Polish socialists did not show that neighborhood doesn’t affect IQ

Steve Sailer talks about a study from 1978 which shows that, after Warsaw was rebuilt in the aftermath of WW2 by the socialist government whose policy was to allocate housing, schools and hospitals without regard to social class, IQ was unrelated to neighborhood but strongly related to parental occupation and education. He seems to think it supports the hypothesis that neighborhood doesn’t have any effect on IQ, but I think it’s clearly the wrong conclusion. People who think that neighborhood affects IQ do so because, except when a socialist government engages in large-scale social engineering, people are not distributed randomly across neighborhoods. But if they are distributed randomly, then of course IQ is not associated with neighborhood. What this study suggests, it seems to me, is rather that differences in IQ can’t be explained just by environmental factors. But except for people who don’t know anything about the psychological literature on intelligence, such as most philosophers who talk about IQ, we already knew that, so I don’t think that this study has the significance that Sailer — who does know that literature — apparently thinks it has.

2 thoughts

  1. But isn’t the point that on the one hand we have peoe like Sailer who say IQ is generally a 50/50 deal between environment and nature, and people who think “IQ is not genetic, and CERTAINLY not genetic in any way that has ramifications at the population level.”

    Doesn’t this paper argue forthrightly against the latter?

    1. Sure, and that’s the point I make at the end of the post, but Sailer apparently took the study to show that neightborhood has no effect on IQ, which it doesn’t. (Perhaps it doesn’t have any effect on IQ, although I doubt it, but in any case this study doesn’t support that claim.) You’re right that many people think genetic has something to do with IQ, but as I also note in my post, anyone who is a little bit familiar with the psychological literature on intelligence alreay knew that. And this was true even in 1978, when that study was published.

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