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February 27, 2019

The world is more than two categories

Filed under: GSS,Identity Politics — Razib Khan @ 11:22 pm

A post from Kevin Drum, Once Again, a New Book Debunks Some History I Never Knew In the First Place,* made me wonder a few things. First, Kevin’s confusion:

Am I befuddled by history? Or by historiography? Or do I need a different word altogether?

Until five minutes ago, before I read this book review, it never would have occurred to me that white women were anything less than full partners with men in the white supremacy of the antebellum South. I have never read anything that even remotely suggests such a thing. And yet, apparently this has been a widely held belief—and not just by the masses, but by practicing historians as well.

Additionally, today I listened to the Extremeley Offline podcast where Zaid Jilani moderated a conversation between Liz Bruenig and Jon Chait, and Jilani talks about some of his confusion and discomfort with the racial dichotomies that have recently emerged in the United States (though our politics are very different it seems we have had the same experiences and reactions in relation to this). For example, all nonwhites are now “people of color,” set against whites. The three present a thesis that a dominant form of conceptualization of the world on the modern Left is between the marginalized and those who are not, and so you have dichotomies. People of color vs. whites. Women vs. men. The queer vs. straight. And, of course, the poor vs. the rich.

Which brings me back to Drum’s observation: as an older white male of a certain generation I don’t think he’s internalized the dichotomous framework intuitively. Within that framework, the idea that white women were oppressed, just like black people, in the South by white men, may lead to the idea that there should be and is natural solidarity among the marginalized. Presumably in a “progressive stack” white males would be on top and black females at the bottom. But white females and black males would be in the middle.

Reality is of course not line with the simplicity of this framework. Men, women, blacks, and whites, do not exist in a simple individualized world where their interactions are all dyadic and governed by heuristics of power. White women are part of families and communities, and during the antebellum South, those families and communities were invested in the institution of slavery. White women reflected, reinforced, and even shaped, some of their subculture’s values. They were subordinates. But they were invested in the system, not simply humans from which production could be extracted before their expiration.

To illustrate this complexity, consider differences in attitudes toward laws regarding interracial marriage in the United States. The chart above shows responses from the GSS for whites only by year. What you notice is that there is almost no difference between men and women. Doing a logit regression sex does not predict different attitudes at all. Men and women show the same support/opposition to these laws over the years.

But, this does not mean that men and women are the same in their attitudes on a conventional liberal/progressive spectrum. I did a second analysis of attitudes toward gay marriage. Women are consistently less opposed to gay marriage (again I limited the sample to whites). When I did a logit regression sex remained a very significant predictive variable (though less so than education and political ideology).

Basically, when it comes to racial issues men and women do not seem to differ much in their attitude. In some revealed attitudes, such as dating, women seem somewhat more racially conservative than men. But, when it comes to attitudes toward gays and rights for gays, women have generally been somewhat more liberal than men.

The moral of the story is than Manichaean ideological frameworks are great for tactical mobilization of coalitions. But they don’t easily reflect a simple calculus of moral attitudes, affinities, and sympathies.

* It’s very rare that one of my posts mentions another blog post on another blog nowadays. Very nostalgic.

October 11, 2018

Making what Harvard is about transparent

Filed under: GSS,Harvard — Razib Khan @ 8:03 pm
This is the future Edward Blum wants

In the 20th century version of the TV series Murphy Brown, there was an episode where three young American scholars were introduced. The big laugh was that they had very Chinese or Indian names. Though it’s probably politically incorrect today to depict it that way, the joke is that the best “American” scholars were not really American….

If you’re an Asian American who remembers the period before the 1990s, you know where I’m coming from. This was an America in black and white, and you were literally the Other if you were outside of those two boxes. People would be surprised that you spoke English without an accent, and inquire where you really came from. This still happens now and then, but back in the 1980s, it was pervasive. It was tradition. The children of the first post-1965 immigrants were not yet grown, so the majority of Asian American adults you saw and encountered were immigrants outside of a few areas, such as Hawaii and portions of the West Coast. In 1980 1.7% of the people residing in the United States were Asian American. Today nearly 7% are Asian American.

This is having an impact. The winners of spelling bees and science fair winners don’t “look like America” anymore.

And this is the major reason why the cultural elite is very upset about the scrutiny which admissions processes at top universities have been receiving. Consider this op-ed in The New York Times, A Damaging Bid to Censor Applications at Harvard. It concludes:

As a leader in higher education, Harvard is trying to change this through its modest consideration of race in admissions. Its goal is to create a diverse community of students who can engage with and learn from people who are different, and carry those experiences with them beyond the university.

Expressions of racial identity are part of the fullness of our humanity. It’s not possible to be blind to race. Pretending as though it is ensures we will forever be divided.

The op-ed is pretty measured and not particularly shoddy as far as it goes. This is the sort of message that the editors and reporters at The New York Times want to amplify. Call it the anti-Bari Weiss effect.

The problem I have with Harvard and its academic and administrative overclass is that the media often allows them to engage in doublespeak without any comment, critique or dissent. Part of it is that institutions such as The New York Times are dominated by people from elite academic institutions, and so are part of the same broad culture, with a set of assumptions and interests, implicit and explicit, private and public. They’re all family.

For example, a few years ago the president of Harvard declared that the institution was all about inclusion. On the face of it that is just a bald-faced lie, and everyone knows it. Harvard is about exclusion, selection, and curation. “Inclusion” actually meant that there are certain views and backgrounds that Harvard is going to curate and encourage. Which is fine. But an institution which excludes >95% of those who apply for admission is by definition not inclusive and open.

