July 14, 2007

IQ economist gets new job: Garett Jones of Southern Illinois U. has been one of the very few economists working with the average national IQ data from Lynn & Vanhanen's 2002 book IQ and the Wealth of Nations.

From the Economist Magazine's blog:

Garett Jones: A Very Intelligent Economist on Economics and Intelligence

GUEST BLOGGER | Bryan Caplan

Thirteen years after Herrnstein and Murray’s The Bell Curve outraged the country, it’s hard to find a serious social scientist who denies that intelligence is a Very Big Deal. But it still takes courage to push the envelope. That’s just one of the reasons why I’m thrilled that Garett Jones, a leading expert on economics and IQ, will be joining the faculty of George Mason University, where I work, this fall.

So what’s Garett been up to? For starters, he’s done the most careful statistical study (with co-author W. Joel Schneider) of the relationship between intelligence and economic growth. Published in the prestigious Journal of Economic Growth, the Jones-Schneider study find that “In growth regressions that include only robust control variables, IQ is statistically significant in 99.8% of these 1330 regressions, and the IQ coefficient is always positive. A strong relationship persists even when OECD countries are excluded from the sample. A 1 point increase in a nation’s average IQ is associated with a persistent 0.11% annual increase in GDP per capita.”

Garett’s got another neat paper on intelligence and cooperation in Prisoners’ Dilemma experiments. By combining data from many previous experiments, and looking up the average SAT scores of the schools where the experiments were conducted, Garett answers a big question on the cheap. Result: “A meta-study of repeated prisoner’s dilemma experiments run at numerous universities suggests that students cooperate 5% more often for every 100 point increase in the school’s average SAT score.”

But my personal favorite is Garett’s job market paper (also co-authored with Schneider), “IQ in the Production Function: Evidence from Immigrant Earnings.” A common objection to international IQ comparisons is that the tests are not cross-culturally valid. This paper shows that the average IQ of immigrants’ country of origin predicts a lot about immigrants’ earnings in the U.S. In short, despite obvious shortcomings of international IQ tests, they still predict real-world outcomes right here in the U.S.

Now I should add that Garett Jones works in several other areas of economics, too. But I’m confident that his work on economics and intelligence will bring him the most attention and the most controversy. As I see it, that makes him a perfect fit for GMU.

By the way, George Mason U. itself is an interesting story. It was a nondescript public college in Washington D.C.'s Virginia suburbs. A couple of decades ago, it came up with the idea of hiring conservative and libertarian academics -- nearby Washington provided demand for them and they were cheap on the market. Conservative foundations subsidize George Mason, and professors are encouraged to be public intellectuals. Thus, the large presence of George Mason economists in the blogosphere and their constantly blogrolling for each other. (The irony of course is that these libertarians are employed by the state of Virginia.) This strategy has raised GMU's public profile considerably, although it doesn't appear to have done all that much yet to attract a stronger student body. Still, in the sleepy world of academia where the reputations of institutions change only glacially, it shows that colleges can alter their fate if they are willing to try something new.

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

July 13, 2007

Why I hired an oncologist as my private consultant when I had cancer

Back in February, 1997, I was, I believe, the first person in the world with intermediate grade non-Hodgkins lymphoma to be treated with what's now the world's biggest selling cancer drug, Rituxan, a monoclonal antibody that inspires your own immune system to target cancer cells, like a smart bomb goes right to the enemy headquarters, while traditional therapies like chemotherapy are like carpet bombing. (Ritxuan had already been proved to be safe and effective in treating people with "indolent" lymphatic cancer, so it didn't take any courage on my part to choose this drug.) So, I'm a big fan of market forces on the supply side of medicine.

On the demand side, I'm not so sure. One issue that's seldom talked about is that people trust their doctors too much and don't realize that their doctors may have different interests than they do.

Here's a NYT article about two even newer drugs that I had heard about in 1997 as the next generation of NHL treatments after Rituxan. Because lymphatic cancer is so diffused throughout your body, you can't use radiation therapy because you'd fry much of your body. So, Bexxar and Zevalin cause your immune system to deliver tiny bits of radioactive material directly to the cancer cells.

Market Forces Cited in Lymphoma Drugs’ Disuse

The patients’ stories sound nearly impossible.

After an hourlong infusion, Linda Stephens, 58, has been cancer-free for seven years. Dan Wheeler, three years. Betsy de Parry, five years. Before treatment, all three had late-stage non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the immune system, and a grim prognosis.

All three recovered after a single dose of Bexxar or Zevalin, both federally approved drugs for lymphoma. And all three can count themselves as lucky.

Not just because their cancers responded so well. But because they got the treatment at all.

Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is the fifth most common cancer in the United States, with 60,000 new cases and almost 20,000 deaths a year. But fewer than 2,000 patients received Bexxar or Zevalin last year, only about 10 percent of those who are suitable candidates for the drugs.

“Both Zevalin and Bexxar are very good products,” said Dr. Oliver W. Press, a professor at the University of Washington and chairman of the scientific advisory board of the Lymphoma Research Foundation. “It is astounding and disappointing” that they are used so little. The reasons that more patients don’t get these drugs reflect the market-driven forces that can distort medical decisions, Dr. Press and other experts on lymphoma treatment say. A result can be high costs but not necessarily the best care.

The drugs have not been clinically proven to prolong survival, compared with other therapies. But patients are more likely to respond to them than standard treatments, and trials to test whether the drugs do have a survival benefit are nearly complete.

Other, more thoroughly tested lymphoma drugs are preferred as first-line treatments. But doctors often repeatedly prescribe such drugs even after they have lost their effectiveness — and when Bexxar and Zevalin might work better.

