What Kind of Diversity?

Let me respond to a few articles and papers. They cover different aspects of diversity. I have long been bothered by some of the issues involved and how they are handled. It is disappointing and frustrating to see the endless flow of low quality discussion and analysis, not to mention the inadequate research.

I’ll begin with The Costs of Ethnic Diversity With Garett Jones from The Economics Detective. It’s an old argument, that diversity is bad, bigotry gussied up in scientific language. I’m not racist because I’m a good liberal, says the author; it’s just the damning facts speaking for themselves. Yet other facts say otherwise, as it always depends on which facts one uses and interprets, behind which can be hidden beliefs and biases. To emphasize this point, one could note that fairly high diversity is found among some of the wealthiest, not to mention among the most stable and influential, countries in the world: UK, US, Canada, Australia, Spain, etc. And most of the struggling and dysfunctional countries are extremely homogeneous (or at least perceived as ‘homogeneous’ from the perspective of the Western racial order). That isn’t to blame homogeneity instead, as there are other factors involved such as post-colonial legacies and neo-imperial meddling. But obviously there is no consistent global pattern in lack of diversity, however defined, and societal problems. Even outside of the West, there are diverse societies that manage to get positive results — Amanda Ripley writes (The Smartest Kids in the World, pp. 160-161):

“In Singapore, the opposite happened. There, the population was also diverse, about 77 percent Chinese, 14 percent Malay, 8 percent Indian, and 1.5 percent other. People spoke Chinese, English, Malay, and Tamil and followed five different faiths (Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Taoism, and Hinduism). Yet Singaporeans scored at the top of the world on PISA, right beside Finland and Korea. There was virtually no gap in scores between immigrant and native-born students.
“Of course , Singapore was essentially another planet compared to most countries. It was ruled by an authoritarian regime with an unusually high-performing bureaucracy. The government controlled most of the rigor variables, from the caliber of teacher recruits to the mix of ethnicities in housing developments. Singapore did not have the kind of extreme segregation that existed in the United States, because policy makers had forbidden it.”

Other research shows that segregation is a key factor. Diversity only correlates to social problems when populations are segregated. As Eric Uslaner explained (Segregation and Mistrust, Kindle Locations 65-73): “[C]orrelations across countries and American states between trust and all sorts of measures of diversity were about as close to zero as one can imagine… [L]iving among people who are different from yourself didn’t make you less trusting in people who are different from yourself. But that left me with a quandary: Does the composition of where you live not matter at all for trust in people unlike yourself? I had no ready answer, but going through the cross-national data set I had constructed, I found a variable that seemed remotely relevant: a crude ordinal measure (from the Minorities at Risk Project at my own university, indeed just one floor below my office) of whether minorities lived apart from the majority population. I found a moderately strong correlation with trust across nations – a relationship that held even controlling for other factors in the trust models I had estimated in my 2002 book. It wasn’t diversity but segregation that led to less trust.” Then again, high inequality studies show that economic segregation causes the exact same problems as racial/ethnic segregation. Maybe it isn’t diversity itself that is problematic but how some societies have failed to deal with it well.

It’s interesting that these people who criticize diversity of race, ethnicity, religion, language, etc rarely if ever talk about other forms of diversity such as socioeconomic class, involving issues of vast differences in funding and resources, education and healthcare, environmental racism and toxicity rates, police brutality and ghettoization, biases and prejudices, opportunities and privileges, power and influence. Capitalism (specifically in the form of corporatism, plutocracy, inverted totalitarianism, and social darwinism) causes high levels of income and wealth diversity, i.e., inequality. If diversity was bad, then so is capitalism that causes class diversity. But maybe the main problem of class diversity or any other form of diversity is social division that leads to political divisiveness. Diversity wouldn’t necessarily be problematic, if there were movement between populations. Without racial/ethnic segregation, there is more racial/ethnic integration and assimilation. And without economic segregation, there is more economic mobility and cross-generational wealth accrual. That means the solution is to not isolate populations out of xenophobia and bigotry, especially to not create permanent underclasses of any variety.

Here is the complaint I have with this kind of people, besides some of them expressing anti-diversity fear-mongering or else complicitly going along with it. Between them and I, we are focusing on different evidence which is fine to an extent. But the difficulty is that, generally speaking, I know their evidence while most of them don’t know mine. And I can explain their evidence while they can’t explain mine. It isn’t usually a meeting of minds through fair debate based on mutual respect and mutual concern for truth-seeking. Their arguments almost always come down to cherrypicked data. That isn’t to say their data shouldn’t be accounted for. It’s just it’s hard to take them seriously when they refuse to even acknowledge the data that disproves, undermines, and complicates their dogmatic beliefs or half-thought opinions. I admit that diversity is problematic under particular circumstances. What most of them can’t acknowledge is that diversity is beneficial under other circumstances. That would force them to admit that it isn’t diversity itself that is the crux of the matter. That said, the above piece from The Economics Detective does admit the profit motive for businesses being diversity-friendly and so I’ll give the author some credit for genuinely being a good liberal, but I must take off a few points for his all too typical carelessness in not being fully informed.

Now to the next example. Someone stated that: “The article below said that people are less willing to give when different groups are different status/class/privilege, not necessarily when different in and of itself” This person was referring to the following: Economic versus Cultural Differences: Forms of Ethnic Diversity and Public Goods Provision by Kate Baldwin and John D. Huber. I’d point out there was further research that showed it is more complicated than the original paper’s conclusion: Ethnic divisions and public goods provision, revisited by Rachel M. Gisselquist. Even taking the original paper as is, it still doesn’t answer my criticisms. They aren’t dealing with social identity (race, class, etc) as social construction and social perception created through social control and maintained through social order. That is where such things as segregation come in.

I’m not seeing much good research to explore these more fundamental issues, which leaves them as confounding factors that remain uncontrolled and unaccounted for. There are so many problems and limitations in this area of research. The world we live in was created by centuries of colonial imperialism that has been continuously racist and classist up into the present. What is being measured in any of these countries is not necessarily about diversity but about the legacies of systemic and institutional racism and classism on a global scale. And I’d argue there is no way to separate the racism from the classism, which should be obvious to anyone who has given it much thought. We are talking about complex systems with inseparable factors, such as segregation/ghettoization and integration/assimilation. With diversity, this issue is who gets to define and enforce social identities. Colonial imperialism gave birth to both a particular social/racial/class order and what became the WEIRD culture. The researchers are the inheritors of this all and then enforce their biased views onto their research.

I don’t trust that many of these political and economic researchers understand what is involved. An anthropologist would better understand what I’m talking about, not just the diversity of subjects but more importantly the diversity between scientist and subjects. Researchers from entirely different cultures might approach this far differently. Anthropologists have done much interesting work that probes much deeper than most research (David Graeber could be a useful anthropologist to look into about these overlapping issues). For example, how would an anthropologist who is a Native American study the diversity of Native Americans in states or regions where multiple tribes live, specifically across a history of white supremacy in creating the reservation system? Also, how does the perceived diversity of European-Americans in earlier US history compare to perceived homogeneity of Europeans at present? Might it be important who was in power when diversity was enforced on a population in contrast to when homogeneity was enforced? What about the power dynamic of mostly WEIRD researchers have in a WEIRD society in imposing their views and biases? Is Asia, the majority of the world’s population, diverse as Asians experience it or homogeneous as Westerns perceive it?

Here are the last two I’ll respond to: Why Does Ethnic Diversity Undermine Public Goods Provision? by Habyarimana, Humphreys, Posner, & Weinstein; and Ethnic diversity, social sanctions, and public goods in Kenya by Edward Miguel & Mary Kay Gugerty. These miss a major point. Diversity and homogeneity are built on social constructs. They are dependent on public perception and social control. A society can choose to maintain diversity or not. If we don’t economically and racially/ethnically segregate people while instead treating people fairly and equally, promoting integration and assimilation, and ensuring the social democratic resources and opportunites for all, including geographic and economic mobility… if we do that, then diversity will over the generations turn into homogeneity, as has been historically proven across the world many times over. It has happened repeatedly since the beginning of the species. The Germanic tribes were once diverse, but now they just think of themselves as Germans. The British were once diverse, but have slowly developed a common identity. The Piraha originated from separate ethnic tribes that came together, but now they are just the Piraha. The opposite can happen as well. Take people from the same society and treat them differently. In a short period of time, the two invented groups will immediately take on the new social identities. To go along with this, it won’t take them long to create new cultures, traditions, attire, and ways of talking. You can see this when people join an organization, convert to a religion, get a new group of friends — they will change their appearance and behavior.

Whether enforced from above or taken on by individuals, social influences are powerful. One great example of this was Jane Elliott’s eye color experiment. Along these lines, a ton of interesting studies have been done about the observer-expectancy effect, subject-expectancy effect, Pygmallion/Rosenthal effect. Hawthorne/observer effect, golem effect, etc. I’d add stereotype effect to this list, which deals with group identities more directly. How people are identified doesn’t just shape how they identify but also determines how they are treated and how they behave. Basically, these are self-fulfilling prophecies. Such experiments were only done over short periods. Imagine the results attained by continuing the same experiment across multiple generations or even centuries. Social constructs should be taken seriously, especially when made socially real through disenfranchisement, impoverishment, high inequality, segregation/ghettoization, systemic prejudice and biases, concentrated power, an authoritarian state, police enforcement, and much else. When we are talking about ethnic diversity in terms of immigration and refugee crises, this includes centuries of colonialism, resource exploitation, military actions, covert operations, political intervention, economic sanctions, and on and on. There are long, ugly legacies behind these racial, ethnic, and national divides. In many cases, ethnic immigrants come from countries that were former colonies and have borders that were artificially created by empires. First and foremost, there is the immeasurable diversity of justice and injustice, power and oppression. Diversity as racial order didn’t naturally develop but was violently enacted, a racial ideology shaping racial realities.

So what do these people think they are studying when they research diversity? And what are they actually studying? The confounding factors are so immense that it’s hard to wrap one’s mind around it. About people who study and discuss these kinds of topics, one gets the sense that many of them aren’t deep and careful thinkers. Things that seem obvious to me never occur to them. Or else these things do occur to them but for ideological reasons they can’t acknowledge them. I wonder what some people even think diversity means. As I’ve said before, I have more in common with a non-white Midwesterner than I have with a white Southerner. And I have more in common with a non-white American than a white European. Diversity of skin color doesn’t necessarily correlate to diversity of ethnicity, language, religion, etc. The average African-American shares the same basic culture as other Americans. A large part of African-Americans should technically be called European-Americans, both in terms of genetics and culture. As Thomas Sowell argues, African-Americans don’t have an African culture, rather a Southern culture. What makes African-Americans stand out in the North is that because of segregation they have more fully maintained their Southern culture. But that depends on where one lives. Here in Iowa City, most of the African-Americans are either immigrants of African ethnicties or individuals whose families have been in the region so long that they are assimilated to Midwestern culture, but African-Americans with Southern culture are rare around here.

