Sunday, March 31, 2019

Data: What predicts believing that the environment is more important than genes?

In the last post, we looked at ethnic differences in whether the environment or genes are thought to be more important for a variety of traits. Now let's see which factors predict choosing nurture over nature.

Using GSS data, I estimated linear regression models (OLS) with each of the four questions as dependent variables, plus a scale of all four of them summed.  I included all demographic predictors I could think of, including: sex, age, race, southern region, immigrant vs. native-born,  educational level, income, church attendance, number of children, and political orientation. I list below the significant effects (beta weights are shown):

Black  -.15
Education  .10

So blacks, compared to whites, and less educated people think environment is less important. Race is the more powerful predictor.

Alcohol Abuse
Female  -.08
Education  .07

Females and the less educated think genes are more important for alcohol abuse.

Female  -.06
Black  -.06

Women and blacks are shifted toward seeing genes as important for altruism.

Education  .06
South  -.07

For athletic ability, Southerners and the less educated tend to see genes as being more important.

Nurture over nature scale
Black  -.11
Education  .11

When the scores for all four questions are added together to make a scale, blacks and the less education are shifted toward genes having the most impact.

Not surprisingly, people exposed to more education tend to believe in the power of the environment. After years of getting the same message from liberal teachers, what do you expect?  It is a surprise, though, that blacks, after adjusting for education, give higher estimates to the power of genes.

UPDATE: It might surprise you that political orientation (liberal vs. conservative) is unrelated to one's view of the importance of genes. 

UPDATE II: I wonder if the race difference comes from the fact that blacks are more fatalistic than whites, and people tend to assume (wrongly in my view) that genes imply determinism but environment does not. Whites might embrace nurturism because it sounds compatible with the idea that we can take control of our lives and improve things.  

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Data: Do Americans think genes or environment are more important?

Do Americans think people act like they do because of environment or genes?  The General Social Survey gave respondents four scenarios:

1) Carol is a substantially overweight White woman. She has lost weight in the past but always gains it back again.

2) David is an Asian man who drinks enough alcohol to become drunk several times a week. Often he can't remember what happened during these drinking episodes.

3) Felicia is a very kind Hispanic woman. She never has anything bad to say about anybody, and can be counted on to help others.

4) George is a Black man who's a good all-around athlete. He was on the high school varsity swim team and still works out five times a week.

Respondents were asked to estimate the influences of environment versus genes for each scenario. Answers ranged from 100% genes (scored as a 1) to 100% environment (scored as a 21). 50/50 would be scored as an 11.

I summed the scores for these four questions, and list the means for ethnic groups below (sample size = 1,842):

Mean environmentalism score

Asian Indians  56.7
Scottish  54.9
Czech  52.6
Italy  52.1 
Filipinos  50.9
American Indians  50.9 
Norwegians  50.9
Russians  50.4
Chinese  50.2
Polish  50.1
English/Welsh  49.9
Jewish 49.4
Irish  49.3

All Americans  49.3

German 49.0
Dutch  47.9
Swedish  47.3
Mexican  47.1
Puerto Ricans  46.3
Danish  46.1
Blacks 45.2
French  44.2
Spanish  43.9

The mean score for all Americans indicates that the average person thinks the traits described are 55% due to environmental influences, and 45% due to genes.  This is not far from the truth as indicated by genetic research. Americans seem to be ignoring their environment-is-all social science teachers. On the other hand, I'm sure by "environment" most people are thinking of experiences which siblings share -- families, schools, etc -- but research clearly shows that these factors are not important.

The highest scoring group, Asian Indians, thinks the traits are roughly 65% environment.  The lowest group, people of Spanish descent, put the estimate at about 50/50.  Hispanics, in general, tend to think genes are more important than other groups. This tendency is also true for blacks, but other non-whites -- Chinese, Filipinos, Asian Indians, and American Indians -- think the environment is more important.  It's surprising that several poor minority groups think genes are so important.  The gap between Asian Indians and the Spanish is eight-tenths of a standard deviation -- a large difference.

Interpreting Your Genetics Summit

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Data: What are the best predictors of voting for Trump?