One reason is that cancer doctors, or oncologists, have financial incentives to use drugs other than Bexxar and Zevalin, which they are not paid to administer. In addition, using either drug usually requires oncologists to coordinate treatment with academic hospitals, whom the doctors may view as competitors.

As a result, many doctors prescribe Bexxar and Zevalin only as a last resort, when they are unlikely to succeed because the cancer has advanced. “Oncologists use everything in their cupboard before they refer,” Dr. Press said. “At least half the patients who get referred to me have had at least 10 courses of treatment.”

While Bexxar and Zevalin help many patients, only a minority become cancer-free for many years. But clinical trials indicate that they are as good as or better than other treatments. When the drugs were approved, analysts expected they would be used widely.

But the drugs have run into an obstacle that so far has been impassable. Because they are radioactive, they are almost always administered in hospitals, not doctors’ offices. As a result, doctors are not paid by Medicare and private insurers for prescribing them, as they are when they give patients a more common treatment, chemotherapy.

In addition, most oncologists outside academic hospitals treat many different cancers and may be only vaguely familiar with the drugs, said Dr. Andrew D. Zelenetz, chief of the lymphoma service at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. “There are a number of barriers,” Dr. Zelenetz said.

Dr. Press and Dr. Zelenetz acknowledge that they have their own financial incentives to support the drugs. Dr. Press has been paid to speak at medical education seminars sponsored by the makers of the drugs. Dr. Zelenetz has been paid when the companies sponsor clinical trials at Memorial Sloan-Kettering. But both said the money was a small part of their total income and had not colored their views.

Some patients say they would not have received Bexxar and Zevalin if they had not demanded them. Mr. Wheeler of Kalamazoo, Mich., said he received Bexxar in April 2004 only after insisting on it when his lymphoma recurred. “I told my local oncologist, I want Bexxar, you give me a referral,” Mr. Wheeler said. “I’ve been a real pain.” ...

Both drugs are very expensive, costing about $25,000 per treatment. But one dose is usually enough. The cost of the drugs is similar to a full four-month regimen of chemotherapy and Rituxan, another lymphoma treatment. ...

Because lymphoma is relatively common, and Rituxan costs $20,000 for a typical course of treatment, it is the top-selling cancer drug worldwide, with sales in 2006 of $4 billion.

Doctors agree that Rituxan is an excellent drug with only minor side effects for most patients.

Still, the few head-to-head clinical trials that have been conducted show that Bexxar and Zevalin are as effective as Rituxan, if not better. ...

Advocates for the drugs worry the companies may stop making them. Biogen Idec said in October that it might shed Zevalin. Although the company continues to manufacture the drug, it no longer actively promotes it. [More]

One problem with the current system is that seems to be considered vaguely
"unethical" by the medical profession for a patient to pay one doctor to be his consultant and help him choose among other doctors. That's just nuts. If you are a corporate executive assigned some complex once-a-decade task, such as choosing a new email system for the company, it is standard practice to hire a consultant to help you decide among competitive offerings. But not for cancer patients, who suddenly find themselves besieged with novel technical information about potential treatments. You are supposed to trust your doctor to refer you to an oncologist, and take it on faith.

Fortunately, when I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma in 1996, a computer consultant at my marketing research whose wife was battling cancer gave me the name of a suburban Chicago general oncologist who was willing to be employed as a consultant to help me choose among the clinical trials offered by the three top lymphoma specialists in Chicago. After each of my appointments with a specialist, I'd call my consultant and we'd review what the expert had to offer me. (Also, unusually for a doctor, he'd charge me for our phone discussions. For some reason, it's traditional among American doctors to provide phone calls for free, which is a reason they always insist you come in for a visit -- they can charge for that. But it was a three hour round trip to his suburban office, so he agreed to charge me by the hour for phone calls, which was a huge convenience.)

My consultant helped me pick out the absolute state-of-the-art clinical trial, the only one featuring Rituxan. That may well be why I've been in remission for 10 years and one month -- i.e., why I'm still here. (By the way, once you are past five years in remission with NHL, the chance of a relapse is no higher than a random person who never had NHL developing it in the first place.)

I doubt that many employer insurance plans would pay for my expensive four opinion plan of attack these days. But, I also doubt that many governments, not even Michael Moore's sainted Cuban regime, would pay either.

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

Charles Murray wants to abolish the SAT

His new article.

Let's be clear that he wants to get rid of the SAT I (the traditional aptitude test) in favor of the SAT II (the optional subject achievement tests):

In theory, the SAT and the achievement tests measure different things. In the College Board’s own words from its website, “The SAT measures students’ verbal reasoning, critical reading, and skills,” while the achievement tests “show colleges their mastery of specific subjects.” In practice, SAT and achievement test scores are so highly correlated that SAT scores tell the admissions office little that it does not learn from the achievement test scores alone. ...

I know how counterintuitive this sounds (I am presenting a conclusion I resisted as long as I could). But the truth about any achievement test, from an AP exam down to a weekly pop quiz, is that the smartest kids tend to get the highest scores. All mental tests are g-loaded to some degree. What was not realized until the UC study was just how high that correlation was for the SAT and the achievement tests.

Before, studies of the relationship had been based on self-selected samples of students who chose to take achievement tests along with the SAT, and there was good reason to think those students were unrepresentative. But by requiring all applicants to take both the SAT and achievement tests, the University of California got rid of this problem—and the correlations were still very high.

After the College Board did all of its statistical corrections in its 2002 study and applied them to test-takers from California, it found, for example, that the correlation between the SAT Verbal and the Literature Achievement test was a very high 0.83 (a correlation of 1.0 represents a perfect direct relationship). The correlation between the SAT Math and the Math IC achievement test was 0.86. So I conclude that bright students who do not go to first-rate high schools will do fine without the SAT.