The issue with Harvard is that it is an institution which is many things to many people. Harvard lets in the smart, talented, wealthy, and powerful, with various mixes of these elements. Asian Americans tend to be smart and talented in academic measures, but most of them are not “old money” in the United States, and even if they were there is a suspicion (perhaps fair, I don’t know) among many stewards of elite academic institutions that they don’t have the values which would result in large donations to those institutions. Harvard needs to take care of rich people, who tend to be white, and lucky, because it wants rich people to take care of Harvard. Luckily for the rich, they are not always so smart and diligent, but they are “well-rounded.” Their personalities have polish, and if that’s not there, perhaps a strategic donation can be made.

Harvard also smiles upon the scions of Third World dynasties. They may not be brilliant, but they are likely to impact the lives of hundreds of millions through their possible ascension to the pinnacle of power. Again, in clear doublespeak, Harvard mouths egalitarianism constantly but signals in its actions that it is realistic that power is passed down through blood. Harvard is in and of this world. It makes the world. And the world makes it.

Finally, Harvard educates the American ruling class. And it wants to continue to educate the American ruling class. As such, it is self-conscious of the fact that it, therefore, can’t have the demographic profile of Cal-Tech. Harvard doesn’t just want to incubate innovators, it wants to cultivate and train the administrators of the largesse that innovation allows.

The “diverse community of students” who are going to become elected officials is no doubt one reason that Harvard and other elite schools make recourse to racial and regional diversity metrics. If Harvard can be thought of as a finishing school for the elites attached to a hedge fund (its endowment), it needs to maintain some diversity in its portfolio of the future overclass. Legacies and the super-rich are important because these are lineages with a record of success within the overclass. The data is clear that innate cognitive aptitudes aside, children of privilege have a leg up. All things equal, and even not equal, it is rational to give bonus points to those who come from privilege if you want to maintain your own as an institution.

But, you also need to sample more of the parameter space. Some families do leave the elite, and others join it. The goal of an institution like Harvard is to admit and cultivate potential joiners. These are not always going to be children who win spelling bees and science fairs, and can attain every metric you might put in front of them. Political leaders of given communities tend to look like and come from those communities. Therefore, there is a need to maintain some level of racial and ethnic diversity if power, as opposed to academics,* is your number one focus.

What if Harvard began to let more Asian Americans in? Even though it is a private institution it would have some of the problems that Stuyvesant High School in New York is facing. Stuy is about 75% Asian American in a city that is 12% Asian American. The plain fact is that an elite public school supported by the city is probably not sustainable in the long-term if it does not reflect the demographics of the city. This is not an argument about whether it is just or not, but an observation of the dynamics of power and influence in a democratic system.

Harvard has to look somewhat like America visibly. The visibility part is important because it makes it salient. The reality is that Harvard undergraduates are highly atypical in their family background. The average student comes from a family in the top 20% of household income distribution. This distribution is probably multi-modal because Harvard’s endowment allows it to subsidize students of more modest means while still reserving spots for the extremely wealthy and privileged. Additionally, when you scratch beneath the surface the “visibility” can deceive. Harvard representation of black students is near the national proportion. But historically the majority of these have been from biracial or immigrant or Caribbean American households. In the 2000s it was estimated that one-third of Harvard black students represented 90% of black Americans who have four grandparents who were born and raised in the United States as black Americans.

But from what I can tell the issue of at last superficial visible identity is key, and substantive differences which are not externally salient less critical. The fact that the first black American president had a white mother and an African immigrant father has been noted, but over time it seems to be less and less important than the fact that he identified and was seen as a black American, despite his atypicality on so many substantive measures.

The problem though is that even though visibility matters, unanimity of viewpoint and opinion may cause problems in pumping the pipeline to power in a democratic republic where there is still a pluralism of views. Harvard undergraduates are very liberal and secular compared to the American public. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But if you want to be the training ground for power, in a democratic republic where there are still differing views it is important that one expect those views and anticipate responses (though clearly a lot of politicians lie about their piety and ‘evolve’ in their ideology).

In particular, Christian white conservatives are far less well represented at Harvard than they are on a national level. Obviously, there is not anything wrong with that as such, but historically we’ve had white Christian conservatives (or people who identify and affiliate as such) in positions of power, and their exclusion from elite institutions might engender alienation and hostility from the very power that they exist to cultivate.

Of course, it could just be that white conservative Christians are not academically up to snuff. My previous inquiries do suggest there is a strong correlation between secularity and social liberalism and very high IQs. But, if you look at the GSS’s WORDSUM variable you see there are probably a reasonable number of intelligent white conservative Christians.

First, looking at the WORDSUM scores of non-Hispanic whites by ideology, you can see that liberals tend to be smarter than conservatives, and both are smarter than moderates. This is a pretty robust pattern. Intelligent people tend to have stronger and more strident views. Moderates are probably moderate in part because they aren’t as bright and so have weak opinions.

That being said, when you look at the distribution of ideologies by WORDSUM scores you get a different perspective. Though moderates are on average less intelligent, there are so many of them that for non-Hispanic whites they are still the most numerous in the 9-10 category (that is, they got one item wrong, or none wrong). And, there is balance between the number of conservatives and liberals. The average liberal is smarter, but the much larger number of white conservatives means that even in the brightest decile they attain parity.

Of course, the average Harvard student is not a top 10% performer, they’re a top 1% performer. And often not just academically, but in a variety of ways. They are selected for raw intelligence, but also high conscientiousness. Though the two are correlated, they are imperfectly so. Following James F. Crow’s expectation in regards to human inequality, when you select from the intersecting tails of multiple different distributions, the resulting student population is unlikely to be representative of the broader population.

Let’s wrap this up with some conclusions.

First, Harvard and the other Ivies will find a way to continue to cap the number Asian American students. I think the current lawsuit may win on the merits, but the “Deep Oligarchy” is more powerful than the judiciary or the executive branch. If, on the other hand, Harvard gets rid of legacies and special backdoor admissions, I’ll admit I was wrong, and the chosen have lost control of the system. As long as legacies and backdoor admissions continue, you know that the eyes are on the prize of power and glory. Capping the number of Asian American “grinds” would be a small price to pay then, and those who are allowed beyond the gates will be well-trained to sing the praises of Harvard’s policy (as they all do).

Second, the alienation of the successor to the “Eastern Establishment” from the large numbers of moderate and conservative whites will be a long-term problem in terms of the maintenance of its grip on power. Though this segment of the population is in decline, it is still large and substantial, and will wield power and influence out of proportion to its overall numbers for decades because they are older. They vote more, and they mobilize well. The rise to dominance of ideologies at campuses such as Harvard which pathologize the very persistence of these groups on the national scene will exacerbate the polarization and alienation. Though the individuals who run these institutions may bemoan this trend, because of the large numbers of students who are ideologically on the same page on this issue, they won’t be able to stop the march toward cultural radicalization.

Harvard has avoided the problem of Stuyvesant by maintaining visible diversity within its student body. But because it does not emphasize intra-racial ideological diversity, it will eventually run into its own Stuyvesant problem as it loses all legitimacy from large swaths of the body politic who see that racial identity does not entail ideological affinity and sympathy.

Addendum: This is a mildly obscure blog. And to be honest I’d rather write about science papers than this. But, I wanted to put this blog post up so that it’s out there, because mainstream publications seem to be intent on publishing a stream of what I perceive to be simplistic or disingenuous pieces.

The Left/liberal/progressive side engages in cant about “diversity”, when we all know they mean a very precise sort of diversity, and a very particular type of background when they talk about “background.” But the Right/conservative side’s emphasis on merit and colorblindness strikes me as consciously blind to the fact that these institutions were always about shaping and grooming the elite, and engaged in the game of reflecting and determining the American upper class. The Right/conservative project would abolish Harvard as we know it on a far deeper level than the Left/liberal/progressive posturing cultural radicalism, which at the end of the day has no problem bowing before neoliberal capital so long as lexical modifications are made.

If Asian Americans want to increasing their proportion at Harvard, they have to follow the Jewish strategy and join the socio-political elite. If they don’t do that, then the Asian quota will persist in some way.

* When I speak of students and “Harvard” I’m talking about the undergraduate level. The graduate and professional schools are somewhat different.

July 30, 2018

Bubba has the babies

Filed under: Culture,Fertility,GSS — Razib Khan @ 10:32 pm

Today Colin Woodward, author of American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America, has an op-ed up, The Maps That Show That City vs. Country Is Not Our Political Fault Line: The key difference is among regional cultures tracing back to the nation’s colonization. Woodward’s thesis is basically that the modern shape of American cultural and political conflict has deep structural roots in American history. This is the same argument that David Hackett Fischer makes in Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America, and Kevin Phillips more broadly about the Anglo-world in The Cousins’ Wars: Religion, Politics, Civil Warfare, And The Triumph Of Anglo-America. These perspectives are useful because there is a tendency in modern American discussion to reduce the sum totality of the dynamic to the white supremacist order, as opposed to the “rising tides of color.” There is an area where the cult-of-Pepe and the identity Left agree descriptively (they just flip the good guys and the bad guys).

There is some of this in the Ezra Klein Vox piece, White threat in a browning America. There are the whites. And there are the non-whites. And never the twain shall meet.

On a side note, Klein’s reliance on social psychological research about white racial anxiety being elicited by priming or information which makes non-whites salient should be critiqued more thoroughly. I suspect most of us find the argument intuitively believable, but the past five years of the replication crisis in psychology, where social psychology was ground-zero, should really make us put our guards up about evidentiary claims which support views we already have a bias toward accepting.

In any case, Klein cites research which shows that non-Hispanic whites are now less than 50% of the births in this country. Rather than arguing about the future of racial identification, I was curious about which whites were giving birth. The problem with raw average total fertility rates is that they mask underlying variance. For example, in Britain the majority of Jews are non-observant, but the majority of Jews under the age of five are from observant families. This is a function of the extremely low fertility of the non-observant majority, and the very high fertility of observant Jews in Britain.

The reason I bring this up is that the different subcultures of the United States have different fertility rates. David Hacket Fischer posits four major Anglo-American streams which date to before the Revolutionary War: New England Yankees, Tidewater and lowland Southerners, Scots-Irish highlanders, and the diverse polyglot Mid-Atlantic region, from Quakers to Dutch. Woodward and others have a somewhat different taxonomy, but the broad sketch aligns.

The curious fact is that up between the 1640s and 1840s New England Yankees were the most fecund of the American Anglo-cultures. The fertility of New England was such that the region began to colonize parts of the United States which had heretofore been dominated by other groups. The eastern half of Long Island was taken over by New Englanders, and they became prominent in New York’s merchant class (there was also a Yankee migration into the Canadian Atlantic provinces). New England farmers swept past the Dutch dominated lower Hudson Valley and overwhelmed the rest of upstate New York, creating a cultural fission that persisted up to the Civil War between the pro-Southern city of New York and the fiercely Republican upstate areas.

In contrast, the population growth rate in the South was depressed compared to the North. Much of this probably can be accounted for by endemic disease.

Things are different now.

The CDC has data on total births by race and ethnic identity by state. I pulled the data and plotted them. The correlation between the number of births and the number of people in the states by race and ethnicity were very high (0.98 and such). Also, I removed about the bottom five states in total population. The data are from ACS sample surveys, and it is pretty clear that small sample sizes are a problem in some of the cross-tabs/states.

In any case,

1) everyone seems to have lower fertility in California
2) Texas is good for whites and Hispanics in terms of having children
3) blacks have very high relative fertility in Florida

Yes, you can see Utah has elevated fertility. No surprise there. Here are the ten states in my data with the highest number of white births to their white population from top to bottom:


Here are the states with a relatively low number of white births to total white population (Connecticut has the lowest number of white births to white population):

Rhode Island
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico

California is expensive. Florida and Arizona are filled with old white people. Many of the rest are Yankee.

The General Social Survey allows me to look at white ethnicities. I wanted to look at the number of children of various white ethnicities. I limited the sample to Protestants and Catholics.

Here are the results:

In the early 20th century Nordicists like Madison Grant were worried about the fact that Southern and Eastern European ethnics were going to overwhelm the Nordic stock of this country. But take a look at Italian and Polish fertility. People in urban areas have fewer children, and presumably white ethnics who remained identified by their ancestral heritage are disproportionately urban. When the Irish are split up by religion, Catholics tend to be more childless, and also have a minority with large families. This is probably tracking the intense secularization of white Catholics over the last generation, but the persistence of a traditionalist minority. Protestant Irish, who are probably often Scots-Irish, are similar to the other British Americans.

Finally, the ideological differences are really striking but unsurprising:

Left-liberal dominance of cultural institutions such as the media and academia are essential in part because it allows them to generate defections from people raised conservative. They can’t maintain their numbers through “natural increase” alone.

We’ll see what 2050 is life. I hope to be alive. But I think we’ll all be surprised in some ways by some of the defections and realignments. Michael Dukakis won West Virginia in 1988.

August 25, 2017

The less intelligent and uneducated really don’t tolerate unpopular views

Filed under: Free Speech,GSS — Razib Khan @ 7:10 am

When looking at the General Social Survey one of the most striking things is how much more the more educated and intelligent are in terms of accepting unpopular views. Since 2008 and the SPKMSLM variable has asked about anti-American hatred preached by Muslim clerics in the United States:

… consider a Muslim clergyman who preaches hatred of the United States.

If such a person wanted to make a speech in your community preaching hatred of the United States, should he be allowed to speak, or not?

The ideological breakdown is what you’d expect it to me, and tolerance for this sort of speech is low, at about 40% of Americans.


In case you are wondering, the impact of intelligence still matters after you correct for education. I ran a quick & dirty logistic regression, and you can see that below (in case you care, being a woman is associated with less tolerance for free speech here, and political ideology doesn’t matter much once you take into account religiosity):

Most liberals and smart people want racists to be allowed to speak

Filed under: GSS — Razib Khan @ 12:44 am

Over the past year or so there have been many worries that liberals are backing off from their support for free speech. Even mainstream figures such as Howard Dean have started to chant the mantra “hate speech is not free speech”. And then you have op-eds from professors such as When ‘free speech’ becomes a political weapon.

But whenever I look at the General Social Survey I see no great change in support for free speech in terms of the patterns. Perhaps something has changed in the year 2017, but I think what we are seeing are vocal and motivated minorities who are drowning out liberal (in the classical sense) majorities.

The GSS has a variable, SPKRAC, which asks:

…consider a person who believes that Blacks are genetically inferior. a. If such a person wanted to make a speech in your community claiming that Blacks are inferior, should he be allowed to speak, or not?

The plot at the top of this posts shows that the GSS sample respondents exhibit almost no change year to year on this question.

The GSS also has a variable, SPKMSLM, which asks:

Now consider a Muslim clergyman who preaches hatred of the United States.

If such a person wanted to make a speech in your community preaching hatred of the United States, should he be allowed to speak, or not?

This question has been asked since 2008, and only a minority would allow this person to speak, 41-43 percent.

Let’s break this down by ideology and intelligence from the year 2008 onward. The GSS has a variable, WORDSUM, which is a vocabulary test. Respondents receive a score from 0 to 10 (correct). I combined 0-4 as “not smart”, 5-6 as “average”, 7-8 as “above average,” and finally 9-10 as “smart.”

Also I limited the sample to non-Hispanic whites to compare “peaches to peaches.”

What the above plot shows is that liberals support free speech for both racists and Muslim radicals. Conservatives are more skeptical of free speech for both groups, but especially the Muslims. You might be curious why moderates seem so skeptical of free speech. That’s because on average moderates are less intelligent than people at the ideological poles, and the less intelligent are generally less supportive of heterodox speech (I suspect it’s because they are too dumb ever to come up with an original and transgressive idea).

But don’t take my word for it.


It’s a very robust pattern that the less intelligent are skeptical of deviant thought. I think it’s partly because they can’t empathize since they don’t have many thoughts.

Below is a table which does a cross-tab of views on speech for racists and Muslims (again, for non-Hispanic whites after the year 2008). You can see ideological and intelligence distribution for various positions. Conservative anti-Islamic and liberal philo-Muslim tendencies are on display. The less intelligent are overrepresented among the censorious.

  Extremely liberal Liberal Slightly liberal Moderate Slightly conserv Conserv Extremely conserv
Full sample 4 12 10 36 16 18 4
Allow both to speak 5 15 12 32 15 17 4
Allow Muslim to speak, not racist 7 18 15 32 15 12 2
Allow racist to speak, not Muslim 2 9 8 39 15 22 5
Ban both from speaking 2 9 9 42 13 21 5
  Not smart Average Above average Smart      
Full sample 13 40 33 13      
Allow both to speak 7 34 39 20      
Allow Muslim to speak, not racist 6 40 40 13      
Allow racist to speak, not Muslim 19 46 26 9      
Ban both from speaking 14 48 34 4    

May 3, 2017

Millennials with college degrees don’t favor censorship

Filed under: Censorship,Culture,GSS — Razib Khan @ 4:00 pm

There’s a specter haunting the academy. The specter of “red guards” destroying lives and tearing down Western civilization and all its accomplishments in the interests of antinomian leveling impulses through denunciations and purges. (here is the latest instance; the whole thing leaves me yawning, because too few people have the courage or gall to stand up for what they know is right, so this will happen again and again and again)

I am plain in my view that this is a problem. Some of my friends in the academy agree, but in the end they make different choices about priorities. Others don’t think this is a problem at all (and honestly, they clearly think that free speech is more about speech that they think is acceptable). Ultimately I don’t think that this will end well; I’m most certainly going to be on the other side of people whom I consider friends if and when the end of our current liberal democratic order collapses of its own contradictions.

