The Alabama-Massachusetts IQ Gap, German Style

A while ago, I tongue-in-cheek ‘argued’ that the massive difference in test scores between Alabama and Massachusetts whites (even after controlling for socioeconomic status) is evidence that Massachusetts whites are genetic superior to Alabama whites. I was kidding, but conservative author Charles Murray actually went there.

Ron Utz, however, demonstrates that some conservatives aren’t willing to fall down that particular rabbit hole (boldface mine):

Consider, for example, the results from Germany obtained prior to its 1991 reunification. Lynn and Vanhanen present four separate IQ studies from the former West Germany, all quite sizable, which indicate mean IQs in the range 99–107, with the oldest 1970 sample providing the low end of that range. Meanwhile, a 1967 sample of East German children produced a score of just 90, while two later East German studies in 1978 and 1984 came in at 97–99, much closer to the West German numbers.

These results seem anomalous from the perspective of strong genetic determinism for IQ. To a very good approximation, East Germans and West Germans are genetically indistinguishable, and an IQ gap as wide as 17 points between the two groups seems inexplicable, while the recorded rise in East German scores of 7–9 points in just half a generation seems even more difficult to explain.

The dreary communist regime of East Germany was certainly far poorer than its western counterpart and its population may indeed have been “culturally deprived” in some sense, but East Germans hardly suffered from severe dietary deficiencies during the 1960s or late 1950s when the group of especially low-scoring children were born and raised. The huge apparent testing gap between the wealthy West and the dingy East raises serious questions about the strict genetic interpretation favored by Lynn and Vanhanen.

Yes, it does. Look, I’m sure genetics plays some role in IQ, but it’s probably pretty small, and the oft-trumpted twins studies have never adequately controlled for genotype-environment covariance–failing to do so will substantially overestimate the genetic component.

It is refreshing to see conservatives embrace this.

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