Monday, April 18, 2011

Race, class and intelligence

Following on from previous two posts with many comments - including my interchange with anon - here is a new thread.

Hi Anon

So your argument is:

Premise 1: Intelligent people are more likely to get high-paid jobs.
Premise 2: Intelligence is partially due to genetics.
Conclusion: People in high-paid jobs will have children who are, on average, more intelligent than those of people in low-paid jobs.

In addition you say: “most people in well-paid jobs would be considered middle-class.”

Thus you conclude that middle class children will be more intelligent than working class children, on average. Indeed, I believe you earlier said the conclusion was “unavoidable”.

It is certainly avoidable.

Consider 2 populations A and B, who do not interbreed if at all. They have the same level of inherited intelligence.

Suppose that those getting high paid jobs are drawn almost exclusively from group B. Group A is, for various reasons other than innate intelligence, nobbled when it comes to competing effectively for those high paid jobs.

However, all those in Group B can compete more or less fairly for those jobs. If premise 1 is true, those in group B who are more intelligent will more likely end up in the high pad jobs.

Given premise 2 we can conclude that the children of those in high paid jobs will be more intelligent, on average. In fact they will be more intelligent on average than those in either group A or B. (this is the bit anon is correct about)

Yet group A is not genetically less intelligent than group B. From the conclusion that the children of those in the higher paid jobs are more intelligent on average, plus the fact that those in group A fail to show up much in those jobs, it does not follow that the children of group A are genetically less intelligent on average.

So now we can see why the fact that e.g. black people fail to show up in high aid jobs does not entail their kids will be genetically less intelligent.

Other factors may be preventing black people from competing effectively for the high paid jobs. And in fact it’s pretty obvious what those factors are: cultural baggage, discrimination on basis of culture and skin colour, other factors determining intelligence affecting their final IQ, etc.

Anyone knowing this stuff would be bigoted or foolish to conclude that, given they fail to show up much in the high paid jobs, black people are innately less intelligent, (this would be true even if they have no other data about intelligence and race that led them to think black people are of equal innate intelligence).

But of course exactly the same kind of factors affect class too. There are many obvious reasons why working class kids with high innate intelligence will only rarely show up in the high paid jobs. My contention is anyone knowing that would similarly be bigoted or foolish to conclude that working class kids are innately less intelligent ob average, given their parents fail to show up much in the high paid jobs (even if they have no other data about intelligence and class).

However, this is where you, anon, pull, a fast one, saying, in effect: “Aha! but race is not defined by reference to holding high paid jobs, whereas class partly is. So that’s why it is reasonable for me to conclude – indeed the conclusion is unavoidable – that working class kids are less intelligent on average.”

Right.

So suppose we introduce a new category: black people not holding a high paid job. Call this group BPNHPJs. Note that BPNHPJs are actually defined in part in terms of their not holding high paid jobs (just like working class people). Can we now reasonably conclude that BPNHPJs are genetically less intelligent on average? Is the conclusion is "unavoidable"?

Clearly not. For if black people fail to make into high paid jobs for these other reasons, the two groups (i) BPNHPJs and (ii) black people will have the exact same membership.

And anon has already claimed that black people are not genetically less intelligent.

Clearly, given our knowledge of other factors playing a role in explaining why black people don’t end up much in high paid jobs, we cannot reasonably draw the conclusion that either black people or BPNHPJs are innately less intelligent.

But then the same must be true of the working classes too. We cannot reasonably conclude their kids are innately less intelligent. Not even if we actually partly define “working” class in terms of not holding a high paying job. That's just a bit of semantic sleight of hand from anon.


(PS I am away for a few days so maybe delay before I comment again...)

6 comments:

wombat said...

"Suppose that those getting high paid jobs are drawn almost exclusively from group B. Group A is, for various reasons other than innate intelligence, nobbled when it comes to competing effectively for those high paid jobs."

Does that not contradict premise (1), since by (1) those in group A who are more intelligent must also be more likely to get the higher paid jobs?

Anonymous said...

There is no contradiction between "Working-class people are, on average, less intelligent than middle-class people" and "Working class people are disadvantaged when it comes to the job market." It's entirely possible to believe both that (a) there are more intelligent middle-class people than there are intelligent working-class people, and (b) that intelligent working-class people are less likely to do well than similarly intelligent middle-class people. Ditto with black people and white people. Saying that "other factors may be preventing" working-class people from doing well doesn't contradict Woodhead's argument.

" Not even if we actually partly define “working” class in terms of not holding a high paying job. That's just a bit of semantic sleight of hand from anon."

Do you dispute that jobs traditionally considered to be "working-class" tend to pay less than jobs traditionally considered to be "middle-class"?

Steven Carr said...

Personally, I find it very hard to believe that the poorer diet and poorer pre-natal care (on average) of working-class mothers could have any effect on the intelligence of their babies.

Anonymous said...

"Anyone knowing this stuff would be bigoted or foolish to conclude that, given they fail to show up much in the high paid jobs, black people are innately less intelligent,"

Not a very good analogy, since the argument you began the thread with makes no mention in its premises about social make-up of jobs. A closer analogy would be:

Premise 1: Black people are, on average, less intelligent than white people.
Premise 2: Intelligent people are more likely to get high-paid jobs.
Conclusion: Even in a perfect meritocracy, we should expect the proportion of black people in high-paying jobs to be lower than the proportion of black people in the general population.

Note that this does not say anything about other factors affecting black people. It would, as I have said before, be possible for black people to be both less intelligent on average and discriminated against. Your analogy, on the other hand, is less defensible, because it requires acceptance of the implicit premise that genetics is the only factor in success.

Paul Baird said...

I know what a Hitchslap is, so is this similar - a Lawslap ? :-)

John said...

Stephen,

I think I might have identified a point of contention. In your hypothetical situation, populations A and B do not interbreed. In you example of race bias, a person who succeeds in spite of their skin colour is still black. But neither is true of the 'middle class' and 'working class' groups you are discussing. Your Bpnhj category does not apply because there is still a separate differentiator - colour - that does not differentiate between middle and working classes, but could be used to identify and therefore discriminate. You appear to be implying but not making explicit a separate class differentiator. What makes people mi middle class apart from their income?

Don't misunderstand, I think it quite likely that non intelligence factors come into play when determining 'success', narrowly defined, but no one appears to be arguing against that point. Educational opportunities, parental ability to provide educational support, etc. Nepotism must play a small part, but my own limited experience is that it is not determinative (by almost any definition we could agree on my parents were born and raised working class, and were poor until late in life, but the encouragement and help they personally gave me means that I am, by almost any definition, middle class)..