It's always exciting for nerds like me when new GSS data arrives. 2018 is now available. They asked respondents whether they voted for Clinton or Trump. I used logistic regression to determine what predicts voting for Trump (sample size = 904):

Voted for Trump 
Male  .57
Southern region  .33
Black  -3.78
Other race  -1.30
Education  -.11
Income  .01
Church attendance  .16

The coefficients are not standardized, so they can only tell you the direction of the relationships, not the magnitudes. I included age and IQ, but neither one was significantly related to vote choice.  Keep in mind that the relationships are net of the influences of the other factors included in the model, so, for example, age might predict voting for Trump because older people are whiter, wealthier, less educated and more religious, not because they grew up in an earlier era.

So here are the characteristics of people voting for Trump: male, Southern, white, less educated, higher income, with more church attendance. No surprises there. And what mattered the most in order from most to least predictive: 1) white, 2) church attendance, 3) male, 4) education, 5) income, and 6) southern residence.  Trump owes the election to religious, white males, like myself.  You're welcome.

I didn't have data on the impact of Russian colluders.

Interpreting Your Genetics Summit

Friday, March 22, 2019

Data: How can the LGBT suicide rate be so low in a country that is supposedly so homophobic?

In this new study of over 120,000 suicides, the authors reported that 0.5% of the suicides were LGBT.  They also cited an estimate that 4.1% of Americans are sexual minorities. This suggests that they have a much lower rate of suicide than heterosexuals.

The authors speculate that sexual minority status of many suicides go unknown and unrecorded. If LGBT's had the same suicide rate as heteros, only 12% of them had their sexual orientation recorded correctly. I find this hard to believe.

It is safe to say that, according to this data, sexual minorities, like blacks, have a low rate of suicide. How is that possible, in a country that is supposedly so homophobic, supposedly so hateful?  The answer is that America is not a hate-filled country. It's an impressively tolerant country.

Interpreting Your Genetics Summit

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Data: Which explains American social mobility better? Sociology or biology?

I remember the first department party I attended as a PhD student in sociology.  I joined a conversation between a young faculty member who specialized in social mobility and a professor who was an international expert on urban sociology. I was stunned when the older guy said to the young guy, "Why do you study American social mobility? There is no such thing."

I had a bigger mouth then, and said, "Could've fooled me. My parents never stepped foot on a college campus. I have one brother working on his JD and another has a BS in business and will probably make double what I end up making." (Turned out to be more like three times as much.) He said something about exceptions and moved on to something else.

So the sociological view is that kids inherit the social class of their fathers because the system is rigged that way. The logic of this theory is that there should really be few exceptions. The genetic view, on the other hand, is that since children get their genes from parents, they will tend to end up where their parents are, but since each child gets a unique combination of genes, and since each child is exposed to unique developmental events, offspring will often depart from the class of their parents by either moving up or moving down. The pure sociological view has no explanation for these departures. An open, fluid, meritocratic America is a fiction, according to these people.

What does the General Social Survey say?  You can see below a contingency table of father's and offspring's highest degree earned (sample size = 1,325, ages 30-39, years 2010-16). (I use education because we have data for both generations):


As both theories predict, there is a tendency to end up where the old man did, but there are PLENTY of exceptions. 
Adding up all the cells where the kids went further in school than dad, we get 35% of the total. If we do the same for all offspring that fell short of their father's education, we get 15% of all respondents. Yet we're told you're never supposed to be able to fall in American society where privilege reigns. 

Intergenerational stasis happens to just 50%. This pattern is consistent with a genetic/developmental theory of outcomes. It does not support the opinion of my America-hating professor.

Interpreting Your Genetics Summit

Meta-analysis: Religious people do less self-injury

This new meta-analysis synthesizes the results from 16 studies (total sample of 24,767) that examined the relationship between religiosity and non-suicidial self-injury (e.g., small cuts on one's arms).  The researchers found a small negative correlation, meaning that more religious people are less likely to intentionally injure themselves.

This result is based on correlations which don't tell us what is causing what. Religious involvement could lower self-injury, or some trait like good mental health could both lead to more church and less hurting oneself.

Since I've come to see biology as so important for explaining behavior, I'm inclined to interpret the MANY ways religiosity predicts good outcomes to mean that people who have positive traits are more likely to value religion. I'm inclined to see religiosity as a marker of positive traits.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Data: Northern Europeans make the best Americans

American needs smart people, especially those who excel in science.  We also need people who believe in core American values, and I think perhaps the best single General Social Survey question to measure this asks respondents if they feel that someone who believes in racial inferiority should be allowed to give a public speech on the topic. Denying this right to people, in my opinion, is the type of behavior that belongs somewhere else, not America.