So, it's a six of one (SAT I), half dozen of another (SAT II) result. Murray recommends:

Suppose, for example, that this fall Harvard and Stanford were jointly to announce that SAT scores will no longer be accepted. Instead, all applicants to Harvard and Stanford will be required to take four of the College Board’s achievement tests, including a math test and excluding any test for a language used at home. [More]

The University of California system started requiring three SAT II achievement tests in order to give Hispanics a leg up after Proposition 209 abolished ethnic preferences in California. Latino kids tend do unsurprisingly well on the Spanish achievement test. Blacks, however, tend to do terribly on Spanish. (Black lack of interest in learning Spanish is quite striking: a top black attorney in LA who used to work for Johnnie Cochran and now makes a nice living both suing the LAPD and defending LAPD officers told me in 2001 that of the 900 black LAPD cops, only four spoke Spanish.) But, blacks are losing political power in California, so hurting blacks to help Latinos was a no-brainer for the University of California.

I suspect that learning a language is the easiest educational skill to simply buy for your kids. If you send your kid (at a young enough age) to Seville for a few summers of Spanish immersion, he'll come back speaking Spanish. In contrast, if you send him to Cambridge to trod the ground where Isaac Newton worked out the calculus, he won't just pick up calculus through immersion in the milieu. So, I'd modify Murray's suggestion to ban foreign language test scores altogether.

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

Most cited younger law professors

Most cited younger law professors: Eugene Volokh has the demographic numbers on the top 50 most-cited law school professors who entered teaching within the last 15 years:

- Only 12% are women, and none are in the top 44%.

- One third of those 12% belong to a lesbian legal organization.

Now, looking at ethnicity (across both sexes)

- 38% of the top 50 are ethnically Jewish (as well as 45% of citations to members of the Top 50)

- 14% are East Asians (and 3 of those 7 are in Critical Race Theory)

- 10% are South Asians (1 of 5 is in "Business and Race")

- 4% are blacks (one of two is in Critical Race Theory -- e.g., Paul Butler's Stanford Law Review article "Much Respect: Toward a Hip-Hop Theory of Punishment," while the other, Tracey Meares, is more of an empirical criminologist).

- I count one half-Hispanic -- Ian Haney Lopez, and he's in the Critical Race Theory sandbox.

- Volokh says 30% are white gentiles, although it looks like 32% on his spreadsheet.

By the way, Number 28 on the list of top younger law school professors, Ronald J. Mann, is my old College Bowl teammate from Rice U. Glad to see that somebody I went to school with is still on a list of "younger" anythings ... although Ronald entered Rice age 16, so that's part of it. In high school, Ronald was the top Latin Quiz Bowl player in the country, so he was our main man on anything up through 476 A.D. After that, things were a little hazy for him, at least up until Zeppelin's first album.

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

July 12, 2007

The simplest explanation for the great 1964-1975 crime rise:

A reader writes:

I am open to any new and true evidence from science of previously unsuspected factors that help explain the movement of crime rates after the middle 1960s. But, so far, both Levitt's and Nevin’s work (blaming lead) look to me like efforts to find something, anything, just the slim sliver of anything, that liberalism might have done, by getting the lead out or allowing abortions, that might, just might, have just slightly offset the obviously catastrophic damage that liberalism did by the Warren Court's dismantling of the state criminal justice systems in the crucial middle 1960s, which dismantlement dramatically reduced the conviction rate for crime and was immediately followed by an explosion in, uh, crime.

I am certainly prepared to believe that other forces, probably mostly social, contributed to the increase in crime after the middle 1960s. Post-World War II society was becoming richer, easier and more tolerant of deviations from traditional norms in sex, child raising, work habits and responsible behavior, and thus was more vulnerable to extreme forms of misbehavior, such as crime. But the important thing is that, in the middle 1960s, we lost control of our most direct means of dealing with the potentially violent consequences of all these changes, the justice system.

And that loss of control is perhaps one reason why social scientists continue to play with alternative explanations for crime rates. We can endlessly fiddle with and adjust laws on pollutants, such as lead, and attempt to nudge sexual behavior this way or that by lectures, if not laws. But the post-Warren Court criminal justice system was put in a pseudo-Constitutional lock-box. We cannot get at the thing, to change or improve it. We can only lengthen sentences, hire more cops and build more prisons. No change in the rules governing how police attempt to arrest criminals or how the courts try them is within the control of elected officials. So we do not even discuss such changes any longer or attempt to estimate their possible effects.

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

One Cheer for Playing the Race Card

I haven't yet seen this documentary on high school debate called "Resolved" that attempts to cash in on the "Spellbound" boom in nerdy competition documentaries, but it sounds intriguing. The director, Greg Whiteley, stumbled upon a great human interest story: two black guys, Richard Funches and Louis Blackwell, from the dismal Long Beach public high school Jordan, where only 2% of seniors score over 1,000 on the SAT (Math plus Verbal), won the 2005 California high school debate championship in policy debate and finished second overall. And they did it by rebelling against the dysfunctional quantity-over-quality style of debate that has dominated for the last 40 years.

When I was in high school debate in the early-mid 1970s, it was obvious that debate had gotten off track and needed a rules change. To make the competition more objective, younger judges had started flowcharting the entire debate in enormous detail on three foot wide drawing pads. Debaters responded by increasing the number of arguments they put forward by speaking faster. If they could spit out 32 arguments in 8 minutes, and their slower-speaking opponents could only refute 24, then there were 8 arguments that had gone unrefuted and therefore, logically, they must win! As the Variety review explains:

Pic cleverly explains (aided by some ingenious stop-motion animation by Sean Donnelly) the odd stylistic changes that overtook debating in the 1970s, shifting from normal vocal delivery to a high-speed chatter, a la auctioneers, dubbed "the Flow," intended to pack as much information as possible within a time allotment. As Cal State Fullerton coach Jon Brushke and others explain, the weapon of pure argumentation was replaced by that of information overload. In an uncanny way, "Resolved" touches on a key characteristic of contempo life -- the avalanche of information and data that threatens to overwhelm users.

