family-oriented people move to family-friendly states, but the cost of forming a family in a particular state also affects how many families are formed.

It's a stereotype that a mortgage, marriage, and babies tend to make people more conservative.

But it's a true stereotype.

That's why it's in the GOP's self-interest to pursue policies that keep demand for housing down (such as limiting immigration) and the quality of public schooling up (such as, well, limiting immigration.)

The culture wars between Red States and Blue States are driven in large part by objective differences in how family-friendly they are, financially speaking.

Places that are terribly costly in which to raise children, such as Manhattan and San Francisco, unsurprisingly possess less family-friendly cultures than more reasonably priced locales, such as Nashville and Provo.

According to Google, nobody in the history of the Web has ever uttered the phrase "Affordable Family Formation."

But, those three words work both as a hard-headed summary of what drives voting, and as an appealing campaign theme.

The GOP could say to voters:

"We're on the side of making it affordable for you, and your children and grandchildren, to form families. The Democrats are on the side of dying alone."

Of course, Republicans could hardly say that with a straight face as long as their President refuses to repudiate his Open Borders plan that would allow anyone in the world with a minimum wage job offer from an American employer to move here.

Four interlocking reasons form a chain of causality explaining why Affordable Family Formation paints the electoral map red.

I call them the Four Gaps: the Dirt Gap, the Mortgage Gap, the Marriage Gap, and the Baby Gap.

I wrote about each of them in VDARE.com and The American Conservative following the election.

Unfortunately, I discovered them in reverse order of fundamentality.

This time, however, we'll start from the ground up with the Dirt Gap... [More]


My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Perhaps this helps explain the decline in crime:

The Newhouse news service's fine race-and-immigration reporter Jonathan Tilove writes in "Where Have All the Black Men Gone?":

But the most salient statistic about East Orange [NJ] is the number of black men who are not there. Under the age of 18, there are more black boys than girls. Among the adult population, however, there are 37 percent more women than men.

Where are these missing men? Most are dead. Many others are locked up. Some are in the military.

In case you are wondering, East Orange is only 14 miles from Manhattan, so it has enjoyed, de facto, the supposed crime-fighting powers of legalized abortion for 35 years now, ever since the state of New York legalized abortion in 1970, three years before Roe v. Wade.

Yet, East Orange was one of those pioneering places where the crack wars and the teen murder surge began in the later 1980s rather than the early 1990s. Although Steven D. Levitt's hypothesized "pre-natal culling" failed so signally to cut crime in East Orange, the intensive "post-natal culling" of the most dangerous young men in East Orange began a few years earlier there than in most parts of America.

Richard Price's 1992 novel "Clockers" about Jersey City crack dealers (and Spike Lee's film version) show how much good legalizing abortion early did to fight crime.

Worse yet, the gender imbalance in East Orange is not some grotesque anomaly. It's a vivid snapshot of a very troubling reality in black America.

There are nearly two million more black adult women than men in America, stark testimony to how often black men die before their time. With nearly another million black men in prison or the military, the real imbalance is even greater -- a gap of 2.8 million, according to U.S. Census data for 2002. On average, then, there are 26 percent more black women than black men; among whites, women outnumber men by just 8 percent.

Perhaps no single statistic so precisely measures the fateful, often fatal, price of being a black man in America, or so powerfully conveys how beset black communities are by the violence and disease that leaves them bereft of brothers, fathers, husbands and sons, and leaves whole communities reeling. ...

In the March/April issue of Health Affairs, Dr. David Satcher, surgeon general under former President Bill Clinton and now the interim president of the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, exposes the core of the problem: Between 1960 and 2000, the disparity between mortality rates for black and white women narrowed while the disparity between the rates for black and white men grew wider.

Exponentially higher homicide and AIDS rates play their part, especially among younger black men. Even more deadly through middle age and beyond are higher rates of cardiovascular disease and cancer.

The imbalance between the numbers of black men and women does not exist everywhere. There is no gap to speak of in places with relatively small black populations like Minneapolis, Minn.; Portland, Ore.; San Francisco and San Diego. And Seattle actually has more black men than women.