But this isn’t about that. Rather, it’s about an aspect of it: are Millennials, those born after 1980, who go to college more opposed to freedom of speech than previous generations? Is this what’s driving the flair up of campus events? The answer, as clear in the GSS is that Millennials who have gone to college are not more censorious.

The GSS has a variable, SPKRAC. It asks:

…. consider a person who believes that Blacks are genetically inferior. a. If such a person wanted to make a speech in your community claiming that Blacks are inferior, should he be allowed to speak, or not?

Should this person be allowed to speak? As you can see above there is hardly any difference between people of different generations if they have a college education on this question.* The big difference is between generations among those who have a high school education or less. I think this is simply due to the reality that if you have only a high school education as a Millennial you’re much more likely to be not very intelligent in relation to older generations. The slight decline for college educated Millennials might be due to this effect as well, and more marginal kids are now going to, and finishing, college.

If you do a logistic regression in the GSS you see what I have reported earlier: both education and intelligence have independent and notable impacts predicting support of free speech to a liberal extent. Being a woman usually correlates with lower tolerance of deviant or abhorrent speech. Socioeconomic status, income, and age, don’t really matter too much when other variables are accounted for.

What about politics? The results might surprise you.

As you can see on the whole liberals are the most supportive of free speech for racists. It does look that there has been some regression since the real “greatest generation.” And as I expected moderates are the least tolerant.

Moderates are usually less intelligent (this is easily confirmed with the GSS) and informed, and they’re conformists. Today racism is in bad odor, so their instinct to ban or restrict it is strong, as opposed to the abstract principle of free speech. This impulse probably explains the declines broadly among Millennials.

But the results at the top indicate that university education may actually inoculate a bit against this! (remember, it’s not just intelligence, as university education had an independent effect on opinions in the regression)

There’s something going on. It’s a problem. Perhaps a big problem. I do think it ultimately threatens the credibility of the academy in a way we haven’t seen in generations. But it’s not because the majority of students agree with driving speakers they don’t like off the campus or banning speech they find hurtful. A minority of students are loud, mobilized, and active. Sometimes minorities can shape history….

* I limited the sample to non-Hispanic whites. I used the variables SPKRAC, COHORT and DEGREE. I recombined some. E.g., COHORT(r:1800-1945″pre-Boomer”;1946-1964″Boomer”;1965-1980″GenX”;1981-*”Millennial”). Adding groups besides non-Hispanic whites didn’t change the qualitative result, though support for free speech declines among minorities.

April 28, 2017

Less intelligent people want to exclude racists from the public square

Filed under: Culture,GSS,Racism — Razib Khan @ 10:03 pm
Logit Coefficients  
  B SE(B) Probability
SEX 0.739 0.217 0.001
DEGREE -0.302 0.092 0.001
WORDSUM -0.338 0.068 0
POLVIEWS -0.078 0.078 0.317
INCOME -0.026 0.06 0.671
AGE 0.007 0.007 0.283
ATTEND 0.09 0.046 0.05
GOD -0.018 0.077 0.819
Constant 3.341 0.937 0

It’s been a while since I’ve done much GSS blogging. Part of it is that I’ve got only so much attention I can devote to things, and most of my focus has been on the area of science that I’m interested in, and one or two non-scientific topics. The second variable is that I started blogging about GSS data a long time ago (~2008), and there’s only so much interesting stuff you can talk about.

But over the past few years there have been some controversies related to speech in public spaces, and what is and isn’t acceptable. There has also been some chatter that young people today in particular are intolerant of freedom of speech. I’ve wanted to address this, so here I go.

The toleration of racists is in today’s America is like testing a boundary condition. If you are willing to tolerate racist speech if you are not a racist, then you are pretty likely to be a free speech absolutist. I am not interested in rehashing arguments, I support free speech in an absolutist sense personally. Rather, let’s look at some data.

The General Social Survey has a question up from 2014 for the variable RACEMEET that asks:

Should people prejudiced against any racial or ethnic group be allowed to hold public meetings?

The question was asked in 2010 and 2014, and 2,651 individuals answered this. The answer was converted to ordinal, so I decided to probe relationships between variables and the score of toleration through regression. Some independent variables, such as political viewpoint (POLVIEWS), were recoded in an ordinal fashion (so that “extremely liberal” = 1, “liberal” = 2, and so forth, to “extremely conservative” = 7). Others, such as age, do not require any recoding. RACEMEET itself was converted to an ordinal.

The above results suggest that political ideology does not predict your response to this question much once you account for other variables. In fact, I did a query on ideological views first, and the results indicated to me what was really going on.

1: Should definitely be allowed 39 24 17 15 22 17 20
2: Should probably be allowed 12 24 24 21 22 22 15
3: Should probably not be allowed 26 20 19 22 19 24 22
4: Should definitely not be allowed 23 32 40 43 37 38 43

As you can see moderates are relatively skeptical of allowing racists to have a public meeting. All of my analysis of the GSS indicates that moderates are not as smart as more liberal or conservative people.

Let’s go through the variables which were significant predictors above. First, sex.

Male Female
1: Should definitely be allowed 21 13
2: Should probably be allowed 22 21
3: Should probably not be allowed 20 23
4: Should definitely not be allowed 36 43

These results were expected. On the whole women tend to be more skeptical of absolutist free speech positions which allow offensive material to be promoted (women are more skeptical of allowing Communists to speak too in comparison to men, so it’s not because of the ideology of the speaker or viewpoint).

Then church attendance frequency:

Never attends church More than once a week
1: Should definitely be allowed 20 23 19 14 21 15 13 14 13
2: Should probably be allowed 21 21 27 24 13 16 26 22 20
3: Should probably not be allowed 21 17 20 18 28 24 18 24 23
4: Should definitely not be allowed 37 39 34 44 37 45 43 40 44

A modest difference.

Next, highest educational attainment:

No HS HS Some college College Graduate
1: Should definitely be allowed 7 14 11 26 32
2: Should probably be allowed 14 20 23 29 27
3: Should probably not be allowed 20 23 21 19 20
4: Should definitely not be allowed 59 43 45 26 21

The big gap here is between those with college and those without college educations.

Finally, we look at WORDSUM, which is a proxy for intelligence. It’s a ten word vocabulary test. Below in the columns are the number of answers a respondent got correct:

<5 5 6 7 8 9 10
1: Should definitely be allowed 8 10 12 16 24 30 36
2: Should probably be allowed 13 22 18 24 26 34 33
3: Should probably not be allowed 27 20 23 22 21 18 18
4: Should definitely not be allowed 52 48 47 38 29 18 12

I combined those who scored below 5 out of 10 (0-4) into one class. You can see that as score on this vocabulary test goes up, the view that racists should be allowed to meet in public goes up. It’s almost monotonic. The smartest people are more tolerant than the next smartest people who are more tolerant than the next smartest people, with the dumb being the least tolerant.

I made the below chart to illustrate this:

Often when it comes to views associated with “smart” people when you put it into some regression eduction accounts for all of the difference. In other words, the less intelligent educated have the same views as the intelligent educated, and the more intelligent but less educated have the same views as the less intelligent less educated. There are more older people who are intelligent but not educated, so it could be generational too (though in this case age does not seem to matter). A plausible hypothesis is that in many cases it is social milieu. Even if you are not bright, being in college inculcates certain values.

And college is a predictor. But these data show that even if you account for college education the brighter you are, the more likely you favor allowing tolerance for views that most people find intolerable.

August 6, 2014

Conservatives respect atheists less

Filed under: data,GSS — David Hume @ 2:18 am

This clip by S. E. Cupp is making the rounds. I often find Cupp to be glib, so it’s no surprise that I disagree with many of the details of what she is saying. In particular it struck me as strange to listen to her talk about how conservatives respect atheists. Atheists are held in low esteem by the American public as a whole, let alone by conservatives. The general social survey has a question, SPKATH, which states:

There are always some people whose ideas are considered bad or dangerous by other people. For instance, somebody who is against churches and religion… a. If such a person wanted to make a speech in your (city/town/community) against churches and religion, should he be allowed to speak, or not?

Here are fractions who would allow this person to speak or not not in 1972-1990:


Here are fractions who would allow this person to speak or not not in 2000-2012:


Liberals tend to be more accepting of atheists making a speech than conservatives. Interestingly even in the 2000s ~20 percent of self-identified extreme liberals would still not allow an atheist speak. As opposed to ~40 percent of self-identified extreme conservatives.

Addendum: To be clear about the intent behind this post, I’m all about keeping it real. I think it is acceptable to be an atheist on the Right. A substantial proportion of libertarians are atheists. Even among non-libertarian conservatives it’s an acceptable position. But this is really mostly relevant at the elite levels pundits and policy professionals. Atheists just aren’t popular at the grass roots. There aren’t that many conservative atheists or atheist conservatives.

Conservatives respect atheists less

Filed under: data,GSS — David Hume @ 2:18 am

This clip by S. E. Cupp is making the rounds. I often find Cupp to be glib, so it’s no surprise that I disagree with many of the details of what she is saying. In particular it struck me as strange to listen to her talk about how conservatives respect atheists. Atheists are held in low esteem by the American public as a whole, let alone by conservatives. The general social survey has a question, SPKATH, which states:

There are always some people whose ideas are considered bad or dangerous by other people. For instance, somebody who is against churches and religion… a. If such a person wanted to make a speech in your (city/town/community) against churches and religion, should he be allowed to speak, or not?

Here are fractions who would allow this person to speak or not not in 1972-1990:


Here are fractions who would allow this person to speak or not not in 2000-2012:


Liberals tend to be more accepting of atheists making a speech than conservatives. Interestingly even in the 2000s ~20 percent of self-identified extreme liberals would still not allow an atheist speak. As opposed to ~40 percent of self-identified extreme conservatives.

Addendum: To be clear about the intent behind this post, I’m all about keeping it real. I think it is acceptable to be an atheist on the Right. A substantial proportion of libertarians are atheists. Even among non-libertarian conservatives it’s an acceptable position. But this is really mostly relevant at the elite levels pundits and policy professionals. Atheists just aren’t popular at the grass roots. There aren’t that many conservative atheists or atheist conservatives.

October 18, 2012

The general social survey: information is not free

Filed under: Data Analysis,GSS — Razib Khan @ 11:57 pm

Last week the GSS was down. I was very sad. The SDA team explains the situation:

Part of the popularity of our demonstration archive is that it is free for end users. We are happy to provide this service. It is a valuable resource for the academic community and it also publicizes the value of our SDA software. However, the flip side of providing this free service is that it does not generate any income to offset the cost of providing the infrastructure required. We receive no funding from GSS for hosting their datasets — which is often a surprise to our users. Almost all of our income comes from the fees provided by licensing the SDA software to other data archives (like ICPSR and IPUMS), and virtually all of that income goes to support the programming and technical support that we provide them. We obviously need some additional sources of revenue.

October 4, 2012

Political moderates and independents are not as smart on average

Filed under: GSS — Razib Khan @ 10:54 pm

Long time readers know that it’s trivially easy to extract information from the GSS that political moderates and independents are not as intelligent as partisans and ideologues. New readers are not always familiar. A comment:

#8 Do you have something to back up the idea that independents are less intelligent? If anything, I would’ve expected the opposite- that independents are capable of thinking for themselves instead of following the party line.

First, a quick review of the data. I used two GSS variables, PARTYID and POLVIEWS, and limited the sample to non-Hispanic whites after the year 2000. I removed those of “Other party” as well. Finally, I crossed that against vocab score results, which correlates with intelligence with a value of 0.70. It is rather obvious that middle-of-the-roaders are not as bright:

WORDSUM SCORE 0-2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Strong Dem 15 8 13 9 10 12 14 15 20 Dem 17 24 14 15 15 13 14 15 15 Lean Dem 11 9 8 11 11 11 10 18 14 Independent 26 23 23 21 18 16 14 11 11 Lean Repub 10 8 12 10 8 12 13 10 12 Repub 15 21 18 21 21 20 18 16 13 Strong Repub 6 8 11 13 18 16 16 16 15 Extreme Liberal 5 3 2 2 1 4 3 4 7 Liberal 5 11 6 6 8 12 10 16 20 Lean Liberal 6 10 13 7 10 11 12 17 14 Moderate 44 45 44 43 39 33 30 28 24 Lean Conservative 21 12 13 18 16 18 18 14 16 Conservative 14 16 16 20 22 17 22 19 15 Extreme Conservative 5 4 5 3 4 6 3 2 3

As you can see the proportion in the middle decreases as you go up in intelligence. Why? A straightforward explanation is that independents and moderates are “low information” political actors. And therefore they are likely to be less intelligent in the first place. But there is I think another ...

September 15, 2012

Intelligence challenged people and free speech

Filed under: Data Analysis,GSS,Speech — Razib Khan @ 5:23 pm


In the post below I took the time out to link to the GSS, as well as posting my exact queries. As payment for this consideration the first comment was absolute drivel. I understand people have political opinions, but I’m not too interested in your opinions. You may be interested in your opinions, but I’d rather have more data. Most people don’t know enough for me to have interest in their opinions (most != all, many readers do have opinions in their specialties which I seek out).

I was trying to make a point that anger and even violence in reaction to actions which offend are actually comprehensible as the modal human response. The community reacts to punish those who violate taboos. The taboos may differ, but the response to the action of violation is normal and natural. A primary issue that needs to be considered is that taboos differ from society to society, so one is often not conscious of the act of violation (e.g., if you show the bottom of your shoes to people when you sit down, that’s an offensive act in some societies).

An implication here is that American norms of free speech near absolutism, ...

Who tolerates anti-American preaching from Muslims?

Filed under: Anthroplogy,geography,GSS — Razib Khan @ 9:45 am

Obviously the news over the past week has been filled with the events in the Middle East, and the broader Muslim world, in reaction to an anti-Muslim film. I think the most eloquent commentary is from The Onion (NSFW!!!), No One Murdered Because Of This Image. That being said, there are some serious broader issues here. A friend of mine who lives in India (he is Indian American, though raised for several years in India, so not totally unfamiliar with the culture) has expressed to me his frustration with having to defend American liberalism in a society where American liberalism is an abstraction, rather than concrete. The frustration has to do with the fundamental divergence in basic values. For example, his interlocutors have argued to him (he is a practicing Christian of libertarian political orientation) that if someone committed an act of blasphemy against his faith of course he would react in anger and violence. And yet of course the clause “and” is false, though he is greeted with skepticism when he asserts he wouldn’t react violently. As a matter of fact I can attest to the reality that he wouldn’t react angrily necessarily, because in interactions where I’ve ...

August 21, 2012

Who rejects right to abortion in cases of rape?

Filed under: abortion,Data Analysis,GSS,Todd Akin — Razib Khan @ 10:56 pm

It’s basically impossible to avoid hearing about Todd Akin right now. My Twitter and Facebook feeds are kind of swamped. But it did make me wonder: what percentage of Americans reject abortion in cases of rape and incest? The GSS has a handy variable, ABRAPE, which asks respondents about the possibility of abortion if a woman gets pregnant as a result of rape (let’s stipulate that it’s possible to get pregnant as a result of rape!). I also limited the sample to the year 2000 and later, and non-Hispanic whites (to clear out confounds). Demographic breakdowns below….

Before people start complaining, the scale below goes from 0% to 50%, NOT 0% to 100%!


August 20, 2012

More GSS, less speculation!

Filed under: Data Analysis,GSS — Razib Khan @ 10:32 pm

Long time readers know that one of my pet hobby-horses is to try and convince more pundits that they should use the GSS. Opinions based on opinions may be fun, but opinions based on facts may be useful. In general my appeals have fallen on deaf ears. But today I notice that Will Saletan is using GSS data to discussion the Todd Akin case. You may not agree with Saletan’s take on the results, but at least he bothered to generate some results.

August 19, 2012

More racist: white liberals or white conservatives?

Filed under: Data Analysis,GSS,Interracial,Racism — Razib Khan @ 10:02 pm

Reihan Salam has a post up on the alignment of racism and political orientation. He begins:

Recently, Chris Hayes, host of MSNBC’s UP with Chris Hayes, made the following observation:

It is undeniably the case that racist Americans are almost entirely in one political coalition and not the other.

