Harvard students seek probe of controversial PhD thesis on Hispanics’ IQ

Harvard University students signed and delivered a petition to President Drew Faust last week demanding an investigation into how the school awarded a doctorate in 2009 based on a dissertation that claimed that Hispanics are not as smart as whites.

The degree was awarded to Jason Richwine, who recently was in the news when the Heritage Foundation, where he was working, released a paper he co-write claiming that the immigration reform bill being debated in Congress would cost the government $5.3 trillion. (It won’t.) It then came to light that Richwine had written a dissertation, for which he received a PhD in public policy from Harvard in 2009, titled “IQ and Immigration Policy”,  which claimed that Hispanic immigrants generally have lower IQs than non-Latino white Americans. The Post’s Wonkbook quoted from the dissertation abstract:

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 thesis also said:

No one knows whether Hispanics will ever reach IQ parity with whites, but the prediction that new Hispanic immigrants will have low-IQ children and grandchildren is difficult to argue against.

Richwine resigned from Heritage because of the ruckus.

The Boston Globe reported that Harvard students assembled some 1,200 signatures on a petition demanding a probe into how such a dissertation could be approved at the elite university, and gave it to Faust as well as to David Ellwood, the dean of the John F. Kennedy School of Government. The petition said in part:

Academic freedom and a reasoned debate are essential to our academic community.  However, the Harvard Kennedy School cannot ethically stand behind academic work advocating a national policy of exclusion and advancing an agenda of discrimination.

 

Ellwood was quoted in a statement as saying: All PhD dissertations are reviewed by a committee of scholars. In this case, the committee consisted of three highly respected and discerning faculty members who come from diverse intellectual traditions.

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.

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Valerie Strauss · May 20, 2013

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