To capture which groups score highest on the above qualities, I created a scale that sums measures of IQ, basic scientific knowledge, and favoring free speech.  Here are the mean scores for any ethnic group with at least 10 respondents (sample size = 985):

Mean desirability score

Russian  22.72
English/Welsh  21.73
Swedish  21.43
Norwegian  20.93
Scottish 20.78
Irish  20.56
Jewish  20.54
French  20.47
German  20.28
Dutch  20.27
Polish  20.19
Italian  19.63

Total US  19.61

American Indian  19.07
Chinese  18.55
Spanish  18.15
Black   17.78
Asian Indian  17.42
Portuguese  17.30
Puerto Rican  16.17
Mexican  15.83

Russians score the highest, and northern Europeans, in general, do well.  Southern Europeans and non-whites tend to do poorly.  The gap between Russians and Mexicans is 1 1/2 standard deviations -- an enormous difference.  (I included immigrants to maximize sample size, but rankings don't change much if I exclude them. The Chinese and Mexicans rise a little.)

If the US had a rational immigration policy, we would be growing the top groups.  The country, however, desperately blinds itself to these kinds of facts, so we are growing the bottom instead.

Interpreting Your Genetics Summit

Friday, March 15, 2019

Data: Polygenic scores predict educational attainment among blacks

This new study looked to see if polygenic scores for educational attainment that have been developed from samples of white people work for blacks (sample size = 1,050). A polygenic score sums up how many variations in locations on genes a person possesses that have been correlated with the outcome variable, weighted for the strength of the relationships. In plain English, the higher your score, the higher your genetic risk.

The researchers found that, even though blacks have a genetic history that is very different than whites, the polygenic scores that were developed for whites significantly predicted going to college among blacks. While scores did not predict reading achievement, they did predict math achievement.

Bottom line: genes matter. They matter for whites, they matter for blacks.   

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Is there such a thing as a "superior race"?

In the last post, I analyzed answers to a General Social Survey question about whether one approves of someone who believes in the genetic inferiority of blacks being able to give a public speech about it.

That got me wondering, "Do I believe there are inferior and superior races?"

Some people might think of the question in terms of human accomplishment and might consult Charles Murray's book. I would call this an example of the social construction of superiority.  One group might value cultural achievement, some other group might value something else (e.g., the most pious group is the best).

With this kind of evaluative question, I typically take one of two approaches: either as a Christian or as an evolutionist. Since my religious values are not very interesting, I'll set those aside.

As an evolutionist, I'd say the simple, current answer in the context of the United States is that the superior races are: 1) Mexican Americans, 2) American Indians, and 3) blacks.

Why?  Because nature's definition of "superior" refers to how well one is adapted to his environment, and that is measured in terms of reproductive success -- who is having the most children. And we know from GSS data that three groups average the most kids (women ages 40-55, years 2010-2016, sample size = 1,156):

Mean number of offspring

Mexican  2.87
American Indian  2.57
Black  2.47

White  2.02

Whites are a much less successful group with an average around two.  And among whites, the biggest losers are people of Polish descent who have a mean of 1.56 children (looking at groups with at least 20 respondents).

Now, you can get more sophisticated about it and argue that evolution is about survival, and in the long-term, groups who are the most scientific are in the best position to survive, and that would be whites with northeast Asians also showing a lot of ability.  I would argue that the current fertility situation is much more certain than the future, and (non-Asian) minorities are thriving. 

UPDATE:  I should also say that I do possess a strain of modernism in me which is utilitarian: if our criterion of superiority is contributing the most to the welfare of the greatest number of people, whites win.

UPDATE II: The fertility gap between Mex-Ams and whites is fairly big: six-tenths of a standard deviation.
Interpreting Your Genetics Summit

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Data: Compared to the 1970s, support for free speech is lower among college-age Americans

Since 1972, General Social Survey participants have been asked the following question: "Consider a person who believes that Blacks are genetically inferior. 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?"

I wanted to look at trends among college-age students. Here is a graph (sample size = 2,158):

The green bars indicate the percent who would allow the controversial person to speak. This has fallen from 68.4% during the 1970s to only 48.0% in this decade, a drop of 20 percentage points. 