If cultural diversity is what is deemed problematic, then that has nothing directly to do with skin color. But if we are talking about conflict based on skin color, that is simply an issue of racism. So, what exactly are we concerned about? Let’s get clear on that first. And then only after considering all the evidence, let’s begin the process of honest debate and informed analysis.

Genetically-Determined Cognitive Ruling Elite

I occasionally read articles from Mauldin Economics, a financial website. That is because my dad sends me them. Much of the economics has a neoliberal bent with that slight edge of right-wing libertarianism. But there is also a large helping of the cynical realpolitik of game theory and geopolitics (George Friedman is partnered with Mauldin Economics). Some of the pieces are better than others, occasionally venturing into more socio-cultural territory such as generations theory. I read them partly out of curiosity.

The last piece my dad sent me is Geek Squad by Jared Dillian. I totally get why my dad liked it, as he is a social and fiscal conservative. Dillian brings up Charles Murray’s infamous take on intelligence, which is the kind of thing that resonates for my dad. Older white male middle class conservatives (specifically of the Silent Generation) have much in common beyond just demographics, as the period of their youth was highly conformist — although that same generation, on the other side of the aisle, produced some of the most radical leaders of the anti-war, anti-nuclear, and civil rights movements; e.g., Martin Luther King, jr.

I’ve written about Jared Dillian before (Frrrreeeeeddoommmm?????) and I can’t say that I’m overly impressed. He is of my generation, maybe a few years older than me (see the About page on his website). That generational detail does seem relevant.

Certain kind of older white conservatives have more of a paternalistic undertone that can soften their ideological stances, such as Murray’s paleolibertarianism that leads him to both condescendingly criticize the poor and argue for a basic income to take care of those who are genetically or culturally inferior, an interesting mix. It’s for similar reasons that my dad donates money and volunteers his time to help the those in need, even as he argues that they don’t deserve his tax money — unless it is to either put them in prison or send them off to war (my dad hasn’t yet quite been convinced by Murray’s far greater paternalism). It’s a concern of moral accounting that is of less of a priority to the the more neoliberal Republicans of Generation X who came of age under the Reagan administration. Someone like Dillian represents more of what the conservative movement has become in recent decades.

Here is the main thing that caught my attention in Dillian’s piece, a point where he finds agreement with Murray, despite other conflicts between the worldviews of neoliberalism and paleolibertarianism:

“Years ago, Murray predicted that society would become stratified by intelligence, and that we would be ruled by a “cognitive elite.” All of this has come to pass.”

It’s sad that people still believe that. Intelligence hasn’t been stratified, at least not in the way that is being implied. Rather the class-based and race-based conditions that promote and suppress neurocognitive development have been stratified. This is not even up for debate and very little speculation is required. We have the historical record to explain what happened and the social science research to explain its implications (research has proven that poverty, especially in a society of high inequality and segregation, stunts/alters brain development and functioning; because of social stress, lack of learning resources, nutritional deficiencies, lead toxicity, limited healthcare, etc).

Speaking of a “cognitive elite” is pseudo-meritocracy on steroids. Conservatives are always blaming liberals for wanting an intelligentsia to rule the world, but some conservatives not so secretly fantasize about an intellectual elite, even if they imagine these inellectually superior people coming from the business sector.

Here is more of Dillian’s wisdom:

“Rewind to a few decades ago. Colleges suddenly became more meritocratic, admitting people on the basis of grades and test scores, instead of other criteria. So the smartest people got into the smartest schools, the less smart people got into the less smart schools, and dumb people didn’t get into schools at all. The results of that sociology experiment are fascinating: the smart people in smart schools started marrying each other and having smart children…”

Tell that to the vast majority who aren’t legacies into ivy league schools, no matter how smart they are. Tell that to the vast majority of kids with immense genetic and neruocognitive potential but were forced to struggle against poverty, racism, segregation, oppression, violence, school-to-prison pipeline, heavy metal toxicity, etc. I’m sure that Dillian considers himself as part of the “cognitive elite” and so that makes his ignorance all the more inexcusable and morally reprehensible. As one commenter put it (Garret Batten):

“Jared – I really enjoy The 10th Man. You have excellent insights into the markets and related issues. However, as a trained sociologist, I must object to your analysis of class, college selection, elties, and intelligence. You extrapolate from a claim about education being more meritocratic (more maybe at the college level but not even close to meritocratic and what about high school and middle school), but the increasing lack of mobility in the United States cannot be explained by smart people marying other smart people. As with Murray, these are highly problematic claims with the implication being that the very wealthy deserve as well as the poor derve their lots in life. I would urge you to stick with markets etc.”

To continue with the article:

“People don’t talk about this. We are obsessed with racism, but people of differing socioeconomic status just do not mix.”

He maybe should actually read Charles Murray’s Losing Ground and put it in context by reading Robert Putnam’s Our Kids. Then put both of those books in an even larger context of info. But the point is that both Murray and Putnam grew up in small factory towns where the poor and wealthy lived together as neighbors — going to the same stores and churches, sending their kids to the same schools, and having the same access to cheap higher education. Is it surprising that socioeconomic mobility was higher at that time? No. Is it surprising that so many poor kids of low IQ, uneducated parents got high school degrees and went off to college? No.

I’ve explained all of this before:
Who Are the American Religious? (comment)

Freedom From Want, Freedom to Imagine
Stranger Danger and Our Kids

Writing about Putnam, Richard Reeves stated that,

“The concatenation of advantages and disadvantages is visible in economic sorting at the neighbourhood level, leading to social sorting in terms of schools, churches and community groups. Putnam writes: “Our kids are increasingly growing up with kids like them who have parents like us.” This represents, he warns, “an incipient class apartheid”.”

That’s a different perspective. Putnam is making the point that this stratification didn’t happen by divine decree or according to the laws of physics. These are social results of social causes. Not all societies have seen such stratification. In fact, the high levels of stratification in the US are extremely unusual, one might even say abnormal. Using the word ‘apartheid’ is not hyperbole, as a permanent underclass (or undercaste) is forming. We don’t yet have eugenics-level of stratification. But if this trend is allowed to continue over centuries, eventually there would be ever more genetically distinct populations. The eugenics vision of a cognitive elite is not a description of reality but more of a rationalization and an aspiration. It doesn’t seem like a direction we would want to head toward as a society.

Sara D. Sparks articulates Putnam’s central point:

“Mr. Putnam, whose 2000 book Bowling Alone looked at declining civic ties among adults, argues that students in poverty growing up in the middle of the last century had greater economic and social mobility than their counterparts do today in large part because adults at all socioeconomic levels were more likely then to see all students as “our kids.””

It’s a bit of a chicken or egg dilemma. Did the increasing inequality/stratification and segregation/apartheid cause our society to become a culture of mistrust that no longer had a shared vision of public good, as once was seen in functioning communities of neighbors who cared about each other’s children? Or did changing values in our society cause the worsening divides and divisiveness?

I’d argue that it is both, as part of a vicious cycle. American society was built on a problematic social order of genocide, indentured servitude, slavery, etc and so maybe we shouldn’t be surprised by the long term consequences. American history has had a clear trajectory of ever greater concentration of wealth and power, with a momentary blip of equalization because of two world wars and a major depression. It’s not like the colonial aristocracy wielded so much power in the early federal government because they earned their social position through meritocracy nor that Africans were enslaved because they didn’t go the best schools with other smart kids. School tracking is probably not a useful metaphor for understanding the worsening stratification that began during the colonial era.

More from the article:

“This all came to a head in the 2016 election, where we threw out the smart people in academia and journalism and finance and technology and politics—the so-called “experts.””

One thing research shows is that smart people aren’t smart in all ways. For example, high IQ people are worse about certain areas of personal finance. They tend to overspend. This also relates to the smart idiot effect, which is called that because smarter people are more prone to this bias. I’d also throw in how upper class people have less cognitive capacity for certain basic skills, such as being able to accurately discern and empathize with what others experience.

So, smart upper class people are like Trump in that they tend toward being sociopaths that lack many basic practical and social skills, as they are used to others taking care of their problems for them. Those aren’t the kind of people that should be ruling a society. It’s important to note that most Americans didn’t vote for either choice of plutocrat, Clinton or Trump.

Here are some commenters to the article who made similar points:

funderbj@riflemag.com: “I am a physician, graduated MIT in 1966, Ohio State Med school in 1970. My observation about the smartest of the smart, insofar as medicine is concerned, is that being too smart can be a serious handicap. The uber performers often missed the common ailments while exploring the more esoteric diagnoses. We called it “thinking zebras, when hearing hoof beats.” I agree wholeheartedly that the next months and years will be interesting, but I doubt that the elite will be any more successful in the long run.”

ciaran.keogh@xtra.co.nz: “interesting post – however there is one shortcoming with the most “intelligent” will rule effect (which I agree is definitely happening) is that being learned and being wise are two entirely different things. Also it is my observation that the ability to learn comes at the expense of the ability to think. The more “learned” people (and systems) there are running the planet seems to result in less sensible (and moral) people running it. If you said that higher tendency for sociopathy was becoming stratified at the top I think you would need to look no further than Washington or Wall St for convincing proof”

Back to the article:

“Mark Zuckerberg, who is probably going to run for president, made a splash in his Harvard commencement speech when he called for a universal basic income. But I don’t think you’re doing anyone any favors when you give them free money to sit at home and play Xbox.”

Yet more ignorance. This is actually a good example of smart idiot effect. Dillian thinks he is so smart that he perceives his opinion as so worthy as not to require informing himself about the topic before coming to a conclusion. He just knows, because he is smart and educated. He is one of the “cognitive elite,” after all.

But if he were to inform himself, he’d find out that universal basic income experiments have shown that it doesn’t increase unemployment. That is because most people want more than barely surviving and making ends meet while sitting on the couch picking their nose. This is the problem of rich people who actually believe this is an accurate view of poor people. It demonstrates how disconnected from reality they are.

He goes on:

“Cognitive stratification is not stopping any time soon. Cities will get richer, towns will get poorer, a handful of companies will get even more powerful. If you feel like you don’t have a say in any of this… that will probably continue. I wonder about what it will be like to live in a world ruled by people who have won the genetic lottery.”

Dillian admits that our response to this problem matters. Yet he acts as if fatalistically there is nothing we can do about it.

About stratification of intelligence, you’d think smart people talking about such a topic would at least know some basic info that is relevant to the opinions they offer. Consider the following bit from a book I was reading yesterday, although the research mentioned is something I’ve come across many times before (by the way, do I have well informed opinions because I’m smart or because I read books to inform myself before opinionating?).