Obviously, this emphasis on speed isn't good training for much of anything in the real world, where trying to talk faster than the other guy is more likely to get you a punch on the nose than the acclaim of your fellow men. When FDR, for example, was in debate at Groton in the 1890s, they taught him to try to persuade his audience, not overwhelm them.

Back in the 1970s, we figured that the debate authorities would come up with some reform of the rules, just as in the 1950s the NBA solved the opposite but similar problem of basketball teams stall the entire game without shooting by instituting a 24-second shot clock. For instance, perhaps judges would only be allowed to take notes on one side of a sheet of 8.5" by 11" paper that would bring sanity back to debate.

But, it appears that nothing happened in debate for decades after I dropped out following my junior year in high school. Like a lot of institutions, bad trends were self-reinforcing. The people who won under the stupid rules didn't see why they should change them.

Finally, Funches and Blackwell of Jordan H.S. got away with talking slowly and persuasively, like human beings rather than debatedroids. How? By constantly playing the race card. Kevin Butler writes in the Long-Beach Press Telegram:

A two-person debate team from Jordan High School is shaking things up in a new, feature-length documentary that earned an audience award at the Los Angeles Film Festival last month.

Richard Funches and Louis Blackwell, two African-American students formerly at the inner-city North Long Beach high school, stick out among high-powered teams, mostly from private schools, with few black members.

The documentary shows the pair - who became state high school champs, graduated and went on to compete in college - trying to change the style of debate. The film also profiles a white team from University Park, Texas. The director and producer, Greg Whiteley, said he wanted to spotlight high school debate, as documentaries have explored competitive activities such as spelling bees.

The focus, however, partly shifted to Funches and Blackwell, who came out of nowhere in the debate community to become state champions in 2005. The students, now both 19, argued that the structure of debate itself had the effect of excluding minorities and low-income populations. The structure had "never been thought of as a problem because ... the debate community is mostly an affluent community," Blackwell said.

The pair discussed the inequities during debate rounds in an effort to change the system.

"We felt like a lot of urban minorities ... didn't necessarily have adequate resources or equipment to debate the way" most teams debate, Funches said.

The style of rapid speaking and jargon-filled prose also is exclusionary, Funches said, prompting his partner and him to try to switch the conversation during debate rounds to argue about the structure of debate itself.

Too often in debate, the rapid-talking tactic results in a victory for the team that throws out the most arguments, even though some center on outlandish scenarios, said David Wiltz, a former Jordan debate coach who worked with Funches and Blackwell.

"What we were saying is that the issues we were bringing into the round were more real and had more impact than any other issues we can discuss," Wiltz said.

The strategy was not without controversy, Funches said. "There were several people who wouldn't even shake our hands after the round," Funches said.

Funches and Blackwell didn't have debate in mind when they first enrolled at Jordan High School. Funches ended up fleeing into a debate room for safety during a 2003 melee at the school. He got interested after talking with the debate coach. A teacher advised Blackwell to join the debate club. Funches said that debate kept him focused and out of trouble. "Debate kind of saved my life," he said. [More]

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

Lead Poisoning and the Great 1960s Freakout:

Lead Poisoning and the Great 1960s Freakout: Rick Nevin, an economist not affiliated with a university, has gotten some publicity attributing the rise and fall of crime rates and the rise of illegitimacy to lead poisoning, since lead is known to reduce IQ and impulse control in children exposed to it. This is a theory with rather far-reaching implications, such as offering an explanation of the Great Freakout that began in America around the time of the Kennedy Assassination and the Beatles appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show and tapered off with surprising rapidity in the mid-1990s. The Washington Post claims:

"This study shows a very strong association between preschool blood lead and subsequent crime rate trends over several decades in the USA, Britain, Canada, France, Australia, Finland, Italy, West Germany, and New Zealand. The relationship is....consistent with neurobehavioral damage in the first year of life and the peak age of offending for index crime, burglary, and violent crime....Regression analysis of average 1985-1994 murder rates across USA cities suggests that murder could be especially associated with more severe cases of childhood lead poisoning."

This is a very interesting theory.

On the other hand, Japan, which had lots of lead-spewing cars and extremely dense population, and thus should have been a prime victim of lead poisoning, never experienced a Great Freakout. So, that's one strike against the theory.

In general, I'm skeptical of there being a "Single Bullet" explanation for the the 1960s, but it's worth looking at this in some detail, more than I can muster here, but I'll take a first look at it.

More generally, as Steven D. Levitt pointed out on his Freakonomics blog:

"Still, although both Post reporter Shankar Vendantam and the cited economist, Rick Nevin (whom I’d never heard of), appear quite convinced by the time-series data, I am not. When you have a variable like crime that goes up for a long time then goes down for a long time, it is easy to find other variables that share that pattern and appear to have a causal impact, even though the relationship is completely spurious."

Yet, Levitt goes on:

"About seven years ago, Michael Greenstone and I tried to look into this same issue using airborne lead measures at the local level, as well as other approaches. We ultimately gave up without finding anything. That largely soured me on the lead/crime link."

