Posts tagged ‘Charles Murray’

April 10, 2015

The Bell Curve revisited

by Grace

Last year Charles Murray reflected on the 20-year anniversary of his “extraordinarily influential and controversial book”, The Bell Curve.

Murray believes his book’s predictions about “all the ways in which cognitive ability is associated with important outcomes in life — everything from employment to crime to family structure to parenting styles” are relevant today.  Here’s a quote from the book:

Predicting the course of society is chancy, but certain tendencies seem strong enough to worry about:

  • An increasingly isolated cognitive elite.
  • A merging of the cognitive elite with the affluent.
  • A deteriorating quality of life for people at the bottom end of the cognitive distribution.

Unchecked, these trends will lead the U.S. toward something resembling a caste society, with the underclass mired ever more firmly at the bottom and the cognitive elite ever more firmly anchored at the top, restructuring the rules of society so that it becomes harder and harder for them to lose. (p. 509)

It’s hard to dispute the relevance to today’s concerns.

… As technology becomes ever more complicated, and with an age of robotics on the horizon that could upend the labor market, we wonder if there will long be a valued place in society for people with low intelligence. Many already see a college degree as a necessity for a decent life. The continuing rise of cheap travel, opportunities for women, and college attendance has enabled the brightest people to increasingly segregate themselves socially, solidifying the “cognitive elite” Herrnstein and Murray wrote about. Racial and class gaps in test scores haven’t changed much and have often gotten worse, No Child Left Behind and Head Start be damned.

Murray did not claim that IQ differences between races are due solely to genetics.  Another quote from his book:

If the reader is now convinced that either the genetic or environmental explanation has won out to the exclusion of the other, we have not done a sufficiently good job of presenting one side or the other. It seems highly likely to us that both genes and the environment have something to do with racial differences. What might the mix be? We are resolutely agnostic on that issue; as far as we can determine, the evidence does not yet justify an estimate. (p. 311)

But he confesses to a satisfaction in his prediction that the politically correct position of “a purely environmental explanation of all sorts of ethnic differences” will soon be completely discredited.

On this score, the roof is about to crash in on those who insist on a purely environmental explanation of all sorts of ethnic differences, not just intelligence. Since the decoding of the genome, it has been securely established that race is not a social construct, evolution continued long after humans left Africa along different paths in different parts of the world, and recent evolution involves cognitive as well as physiological functioning.

Murray believes the exposure of corruption in the social sciences is an important legacy of The Bell Curve.

… The reaction to “The Bell Curve” exposed a profound corruption of the social sciences that has prevailed since the 1960s. “The Bell Curve” is a relentlessly moderate book — both in its use of evidence and in its tone — and yet it was excoriated in remarkably personal and vicious ways, sometimes by eminent academicians who knew very well they were lying. Why? Because the social sciences have been in the grip of a political orthodoxy that has had only the most tenuous connection with empirical reality, and too many social scientists think that threats to the orthodoxy should be suppressed by any means necessary. Corruption is the only word for it.

One of the many controversies surrounding The Bell Curve was its connection to The Pioneer Fund, commonly described as a “neo-Nazi organization” and “hate group”.

Charles Murray defended the use of studies supported by the fund in his book The Bell Curve by saying: “Never mind that the relationship between the founder of the Pioneer Fund and today’s Pioneer Fund is roughly analogous to the relationship between Henry Ford’s antisemitism and today’s Ford Foundation. The charges have been made, they have wide currency, and some people will always believe that The Bell Curve rests on data concocted by neo-Nazi eugenicists.”

But that debate has not been resolved, as explained by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

In fact, the Pioneer Fund’s ties to eugenics and white supremacy are not nearly as historically remote as Murray would have his readers believe. The president of the Pioneer Fund at the time The Bell Curve was written was Harry Weyher, who was a personal friend of the Fund’s founder, Wickliffe Draper, and shared his supposedly archaic views on race; just two months after the initial publication of The Bell Curve, Weyher gave an interview in which he argued, among other things, that desegregation had “wreck[ed] the school system.” Another of the Pioneer Fund’s board members at the time Murray was writing, John Trevor Jr., was also an officer of Coalition of Patriotic Societies, which, during his membership, was indicted for sedition over “pro-Nazi activities” and called for the release of all Nazi war criminals. Despite Murray’s claims, the Pioneer Fund continues to support “research” into race differences conducted by outright white supremacists.


Natalie Scholl, “‘The Bell Curve’ 20 years later: A Q&A with Charles Murray”, AEIdeas, October 16, 2014.

Robert VerBruggen, “The Bell Curve’ Turns 20”, Real Clear Books, October 6, 2014.