The book is Linguistic Relativity by Caleb Everett (he is the son of the infamous Daniel Everett, the family having spent several influential years among the Pirahã). The book is specifically about linguistics and the quoted passage is discussing culture, but what is being pointed to are the complex web of causal and contributing factors within the larger environmental conditions. Here is the relevant part (p. 44):

“As a final example of cross-population variation in cognition, consider the example of IQ heritability. There is a strong assumption among some that measures of IQ are primarily determined by genetic factors rather than those associated with family environment. Even within American society, however, socioeconomic status appears to play a significant role in the extent to which IQ is heritable. Turkheimer et al. (2003) present data on twins representing divergent socioeconomic statuses, and these data suggest convincingly that genetic factors play a much more prominent role in IQ variation among members of higher socioeconomic status, whereas factors associated with family environment play a comparatively greater role in those of lower status. The influence of socioeconomic status on heritability of IQ suggest that even cognitive processes with clear genetic influences remain susceptible to contextual influences and, more specifically, that IQ is affected by environmental factors with a western culture. The latter point is perhaps unsurprising but nevertheless worth stressing. If something like IQ, which is associated with an assortment of cognitive processes, can be affected by contextual factors within a given culture, it seems fair to assume that the cognitive processes in question would vary in accordance with the even-wider range of contextual factors evident in multiple cultures. After all, the differences between the childhoods of Americans from lower and higher socieconomic statuses, respectively, pale in comparison to those between childhoods in western industrialized societies and, for example indigenous societies.”

This would be wisely framed within another point made by the author, in quoting from “Beyond Human Nature” by Jesse Prinz (the quote is on p. 48 of Everett’s book). Prinz states that, “Human beings are genetically more homogenous than chimps, but behaviorally more diverse than any other species.” That is to say that the vast social and individual differences seen within human populations can’t be solely or primarily blamed on genetic variation. The just-so stories of arrogant elitists, race realists, and human biodiversity advocates don’t offer any real understanding — just more dogmatic ideology to obfuscate public debate and undermine political action.

It is hard for me to understand how articles like Jared Dillian’s are still being written and taken seriously. Yet hundreds of such articles pop up on the internet on a daily basis. Considering Mauldin Economics is apparently operated as a business, obviously there is profit to be had from pushing genetic determinism. Rationalization as it is, these just-so stories are simply too compelling in how they explain away the oppression and injustices of our society. It might not be so bad if all such genetic determinists were paternalistic enough as Charles Murray to promote basic policies of social democracy and a social safety net, such as a basic income. But most people who are attracted to Murray’s argument aren’t willing to follow it to his conclusion.

I’m not sure how to read Dillian’s conclusion: “I wonder about what it will be like to live in a world ruled by people who have won the genetic lottery.” Does that express doubt about a world dominated by genetic determinists or an earnest sense of curiosity to see such a world play out? Is he feeling uncertainty or anticipation about his role as one of the potential ruling elite who has won the genetic lottery?

* * *

If you’re interested in Eric Turkheimer, I’ll share some previous posts of mine where he is discussed. I’ll also include an article by him and some relevant passages from two books.

The IQ Conundrum
Heritability & Inheritance, Genetics & Epigenetics, Etc
Using Intelligence to Assess Intelligence

Charles Murray is once again peddling junk science about race and IQ
by Eric Turkheimer, Kathryn Paige Harden, & Richard E. Nisbett

Murray takes the heritability of intelligence as evidence that it is an essential inborn quality, passed in the genes from parents to children with little modification by environmental factors. This interpretation is much too strong — a gross oversimplification. Heritability is not a special property of certain traits that have turned out to be genetic; it is a description of the human condition, according to which we are born with certain biological realities that play out in complex ways in concert with environmental factors, and are affected by chance events throughout our lives.

Today we can also study genes and behavior more directly by analyzing people’s DNA. These methods have given scientists a new way to compute heritability: Studies that measure DNA sequence variation directly have shown that pairs of people who are not relatives, but who are slightly more similar genetically, also have more similar IQs than other pairs of people who happen to be more different genetically. These “DNA-based” heritability studies don’t tell you much more than the classical twin studies did, but they put to bed many of the lingering suspicions that twin studies were fundamentally flawed in some way. Like the validity of intelligence testing, the heritability of intelligence is no longer scientifically contentious.

The new DNA-based science has also led to an ironic discovery: Virtually none of the complex human qualities that have been shown to be heritable are associated with a single determinative gene! There are no “genes for” IQ in any but the very weakest sense. Murray’s assertion in the podcast that we are only a few years away from a thorough understanding of IQ at the level of individual genes is scientifically unserious. Modern DNA science has found hundreds of genetic variants that each have a very, very tiny association with intelligence, but even if you add them all together they predict only a small fraction of someone’s IQ score. The ability to add together genetic variants to predict an IQ score is a useful tool in the social sciences, but it has not produced a purely biological understanding of why some people have more cognitive ability than others.

Most crucially, heritability, whether low or high, implies nothing about modifiability. The classic example is height, which is strongly heritable (80 to 90 percent), yet the average height of 11-year-old boys in Japan has increased by more than 5 inches in the past 50 years. A similar historical change is occurring for intelligence: Average IQ scores are increasing across birth cohorts, such that Americans experienced an 18-point gain in average IQ from 1948 to 2002. And the most decisive and permanent environmental intervention that an individual can experience, adoption from a poor family into a better-off one, is associated with IQ gains of 12 to 18 points.

These observations do not undermine the conclusion that intelligence is heritable, but rather the naive assumption that heritable traits cannot be changed via environmental mechanisms. (Murray flatly tells Harris that this is the case.)

Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined
by Scott Barry Kaufman
pp. 6-9

In 1990 the behavioral geneticist Thomas J. Bouchard Jr. and his colleagues at the University of Minnesota published a striking finding: about 70 percent of the differences in IQ found among twins and triplets living apart were associated with genetic variation. 8 What’s more, the identical twins (whose genes were assumed to be 100 percent identical * ) were remarkably similar to identical twins reared together on various measures of personality, occupational and leisure-time interests, and social attitudes, despite spending most of their lives apart.

This study, and the hundreds of twin and adoption studies that have been conducted since then, have painted a consistent picture: genetic variation matters. 9 The studies say nothing about how they matter, or which genes matter, but they show quite convincingly that biological variation does matter. Genes vary within any group of people (even among the inhabitants of middle-class Western society), and this variation contributes to variations in these people’s behaviors. The twin findings shouldn’t be understated; it counters many a prevailing belief that we are born into this world as blank slates, completely at the mercy of external forces. 10

The most important lesson researchers have learned from over twenty-five years’ worth of twin studies is that virtually every single psychological trait you can measure— including IQ, personality, artistic ability, mathematical ability, musical ability, writing, humor styles, creative dancing, sports, happiness, persistence, marital status, television viewing, female orgasm rates, aggression, empathy, altruism, leadership, risk taking, novelty seeking, political preferences, television viewing, and even rates of Australian teens talking on their cell phones— has a heritable basis. * Because our psychological characteristics reflect the physical structures of our brains and because our genes contribute to those physical structures, it is unlikely that there are any psychological characteristics that are completely unaffected by our DNA. 11

Unfortunately there is frequent confusion about the meaning of heritability. The most frequent misunderstanding is the purpose of twin studies. Heritability estimates are about understanding sources of similarities and differences in traits between members of a particular population. The results apply only to that population. The purpose is not to determine how much any particular individual’s traits are due to his or her genes or his or her environment. Behavioral geneticists are well aware that all of our traits develop through a combination of both nature and nurture. Heritability estimates are about explaining differences among people, not explaining individual development. The question on the table for them is this: In a particular population of individuals, what factors make those individuals the same as each other, and which factors make them different?

Therefore, twin studies aren’t designed to investigate human development. In recent years developmental psychologists, including L. Todd Rose, Kurt Fischer, Peter Molenaar, and Cynthia Campbell, have been developing exciting new techniques to study intraindividual variation. 12 Intraindividual variation focuses on a single person and looks at how an integrated dynamic system of behavioral, emotional, cognitive, and other psychological processes change across time and situations. New intraindividual techniques allow researchers to focus on a single twin pair and see how nature and nurture interact in nonlinear ways to explain both their similarities and their differences. 13 Both levels of analysis— twin studies and developmental analysis— are informative, but the results from the one do not apply to the other. 14

Many people also confuse heritability with immutability. They hear the word “heritable” and immediately think of “genes,” which then conjures up pictures of a fixed trait that can’t be altered by external forces. In contrast, many people hear the word “environment” and breathe a sigh of relief, thinking the trait is easily modifiable. This requires quite a strong faith in social engineering!

Just because a trait is heritable (and virtually all of our psychological traits are heritable) doesn’t necessarily mean that the trait is fixed or can’t be developed. Virtually all of our traits are substantially genetically influenced and are influenced by environmental conditions. Even though television viewing has a heritable basis, 15 most people don’t think of the activity as being outside our personal control. Indeed, parents frequently control (or try to control) the length of time their children spend sitting in front of the tube.

Another source of confusion is the role of parenting in the development of traits. A common finding in twin studies is that the environments experienced by twins (or any two siblings) do little to create differences in intelligence and personality as adults. In other words, the heritability of traits tends to increase as one ages and escapes the influence of parents. 16 Judith Rich Harris showed that peers exert a greater influence in creating differences in personality among adolescents than parents. 17 But do these findings mean that parents cannot effectively help their child develop their unique traits? Absolutely not. That’s like saying that water has no influence on a fish’s development because all fish live in water. A nurturing family environment is a necessity to help the child flourish, just as a fish needs water to swim and survive.

Just because a variable doesn’t vary doesn’t mean it has no causal impact on a particular outcome. Genes could “account for” 100 percent of the variability in a trait in a particular twin study, but this does not mean that environmental factors, including parental quality, are therefore unimportant in the development of the trait. Instead it turns out that parenting matters in a way that is different from what was originally assumed: Parents matter to the extent that they affect the expression of genes. Parents can exert important influence in the child’s development by nurturing productive interests and helping the child channel destructive inclinations into more productive outlets.

The importance of parenting becomes more salient when we look at a wider range of environments. Only a few of the twins in Bouchard’s original study were reared in real poverty or were raised by illiterate parents, and none were mentally disabled. This matters. Consider a recent study by Eric Turkheimer and colleagues. They looked at 750 pairs of American twins who were given a test of mental ability when they were 10 months old and again when they were 2 years. 18 When looking at the group of kids aged just 10 months, the home environment appeared to be the key variable across different levels of socioeconomic status. The story changed considerably as the children got a bit older and differences in education became more pronounced. For the 2-year-olds living in poorer households, the home environment mattered the most, accounting for about 80 percent of the variation in mental ability. For these kids, genetics played little role in explaining differences in cognitive ability. In wealthy households, on the other hand, genetics explained more of the differences in performance, accounting for nearly 50 percent of all the variation in mental ability.