"Recently, however, Jessica Wolpaw Reyes at Amherst has put together what appears to me to be the most persuasive evidence to date in favor of a relationship between lead and crime. Rather than looking at a national time-series, she tries to exploit differences in the rates at which lead was removed from gasoline across states. I haven’t read her paper with the care that a referee would at an academic journal; but, at least superficially, what she is doing looks pretty sensible. She finds that lead has big effects (and, for what it’s worth, she also confirms that, when controlling for lead, the link between abortion and crime is as strong or stronger as in our initial study, which did not control for lead.)"

It's a long paper (70 pages) and a lot of good work went into it. After a quick read, though, I would venture to say that it has a couple of flaws. The first is that while it finds strong relationships among states over time between lead consumed in gasoline and overall published violent crime rates, it doesn't find much of a relationship between lead and murder. Dr. Wolpaw Reyes rationalizes:

"The weak murder results could also stem from the rarity of murders (rendering identification more difficult), a weaker effect of lead on murder than on other violent behavior, or a different functional form for this relationship (such as an increasing marginal effect). Given that murder is the most violent of violent crimes, it is not unreasonable to hypothesize that only substantial exposure to lead will produce this extremely aggressive and violent behavior, while more moderate exposure will have more moderate effects."

Uh ... Nah, I'm not at all persuaded that lead would influence people to be more impulsively violent but not more lethally impulsively violent. I don't see that as plausible.

The problem for how much confidence to place on this paper is that murder is the most accurately measured crime. Other crimes vary dramatically in likelihood of being reported to the police across time and place, but attention must be paid to a dead body with a hole in it.

Second, the big increase in the murder rate was from roughly 1965-1975. She assumes a 22 year lag, from postnatal exposure to lead, so that was from births in 1943 to 1955, but she says that lead poisoning due to leaded gasoline didn't peak until 1970, so how come the murder rate didn't keep going up? It bounced around a lot after that, but the Great American Freakout was basically from the mid-60s to the mid-70s. .

Here's her graph of "Gasoline Lead Exposure 1960 to 1990" (p. 66), which shows that lead from gasoline peaked in 1970. She writes: "Gasoline lead exposure rose until 1970 and then fell."

Third, when looking at the crime fall in the 1990s, this study appears to have the same flaw that dragged down Levitt's abortion-cut-crime theory -- a failure to look carefully at crime rates by age cohort, combined with an intoxication with analyzing complex state-level data that leads to a failure to do simple national-level reality checks. (She was clearly influenced by Levitt, so this shortcoming is not surprising.
) Wolpaw Reyes simply assumes a 22 year lag between lead poisoning around the time of birth and the violent crime rate. But, we can easily look at more detailed data for different age cohorts, which shows that the crime decline of the 1990s began among older individuals, not among the younger people supposedly benefiting from lower lead or higher abortion.

If you assume a 22 year lag to violent crime, then this graph looks great because the murder rate started to fall after about 1991.

But, that's the same mistake Levitt made way back in 1999: he forgot to look at the crime rates among narrower age cohorts. For the 17-and-under crowd, the two worst years were 1993-94. In other words, they were born when lead pollution had already fallen by almost half (just as th
ey were born when legal abortion was close to its peak, which is a problem for Levitt's theory).

Here's the relevant homicide rate graph showing that for the 14-17 year-old cohort, the murder rate moved in exactly the wrong direction for the first 6-7 years of the great lead decline.

Similarly, here's the non-lethal serious violent crime rate for 12-17 year-olds as reported by the government's massive annual survey of crime victims. It too shows the crime rate for the relevant cohort moving in the wrong direction.

Now, this hardly disproves the lead-crime theory, it just subjects it to an obvious reality check, which demonstrates a lack of care over looking at the precise age of criminals. Now, it could well be that the crack wars overwhelmed the lead effect at the national scale. Or, it could be that lead has an impact, but it's strongest at an older age, like 6 or 7. Or, her graph showing a lead peak in 1970 is inaccurate (other sources suggest a slightly later peak).

On a side note, Levitt also writes:

"Roger Masters, a professor at Dartmouth, has also been doing interesting research on this subject, although I am also not very familiar with his work."

Besides discussing lead and crime in Massachusetts' towns, Masters writes:

"2. Communities using either fluosilicic acid (H2SiF6) or sodium silicofluoride (NaSiF6) have significantly higher rates of crime than those using sodium fluoride or delivering unfluoridated water (with the exception of towns with naturally fluoridated water).

"3. The use of fluosilicic acid (H2SiF6) to fluoridate public water supplies significantly increases the amounts of lead in the water (whereas the use of sodium silicofluoride (NaSiF6) or sodium fluoride (NaF) does not."

In other words, if Dr. Masters is not mistaken, Col. Jack D. Ripper in "Dr. Strangelove" was right: fluoridation is poisoning our precious bodily fluids.

(Wandering even farther afield, Jack D. Ripper was played, brilliantly, by Sterling Hayden, the stepfather of American Conservative editor Scott McConnell.)


ublished articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

July 11, 2007

5,000,000 and 8,000,000

Total number of Visits to iSteve (since whenever it was that installed Sitemeter -- definitely a few years ago) recently hit five million and 8,000,000 for Page Views. Thanks!

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


Can you guess which two cities lead the new list of top 50 metropolitan areas in terms of the highest percentage of adults volunteering for charity? And which two cities came in last? These aren't trick questions.

Stereotypes tend to be true.

See the Comments (click right below) for the answers.

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

Lead poisoning?

Lead poisoning? A reader writes:

I have been saying this for years. I grew up in Braintree, Mass about a mile away from the big gasoline depot on Quincy Ave and I can tell you that that town was INSANE in the 70's. Kids were constantly fighting at my middle school (never mind that the state had the foresight to put in Section 8 housing right next to it) and as soon as lead in gas was outlawed in the early 80's the violence level bottomed out. The gas fumes were everywhere in the summer- you were struck by the smell. Not like what you smell at the pump but the higher evaporation. You could literally see the stuff hovering over the ground on hot days (my house was on a much higher elevation than the depot).