It looks to me like young people in the 70s were either more open to genetic ideas concerning race, or they were simply more supportive of free speech. 

Another interpretation is that young adults in the 70s were against the establishment and thus favored ideas that challenge the mainstream, while young people today tend to support the establishment and thus support its suppression of unpopular ideas. 

Interpreting Your Genetics Summit

Saturday, March 09, 2019

Data: Which ethnic groups know the most science?

You might assume that a person's knowledge of basic science is merely the result of education or IQ.  But when I calculate Pearson correlations with a 10 question quiz on basic science (e.g., "Who determines the sex of the child -- the mother or the father?") the education/science and IQ/science correlations are of moderate size (.37 and .41, respectively).  Some people simply take to science better than others. I like to call this Sci-Q.

I was curious about how this knowledge differs by race and ethnicity. The numbers displayed below are the mean for any group with 10 or more respondents (GSS data, total sample size = 3,737):

Mean Scientific Knowledge Score

Yugoslav  8.20
Scottish  7.82
Swedish  7.87
Japanese  7.77
Russian  7.55
English/Welsh  7.54
Swiss  7.48
Chinese   7.45
Norwegian  7.42
Polish  7.42
Hungarian  7.41
Austrian  7.40
Lithuanian  7.40
Jewish  7.38
Danish  7.30
French  7.25
Czech  7.22
Irish  7.22
French Canadian  7.17
Greek  7.15
Asian  Indian  7.14
Netherlands  7.11
German  7.10
Italian  7.10
Finnish  7.08

US Total  6.92

Spanish  6.89
Arab  6.88
Portuguese 6.71
American Indian  6.49
Filipino  6.12
Mexican  5.88
Puerto Rican  5.88
Black  5.86
West Indian  5.77

GSS data has the old category of one's family coming from Yugoslavia.  These people are in first place with a very high mean of 8.20.  We can see that Eastern Europeans, in general, tend to do well, as do Northern Europeans and Northeast Asians. 

On the low end, you see blacks, Hispanics, American Indians, and Arabs.

The gap between the highest and lowest groups is almost 1.4 standard deviations -- a huge difference. 

America's future depends on having lots of people who "take to science."  We need high-scoring groups to grow--through their having larger families and/or moving to the United States.

Interpreting Your Genetics Summit

Thursday, March 07, 2019

Data: The big move among American Jews is not to Orthodoxy, it's to no affiliation

Since Orthodox Jews have more kids than other types of Jews, some assume that they are quickly becoming the modal category.  Not so fast. This table show trends since the 1970s (GSS data, sample size = 737):


While the share of Jews who are Orthodox has increased over the past four decades (1.9% to 7.8%), the real movement has been toward being a Jew person with no affiliation. Over this period, unaffiliated Jews rose from 15.1% to 27.5% of the total.  Also--look at the huge drop in Conservative Jews: 43.4% down to only 17.6%.

This seems to be part of the larger social trend of some Americans moving away from religious affiliation of any kind. 

In a previous analysis, I found that less religious Jews are less ethnocentric. 

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Data: Athletes are more conservative than non-athletes

I would expect athletic people, on average, to be more conservative than non-athletes. The culture of sports and the types of individuals drawn to it are competitive and disciplined, and are likely to attribute their athletic success to their own hard work.

The General Social Survey asked participants to rate themselves athletically. This question was asked in 2004, so to look at voting patterns, we have to rely on a question about whom the respondent voted for in the 2000 presidential election. Here are the results listed by race and sex (sample size = 1,439):

Percent who voted for Bush in 2000

Athletic  63.1
Non-Athletic  53.0  
Relative risk  1.2

Athletic  22.2
Non-Athletic  10.7
Relative risk  2.1

Athletic  53.0
Non-Athletic  48.5  
Relative risk  1.1

Athletic  55.1
Non-Athletic  45.9 
Relative risk  1.2

The data support my hypothesis for both race and gender.

It makes sense for conservatives to actively encourage as many kids as possible to be involved in sports. Or perhaps I should say competitive sports. A trophy for every kid is a liberal idea. 

