November 14, 2007

Who's who in science

A reader asked how well represented Italian-Americans are in science.

I finally realized I could simply look up the answer in Nathaniel Weyl's endlessly fascinating 1989 book Geography of American Achievement, which compares ethnic surname from various reference books listing different kinds of big shots compared to the total number of those surnames on the Social Security rolls in 1984. We can't identify every surname by ethnicity but we can know that just about everybody named, say, "Caruso" is descended from Italians in at least the direct male line, while somebody named "Weber" has a German name.

In the 1985 book listing 127,000 American Men and Women of Science, people with ten specific Italian surnames were represented only 54% as often as their fraction of the total American population. However, in a more elite book listing 16,700 prominent scientists, Frontier Science and Technology, Italians were 98% of the average.

So, that may suggest that Italian-American culture isn't as science-oriented as the American average, but that those Italians who do go into science do just as well as the national average.

In case you were wondering about other ethnic groups based on characteristic surnames, here are some (but not all) of the groups as of the mid-1980s, with the national average as 100. The broader database of professional scientists listed first and the more elite listing of top scientists second:


Broad Elite
Sikhs 736 757
Chinese 620 784
Jews 424 592
Other Indians 381 573
Japanese 351 391
Swedes 141 176
Germans 140 138
Hungarians 117 145
English 111 93
Norwegians 98 68
Scots 96 97
Slavs 82 41
Irish 77 68
French 60 77
Spanish/Hispanic 6 NA

In case you were wondering, Weyl notes:

"The higher achievement index of Swedes and Danes than of Norwegians is not a statistical aberration, but a reality. This is indicated by the magnitude of the difference and by the fact that Swedes lead Norwegians by significant numbers in the great majority of those rosters of achievement in which the comparison could be made."

Alert Garrison Keillor!

Names from the British Isles were statistically adjusted to exclude the impact of African-Americans (Weyl used the name "Washington," which is now found among blacks about 85%-90% of the time to estimate the African-American coefficients of achievement.) Names from the British Isles are likely to also include various non-British people of European descent, such as, to list a couple of non-scientists, John Kerry and Woody Allen.

As you might expect, the Sikhs in Weyl's study were all named "Singh" and the Koreans all named "Kim." The Sikh/Singh sample size is pretty small (only 22,000 Singhs in the Social Security database, so there are about 75 Singhs in the broader reference work of scientists), but most of the other sample sizes are more reliable, such as 295,000 Italians, 804,000 Jews and 1,937,000 Scots.

(The size of Weyl's SS samples depend in part on how diverse names are within an ethnic group because Weyl only used a limited number of names for each group that he could be sure belonged to members of that group. For example, there are fewer Jewish-Americans than Italian-Americans in America, but there are fewer Jewish than Italian names (for example, there are almost three times as many people in the U.S. with the last name of Cohen in the U.S. as there are with any single Italian surname).

Of course, Weyl's choice of surnames to focus upon could bias the national indices to some extent. One of Weyl's most amazing findings is that people with old English clerical names (Clark, Clarke, and Palmer) that indicate their direct male line ancestors were literate around the time surnames were adopted (about 1300) are 50% more likely to show up on lists of high achievement than people with other English names.

He also found that people with the kind of surnames common among 19th Century Chinese immigrants (e.g., Chan and Chang) tended to perform at a lower level than those with the surnames common among 20th Century Chinese immigrants (e.g., Chen and Cheng). Earlier Chinese immigrants were more often recruited to be laborers, while more recent immigrants were often students.

Immigrants are not necessarily representative of the countries from which they came. For instance, the mediocre achievement indices of Franco-Americans stems from the snootier sort of Frenchman's horror at the idea of emigrating to unrefined America (Jacques Barzun is close to being the exception that proves the rule), so Franco-Americans tend to be descended from French Canadian fur-trappers, lumberjacks, and the like.

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

27 comments:

simon newman said...

Don't most Italian Jews have Italian surnames? Could that affect the elite rankings?

Paul said...

"A reader asked how well represented Italian-Americans are in science."

Is this reader trying to prove something related to Mexicans and/or our beknighted "undocumented guest workers"?

Just asking, because the question instantly makes me think of this from the Village Voice column, "Ask A Mexican!", where someone asked why so many Mexicans drop out of school. Here's part of the response:

"Yes, there is an education problem among young Mexicans. The reasons are multifold: apathetic parents, terrible school conditions, students who follow the lead of the uneducated adults in their community and thus forsake college for a working-class job. These were also the pathologies identified in Italian-American high schoolers in New York during the 1980s, back when 21 percent of them were dropping out (read "Italian American Youth and Educational Achievement Levels: How Are We Doing?" by Vincenzo Milione, Ciro T. De Rosa, and Itala Pelizzoli for more details). But that figure dropped to single digits within a decade due to a concerted community effort—and if the guidos can do it, Mexicans sure as hell can, too."

http://www.villagevoice.com/people/0739,arellano,77902,24.html

John of London said...

I say, Steve old chap, you and Weyl haven't assumed that all Singhs are Sikhs, have you? There have been 2 Prime Ministers of India called Singh, neither of whom was Sikh. It is probably true that the 100-year-old Punjabi communities of the West Coast are all Sikhs, but scientists are more likely to come from more diverse more recent settlers. All Sikhs don't use Singh as a surname, either.
This sort of thing is as fascinating as it is useless. How did you distinguish Scottish Macs from Irish Macs? Did Cohens and Levis do better than other Jews?
I would speculate that the original settler groups - English, Welsh, Scots and Scots-Irish - had more chance to embed themselves in the land, which is negatively correlated with a professional career - than later-arriving groups. Incidentally, did you look at the Welsh separately - they've only got 3 surnames between them.
But the unmentioned elephant in the drawing room here, I would have thought, was North (and West) vs South (which of course has a higher proportion of the original settler groups). Why didn't you look at that?

dearieme said...

Lumberjacks are OK.

Nate said...

How much higher do you think the English and Scots names would rank if we exclude the descendants of African slaves?

Howard said...

Didn't many non-WASPs take WASP surnames after migrating to the United States?

Dutch Boy said...

Norway is a much less urbanized country than Sweden or Denmark. There is a greater percentage of people livng on the land (thus unlikely to be involved in science or technology). You don't get famous running a farm!

tommy said...

"The higher achievement index of Swedes and Danes than of Norwegians is not a statistical aberration, but a reality. This is indicated by the magnitude of the difference and by the fact that Swedes lead Norwegians by significant numbers in the great majority of those rosters of achievement in which the comparison could be made."

Perhaps not coincidentally, Norwegians often consider Swedes effeminate.

tommy said...

Even as a German-surnamed science student I'm surprised that Germans come up so highly in the sciences. In most of Ron Guhname's GSS queries I've seen, Germans come up slightly below national average in most metrics of achievement, often well below the English and Scots.

Anonymous said...

It is kind of interesting to see the discrepancy between swedish and norwegian scientific achievement in America, considering that swedes and norwegians are virtually of the same stock.

Anonymous said...

brief comment on methodology with respect to counting sikhs:

First off, all Singhs are not sikh.
Take for instance the three gentlemen - all called anoop singh (also spelled anup singh)

http://www.imf.org/external/np/bio/eng/as.htm

http://www.iitk.ac.in/ime/anoops/

http://roswell.ca.sandia.gov/anup/

As you can see: two of them are not sikh. On the contrary, a lot of the Sikh elite actually retain their older (prior to conversion to Sikhism clan names): Such as (to randomly pick a few that I can think of) Bhatia, Grewal, Gill, Cheema etc. I have encountered more of these folks (who abbreviate the Singh within their names to their middle initial S) in US academia / business...

In short, its quite complicated to weed out the sikh from the non-sikh unless you have an in-depth knowledge of the indian subcontinent. probably best to lump the "Singhs" with other "Indians"

Mark said...

Franco-Americans tend to be descended from French Canadian fur-trappers, lumberjacks, and the like.

I wonder what fraction of French-Americans are descended from French Huguenots rather than fur trappers and lumberjacks. Just about any discussion of the economy of Colonial America includes mention of their economic role. Huguenots were from the elite strata of French society - smart, wealthy, and well educated.