Here's a typical story: I remember when I was 7 years old playing with my friend at the Weymouth park and going into the library to get a drink of water and coming out and seeing my friend being pelted with rocks by a bunch of older kids standing on the hill. I didn't know what was going on and I said "Hey, what are you guys doing?" They cheerfully replied, "We're throwing rocks at that kid there."

I would consider this proof positive of economist Rick Nevin's theory that lead caused the rise in crime in the 1960s, assuming the local ethnicity in Braintree was WASP, Italian, or Jewish. Now, if the locals were Irish, well ...

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

July 10, 2007

Bill James' All-Time Best Baseball Players by Ethnicity

Bill James' All-Time Best Baseball Players by Ethnicity: There is a sizable quantity of academic theorizing that black baseball players are found most in the outfield and a first base because of nefarious stereotyping. For example a 2006 Ph.D. dissertation with the beyond-parody title of "RACE ON FIRST, CLASS ON SECOND, GENDER ON THIRD, AND SEXUALITY UP TO BAT: INTERSECTIONALITY AND POWER IN MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL, 1995 - 2005" by Lisa Doris Alexander says:

A significant amount of the literature dealing with race and sports focuses on positional segregation or what is known as "stacking". Jon Loy and J.F. Elvogue’s 1970 article "Racial Segregation in American Sport" pioneered the notion of stacking when they found that black baseball players are placed predominantly in outfield positions, which are "the most peripheral and socially isolated positions in the organizational structure of a baseball team."

An alternative theory is that blacks have played these positions the most because that's what they are best at. To test that, let's look at the top 900 players ever.

Baseball statistics maven Bill James ranked the top 100 major league players at each position in his The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract. Here are my counts by ethnicity. I was pretty sleepy when I did these so I probably got a few wrong.

Bill James' Top 100 Baseball Players - 1875-2000
























Left field




Center field




Right field












Catching is the most physically debilitating position and that's the second whitest. Pitching is the least sure thing position for star talents because sore arms constantly end the careers of potential stars, and that's the third whitest. (The third most injury-prone position is second baseman, because of collisions with runners while pivoting to turn the double play.) So, it doesn't appear that whites are hogging all the good positions.

As you can see, African-Americans do best in the outfield, where speed matters most, and at first base, which requires the least defensive skill (other than designated hitter), and thus is a good dumping ground for big slow sluggers like Frank Thomas, followed by second basemen (perhaps the Jackie Robinson influence?)

Among outfielders, centerfielders need to be fast and they need to have good throwing arms (e.g., Willie Mays). Rightfielders need very good throwing arms and they need to be fairly fast (e.g., Hank Aaron). Leftfielders don't need good arms, and they tend to be either fast (the young Barry Bonds) or slow (the old Barry Bonds). The fastest leftfielders tend to be faster than the fastest rightfielders because if a player is both fast and has a good enough arm to play right field, they will play center (the most important outfield defensive position) instead. So, there are more top black leftfielders than rightfielders.

Hispanics are best represented at the stereotypical wiry middle-infielder positions, and at right field (perhaps the influence of Roberto Clemente?). Latin American ballplayers tended to be smaller in the past, so they often congregated in the majors at the two defensive positions in the middle of the infield (e.g., Luis Aparicio).

Whites do best at positions requiring a strong arm but not sprinting speed, such as third base, pitcher, and catcher (all at least 90 of the top 100).

Third base, the whitest position, attracted the least talented players until after WWII. During the deadball era a century ago, batters bunted constantly, so third basemen tended to be acrobatic defensive specialists. For some reason, after Babe Ruth ushered in the home run era around 1920, baseball stuck with weak-hitting third basemen. Finally, the arrival of Eddie Matthews in 1952 ushered in the modern stereotype, the slugging white guy with lightning reflexes, like Mike Schmidt. So, the white dominance at third base may be less attributable to segregation than at other positions, since 19 of the James' 25 top 3rd basemen are post WWII players.

African-Americans were prevented from playing major league baseball until 1947, so you can roughly double the black number to get the black percentage over the period when they were eligible. Spanish-surnamed stars go back at least as far as the Cuban pitcher Dolph Luque who debuted in 1914. A few more or less black Cubans quietly played for the Washington Senators beginning in the late 1930s, but Minnie Minoso was the first black Spanish-surnamed star in the 1950s.

I'm using African-American to include black Canadians like Ferguson Jenkins, but no blacks with Hispanic names (e.g., Pedro Martinez is listed as "Spanish-surnamed" rather than "African-American.") Spanish-surnamed is anybody with a Spanish-surname, with no consideration of race or origin (e.g., Babe Ruth's teammate Lefty Gomez from California is listed as Spanish-surname (plus a couple of guys like Bernie Williams who I know are from Latin America despite their names). "Whites" are non-Hispanic whites. I designated the three categories to be mutually exclusive.

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

More of the Rise of the Mulatto Elite

The starting catcher for the National League All-Star team tonight is my new favorite baseball player, Russell Martin of the Dodgers. He's an example of a phenomenon I've been noticing. As African-American culture becomes more narrowly focused on a few areas, such as football and basketball but not baseball, that leaves big openings for part-black people raised in white culture. Martin's father was an African-American and his mother a white Quebecois. He spent a few years of his childhood living in Paris.

Catching is a highly technical skill, unlike playing the outfield where sheer footspeed matters most. So, as African Americans have lost interest in baseball, the number of African Americans catchers has dropped particularly sharply. In Bill James' second version of his Baseball Historical Abstract covering 1875-2000, there are only four African American catchers among the top 100 catchers, and those from fairly early after integration (Ray Campanella, who had an Italian father, Elston Howard, John Roseboro, and Earl Battey). In contrast there are 27 African American centerfielders (the position demanding the most speed) among the top 100.

So, it's not surprising that a star catcher with some black descent will have grown up in a largely white cultural milieu.

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

July 9, 2007


From my upcoming movie review in The American Conservative:

Michael Moore's comic polemical documentaries have done more for his net worth than for his political causes. He attacked greedy CEOs sending American factory jobs abroad in 1989's "Roger & Me," gun sales in 2002's "Bowling for Columbine," and President Bush's war in Iraq in 2004's "Fahrenheit 9/11," leaving him 0-for-3.

In "Sicko," he has his ripest target yet, America's ramshackle health care finance system. Having come down with lymphatic cancer in 1996, I am sympathetic to Moore's bias against for-profit health insurance. I may still be here only because I had the kind of generous insurance that few employers provide these days.

Moore's centerpiece example is a young man battling cancer (at the same age as me) whose request for an expensive bone marrow transplant was denied. He died three weeks later. Moore blames his death on insurance company greed (although that brief interval suggests his condition was hopeless). If I'd needed a bone marrow transplant, I'd have wanted the law to align incentives by requiring my employer to buy both my health and life insurance from the same firm. The insurer would then have had to choose between paying my clinic or paying my widow.

Strangely, "Sicko" misses much of our expensive but stressful system's black comedy, such as medical providers mailing out heart-attack inducing bills demanding we pay their zany list prices, apparently in the hope that an occasional senile patient might dutifully ante up rather than forward it to his insurer. For instance, after a two night hospital stay costing $2,000 (according to the rate my insurance company had already negotiated), the hospital billed me for $34,000.

Unfortunately, Moore's self-promotion, disingenuousness, and leftist ideology leave his event movies being more about Moore than about their ostensible subjects. "Sicko's" underlying goal appears to be to use our absurd health payment system to persuade us that socialism in general is superior to capitalism, that innately evil tumor on humanity. That's not a debate he's going to win, so he's distracting from the reality that medical insurance is a big exception to the rule that the profit motive works best.

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

Did getting the lead out of gasoline, not legalized abortion, cause crime to fall? From the Washington Post:

The theory offered by the economist, Rick Nevin, is that lead poisoning accounts for much of the variation in violent crime in the United States. It offers a unifying new neurochemical theory for fluctuations in the crime rate, and it is based on studies linking children's exposure to lead with violent behavior later in their lives.

What makes Nevin's work persuasive is that he has shown an identical, decades-long association between lead poisoning and crime rates in nine countries.

"It is stunning how strong the association is," Nevin said in an interview. "Sixty-five to ninety percent or more of the substantial variation in violent crime in all these countries was explained by lead." ...

"It is startling how much mileage has been given to the theory that abortion in the early 1970s was responsible for the decline in crime" in the 1990s, Nevin said. "But they legalized abortion in Britain, and the violent crime in Britain soared in the 1990s. The difference is our gasoline lead levels peaked in the early '70s and started falling in the late '70s, and fell very sharply through the early 1980s and was virtually eliminated by 1986 or '87.

It would be interesting to see Nevin's new data. Here's an old article. (I haven't read it yet.) And here's a newspaper article about another researcher's lead-IQ-crime connection.

Abortions can be assigned to very precise times, which quickly allowed big doubts to be raised about Steven D. Levitt's abortion-cut-crime theory, since the cohort born soon after legalization had much higher murder rates. Lead is a little slipperier to analyze, because it hangs around in the environment, perhaps providing wiggle room for the analyst if the chronology doesn't quite match up.

The WaPo article ignores Nevin's link of lead to lowering IQ, as in this 2000 article. That ingesting lead makes you stupider was known for a long time. In James T. Farrell's 1930s novels about Chicago prole Studs Lonigan, Studs and his pals debate whether to give up the good pay of working as painters because all the old painters seem pretty dim from exposure to lead paint.

Meanwhile, Modern Dragons offers another potential source of influence on human behavior, one that's been analyzed even less: gut flora.

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

Ol' times there are ne'er forgotten

In Los Angeles, the main (and perhaps only) manifestation of traditionalism is that elderly sportscasters and broadcasters are seldom put out to pasture. The airwaves are full of decrepit old gents from my childhood. For example, Chick Hearn, the Lakers' basketball broadcaster, dropped dead in harness at about age 85. Today, during his Dodger broadcast, Vin Scully told a story about something Hall of Famer Frankie Frisch (who first played in the majors in 1919) told him in 1950 or 1951 when Vin was announcing Dodger games from Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, which was torn down after the Dodgers left in 1957. Now, that's continuity.

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

The French secret

Why does the French health care system provide at least as good value at a cheaper price than ours? A big part of the answer appears to be that they just pay their doctors less:

To make all this affordable, France reimburses its doctors at a far lower rate than U.S. physicians would accept. ... Specialists who have spent at least four years practicing in a hospital are free to charge what they want, and some charge upwards of $675 for a single consultation. But American-style compensation is rare. "There is an unspoken and undefined limit to what you can charge," says Dr. Paul Benfredj, a gastroenterologist in Paris.

Like soldiers, you reward them with glory (or at least respect) instead of money. That can work for for a long awhile, but if you let the genie out of the bottle (as the U.S. did many years ago with doctors and is probably doing with soldiers today by employing Blackwater mercenaries in Iraq at five times what they were making in the Army), it's awfully hard to start all over again.