Prominent behavioral geneticists, including Bouchard, eventually realized that it was time to move on from simply calculating heritability estimates . In a 2009 paper entitled “Beyond Heritability,” researchers Wendy Johnson, Eric Turkheimer, Irving I. Gottesman, and Bouchard concluded that “given that genetic influences are routinely involved in behavior,” “little can be gleaned from any particular heritability estimate and there is little need for further twin studies investigating the presence and magnitude of genetic influences on behavior.” 19

The Genius in All of Us: New Insights into Genetics, Talent, and IQ
by David Shenk
Kindle Locations 1003-1031

But the nature of that genetic influence is easily— and perilously— misinterpreted. If we are to take the word “heritability” at face value, genetic influence is a powerful direct force that leaves individuals rather little wiggle room. Through the lens of this word, twin studies reveal that intelligence is 60 percent “heritable,” which implies that 60 percent of each person’s intelligence comes preset from genes while the remaining 40 percent gets shaped by the environment. This appears to prove that our genes control much of our intelligence; there’s no escaping it.

In fact, that’s not what these studies are saying at all.

Instead, twin studies report, on average, a statistically detectable genetic influence of 60 percent. Some studies report more, some a lot less . In 2003, examining only poor families, University of Virginia psychologist Eric Turkheimer found that intelligence was not 60 percent heritable, nor 40 percent, nor 20 percent, but near 0 percent —demonstrating once and for all that there is no set portion of genetic influence on intelligence. “These findings,” wrote Turkheimer , “suggest that a model of [genes plus environment] is too simple for the dynamic interaction of genes and real-world environments during development.”

How could the number vary so much from group to group? This is how statistics work. Every group is different; every heritability study is a snapshot from a specific time and place, and reflects only the limited data being measured (and how it is measured).

More important, though, is that all of these numbers pertain only to groups— not to individuals. Heritability, explains author Matt Ridley , “is a population average, meaningless for any individual person : you cannot say that Hermia has more heritable intelligence than Helena. When somebody says that heritability of height is 90 percent, he does not and cannot mean that 90 percent of my inches come from genes and 10 percent from my food. He means that variation in a particular sample is attributable to 90 percent genes and 10 percent environment . There is no heritability in height for the individual.”

This distinction between group and individual is night and day. No marathon runner would calculate her own race time by averaging the race times of ten thousand other runners; knowing the average lifespan doesn’t tell me how long my life will be; no one can know how many kids you will have based on the national average. Averages are averages— they are very useful in some ways and utterly useless in others. It’s useful to know that genes matter, but it’s just as important to realize that twin studies tell us nothing about you and your individual potential. No group average will ever offer any guidance about individual capability.

In other words, there’s nothing wrong with the twin studies themselves. What’s wrong is associating them with the word “heritability,” which, as Patrick Bateson says, conveys “the extraordinary assumption that genetic and environmental influences are independent of one another and do not interact. That assumption is clearly wrong.” In the end, by parroting a strict “nature vs. nurture” sensibility, heritability estimates are statistical phantoms; they detect something in populations that simply does not exist in actual biology. It’s as if someone tried to determine what percentage of the brilliance of King Lear comes from adjectives. Just because there are fancy methods available for inferring distinct numbers doesn’t mean that those numbers have the meaning that some would wish for.

Kindle Locations 3551-3554

“The models suggest,” Turkheimer wrote, “that in impoverished families, 60% of the variance in IQ is accounted for by the shared environment, and the contributions of genes is close to zero; in affluent families, the result is almost exactly the reverse.” (Italics mine.) (Turkheimer et al., “Socioeconomic status modifies heritability of IQ in young children,” p. 632.)

Immigrants, Their Children, & Contributing Factors

In discussing comparisons between the US and France, someone brought up the issues of immigration, assimilation, and violence. The specific focus was the children of the North African Muslim immigrants. Some have noted that violent crime, terrorism, and radicalization is seen more with the native-born second and third generations than with the immigrants themselves. So, this violence is learned in Europe, rather than it having been brought here by refugees.

It’s an interesting point, but it’s hard to disentangle the strands and harder still to put it all into context. For that reason, let me offer some of my commentary from a previous post, in response to Kenan Malik — Good Liberals vs Savage Nihilists:

“He does admit that some terrorists are refugees. His argument, though, is that they aren’t the majority. That’s true. As I recall, something like 20% are refugees, which admittedly still is a large number. More important is the entire atmosphere. Even for non-refugee Muslims in Europe, they likely would be surrounded by and regularly in contact with Muslims who are refugees. In general, they’d be constantly reminded of the refugee crisis in the media, reminded of the public response of hatred and bigotry, and probably mistaken as a refugee themselves. […]

“Many European Muslims still experience the negative effects of xenophobia, racism, ghettoization, and other forms of isolation, exclusion, and prejudice. They aren’t treated as fully integrated by their fellow citizens. Simply being born in a country doesn’t mean most people will see you as an equal. It takes generations for assimilation to take place. Even after centuries, Jews and Romani have continued to struggle for acceptance and tolerance in Europe. […]

“Plus, consider the situation in the United States. American Muslims on average are wealthier and more well-educated. But unlike in Europe they aren’t ghettoized nor racialized in the same way (we already have our racialized boogeyman with blacks). Maybe it should be unsurprising that per capita American Muslims commit far less mass violence than do native-born American whites. In the US, you’re more likely to be shot by a white terrorist and treated by a Islamic doctor, in terms of percentage of each population.

“The same identity politics and decline of traditional politics have happened in the United States. In some ways, the loss of community and culture of trust is far worse here in the States. Yet Islamic integration seems more of a reality than in Europe. American Muslims apparently don’t feel disenfranchised and nihilistic, as Malik assumes they should feel. This undermines his entire argument, indicating other factors are more important.

“Obviously, there is nothing inherently violent to either Arab culture or the Islamic religion. The Ottoman Empire was one of the great powers of the world, not particularly different than European empires. If any European empire with large contiguous territory (e.g., Russian Empire) had been defeated and demolished in a similar fashion and then artificially divided up as a colonial prize, we’d probably now have something in Europe akin to the present violence-torn Middle East. There is nothing that makes either region unique, besides the accidents of history. After WWI, the Ottoman Empire could have been left intact or even given assistance in rebuilding. In that case, none of the rest would have followed.”

Europe is having issues with assimilation based on a refugee crisis involving and related to more than a century of problematic relations with the the Middle East and North Africa. There is: the post-WWI forced dismantling of the Ottoman Empire, neo-colonial exploitation, Cold War conflict, proxy wars, covert operations, coups, assassinations, puppet dictators, destruction of democracy, support of theocracy, millions of innocents regularly killed over several generations, War on Terror, climate change-caused droughts, etc. All of this has been caused or contributed to by foreign governments, especially Western governments. This is built on centuries of ongoing racial and class conflicts in European history, including the legacies of colonial imperialism.

Assimilation is always a slow process. The Roman Empire spent centuries trying to assimilate the barbarian hordes of Europe, but they ultimately failed before those backwards Europeans took down that once great Mediterranean empire. Yet after the collapse of the Roman Empire, various European societies slowly assimilated aspects of the Roman Empire, developing into Western imperialism, colonialism, and feudalism. This process took most of Europe about a millennia or so, until finally a new assimilated culture could begin to be clearly identified as Western. For example, it took the Celts, Scandinavians, Germans, and Normans more than a millennia of bloodshed to assimilate into what eventually would be called the English.

As for our present situation, even in Europe, immigration violence is relatively low. Most of the increase in violence, as far as I know, hasn’t come from immigrants and their children. There has been a right-wing and reactionary radicalization of the native-born ‘white’ populations of European countries. It’s that few people ever bother to compare this native population violence against the immigrant population violence. I would like to see good data on this. I hear lot of people repeating what they think is true, but I never see the evidence for why they think it is true other than other people also repeating the same claims.

Even if it were true, this might be a normal pattern. Europe has seen millennia of violence rates that increase and then settle down following population shifts. And Americans were making similar complaints against European ethnic immigrants in the early 19th century. Yet immigrants almost always assimilate, slowly or quickly depending on the kind of society, but the only time assimilation fails is when there is enforced segregation (e.g., American blacks). I always take such allegations with a grain of salt because, when one researches them, they so often are found to be nothing more than stereotypes. Still, I do take seriously the problems of refugee crises, especially those that could be avoided, from the English-caused Irish potato famine to the US-promoted Latin American destabilization.

Unsurprisingly, desperate people act desperately. So, if the children of refugees are being targeted with prejudice, oppressed by systemic and institutional biases,  economically segregated and ghettoized, it would be entirely predictable that bad results would follow. I’ve pointed out the research that shows diversity only correlates to mistrust when there is segregation. What I’d like to see is the data on prejudice and oppression, violent crime and police brutality committed against these immigrants, their children, and their grandchildren. And then I’d like to see that compared to rates of violent crime in immigrant communities, broken down in various ways: older and younger, foreign-born and native-born, etc.

But most importantly I’d like to see research that controls for at least the most obviously significant confounding factors: poverty, inequality, segregation, political disenfranchisement, racial/ethnic targeting, etc. Consider that last one. We know that American blacks get stopped, arrested, prosecuted, and imprisoned more often and more harshly than do American whites, even for crimes that have been proven to have higher rates for American whites. So, how do we know the bias against these populations aren’t built into the institutions, such as police departments, that create and keep this data?

Now consider this. All these points I make, all these questions and criticisms, they seem obvious to me. And I can’t help but think that they should be obvious to everyone. Yet most of this is rarely if ever mentioned, much less seriously discussed, by right-wingers and neo-reactionaries, by race realists and genetic determinists, by white supremacists and ethno-nationalists. As far as that goes, you won’t hear much about it by mainstream liberals, Democratic politicians, and corporate media. Why is that?

Look at the essay below, “Crime and the Native Born Sons of European Immigrants.” It is from 1937. The author, Harold Ross, discussed and analyzed these very same kinds of issues, although about European (Christian) immigrants. He even considered the confounding factor of economic segregation, among other issues. So, how is it that such an essay could be written 80 years ago and so many people to this day continue to make ignorant arguments, as if such confounding factors don’t exist? Was Harold Ross a genius or, like me, was he simply willing to state the obvious?

* * *

Crime and the Native Born Sons of European Immigrants
by Harold Ross
Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology
Volume 28, Issue 2 July-August, 1937

The European immigrant, landing on American shores, was forced to find cheap lodgings as he was usually penniless. These cheap lodgings he found in the disorganized slum areas of the industrialized American cities.5 The behavior of the new-comer himself was determined by behavior patterns organized in the culturally more stable European environment but his native born children suffered the stresses and strains of the new individualistic environment.