But it is the rule in communities with large concentrated black populations. There are, for instance, more than 30 percent more black women than men in Baltimore, New Orleans, Chicago and Cleveland, and in smaller cities like Harrisburg, Pa. There are 36 percent more black women than men in New York City, and 37 percent more in Saginaw, Mich., and Philadelphia. In Newark, the figure is 26 percent.

In East Orange, there were more black males under 18 than females in 2000. And yet, there were 29 percent more black women than men in their 20s.,,

According to The Sentencing Project in Washington, on any given day in America, one in eight black males ages 25 to 29 is incarcerated, and nearly a third of all black men in their 20s are behind bars, on probation or on parole. [More]

If you are wondering why crime fell so sharply in New York City (the subject of a debate between Levitt and Malcolm Gladwell), I'd focus on that statistic that there are now 36 percent more black women than black men in NYC.

It's absurd for Levitt to focus on prenatal culling as a crime-reducer when the post-natal culling of black males in places like East Orange became so ferocious during the late 1980s. If there are 29 percent fewer black men in their 20s than black women in East Orange today, and a few percent of the black women are in jail or dead due to their being involved in criminal activities, then roughly 25 percent of the black male population gets culled by age 25, and those 25 percent tend to be the most violent members of that cohort. If the most dangerous 25% of a cohort disappears, that's going to have a much bigger impact than randomly aborting some of the cohort, prenatally.

However, not all the decline in crime came just from culling criminals. The 14-17 year old murder rate for black male youths born in the early 1980s was only one third as high as for black male youths born in the late 1970s. (Abortion can't explain that because the non-white abortion rate peaked in 1977.) I like to think that a lot of little brothers learned lessons from the abattoir years of 1990-1994.

[All my blog entries on the abortion-crime controversy are here. My original American Conservative article on the subject is here.]


My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

May 8, 2005

Why aren't the Kentucky Derby getting winners getting faster?

Longshot Giacomo won today in 2:02.75, which is about average for the era since 1950 in which Kentucky Derby winners haven't gotten any faster. He didn't come close to Secretariat's 1973 record of 1:59.4. Conditions were said to be close to ideal, so there's no excuse on that front.

As I graphed below, the winning times at the Derby have been stable since 1950. A reader writes:

The general consensus is that American horse breeding has been skewed by:

1. Drugs. Almost all American horses are on butazolidin and lasix. Illegal doping would obviously disguise underlying flaws in breeding even more than legal drugs. Doping not only skews underlying speed but disguises fragility.

2. Negative feedback loops. It does seem that horses are more fragile. This perception causes trainers to work horses less, leading to a sort of strange feedback loop, because the lack of strengthening opens up horses for injury. But trainers only get blamed for overwork, not under work. The end result is that it is not clear how durable a horse really is, making it harder to select for durability in a lineage or screen out fragility.

3. The Kentucky Derby itself. Since breeding in America is focused on the Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Derby winners as well as the type of horses that can get into the Kentucky Derby are over bred. Note that the type of horse that can get into the Derby does not necessarily correlate with overall genetic fitness, and a horse that wins the Kentucky Derby might not be the most genetically fit sire. For whatever reason there is generally a negative correlation between precociousness and stamina. I would argue that none of the horses in this year's Kentucky Derby have 1 1/4 pedigrees, let alone pedigrees to get 1 1/2 (most races in America are at shorter distances as well). Horses that have better stamina pedigrees are often not competitive early enough to get the graded stakes earnings to get into the derby. Kentucky Derby Winners get retired early (the money is in breeding, not racing), so genetics that might be evident from racing at later ages (even as an older 3 year old), such as fragility, or how much stamina the horse really has, are not discerned until after they have sired many offspring.

European racing does not allow even the legal drugs allowed here. There are important European races for four year olds, and many more races at longer distances. The fewer questions about the actual abilities of any given European sire increases the odds of breeding success, and therefore has resulted in superior genetic fitness of European horses, who are better than their American equivalents in average racing ability (on turf, of course) and durability.


My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer