Jack Kelly: It's not 'racist' to point out intellectual difference like Jason Richwine did

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I cry "foul" on both sides in the immigration debate.

Jason Richwine, who resigned from the Heritage Foundation May 10, was the co-author of a study that claimed granting legal status to the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants here would cost taxpayers $6.3 trillion over their lifetimes.

Conservative economists Tim Kane, Jim Pethokoukis, Douglas Holtz-Eakin and Alex Nowarasteh noted that to reach that preposterous number, among other things Heritage:

• Assumed illegals make no positive contributions to the economy (CATO estimates immigration reform would grow GDP by $1.5 trillion over 10 years); that virtually all would go on welfare; that there currently is no cost to providing public services for them.

• Counted the cost of Social Security benefits, but not what illegals would pay in payroll taxes. (Social Security's actuary estimates the "Gang of 8" bill would add $300 million in net revenue over the next decade.)

The study is so badly flawed that Heritage's reputation may never recover from it. But these flaws aren't why Mr. Richwine was forced to resign. In his thesis at Harvard University in 2009, he wrote: "the average IQ of immigrants in the United States is substantially lower than that of the white native population, and the difference is likely to persist over several generations."

Liberals, as is their custom when confronted with an uncongenial fact, accused Mr. Richwine of "racism."

To their everlasting shame, some conservative supporters of immigration reform also piled on.

It is incontestably true that Asians score higher on intelligence tests here than do whites, who score higher than Hispanics, who score higher than blacks. This fact must be acknowledged, and put into context.

When the Army began testing the intelligence of draftees in World War I, blacks in several Northern states scored higher than whites in several Southern states. Among whites, Jews today score higher than gentiles. But on those WWI Army mental tests, Jewish draftees -- most of whom then were recent immigrants from Russia -- scored much lower than native born whites.

A person's IQ is pretty much fixed at birth. But when cultural and socioeconomic factors change, the average IQ of groups can improve significantly in a single generation.

I think Mr. Richwine and thesis advisers George Borjas and Charles Murray overestimate the importance of intelligence and the role of genetics in determining it, and underestimate the economic contributions of the low skilled but industrious. High intelligence is essential for rocket scientists, but success in most jobs depends more on character and good work habits.

Professors Borjas and Murray are distinguished scholars who think highly of Mr. Richwine. Their views are honestly held, and they have a point. Mr. Richwine suggested in his Harvard thesis preference in legal immigration be given to the intelligent. Evidently the "Gang of 8" agree, because this would be the effect of the provision in their bill which would lower the priority of family reunification for issuing visas, and raising it for immigrants with special skills.

The dishonest are those who pretend there are no differences in IQ among ethnic groups, or that these differences have no consequences.

When University of Texas law professor Lino Graglia, who is Hispanic, said blacks and Hispanics do worse in college admissions because so many come from poor, single parent homes, liberals accused him of "racism."

One could argue Mr. Graglia is wrong. (He isn't.) But his argument is the opposite of racism, because he attributes differences to cultural, economic and sociological factors, not genetics.

Liberals make personal attacks to conceal intellectual bankruptcy -- and thereby reveal moral bankruptcy. The differences in academic performance among the races have profound economic consequences for the nation. Scholars must be able to explore the reasons without fear of being smeared.

Name-calling is not "debate." It's time we made that clear to liberals.

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Jack Kelly is a columnist for The Press and The Blade of Toledo, Ohio. jkelly@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1476. This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To log in or subscribe, go to: http://press.post-gazette.com/


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