These children, the native born offspring of foreign parentage, were reared under those barren, poverty stricken socio-economic conditions that produced a higher crime rate than a more sheltered and prosperous environment. The environment of the slum dwellers meant for all the inhabitants there, be they of native or foreign parentage, a life conditioned by irregular, poorly paid employment, by a family disorganized by the necessity of the mother to leave the task of home-making in search of work to supplement the chief wage-earner’s meager income, by the general institutional disorganization, by inadequate educational opportunities and a sordid, barren milieu for the children. These vital forces were far more powerful than the fact that one slum-reared child’s parents spoke Italian and another’s parents spoke native American slang, that the one ate spaghetti, and other beef stew

If the crimes of the native born of native stock and those of the native born of foreign stock were stimulated by different causes, the cause in the latter case being a cultural clash between American and European customs which is non-existent in the former case, then there should be little similarity in the growth from childhood to careers of crime between both groups. If, on the other hand, crimes in both cases were stimulated by the same cause, namely dwelling on the same socio-economic level, then there should be definite similarity in the maturation from childhood to crime.

Anti-social behavior first becomes evident in the delinquencies of predatory boy gangs. Boys naturally tend to play with other boys. The environment determines whether this spontaneous grouping is social or anti-social, whether it is a respectable Boy Scout Troop or a predatory gang.’ The typical city “kids” gang consisted mainly of the native born offspring of foreign born parents, but nativity per se was not responsible for the gang problem.7 All boys of the same socio-economic class, whether of foreign, negro, or native white parentage, enter into gangs with equal facility.8 Boys of the more prosperous classes do not form anti-social gangs, not because they are of native white stock, but because of their prosperous environment.9 It is needless for them to rebel against the mores and law, for life has been comfortable to them. Others, regardless of parental nativity and because of their lower socio-economic position, did not willingly accept the mores and law that doomed them to a barren life, so naturally violated them.

This disregard by delinquency of nativity is illustrated by Chicago districts near the Loop, the stock yards, and the south Chicago steel mills which have had high delinquency rates as far back as the records go, and yet whose” population composition has been constantly changing. 0 In many cities it has been noted that the incidence in delinquency varied more accurately with community background than with nationality. High rates coincided with the areas of physical deterioration.”

There has been no fixed boundary between the boy’s predatory gang and the adult’s criminal group.’ 2 Behavior patterns organized in the former were carried over into and accentuated by the latter. Sons, both of native and foreign born stocks, made this promotion from juvenile delinquent to adult offender with equal facility. A follow up of 420 Chicago cases found a negligible difference.’ 3 Continuance of anti-social conduct was dependent upon other conditions than nationality. 4

Further, evidence that the crimes of native born white of both European and American parentage were the resultant not of conditions peculiar to either group but of the same general socio-economic pressures affecting both is shown by the fact that the types of crimes the immigrant’s sons were guilty of were similar not to the offenses of their parents, but to the offenses committed by native Americans. This tendency of the second generation to shift away from crimes peculiar to immigrants and towards native crimes is substantiated by records of all commitments to Massachusett’s penal institutions during the year ending September 30, 1909, and by the records of convictions in the New York Court of General Sessions from October 1, 1908 to June 30, 1909. 25

In summary, then, it was noted by an examination of both American and European reports that the differences in socio-economic conditions between urban and rural life resulted in differences in crime rate whatever may be the nativity or cultural heritage of the individuals. Further it is contended that there are just as marked differences between the environment of prosperous and poverty stricken districts within the urban areas which also result in differing crime rates. Thus the crime of the native born sons of foreign born parentage may be a result not of cultural maladjustment as is usually held, but of their position in a poverty class, a class which breeds criminals with equal facility from all its constituents be they of native or foreign parentage. This view is substantiated by evidence that indicates that native born whites of both American and European parents, if on the same socio-economic level, formed predatory groups, that both grew up into careers of crime with equal facility, and that both were guilty of the same types of crime. This coincidence of factors indicates that the criminality of both was not due to conditions peculiar to each group individually, but to general conditions affecting both equally, namely, their residence in a poverty stricken socio-economic class.

This explanation, if accepted, harmonizes the apparent contradiction between statistical studies, on the one hand, which demonstrate a higher crime rate for the native born of European parentage than for the native born of American parentage, and the personal experiences of countless officials and investigators, on the other hand, who claim, after handling hundreds of second generation offenders, that the foreign stock from which the offenders sprang was in no way responsible for the criminality.16 As the native born sons of foreign parentage tend to be segregated on that income level which has a high crime rate and the native stock tends to be dispersed through all income levels, then obviously statistical studies would endow the former with a higher crime ratio. […]

In conclusion concerning the number and causes of crime of native born individuals of foreign stock, in contradiction to accepted opinion, these views are tentatively presented.

2) Statistics seem to indicate a higher crime rate for the native born of European stock only because they disregard the various income levels. What their actual crime rate is is still a matter of opinion and it is this writer’s hypothesis that all peoples on the same socio-economic level have approximately the same crime rate.

1) The second generation is not a group culturally adrift with neither the culture of their parents nor of their new environment to guide them, but is a group with a very definite culture, a culture of a socio-economic level that is determined by irregular, poorly paid employment and results in broken homes, inadequate eductional and recreational opportunity, and a general stunted environment. And this culture determines for its inhabitants, whatever their nativity, a high crime rate.


Why Are Blacks Concentrated in Inner Cities?

Why do so few whites still not know about sundown towns? James W. Loewen, in his book Sundown Towns, wonders if there some major dissociation and denial going on here. As he explains (and as quoted in my post Racism Without Racists),

“Perhaps it is more accurate to say that white Americans know and don’t know about sundown towns.”

How could Americans not know when they are surrounded by the evidence? Our entire society is structured by a long history of racism that has left no part of our lives untouched. The segregation of populations is no accident. It certainly wasn’t the choice of blacks.

Sundown towns developed all across the country. They excluded blacks from moving there and expelled most of the blacks already living there. This wave of violence drove blacks into the inner cities, where they were able to find some safety in numbers, although no place was completely safe.

p. 53

“Similarly, blacks did find some refuge in majority-black neighborhoods in the inner city. Whites usually proved reluctant to venture far into alien territory to terrorize residents. Although whites attacked black neighborhoods in Chicago; East St. Louis, Illinois; Washington, D.C.; Tulsa; and other cities between 1917 and 1924, they were unable to destroy them for good.”

This ghettoization of the black population was exacerbated by public policies that further concentrated and isolated them:

p. 130

“When the federal government did spend money on black housing, it funded the opposite of suburbia: huge federally assisted high-rise “projects” concentrated in the inner city. We are familiar with the result, which now seems natural to us, market-driven: African Americans living near the central business district and whites living out in the suburbs. Actually, locating low-income housing on cheaper, already vacant land in the suburbs would have been more natural, more market-driven. One of Chicago’s most notorious housing projects, Cabrini Green, lies just a stone’s throw west of an expensive and desirable lakefront neighborhood north of the Loop, separated by the elevated railroad tracks. This is costly land. To justify its price, the Chicago Housing Authority had to pile hundreds of units onto the tract, building poorly devised physical structures that bred a festering, unsafe social structure. The steps taken by suburban developers and governments to be all-white were interferences in the housing market that kept African Americans from buying homes and locked them in overwhelmingly black tracts inside the city.”

Being ignorant of this history, many whites don’t even stop to question it for it seems natural and inevitable. Poor blacks live in inner cities. It is just what poor blacks do. But it should seem strange since at one time most blacks were farmers. After the Civil War, blacks spread out across the country.

p. 142:

“Before 1890, however, African Americans moved to counties and towns throughout America, as Table 1 showed (page 56)—even to isolated places such as northern Maine, northern Wisconsin, and Idaho north of the Snake River Valley. Then during the Great Retreat, they withdrew to the larger cities and a mere handful of small towns. Distance from the South, from African American population centers, or from major trade routes cannot explain this pattern, because towns in Maine, Wisconsin, Idaho, and elsewhere were at least as isolated socially between 1865 and 1890, when African Americans were moving into them, as they were between 1890 and 1930, when African Americans were fleeing them.11 In other words, because social isolation cannot explain the increases in black population in northern counties before 1890, it cannot explain why those increases reversed after that date. Something different went on after 1890.”

What happened? One common explanation is that it is simply an issue of class, of poverty. Blacks are poor, always have been and always will be. If that is the case, why are even wealthier blacks disproportionately underrepresented in wealthy suburbs and poor whites disproportionately represented in poor inner cities and poor communities in general?

Conflating race with class, as is common, doesn’t explain any of this.

pp. 143-145

“Other whites seem to think it’s somehow “natural” for blacks to live in the inner city, whites in the outer suburbs. This idea is a component of what law professor John Boger calls “the national sense that [residential segregation] is inescapable.” Most African Americans arrived by train, goes this line of thought, and they’re just taking a long time to move out from the vicinity of the train station; as soon as they make enough money, they too will move to the suburbs. But the whiteness of our suburbs is not “natural.”13

“Over and over, white academics as well as residents of sundown suburbs suggest that social class explained sundown suburbs, if not independent sundown towns. “I couldn’t live in Grosse Pointe either,” one professor put it in 2002, referring to one of Detroit’s richest suburbs, also one of its whitest. For all-white suburbs to result from classism is seen as defensible, because classism is OK, since we all presumably have a reasonable if not equal chance to get into the upper class. This ideology is a form of Social Darwinism: the best people wind up on top, and whites are smarter, better students, work harder at their jobs, etc. People who think like this don’t see Grosse Pointe’s whiteness as a white problem but as a black problem. “They” haven’t worked hard enough, etc., so they haven’t accumulated enough wealth—and perhaps enough social connections and knowledge—to crack these suburbs.

“This line of thought seems plausible. Segregation by class is an important component of suburbanization, and increasingly so. Residents of elite suburbs such as Grosse Pointe segregate on the basis of both race and class, and for the same reason: being distant from African Americans and from lower-class people conveys status.14 Nevertheless, the reasoning does not hold up, for two reasons. First, it ignores history. People who think like this have no idea that as recently as the 1960s and 1970s, when today’s mature adults were starting their careers, whites in much of the country flatly banned African Americans as a group from many occupations—not just professions but also jobs like construction work, department store clerk, flight attendant, and railroad engineer.