Interpreting Your Genetics Summit

Monday, March 04, 2019

Data: Taleb is (partly) wrong on IQ

There was an Twitter dust-up recently when Nassim Nicholas Taleb used his statistical skills to trash IQ studies.  Two of his criticisms -- if I understand him correctly (he doesn't write so regular folks can understand because he is an elitist) -- are that: 1) IQ only does a good job distinguishing the mentally challenged from those in the normal range of intelligence; and 2) IQ becomes particularly useless at predicting important outcomes (like income) at the high end of the distribution.

I looked at the relationship between the General Social Survey's simple measure of IQ -- a vocabulary quiz -- and the respondent's household income in 1986 dollars. The vocabulary score is the number correct out of 10 questions (sample size = 27,530):

According to GSS data, Taleb is wrong on his first point and half wrong on his second. See how IQ does not predict income much at all for the lowest four IQ levels.

But it does do a pretty good job of predicting income from levels 3 through 10. Within this range, there is a straight, stair-step increase in income as one moves up in IQ.  This linear relationship does not fade or disappear at the highest levels of intelligence, as Taleb says it does.

On the other hand, the data support Taleb on one important point (you can't see the following on the graph): the problem of heteroscedasticity (unequal variance). For each IQ level from 0 to 4, the variance in income is not high. For example, people at the 0 level do not vary from each other much in terms of income: they're generally pretty poor. Once you reach level 5, people start to diversify more: people are increasingly all over the map in terms of income. And this tendency increases through level 10--the level with the greatest dispersion in income. In other words, while the smartest people have the highest average income, it is a very diverse class of people. Some earns tons of money, others not much.

So, a high IQ seems almost necessary to earn a big income, but it is far from guaranteeing it. 

UPDATE:  The data reminds me that income -- in the US, at least -- is hard to predict because there is so much variation.  Liberals like to refer to it as inequality.  Probably no variable predicts income with a great deal of precision simply because people are all over the map in terms of how much they make.  Taleb takes advantage of that fact when he criticizes IQ.

Interpreting Your Genetics Summit

Saturday, March 02, 2019

Data: What type of immigrants vote for the GOP?

President Trump told the audience at CPAC today that the economy is so strong, we need legal immigrants to fill certain jobs, but it should be based on merit. Unless the GOP wants to become the next Dodo bird, "merit" should be the type of immigrants who vote conservative.

What kinds of immigrants are likely to vote that way?  The General Social Survey asked people which candidate they voted for in 2012.  I looked at immigrants to see what predicted voting for Romney over Obama (sample size = 192).  I looked at sex, age, race, education, IQ, income, religion, and religious attendance.  Only two factors were statistically significant: being white and religious.  Immigrants who are white and go to church often are more likely to have voted for Romney, and being white was the more important predictor.

So if the GOP wants a future, they had better stop the mass immigration of nonwhites and the irreligious.

UPDATE: 62.5% of white immigrants who attend church more than once a week voted for Romney.  By contrast, 96.3% of black immigrants and 75.0% of other non-white immigrants voted for Obama.

Interpreting Your Genetics Summit

Friday, March 01, 2019

Data: Do liberals secretly desire the destruction of blacks?

Author Philip Roth provides a good example of the how the Left feels about sex.  In his novels, he celebrates infidelity.  He loves it, and says that the man who invented faithfulness should never be forgiven.

He's probably not smart enough to see it, but he who loves cheating evidently loves murder, too, because infidelity is a major cause of homicide. The case of the murderous jealous partner is only too common.

Cheating and murder are problems for all populations, but they are particular problems among blacks.  The General Social Survey asked participants, "Have you ever had sex with someone other than your husband or wife while you were married?" Here are the percentages who answered yes (sample size = 20,205):

Blacks  33.8
Whites  21.9
Relative risk  1.5

Blacks  18.6
Whites  13.5
Relative risk 
Relative risk  1.4

So black men are 1.5 times more likely to cheat than white men; the black/white gap for women is similar.

The black homicide rate runs about 8 times that of whites, and some of this difference is due to greater infidelity among blacks. (The data here only addresses marriage, but I assume the racial difference in cheating between single blacks and whites is similar).

Do liberals secretly desire the destruction of blacks?  They've helped destroy the black family by subsidizing single motherhood, they favor abortion on demand which eliminates a much higher rate of black babies than whites, and they favor sexual deviance which encourages murder.

Are gun owners mentally ill?

  Some anti-gun people think owning a gun is a sign of some kind of mental abnormality. According to General Social Survey data, gun owners ...