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

July 8, 2007

How Carlos Slim, World’s Richest Monopolist, Provokes And Exploits The Mexodus

My New VDARE.com Column: An excerpt:

How Carlos Slim, World’s Richest Monopolist, Provokes And Exploits The Mexodus

So, who is Carlos Slim, the new world's richest man? And why does he have $67.8 billion?

Slim isn't an out-of-control maniac like Tijuana mayor Jorge Hank Rhon. The only scandals clinging to Slim's name are business-political, not personal. He embodies the Mexican ruling class at its best.

Which still isn't so hot.

Although not an innovator, Slim is a competent businessman and manager. He likely would have gotten rich in even the most honest country. He's a bit like baseball slugger Barry Bonds, who was the best player of the 1990s, even though he avoided steroids through the 1998 season. But once Bonds combined his natural gifts with performance-enhancing drugs, he quickly turned into the greatest hitter in history. Similarly, mix Slim's financial skills with Mexico's crony capitalism and you get the richest man in the world.

As New York Times correspondent Alan Riding wrote of Mexico in his 1984 bestseller Distant Neighbors: A Portrait of the Mexicans, "Public life could be defined as the abuse of power to achieve wealth and the abuse of wealth to achieve power." It's worth examining how the master plays the game.

The Mexican-born son of a prosperous Lebanese Christian merchant originally named Yusef Salim Haddam, Slim made his big move in 1990 during President Carlos Salinas' corrupt privatization binge (which was enthusiastically endorsed by the elder President Bush). He bought the government's telephone monopoly. Interestingly, Slim's telephone monopoly was written into NAFTA, negotiated during Bush I, granting Slim a decade without foreign competition.

Andres Oppenheimer, a Pulitzer Prize winner of the Miami Herald, reported in his entertaining book on the Salinas debauch, Bordering on Chaos:

"Salinas offered their buyers sweet regulatory deals… he offered them … a series of behind-the-scenes government favors that would guarantee the profitability of the new owners' investments."

Oppenheimer goes on:

"Salinas authorized spectacular tariff increases without demanding corresponding improvements in the telephone service. In 1991, Telmex was allowed to increase telephone rates by 247.4 percent, while wages that year were allowed to rise by 18 percent."

Of course, such a deal came with a price tag. On February 23, 1993, President Salinas invited Slim and the other 29 richest men in Mexico to dinner, where he shook them down for campaign contributions to the ruling PRI party of 25 million American dollars each—$750 million!

Slim wasn't fazed by the demand, merely suggesting that there was a more discreet way to do this. Oppenheimer writes:

"Telecommunications magnate Slim … supported the motion, adding only that he wished the funds had been collected privately, rather than at a dinner, because publicity over the banquet could 'turn into a political scandal.' In a country where half the population was living under the poverty line, there would be immediate questions as to how these magnates —many of whom had been middle-class businesspeople until the recent privatization of state companies—could each come up with $25 million in cash for the ruling party."

The PRI has been out of power in Mexico City since 2000, but Slim has kept his monopoly. The New York Times reports that Slim "used his influence over the government to fight off attempts by competitors—including MCI and AT&T—to get a piece of the Mexican market." [Prodded by the Left, Mexico's Richest Man Talks Equity, By Ginger Thompson, June 3, 2006]

According to The Economist's 2006 survey of the Mexican economy:

"Telmex still [has] 94% of landlines, 78% of mobile services and 70% of the broadband internet market … If Mexico were the United States, Telmex would have been broken up years ago. But Mexico is Mexico. Telmex is merely one of the more egregious examples of the widespread rule of oligopoly."

Slim's accumulation of $3,000 for every family of five in Mexico has sapped the country's economic growth. Connecting more people via telephones is perhaps the surest way to grow a backward country's economy. But Slim's monopoly keeps the price high by world standards:

"Forbes reported that the average monthly phone bill for a small business in Mexico is $132, compared with $60 in the United States."

In the NY Times article noted above, Ginger Thompson pointed out that Guillermo Ortiz, head of the Bank of Mexico, estimates that due to monopolies like Slim's:

"Economic growth is one percentage point less than it could be with real competition. There are not enough jobs to keep workers from migrating to the United States and investment is being driven to countries like Brazil and China.”

One percentage point lower growth may not sound like much, but it adds up. George Mason University economist Tyler Cowen points out:

"Had America grown one percentage point less per year, between 1870 and 1990, the America of 1990 would be no richer than the Mexico of 1990."


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

Is this why musical styles are stuck?

A reader who teaches history in a public high school with mostly American-born, English-speaking Latino students writes:

My students in the back of the class are constantly sticking their iPods in their ears and blaring their music so loud that everybody else can hear it. What I'm amazed by, however, is that when I have to point and yell at them to turn off the music, how often the loudest instrument we can all hear is .. an accordion. Who would have thought that the wave of the future was accordion music?

For much of the 20th Century, pop musical styles in the English-speaking world changed at a breathtaking pace as each generation rebelled against not just their parents but also their older siblings. For example, the punk movement of 1977 was explicitly against the 1960s generation -- "Your generation don't mean a thing to me" sneered Billy Idol in Generation X's attack on The Who's "My Generation," "Your Generation."

And then not too many years after 1980, musical innovation slowed down. Most notably, African-Americans, who had been so stylistically fecund, got stuck with rap.

I wonder whether increasing ethnic diversity has played a role in the Great Slow-Down. To dislike accordion music because your dad and grandma like accordion music is now not just rebelling against other generations, it's rebelling against your own race.

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

The good side of multiculturalism: silent shopping?

The only thing that makes the experience of shopping at the vast, crowded Costco warehouse stores tolerable is the merciful quiet. Unlike most stores, Costco doesn't play music over the PA. You would think this would become a trend as shoppers get more multiethnic and have fewer musical tastes in common, but, for some reason, I fear it won't be.

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