“Second, sundown suburbs simply do not result from class. Research by Michael Danielson points to a key flaw in the argument: the proportion of a metropolitan area’s blacks in a suburb, controlling for income, is less than half the proportion of whites in that suburb, except for the handful of interracial suburbs. That is, if we tried to guess the number of African Americans in a suburb just using income, we would always predict more than twice as many black people as actually lived there. Something has been keeping them out in addition to their class status. Conversely, a much higher proportion of poor white families live in suburbs, compared to poor black families. If income were the crucial factor, then there would be little difference by race in the distribution of the poor.15

“Continuing with our Grosse Pointe example, in the Detroit metropolitan area, class has mattered even less, race even more, than elsewhere in the nation, according to research by Karl Taeuber. “More than half of the white families in each income level, from very poor to very rich, lived in the suburbs,” he found. “Among blacks, only one-tenth of the families at each income level (including very rich) lived in the suburbs.” In short, social class, at least as measured by income, made little difference in the level of suburbanization. Rich whites have been much more suburban than rich blacks; poor whites have been much more suburban than poor blacks.16

“Sundown suburbs with an industrial base—such as Dearborn, Warren, and Livonia, around Detroit—have long employed African Americans, at least as janitors, but they could not spend the night. Some of these suburbs—like Livonia and Warren—are working-class. Other sundown suburbs, like independent sundown towns, are multiclass: houses in Dearborn, in 1997, ranged from starter homes around $45,000 to executive homes for $800,000 and up. Social class simply cannot explain the absence of African Americans from multiclass or working-class communities. Nor can it explain the absence of Jews from such elite suburbs as Kenilworth and Flossmoor, Illinois, and Darien, Connecticut.17

“Sociologist Reynolds Farley and his associates used our old friend D, the Index of Dissimilarity, to compare the power of race to that of class. Specifically regarding Detroit, they observed, “If household income alone determined where people lived, the Index of Dissimilarity would be 15 [almost completely integrated] instead of 88 [almost completely segregated].” Instead,

Economic criteria account for little of the observed concentration of blacks in central cities and their relative absence from the suburbs. The current level of residential segregation must be attributed largely to action and attitudes, past and present, which have restricted the entry of blacks into predominately white neighborhoods.18

“Indeed, blaming the whiteness of elite sundown suburbs on their wealth actually reverses the causality of caste and class. It is mostly the other way around: racial and religious exclusion came first, not class. Suburbs that kept out blacks and Jews became more prestigious, so they attracted the very rich. The absence of African Americans itself became a selling point, which in turn helped these suburbs become so affluent because houses there commanded higher prices. To this day, all-white suburbs attract the very rich. Twelve of the communities on Worth magazine’s list of 50 richest towns were all-white in 2000 or had just one or two African American families. Typically they were all-white first and became rich only when affluent families moved in. After 1959, for example, when Jews were let into La Jolla, California, a number of WASP families fled from La Jolla to Rancho Santa Fe, fifteen miles north and inland from the beach. Now Rancho Santa Fe is #16 on Worth’s list, well above La Jolla at #85,19 based on median home price.20

“In yet another way, blaming blacks for being poor, as a cause of segregation, reverses cause and effect. As Chapter 12 shows, residential segregation itself constrains and diminishes the cultural capital and social connections of African Americans, thus artificially decreasing their income and wealth. It won’t do to then use blacks’ lower income and wealth to explain residential segregation.”

Many other rationalizations are likewise carefully dissected by Loewen. None of them explains the history of segregation and its continuation. The only explanation left is that of racism.

America’s 10 Most Segregated Cities: analysis, commentary

I noticed this article from Huffington Post:

America’s 10 Most Segregated Cities

1. Detroit, Michigan

The reason I noticed was because the data showed a North/South (i.e., blue/red) divide which is something I wrote about in great detail a short while ago:

However, the HuffPo data seems to imply counterintuitive conclusions. According to the methodology of the study, the Northern ‘metropolises’ show more ‘segregation’ than the Southern ‘metropolises’. Less surprisingly, the Eastern ‘metropolises’ in general show more ‘segregation’ than the Western ‘metropolises’.

The Southern states should be given their due. They’ve come a long way, baby. Federally forced desegregation did wonders for the South. It has never quite been the same since. I went to a desegregated public school in the Deep South and so I can attest to this fact. One commenter said it well:

Southern cities were the first cities under mandatory court supervisio­n to practice desegregat­ion with bussing, anti-redli­ning experiment­s and a variety of mandated reforms. In my view many of those practices and reforms were successful­l in reforming some of the big cities of the old south. That naturally doesn’t include Texas, Arkansas or the rural areas of the south. Those places are only bitterly desegregat­ed. I don’t think we’re talking necessaril­y about race hatred in this article but about old died-in-th­e-wool housing, schooling, and industrial patterns. The north is clearly lagging in that respect, while the west because of it’s almost complete freedom from those patterns is the default leader. Southern cities get kudos for enlightene­d desegregat­ion efforts, while certain Yankee communitie­s need to be recognized as bastions of liberty and prosperity­. Vermont I’m thinking of you. As an immigrant westerner I am biased and have to say “The West Is The Best.”

Yes, some valid points… which many Southern conservatives would deny to the end of time.

That said, I disagree with his assessment that Northern cities need to become more like Southern cities. The South in general has a lot of problems (which I go into great detail about in my North/South Divide post linked above). No city should emulate the South. Yes, desegregation has had value in the South, but the Northern states also don’t have segregated schools and such. The social situation of Northern cities is different, faced as they are with other issues.

As for the West, I don’t know that it’s the best. The West, especially the Northwest, is no doubt more predominately white and lacks the deeply embedded racial history found in the East. Anyway, it’s inaccurate to say that the division is East vs West. The East and West coasts have much more history of racial and cultural diversity since, in the past, immigrants typically entered by way of the coasts. The Midwest, on the other hand, only experienced the arrival of larger minority populations when industrialization began.

Bsmooth: “Wow people in this country are stupid. For those of you trying to make the incorrect point that they are all East Coast or a majority from the East, only 4 of the 10 or 40% are from the East Coast or East.

The Midwestern United States (in the U.S. generally referred to as the Midwest) is one of the four geographic regions within the United States of America that are officially recognized by the United States Census Bureau.

The region consists of twelve states in the central and inland northeaste­rn US: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.­[1] A 2006 Census Bureau estimate put the population at 66,217,736­. Both the geographic center of the contiguous U.S. and the population center of the U.S. are in the Midwest. The United States Census Bureau divides this region into the East North Central States (essential­ly the Great Lakes States) and the West North Central States.

Chicago is the largest city in the region, followed by Detroit and Indianapol­is. Chicago has the largest metropolit­an statistica­l area, followed by Detroit, and Minneapoli­s – Saint Paul. Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan is the oldest city in the region, having been founded by French missionari­es and explorers in 1668.”

– – –

There are a few factors and details that get lost in the analysis of this study. It would appear that either the researchers have some unconscious biases in how they chose their methodology or they were intentionally massaging the data by seeking out a methodology that would give them the results they wanted. Or I suppose they could just be so narrowly focused on a piece of the puzzle that they merely failed to grasp the larger picture. The latter is probably the most likely explanation. I don’t have any reason to doubt that they thought they were making a useful clarification in focusing on what they considered relevant comparisons.

First, the choice of terms is a bit misleading. The study is measuring ‘segregation’ in ‘metropolises’, but the terms are being defined in a specific way. So, what is being measured isn’t necessarily what most people would think is being measured. ‘Segregation’ is a term that has a historical context of laws requiring races to have separate neighborhoods, schools, restaurants, bathrooms, drinking fountains, swimming pools, etc. But the researchers are using ‘segregation’ in an apparently idiosyncratic sense by defining it both more generically and more narrowly. ‘Metropolises’ is a more general term in common language, but is being used in a technical sense here and so is being defined more specifically and more narrowly. This study isn’t comparing all cities, only ‘metropolises’. If I’m understanding correctly their use of this term, these large ‘metropolises’ by definition are going to be mostly found in the old industrial cities of the North. It would be more interesting and probably more insightful to see a comparison of racial diversity and racial violence between all urban, suburban, and rural areas, between all states, and between all regions; or, if racial segregation was to be used, to have all other factors controlled for (e.g., socioeconomic segregation).

LogicalMathMan: “Some reasons for dubious criteria used in this study: 1) the study measures the level of integratio­n in a metropolis­, 2) the definition of a metropolis is not specified, 3) the measure of integratio­n based on transient population is ignored, e.g. If NY shows an increase in ‘integrati­on’ compared to a smaller ‘metropoli­s’ in the deep south, it merely suggests that there was more of a transient population that was integrated into the most cosmopolit­an city in the world, 4) no reasons are given for why cities in rural Mississipp­i, Tennessee, Arkansas, Texas, Georgia, Louisiana should be excluded but for the erroneous reason that they do not qualify as ‘metropoli­ses’ under the authors’ criteria, 5) If metropolit­an areas that were designated as cities based on the authors’ criteria for the start of the duration under study ceased to be considered as cities at the end of the duration due to the criteria being set, then an in-transie­nt population with declining minorities would not be considered­.

Overall, IMO, this study is seriously flawed.”

Artos: “Yeah isn’t it. Not nearly as interestin­g as all those tiny little Southern Burgs where segregatio­n is commonplac­e. Course only the big ones got noticed.”

Erik Larsen: “I’m really not clear on the term “segregate­d” vs “racially or culturally self-selec­ted non-divers­e neighbourh­oods”. For example, does a Chinatown or Little Italy mean “segregati­on”? Would it surprise people that immigrants from Somalia would tend to congregate in a certain area of town?

Segregatio­n is a loaded term with a lot of sinister historical baggage. Hmmmm.”

dannarasm: “Identifing segregatio­n by race was important during the civil rights movement because it showed that segregatio­n did, infact, impact an individual­’s ability to obtain an general education, which in turn effects an individual­’s ability to obtain acceptance to higher education. Because of this, government­al social programs were enacted to “balance” the disparity in soci-econo­mic divisions between “races”.

Today, the importance is because the government­al social programs rely upon this data for government­al funding and continued support for the national laws that prohibit “segregati­on” by race. Most important is how schools are funded. Schools are funded in part by property taxes. Those who live in wealthy areas are benefited by schools who have far more money for the schools and education, than those in less affluent areas. De-segrega­tion was a means of removing social-eco­nomic segregatio­n in education where children in poor areas were able to receive a better education by attending schools in more wealthy areas which normally they couldn’t because of socio-econ­omic segregatio­n.

However, one can take the term intergrati­on and apply it to segregatio­n to find out that yes, individual­s prefer to live, work with those of similar race and religious beliefs regardless of laws against segregatio­n. Individual­s segregate themselves and prefer to not intergrate themselves with others who are not in the same socio-econ­omic/relig­ious groups. Thus the form of “classes” in which an individual­, simply by being born in a certain socio-econ­omic area, remains in that socio-econ­omic area.”

