Scientific Racism Rears its Ugly Head Once Again

The idea that IQ scores could be a reflection of a heritable trait is one of the pernicious ideas that led to the Holocaust as well as eugenics programmes in the US and elsewhere. Apart from its ugly history, scientists do not have a clear understanding of the extent to which intelligence may be a heritable trait.

Even if some aspects of intelligence are based on heritable traits, there is no doubt that environmental factors shape one’s ability to score highly on an intelligence test. Nevertheless, in his dissertation, Richwine eschews this evidence and argues that “the low average IQ of Hispanics is effectively permanent”.

The pernicious nature of this dissertation points to the obvious question of who signed off on this dissertation. The answer, which is public information, is that George Borjas was the chair and Richard Zeckhauser and Christopher Jencks were the other two committee members.

These three scholars are getting flak for having signed off on this dissertation. This is as it should be. Scholars should get called out for condoning work that is fundamentally racist.

Before Jason Richwine began the work that was to be his dissertation, he would have had to consult with scholars in his department to ask them if they would be on his doctoral committee. At that point, they should have explained to him that this work carries on the tradition of scientific racism, and has no place in 21st-century scholarship.

It is clear that Richwine’s dissertation is thin – with weak statistical analyses and a literature review that relies too heavily on racist and shoddy publications by Charles Murray, Richard Herrnstein and Philippe Rushton. But this dissertation should never have been written in the first place.


Tanya Golash-Boza is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Merced. She is the author of Yo Soy Negro: Blackness in PeruImmigration Nation: Raids, Detentions, and Deportations in Post-9/11 America and Due Process Denied: Detentions and Deportations in the United States