Today, of course, they've mostly blended in with the rest of America, especially with WASPs.

Mark said...

Probably a better idea would be - if you could - to look at who got PhD's in science in a particular year, and where they're getting them from. The overall numbers would include 100 or so schools and the elite elite looking at only the top 25 or so.

It would be a smaller data sample and easier to control for the effect of immigrants.

And Hungarians are lower on the list than Germans and Swedes?

Steve Sailer said...

"How much higher do you think the English and Scots names would rank if we exclude the descendants of African slaves?"

They are excluded. Weyl calculates the achievement index for people named "Washington," which is close to a blacks-only surname these days, and then uses that to adjust upwards the achievement scores for British Isles names through a complicated formula he has worked out.

pconroy said...

Yeah, I too would be interested in what names were used to distinguish English, Irish and Scottish scientists - for instance here are the names of some famous Irish Scientists:

Watson (Physics)
Tyndall (Physics)
Hamilton (Math)

Steve Sailer said...

Weyl tries to avoid names that are trans-ethnic, especially within the British Isles. There he can find a big enough sample size that he can exclude names like Wilson and Davis and stick to highly English names like Fowler and highly Scottish names like Ross and highly Welsh names like Bowen and highly Irish names like Ryan. Obviously, there's still going to be some overlap, but people from the British Isles tend to come out around the national average anyway, so it doesn't matter too much anyway.

essex said...

Was there an effort to weed out first-generation Americans from the rest of the group? Because we are the world's leader in science and research, we have been skimming the cream of other countries' crops of scientists for decades. Knowing that there are lots of Indian scientists in the USA tells us nothing unless we know whether they are (a) the best scientists in India, who came here because of greater opportunity; or (b) American-born Indians who rose to success in science at a greater rate than native-born Americans of other ethnic backgrounds.

On this note, one possible reason for the smaller number of English and Scottish names on the list is the fact that the UK has a large and quite respectable scientific community of its own, meaning less need to emigrate to realize one's career potential.

La Griffe du Lion said...

Americans of Italian descent can trace their ancestry mostly to the Mezzogiorno. This region south of Rome has contributed relatively little to science or mathematics, whereas the North has given birth to much of flower of European intellectualism. The extent of this division between north and south is dramatically illustrated in the mathematician's birthmap.

A dog should not be judged by its tail.

VG said...

Regarding Singh and Sikhs, I agree with the earlier commenters here. There are plenty of non-Sikh Singhs in India, so this is not an accurate picture.

Colin said...

Anglo-Celtic names from the brittish Isles are sometimes oddly distributed.

For example Clarke seems to be an more English spelling and Clark seems to be a more Scottish spelling.

http://www.britishsurnames.co.uk/surnames/CLARKE/maps
http://www.britishsurnames.co.uk/surnames/CLARK/maps

Flemming is a more English spelling and Fleming seems to be a more Scottish spelling.

http://www.britishsurnames.co.uk/surnames/flemming/maps
http://www.britishsurnames.co.uk/surnames/fleming/maps

Odd.

Anonymous said...

Well, Paul, what are the Mexicans waiting for?

Ron Guhname said...

Italian Americans often fall toward the bottom of whites in my analyses of achievement and prosocial behavior. For example, when I put together a "bad behavior" index, Italian Americans were the worst whites, and ranked next to Amerindians and Mex-Ams:

http://inductivist.blogspot.com/2006/12/i-wrote-in-recent-post-that-i-was.html

Barone is wrong: Mexican immigrants are not like Italians; Italians are like Mexicans. (Just a joke guys: please don't send Vinnie over to teach me a thing or two.)

mnuez said...

I haven't read the comments just yet, but it's a realistic assumption that at least one commenter will talk about the all-fascinating Jews. Most of the commenters here speak rather fairly about Jews, almost as many however show themselves to be remarkably rational and sharp on all topics BUT Jews about whom they believe with a religious faith that Jews have achieved excellence primarily owing to a conspiracy of some sort. They believe that Jews work in tandem and promote each other where a better suited non-Jew would be more deserving of the position. I've commented elsewhere regarding this laughable fallacy, one which is non-laughable and not a fallacy when discussing many Orthodox Jews but which, overall, is ridiculous and in actuality more generally the opposite of the truth.