Chris is a good friend of mine, and we grew up in the same milieu. I can attest to the fact that the view he expressed is very widely held in the circles in which we both travel….

Salam then links to Alex Tabarrok, who uses party identification data to indicate that actually racism is split between the two groups, while John Sides suggests that there is a definite lean toward Republicans being more racist, using a few indicator variables. Overall I think Sides is about right, all things equal conservatives are more racist than liberals. At least in the modern context of the two ideologies.* I say conservative/liberal rather than Republican/Democrat, because my experience with the GSS data set is that ideology is a more powerful predictor of social views among whites. This holds true with the variables which Tabarrok and Sides query from what I can see; the gap between ...

June 24, 2012

Higher vocabulary ~ higher income

Filed under: data,Data Analysis,GSS,Income,IQ — Razib Khan @ 7:54 pm

Prompted by a comment below I was curious as to the correlation between intelligence and income. To indicate intelligence I used the GSS’s WORDSUM variable, which has a ~0.70 correlation with IQ. For income, I used REALINC, which is indexed to 1986 values (so it is inflation adjusted) and aggregates the household income. Finally, I limited my sample to non-Hispanic whites over the age of 30 (for what it’s worth, this choice also limited the data set to respondents from the year 2000 and later).

The results don’t get at the commenter’s assertions, because 10 out of 10 on WORDSUM does not imply that you’re that smart really. But the trendline is suggestive. Note that aggregated 0-4 because the sample size at the lower values is small indeed.

April 13, 2012

Verbal intelligence by demographic

Filed under: Data Analysis,Demographics,GSS,Intelligence,WORDSUM — Razib Khan @ 7:43 pm

A few years ago I put up a post, WORDSUM & IQ & the correlation, as a “reference” post. Basically if anyone objected to using WORDSUM, a variable in the General Social Survey, then I would point to that post and observe that the correlation between WORDSUM and general intelligence is 0.71. That makes sense, since WORDSUM is a vocabulary test, and verbal fluency is well correlated with intelligence.

But I realized over the years I’ve posted many posts using the GSS and WORDSUM, but never explicitly laid out the distribution of WORDSUM scores, which range from 0 (0 out of 10) to 10 (10 out of 10). I’ve used categories like “stupid, interval 0-4,” but often only mentioned the percentiles in the comments after prompting from a reader. This post is to fix that problem forever, and will serve as a reference for the future.

First, please keep in mind that I limited the sample to the year 2000 and later. The N is ~7,000, but far lower for some of variables crossed. Therefore, I invite you to replicate my results. After the charts I will list all the variables, so if you care you should be able to ...

March 26, 2012

How income, class, religion, etc. relate to political party

Filed under: data,Data Analysis,Demographics,GSS,Politics — Razib Khan @ 9:11 pm

Update: There was a major coding error. I’ve rerun the analysis. No qualitative change.

As is often the case a 10 minute post using the General Social Survey is getting a lot of attention. Apparently circa 1997 web interfaces are so intimidating to people that extracting a little data goes a long way. Instead of talking and commenting I thought as an exercise I would go further, and also be precise about my methodology so that people could replicate it (hint: this is a chance for readers to follow up and figure something out on their own, instead of tossing out an opinion I don’t care about).


Just like below I limited the sample to non-Hispanic whites after the year 2000. Here’s how I did it: YEAR(2000-*), RACE(1), HISPANIC(1)

Next I want to compare income, with 1986 values as a base, with party identification. To increase sample sizes I combined all Democrats and Republicans into one class; the social science points to the reality that the vast majority of independents who “lean” in one direction are actually usually reliable voters for that party. So I feel no guilt about this. I suppose Americans simply like the conceit of being independent? I know I do. ...

December 30, 2011

Vocab by ethnicity, region, and education

Filed under: data,Data Analysis,GSS,I.Q.,Regionalism — Razib Khan @ 12:58 pm

A questioner below was curious if vocabulary test differences by ethnic and region persist across income. There’s a problem with this. First, the INCOME variable isn’t very fine-grained (there is a catchall $30,000 or greater category). Second, it doesn’t seem to control for inflation. But, there is a variable, DEGREE, which asks the highest level of education attained. I used this to create a “college” and “non-college” category (i.e., do you have a bachelor’s degree or not). Because of sample size considerations I removed some of the ethnic groups, but replicated the earlier analysis.

Below are two tables. One shows the mean vocab score for region and ethnicity (for whites) for those without college educations, and another shows those with college educations. I decided to generate a correlation over the two rows, even though it sure isn’t useful as a quantitative statistical measure because of the small number of data points. Rather, I just wanted a summary of the qualitative result. The short answer is that the average vocabulary difference seems to persist across educational levels (the exception here is the “German” ethnicity).

Mean WORDSUM Score by Ethnicity and Region
No college education




German 6.05 5.81 5.79 6.11
Eastern Europe 6.17 6.16 6.18 6.29
Scandinavian 6.35 5.97 6.23 6.35
British 6.6 6.21 6.02 6.57
Irish 6.66 5.83 5.69 6.58
Italian 6 5.85 5.8 6.18

College educated




German 8.03 7.48 7.63 7.33
Eastern Europe 7.7 7.37 7.5 8.09
Scandinavian 8.5 7.82 7.86 7.92
British 8.44 8.06 7.76 7.95
Irish 8.03 7.79 7.39 7.59
Italian 7.45 7.75 7.6 7.87

Correlation of college and non-college
German 0.08
Eastern Europe 0.92
Scandinavian 0.57
British 0.70
Irish 0.57
Italian 0.40
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