Two weeks ago we learned that the author of a recent Heritage Foundation report against immigration reform wrote a 2009 Harvard dissertation claiming immigrants of color have low IQ. (Its abstract reads: “The average IQ of immigrants in the United States is substantially lower than that of the white native population.”) Now, students at the University are asking questions about why the racist paper got approved in the first place.
Over 1,000 Harvard students want to know how and why Harvard University’s JFK School approved a 2009 doctoral thesis arguing that Hispanics have lower IQs. The thesis was written by Jason Richwine, a co-author of a paper by the conservative Heritage Foundation that argued immigration reform would cost taxpayers $6.3 trillion. The discovery of Richwine’s paper by the Washington Post )sparked a firestorm around the Heritage study, and several days later Richwine resigned from the think tank.
Harvard students delivered a petition last week demanding an investigation into how a thesis built on those views and assumptions was able to make it through the approval process in the first place. “Academic freedom and a reasoned debate are essential to our academic community,” the petition read. “However, the Harvard Kennedy School cannot ethically stand behind academic work advocating a national policy of exclusion and advancing an agenda of discrimination.” As of last Wednesday, May 15 the students had collected 1,200 signatures.
Richwine’s recent Heritage report claimed that immigration reform legislation would cost taxpayers $6.3 billion in safety net spending over the next fifty years. The finding was expected to provide a key piece of ammunition for anti-immigration conservatives in Congress. But the report’s credibly took a blow when Washington Post reported that Richwine’s dissertation from just a few years earlier argued for an IQ-based immigration policy. His abstract reads:
The statistical construct known as IQ can reliably estimate general mental ability, or intelligence. 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. The consequences are a lack of socioeconomic assimilation among low-IQ immigrant groups, more underclass behavior, less social trust, and an increase in the proportion of unskilled workers in the American labor market. Selecting high-IQ immigrants would ameliorate these problems in the U.S., while at the same time benefiting smart potential immigrants who lack educational access in their home countries.
The revelation of Richwine’s earlier work provide evidence for what we already know about what often drives Heritage Foundation claims: they are motivated primarily by cultural arguments about immigrants and people of color, not sound economics. Now, over 1000 Harvard students are calling on their university to take a hard look at how that argument was ever approved as academically sound.