April 15, 2013

Women who graduated from highly selective colleges more likely to drop out of workforce

by Grace

Which women are more likely to drop out of the workforce?

… women who attended highly selective schools are more likely to opt out of the workforce than are their counterparts from less selective schools.

A university professor who was “absolutely infuriated” to see so many highly educated women leave the workforce decided to study this topic.

Joni Hersch, a law and economics professor at Vanderbilt University, analyzed data from the 2003 National Survey of College Graduates and crossed the information with the Carnegie Foundation’s classifications of schools and selectivity measures from Barron’s Profiles of American Colleges. She found that women who attended highly selective schools are more likely to opt out of the workforce than are their counterparts from less selective schools.

Why?  For one thing, these women tend to marry high-achieving men.

Such a divide might have its seeds in the college admissions office. …  students who attend the most selective schools tend to come from wealthier backgrounds than those who opt for less selective schools. They don’t take out as many student loans. They have a better shot at getting accepted to an elite graduate school. And they will be surrounded by (and therefore more likely to marry) men with similarly successful backgrounds and strong earnings potential, making their financial contribution less critical. (Maybe this is what Susan Patton was trying to say?) 

Such women can actually afford to step back from the workforce, a luxury that women without spousal safety nets or hefty bank accounts just don’t have, Hersch says.

This helps explain the low numbers of women in higher management positions.

There are major consequences to this opt-out trend among graduates from selective programs, Hersch says: Elite companies hire from elite schools, but women from elite schools don’t stick around for long, limiting the talent pipeline for leadership positions.

Doctors and teachers are more likely to continue working, perhaps because they can often avoid the long hours required in other professions that women choose.

A lot depends on the kind of degree that a married woman with children has obtained. If she is a physician, has a PhD, or has an MA in education (i.e., is probably a K-12 teacher), she is as likely to be employed as graduates from lower-tier schools. But those degrees involve only 24% of mothers who graduated from tier 1 schools. Those with law degrees are 9 percentage points less likely to be employed than graduates from lower-tier schools; those with MBAs are 16 percentage points less likely to be employed, and the largest single group, those with just a BA, are 13 percentage points less likely to be employed.

Charles Murray points out how these women may be helping to sharpen the edges of our nation’s class divisions.

So Professor Hersch has established that the next generation of children who have everything from genes to family structure to money going for them are also more likely to have a stay-at-home mom — and not just any mom, but one who has been sifted through the micron-fine mesh of the admissions process at elite schools and been judged to have both the IQ and other sterling qualities that gained her entrance, and who is devoting that package of exceptional abilities to the upbringing of her children. Lucky kids. And a new upper class polished to an ever-shinier gloss.

Here’s the paper:  Opting Out among Women with Elite Education


February 23, 2012

Non-marital births by education level as part of the growing class divide

by Grace

Declining marriage rates and non-marital births are only a problem for those without college degrees. (Assuming you believe this is a problem, of course.) Here’s the stark data.

CHARLES MURRAY has been harshly criticized for writing about this trend in his latest book,  Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010, but it seems the New York Times has also not been shy about reporting how education and race correlate with non-marital births.

Large racial differences remain: 73 percent of black children are born outside marriage, compared with 53 percent of Latinos and 29 percent of whites. And educational differences are growing. About 92 percent of college-educated women are married when they give birth, compared with 62 percent of women with some post-secondary schooling and 43 percent of women with a high school diploma or less, according to Child Trends.… Others noted that if they married, their official household income would rise, which could cost them government benefits like food stamps and child care…. Reviewing the academic literature, Susan L. Brown of Bowling Green State University recently found that children born to married couples, on average, “experience better education, social, cognitive and behavioral outcomes.”

Just talking about these issues of class, education, and race sometimes leads to charges of racism.  Curiously, the NY Times chose not to allow comments on their stories referenced in this post.  Maybe they were afraid the topic would generate excessive inflammatory rhetoric.

UPDATE:   One single mom is upset that the liberal elite have joined conservatives in moralizing about fatherless children.

More Single Moms. So What.  –  The New York Times condescends to single moms.
This proud single mother and NYU journalism professor, who is definitely not “too poor to marry,” is insulted by a New York Times article on the 53 percent illegitimate-birth rate among females under 30, which she thinks covertly telegraphs the message that unwed moms can’t in fact do it all… Marriage, Roiphe reveals triumphantly, “does not ensure eternal love, or even eternal security.” Now we know.

Young Mothers Describe Marriage’s Fading Allure – NYTimes, 2/18/12

Five myths about white people – Washington Post, 2/10/12

Related:  College-educated women marry at higher rates

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