Second, the study is only measuring the ‘integration’ of neighborhoods, measuring how the rates of diversity in a given neighborhood match the rates of diversity in the entire ‘metropolis’ which the neighborhood is a part of. So, even during slavery times, the South probably would have measured low on ‘segregation’ as it’s being measured in this study. Slaves lived on the plantation with the slave owner. They weren’t ‘segregated’ in the sense that they were all living in the same neighborhood.

Azuki: “If I’m understand­ing correctly, the compares the overall city demographi­c to local neighborho­od demographi­c. The higher the concentrat­ion of a certain group in a certain location, the higher the segregatio­n score. This study does seem to show people gravitate toward living with other people of the same race. It also shows certain races tend to live in more impoverish­ed neighborho­ods. It does not, however, show segregatio­n is the cause of the impoverish­ment. I would argue the impoverish­ment came first. Reporting the study as some sort revelation on race relations in this country is irresponsi­ble. The race issue does exist, but it’s much higher up on the chain. Therefore, I’m not sure how this helps anyone solve the actual problem. Again, all we’re doing is focusing on consequenc­es and being reactive rather than proactive.”

kbrown2225: “Actually the South has always been more integrated even in the time of Jim Crow. The south relied heavily on the legal system of segregatio­n (i.e. whites only accomodati­ons rather than wholesale segregatio­n of the community.­) With a legal system keeping the races seperate in accomodati­ons whites did not feel as great of a need to segregate in terms of location (although segregated areas certainly existed). The North on the other hand never had a legal system of segregatio­n but rather relied on a segregatio­n of residence (i.e. whites only neighborho­ods etc.) much of which still remains. By the way I was raised outside of Birmingham­, Alabama.”

Third, the study was primarily measuring ‘integration’ of blacks and whites while largely ignoring the bigger picture of diversity and integration. So, ‘metropolises’ that are ‘integrated’ between blacks and whites may or may not be ‘integrated’ in context of Native Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Middle Easterners, etc. Actual percentages and rates of diversity weren’t being measured. Many of the ‘metropolises’ measured as more ‘segregated’ might also measure as more racially and ethnically diverse. And many of the ‘metropolises’ measured as being less ‘segregated’ might also measure as less racially and ethnically diverse.

valkrye131: “Philadelph­ia is more than 40% black. While segregatio­n remains prevalent in some neighborho­ods, and schools, in real life interactio­n it’s almost non-existe­nt. Anyone who actually lives and works in the city must count a fair number of persons of other races/ethn­icities among their friends, co-workers­, and acquaintan­ces unless they are deliberate­ly segregatin­g themselves­.”

Hmuir: “I was born and raised in Suffolk county New York, To some extent the neighborho­ods are segregated BUT it is the school that makes the difference­. Nearby towns were absolutely segregated because the population of the school were mostly if not all white. I went to a school that was diverse even though that part is never mentioned, we may live in seperate neighborho­ods but we all came together monday through friday, we all got along most of the time. I had more friends that did not live in my neighborho­od than those that did! I am grateful that my schools were diverse because I learned a lot more than others that grew up in a truly homogeneou­s town!”

Myshkin57: “To all the people who think there’s really something here indicative of the racial attitudes of big cities, blue states, or the north, please read up on the criterion used: http://en.­wikipedia.­org/wiki/I­ndex_of_di­ssimilarit­y

The index is figured by comparing the racial make-up of a neighborho­od within a city to the racial make-up of the entire city. So, the easiest way to be “unsegrega­ted” is to not have much racial diversity in your city. An all-white city will be completely unsegregat­ed by these metrics.”

Fourth, the study was only measuring the ‘integration’ of blacks and whites within individual neighborhoods of ‘metropolises’. So, this study seems to falsely assume that having ethnic neighborhoods is the same as being ‘segregated’. A ‘metropolis’ can appear to be not ‘segregated’, according to this study, for the simple reason that there are few minorities and little diversity. Of course, a ‘metropolis’ with large concentrated minority populations will tend to have more clumping of those populations. If there are very fewer minorities in a ‘metropolis’, it might be more difficult and less likely for them to clump together in separate neighborhoods. Also, this study completely ignores how much a ‘metropolis’ embraces multiculturalism and how welcomed people feel no matter their race or ethnicity.

Doktor Avalanche: “”Desegrega­tion” does not equal “integrati­on.””

CabCurious: “The reports of segregatio­n across NYC are misleading­. It’s time we stop thinking of integratio­n in terms of making milky soup and start thinking in terms of mosaics. Outside of central Manhattan, NYC is a model for a mosaic of humanity living together without creating a milky soup devoid of culture and community.

Obviously most of Manhattan is off-balanc­ed compared to the rest of the city. But the census reporting doesn’t respect that the city is grown out of a MOSAIC of different communitie­s deeply interconne­cted in ways that this kind of report doesn’t get at.

Queens and Brooklyn are the most diverse places on earth.

To call the segregated because there are traditiona­l ethnic communitie­s is a disservice to the dialog about ethnicity and culture in america.”

CabCurious:Let’s stop thinking of integratio­n in terms of whiteness and superficia­lity. Let’s start thinking about equal opportunit­y and how to value diversity.”

Fifth, the study only compares ‘metropolises’ to other ‘metropolises’ (and even that comparison is narrowly focused because the definition is narrow). So, this says nothing about how these cities compare to rural areas or how these cities compare to states (or how rural areas compare to rural areas, or how states compare to states). In the South, ‘segregation’ probably happens more between wealthier cities and poorer rural areas, with poor whites being ‘segregated’ in the rural areas outside of the ‘metropolises’. In the North, I would suspect there is less difference between cities and rural areas, the difference instead being between urban and suburban areas (both of which are included in the same ‘metropolis’), with poor blacks being ‘segregated’ in the urban areas at the center of ‘metropolises’. The North has less economic disparity which is a significant factor. Race, in America, correlates to socioeconomic class. Going by the same method as this study, if states were being compared (throwing together urban, suburban, and rural areas), then Southern states might show more ‘segregation’. This, however, is speculation as the data being provided is so narrow in focus.

Yeuk Moy: “I would be curious to know if the dissimilar­ity index would significan­tly change if income was factored out.”

deanleto: “well, if they did it on disparity of income, then racial disparity would seem like a love fest”

andwhatarmy: “This is so bogus. If they had assessed relative incomes, then they’d have a handle on why the dissimilar­ities exist. Then they could begin to do something about income disparity.­..but probably not until the likes of Donald T-Rump stop building incredibly costly high-rises only the top 2 percent can afford, or until the Bouvier-ty­pes and movie-star types decide they really don’t like the privacy of the dunes in the Hamptons. I can’t speak to the situation in the other locales, as I have only lived in those two–Nassa­u-Suffolk and NYC. But I can assure you, if the finances in either place permitted integratio­n, it would be more likely to happen there than a lot of the other places mentioned.

And if, for instance, little Southern towns have less dissimilar­ity, it is because both African-Am­ericans and low-income rednecks are equally poor and downtrodde­n, kept in place by one or two oligarchs only, thus they share the cruddy side of town. I lived in a few of those places, too (Athens, GA and Bristol, TN), and saw it as I said it.”

salesdude: “All the cities listed had a large mfg based economy that drew southern blacks during the wars, and when the factories and jobs left, the people were virtually marooned in their neighborho­ods with no means of upward mobility. As the cities lost tax revenue and the white citizens left for the suburbs, the city centers declined, which even further isolated the black community. Drugs took over bringing violent crime and city services declined even further to the point that almost all these cities now have generation­s of families who live hand to mouth. Worse yet, the public school systems are substandar­d which further dooms the residents because without an education you are stuck there. For many inner city kids the only escape is to join the military.”

jeanrenoir: “I’m a white living in Baltimore, the epicenter with Detroit of the tragedy of urban black paralysis and dysfunctio­n. I live in the middle of the city, in the only genuinely integrated neighborho­od in town; most of Baltimore is overwhelmi­ngly white or black. Who can blame either whites or blacks for fleeing from the crime, chaos, blight, dirt, and drugs of urban black America? And the urban black poor can’t afford to leave. So it’s going to be a LONG time, if ever, before “segregati­on” is “overcome” in America. Meanwhile, the black middle class keeps growing, prospering­, and leaving the dysfunctio­nal urban blacks behind, just as the formerly urban whites have. Black America experience­s great progress for the educated middle class, and unchanged paralysis for the hapless, uneducated poor. And blacks and whites who can get as far away from the latter as possible. What a shock.”

eugeneregard: “It has more to do with job loss than anything else. Union manufactur­ing jobs moved to right to work for less southern cities leaving their money base ruptured. As the right to work states lose their jobs to China it will happen there too. The ability to make money makes more choices for more people. Our “free trade” policies have committed economic treason against this country.”

LogicCircuit: “I’d say in big cities the dividing factor is money. Segregatio­n made African Americans poor decades ago and the raw capitalism ruling this country today is making sure they stay poor.

I suppose at least in today’s modern society the forces of a capitalist­ic market don’t discrimina­te. As a general rule, all poor will remain poorer and the rich will get richer.”

Sixth, Northern cities are also older cities and have been the entry point into America for many immigrants, especially for earlier immigrants. So, Northern cities have a long history of racial and ethnic diversity. The ethnic neighborhoods in Northern cities have been there for a very long time. In earlier periods of history, immigrants were more isolated by culture and language. They often chose to live close together for a sense of familiarity and safety. And new immigrants today still are attracted to their respective ethnic neighborhoods. Why shouldn’t they? Ethnic neighborhoods aren’t inherently bad, despite the fact that they measure as being ‘segregated’. Without ethnic neighborhoods, much of America’s ethnic diversity would have disappeared long ago. Ethnic diversity can be a good thing. And the melting pot ideal isn’t always a good thing. In the South, there is less ethnic diversity between blacks and whites because whites in previous times intentionally destroyed the slave’s African culture and forced slaves to conform to white culture. It was when freed black slaves moved to the industrial North (e.g., Harlem) looking for jobs that they began to develop their own independent and distinct culture (e.g., Harlem Renaissance).

rigormrtis: “Most of the cities listed are much older. The southern mega-citie­s have experience­d their growth more recently and pulled people in from all over. They are more cosmopolit­an as a result.”

mpls mas machos: “This is banal, but the reason there aren’t more southern cities on this list is simply because the south urbanized later than every part of the country. For example, Metropolit­an Atlanta, historical­ly the largest and most urban city in the south, had a population in 1960 of @ 1.5 million (city and suburbs), and has now nearly quadrupled in size. Big Eastern cities are old, ancient relative to most others, and have long histories, with entrenched neighborho­ods. If anyone has bragging rights, it’s not North or South, but the West that does.”

greenygenie: “I live and work in an, albeit, suburban area of Palm Beach County, and the races in my area are very well evenly distribute­d.
(See for yourself: http://pro­jects.nyti­mes.com/ce­nsus/2010/­explorer?r­ef=us
Put in 33462)

I think this has a lot to do with the fact that these “neighborh­oods” lack history, and are new on the order of 15 years old. If people should choose to live here, it has nothing to do with neighborho­od identifica­tion, but proximity to work, schools, and affordabil­ity.”

