Monday, January 23, 2006

DR. JONES: Two cheers for France

France holds an annual summit with African nations, and this year they're focusing on how to help Africa's economies grow. More people need to focus on the root causes of and possible solutions for Africa's deep poverty. That's why the French government should be commended for taking Africa seriously.

The Eurasian landmass is getting to be a pretty prosperous place these days, and Eurasia's main offshoots--the U.S., Canada, Australia, Singapore, the Southern Cone of Latin America, and much of SE Asia--also tend to be (relative) success stories. But as the chart shows, sub-Saharan Africa (with the exceptions of Botswana and a few, debatable others) has not shared in the world's massive reduction in poverty.

One area that France has (understandably) focused on: Immigration. Poor Africans know that if they can get to France--or any European country--they can live a much better life. Part of that is because they know that a decent European education is far better than what passes for government-provided-education in many corrupt African countries.

But part of that better life is just a miracle: Just by crossing an invisible political border, an African (or Mexican) can raise her standard of living dramatically, even if she's doing the most menial jobs imaginable.

Why is that? Well, Joel Scheider and I are working on that right now. Using data from Lutz Hendricks's excellent study of the wages of immigrants to the U.S., we've found that workers from countries with lower national average IQ have lower U.S. wages (even after controlling for education). So where you come from matters (on average).

Even more interestingly, we've found that one national-average-IQ-point gets your nation's immigrants a 1% higher U.S. wage on average. And that macro-level relationship is the same 1-for-1 relationship that lots of researchers have found at the micro level both in the U.S. and around the world (surveyed in the "Data and Parameters" part of this paper).

So Lynn and Vanhanen's measures of "national average IQ"--which some people like to beat up on--seem to be measuring something pretty deep if they can predict something as unexpected as the wages of a nation's emigrants.

But while 1 IQ point gets you 1% higher wages for you as in individual, if your country raises its national average IQ by 1 point, that apparently gets your entire country a 7% higher living standard (R-squared about 2/3). So, stick a low-IQ person in a high-IQ country, and sure, he'll get lower wages than the average person there, but it'll be 1-for-1. But create an entire country out of low IQ people, and you've got, well, you've got pretty much any country in Africa.

That's what seems to be driving immigrants from Africa to France: The chance to participate in a high-IQ economy.

Which brings us to what can be done to reduce the IQ differences across countries. Rushton and Jensen seem to think that most of these differences are genetic, but note: Most does not equal all. There's room for improvement among currently-low-IQ groups, as Jensen's work with poor African-Americans has shown. So that's one side of the serious intellectual debate: It's mostly genetic.

The other side says that nutrition, education, and a low-toxin environment may be able to eliminate the vast majority of these differences. Here's hoping that other side is right, for Africa's sake.....

ORIGINALLY Posted by Garett Jones at 12/04/2005 03:16:00 PM


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