I come here however to point out to my "white" superiors, kept down by us Semites for so long, that it apparently is not only we Jews who labor to keep you down. The secret is now out that we've formed bonds with Sikhs, Chinese, Koreans and many other non-Whites in order to keep from you your rightful positions. In fact, we've even joined forces with the noble Swedes (a small minority of "whites") in order to keep you more legitimate whites out of the seats of power.

Our conspiracy is vast.

Cheers,

mnuez
www.mnuez.blogspot.com


P.S. It annoys me to waste my limited time on this Earth in the mockery of those who would align with my ancestor's murderers. It annoys me further to be spending such time HERE at one of my favorite sites on the web and one which I consider to be populated by some of the brightest commenters to be found anywhere. But at the end of the day, it annoys me even more that the virus of Judanhaas still lives and that it holds no partiality against invading sharp and witty minds in addition to the dull and vacuous minds where it generally resides. And so I respond. Let no one think that Jews are open-game, even in purely intellectual spheres. I come not to defend myself but to attack you. The evil that men believe live after them, their good crumble even before their bones. It's my joy therefore to crumble their good along with their bones.

James Kabala said...

"On the contrary, a lot of the Sikh elite actually retain their older (prior to conversion to Sikhism clan names): Such as (to randomly pick a few that I can think of) Bhatia, Grewal, Gill, Cheema etc. I have encountered more of these folks (who abbreviate the Singh within their names to their middle initial S) in US academia / business."

I have known people like this as well.

Mark said...

I haven't read the comments just yet, but it's a realistic assumption that at least one commenter will talk about the all-fascinating Jews. - mnuez

See, Mnuez, there's this fascinating search feature in IE called "Find on this page..." in the Edit menu. Go in there and type in "Jew" and it will link to every occurrence of the word, and none of them appear in the context of anti-Semitism. The people here seem to assume that their place on the list is about right. Actually it's lower than I would expect, and I doubt that there's any Jewish conspiracy involved.

This is a site that discusses genes, race, and intelligence. It discusses human behavior both good and bad, and the owner seems to be willing to discuss any typical group behavior without regard to whether it's considered "good" or "bad."

You appear willing to discuss average group characteristics when it's blacks or hispanics, but not characteristics of jews.

There are, sadly enough, more anti-Semites trawling these pages than I would like. But they are easy to ignore.

But at the end of the day, it annoys me even more that the virus of Judanhaas still lives and that it holds no partiality against invading sharp and witty minds in addition to the dull and vacuous minds where it generally resides.

Actually, I'm not sure that it isn't the reverse. Some of the most critical remarks of Jews I've heard come from some of the most successful people I know. In my experience, people with a certain contemptuousness of others seem to do pretty well in life. That does not exclude those Syrian Jews we discussed earlier.

Mark said...

I think it's more important to break out the immigrants from the non-immigrants, because many of the immigrants were brought here specifically because they do science.

Success in science doesn't just require a genetic predisposition to high intelligence - it requires a conscience choice to do science rather than something more remunerative, like business or law. It requires making a large number of personal sacrifices to do work not always held in high esteem by society, especially women.

That American Sikhs and Chinamen do better in science than men from the Isles I have no doubt. The minor differences in IQ aren't nearly enough to explain the differences, however.

You want more American scientists? It isn't enough to teach American kids science. You have to teach them to love doing it.

Anonymous said...

What do these numbers mean?

The descendants of the country that colonized USA and conquered half the world (Brits) are below the average in the 'elite' category.

The descendants of the country that put the first man in space and has the highest capabilty to destroy the US (slavs) has the lowest rating in the 'elite' category.

The descendants of countries that can barely feed their populations, have third-world poverty rates, all the other ralated problems, and in general have contributed almost nothing to modern civilization are at the top.

Do these numbers not say much more about the filtering of US immigration than anything else? Or are they just meaningless?