Eyal Neval: “This survey is mind blowingly flawed. The most diverse city, NYC, gets the lowest score. Why? Because the survey states that neighborho­ods were examined to see how many people need to move for that neighborho­od to become as diverse as the city as a whole. So if the city is really homogenous­, very few people will have to move in a certain neighborho­od to match that city diversenes­s, but if the city is as diverse as NY, some neighborho­ods are white, some are black, some hispanic, some mix- that’s not segregatio­n, that’s cultural diversity and it means a lot will have to move to match the city wide stats, but that’s pointless, there is no goal of having a solid gray mush all over the city, it’s good that some neighborho­ods have greek character, some Dominican, and some African American. People can choose which character fits them best and find new friends. There is no segregatio­n in NYC, the opposite is true; due to economic reasons there is a strong gentrifica­tion.”

merger: “One of things I have noticed in my frequent visits to NYC, is that immigrants tend to move into neighborho­ods where there are more people of their nationailt­y. I am sure they feel safer, and it is an easier transition if you are unfamiliar with the language and the culture of a new country. Americans that move to foriegn lands to live, work, and retire tend to live in “American” communitie­s. It makes one feel more comfortabl­e in a foriegn land.”

ZombyWoof: “There are all sorts of political and economic forces at play but one cannot minimize the fact that most of these cities are very culturally diverse, and ethnic enclaves are naturally going to be a consequenc­e of this fact. This in turn encourages entreprene­urship catering to that fact which itself further enhances the “flavor” of those neighborho­od serving as a magnet.”

Seventh, as I pointed out, the researchers weren’t measuring wealth disparity nor were they measuring poverty nor many other factors: races besides blacks and whites, mixed race people and mixed race marriages, how ethnicity correlates to racial identities, percentage of racial diversity rather than just rate comparisons, racial conflict and violence vs tolerance, multiculturalism, etc. So, we can’t use this data to easily ascertain patterns, correlations, and causal links. For example, in the South, there is a lot more poverty and greater wealth disparity. History has forced Southern blacks and whites to live closer together, but that doesn’t change the fact that the rich white kids are sent to private schools and that doesn’t change the fact that the churches tend to remain segregated. Stating Southern ‘metropolises’ are less ‘segregated’ according to this methodology doesn’t in itself tell us much at all. Without looking at the larger context and the minute details of all the relevant factors, we miss out on finding anything meaningful.

littlebrowngirl: “What the study should say is that there are very few diverse areas in the country.”

ZombyWoof: “By harkening back to fair housing laws passed 40 years ago this article seems to suggests that there’s been little progress and that’s just absurd; I’ve been around long enough to see the change from decade to decade.

I’m a Latino who grew up in the projects in the Bronx when it could be said there was real segregatio­n. I currently live in Washington Heights which is predominan­tly Hispanic, (although my section is less so), but prior to that (except for some years in San Francisco and Bloomingto­n MN) I have lived in Forest Hills, Kew Gardens, and Park Slope. All these neighborho­ods are predominat­ely one ethnicity or other but I would never consider them segregated as I have always had neighbors from many cultures.

There is still some discrimina­tion and other factors, particular­ly economic (including education funding), have to be considered­, but we have to come to grips with the fact that many people of similar background­s like to congregate in the same areas and there is nothing wrong with that so long as there are no efforts to keep out those “others” whomever they may be.

Also there are other considerat­ions, sometimes you want the convenienc­e of having shops that sell products that cater to your culture and grew up accustomed to being able to obtain without a hassle. In my case I can finally sink my teeth into a nice pernil whenever I want that wasn’t made by my mother and only on special occasions.”

– – –

This is an example of an article about a study where many of the commenters offer more insight and understanding than the article and maybe even more than the study. However, I haven’t looked at the study in enough detail and so I don’t want to necessarily or entirely blame the researchers. It seems the terminological definitions made it easy to misinterpret the complex set of data, but the author of the article should have understood that and helped clarify the issues in order to not encourage problematic and confused interpretations.

lensman3: “This article has been spun in a *VERY* misleading manner. Completely misleading if you look at the last table of the report.

Shame, shame on you Mr Bradford. Your a racist….

Shame, shame on Huffington­post for even posting the article.”

bepa: “Yes the table shows that people nationally have declining black/whit­e segregatio­n


Another problem with the report…a­nyone who says they are of mixed race is classified as black

In the 200 and 2010 census there were people who classified themselves as mixed race..part­icularly the young… Mixed marriages are very common today…an­d the children are fine …that would not be reflected in this report”

I don’t think the author of the article was intentionally trying to mislead nor that he is a racist. But the author could have provided more detailed data and careful analysis. And I’m sure the researchers weren’t intending a racist interpretation by classifying anyone as black who is even just partly black. But that does play into the history of racism where anyone who had any non-white genetics was considered non-white as if ‘white’ represents some pure category. From the report:

Our approach for handling multiple race responses in 2000 and 2010 is to treat a person as black if they described themselves as black plus any other race; as Asian if they listed Asian plus any other race except black; and as Native American/other race for any other combination.

This brings into question the results of this study. If white people who acknowledge they have some black genetics (maybe from a parent, grandparent or great-grandparent) are categorized as black, then neighborhoods with a lot of mixed race people will be measured as being segregated according to these definitions.

Although the study is largely focused on blacks and whites, it also looks at data of Hispanics and Asians (although with the same issue with categorizing mixed race people). One problem is that, in looking at regions, the researchers used whites as the standard for comparison. So, they did comparisons of Black-White segregation along with comparisons of Hispanic-White segregation and of Asian-White comparisons. But they didn’t do segregation comparisons for regions between Blacks, Hispanics and Asians. And they didn’t include all races together in looking at overall diversity in relation to segregation. As such, the researchers still fell short in creating a truly helpful analysis of segregation in America.

There were also many commenters who were apparently confused about the data because of the way the study was designed along with how it was explained in the article. But some of this was just the normal ideological preconceptions that are always found in comment sections. Some conservatives, of course, wanted to simplify it into Democratic cities bad, Republican cities good. And some conservatives wanted to conflate this idiosyncratic, narrow definition of ‘segregation’ with the broader cultural issue of racism, implying that liberals are the real racists. Other commenters had their eyes open for such ideological biases and misinterpretations.

dentuso: “What most will not recognize is the fact that this study takes into acct the volume of minorities per city. Simply; if a city is 50% AA who live predominan­tly in the south, it will show that a massive racial shift would have to occur.

Transverse­ly, if a city is only 5% AA, the study as conducted would show that no major shift need take place.

You can guarantee that those in the south won’t understand how this study is done, and spout that northerly cities are racist. Guaranteed­.”

Cilantro: “This has little to do with being a so-called “progressi­ve” city (code: Democrat party leaders) and more with the history of these former industrial cities which are very old compared to the Southwest, South east and West Coast of USA and their respective histories dating back to over 100 years ago. Many of these cities have experience­d major “white flight” to the suburbs in the 50s, 60s & 70s. Are you suggesting if pro-billio­naire, racist leaning republican­s (ie. “unprogres­sive” ) were in charge these places would be an equalized salad bowl mix of multi-race­s? Give me a break!”

josh2082: “Loving all the comments that go something like: “Aren’t those all blue/Liber­al cities?”

Yes they are. Let’s think about WHY…

1) Metropolit­an areas skew more Democratic
2) Metropolit­an areas also tend to be more racially diverse, and cities with large African-Am­erican population­s also tend to be more Democratic or left-leani­ng.
3) Look at a list of extremely Republican leaning cities- with some exceptions you will probably see a very homogeneou­s population of mainly white people.
Perhaps in the Southwest larger portions of Hispanics will be found, but that’s not the focus of this study. Being white doesn’t make you Republican­, but the numbers don’t lie. Most registered Republican­s are white.

So to me it is no surprise at all most of the cities listed here lean left. After all, you have to have significan­t population­s of diverse racial groups to even have to address segregatio­n.”

The last comment is partly correct, but missing a couple of factors.

Some Southern cities aren’t ‘segregate­d’ in the sense that the population is more mixed together which is simply a result of history. According to segregatio­n being measured in this study, neighborho­ods with plantation­s during slavery wouldn’t be considered segregated because the black slaves lived in the same neighborho­od with the white slaveowner­s. Much of the segregatio­n in the South isn’t based on locate but is instead based on class, culture, prejudice, and also previously based on laws.

Furthermore, the South actually isn’t as solidly Republican as it seems during elections. Minorities tend to vote Democratic when they vote, but minorities­s don’t vote as much as do whites. If all minorities voted as much as whites, the South would probably be a mix of Democratic and swing states. The reason minorities don’t vote is because of a history of disenfranc­hisement. We saw this even in recent years with the Florida fiasco where black-soun­ding names had been removed from the voting registry.

– – –

Anyway, I don’t mean to say that this study was worthless. It presents data that should be considered, but one should consider it in the context of the data being extremely limited and easily misunderstood. It’s the problem of a lot of research. I’m a fan of science. I can’t stand anti-intellectuals who dismiss science. On the other hand, scientific studies are only helpful and interesting to the degree one has the intelligence, insight, and education to understand. But we all exist in varying degrees of ignorance and confusion.

I spent all this time analyzing this study and I can’t be sure that I’m not misunderstanding some important aspect of it. Like the author of the article, I’m in the position of either explaining the study well or not. Hopefully, I at least made clear the complexity of the issues involved.

– – –

In case anyone is interested, here is an interactive US map of racial/ethnic distribution:

Mapping America: Every City, Every Block

Segregation in 2010!

This is the type of issue that libertarians have no practical answer for. If government was smaller with less tax funding and with less power, incidents like this would happen all of the time and there wouldn’t be anything that could be done about it. If our country had been libertarian from the beginning, it’s possible (highly probable even) that slavery could still exist as it still does exist in some parts of the world.

This incident proves beyond a doubt how easy it is for institutionalized racism to exist even now. Conservatives like to pretend racism limited to the past and so we should act as if it doesn’t exist. Of course, anyone who has looked at the actual data wouldn’t be surprised by this report about segregation. The laws on sentencing drug crimes are notoriously racist in that drugs that are popular among whites get lower sentences. Also, racism is institutionalized in our culture itself. Research shows that juries and judges are strongly influenced by racism (whether conscious or unconscious).