Wise Tim, Crime, and HBD: Part 2, the HBD-view expanded

Continuing with our discussion of Leuconoe’s question:

What is your opinion of the “racial invariance hypothesis” which says that poor whites have about the same crime rate as poor blacks and that if you control for socioeconomic status all the differences between the races in crime go away?

This thesis is mainly backed by these studies: Poverty, not race, tied to high crime rates in urban communities, Homicide in Black and White (pdf.)

Since poor whites have a generally higher IQ as equally poor blacks this would also contradict the idea that lower IQ leads to more crime. …

Also this piece by a radical leftist: Nazis Can’t Do Math: Reflections on Racism, Crime and the Illiteracy of Right-Wing Statistical Analysis.

First, let’s be clear about what HBD says (and doesn’t say) about crime, race, and poverty (and while we’re at it, IQ):

  1. Genes influence traits like IQ and criminality.

As JayMan is fond of saying, “All human behavioral traits are heritable.” Okay, but what does this mean? Are we slaves to our genetics? Is there a a murder gene that guarantees that you will go out and stab someone to death? Since JayMan has already written a great explanation, I will quote him and urge you to read the rest:

The First Law emerges from studies of twins, studies of adoptees, and (now) sibling genetic similarity studies. In short, when you look at people’s behavior, virtually without exception … you find some effect of the genes on these traits….

How could this be, you may ask? How could such complex and highly specific things be encoded in the DNA and express themselves despite decades of upbringing and childhood experiences? For one, heritability is only probabilistic, not absolute. Few traits are 100% heritable. …

But, it’s important to understand the meaning of the term heritability. Heritability is the degree of variation in a studied population that can be attributed to genetic variation in that population. The cause is the variance in question is always due to some genetic difference, but it doesn’t tell you how direct such genetic influence is. …

So, how iron-clad is the First Law? Clearly, not all traits are heritable, right? Right. However, there are only a distinct set of exceptions. Traits that are dependent on content aren’t heritable at all. These include what language you speak, in which particular church you worship, what specific political party you identify. However, the degree and manner to which one interacts with these things are very heritable: how proficient you are with language, how church-going you are, how liberal or conservative.

Stolen from JayMan's post, "All Human Behavioral Traits are Heritable."
Stolen from JayMan’s post, “All Human Behavioral Traits are Heritable.” RTWT.

Note that these are not 100% heritable. There is no “guaranteed to stab people” gene, but there are genes that will make you more likely to want to stab people. Environment, “free will,” and random chance also influence how personality traits manifest in individuals.

Edit: It occurs to me that I should actually talk about some of these genes.

An MAOA variant, nicknamed “the warrior gene,” is the most famous of these. Wikipedia states:

A version of the monoamine oxidase-A gene has been popularly referred to as the warrior gene.[30] Several different versions of the gene are found in different individuals, although a functional gene is present in most humans (with the exception of a few individuals with Brunner syndrome).[31] In the variant, the allele associated with behavioural traits is shorter (30 bases) and may produce less MAO-A enzyme.[32] This gene variation is in a regulatory promoter region about 1000 bases from the start of the region that encodes the MAO-A enzyme.

Studies have found differences in the frequency distribution of variants of the MAOA gene between ethnic groups:[32][33] of the participants, 59% of Black men, 54% of Chinese men, 56% of Maori men, and 34% of Caucasian men carried the 3R allele, while 5.5% of Black men, 0.1% of Caucasian men, and 0.00067% of Asian men carried the 2R allele.[23][32][33][34][35][36][37][38][39][40]

In individuals with the low activity MAOA gene, when faced with social exclusion or ostracism showed higher levels of aggression than individuals with the high activity MAOA gene.[41]

Doubtless there are other genes I’m not aware of.

2.  The frequency of different genes varies between genetically-related groups.

The obvious genes here are ones that code for environmental responses, like lactase persistence in groups that have historically practiced dairy farming and dark skin in areas with intense sunlight.

Everyone on earth shares more genes with the people closely related to them than people less-closely related. For example, the Amish are more genetically similar to other Amish than non-Amish. Pygmies are more closely related to other pygmies than non-pygmies. This is why people look like their parents.

There are a lot of people who claim that “race is a social construct.” From a genetic standpoint, this is simply untrue (look at the top of the blog for an example of how geneticists can distinguish between different genetic groups.)

3. The HBD-theory is that the genes for personality/behavioral traits also vary by genetically-related groups, due to historical environmental (including cultural!) pressures.

For example, Polynesians may have been selected for navigational ability, because good navigators populated Polynesia and bad navigators died at sea. Chinese culture may have selected for people willing to work hard and get along even when they don’t really feel like it; and the Inuit may have been selected for the ability to stand really long, dark winters.

Relevant to our discussion, crime rates vary a lot by region:


and society:

Graph from the Wikipedia
See also my post, “No, Hunter Gatherers were not Peaceful Paragons of Gender Egalitarianism.”

We’ve discussed warfare in pre-state societies over quite a few posts lately, so I’m going to summarize quickly: anthropological, historical, and archaeological records all document extremely high rates of violence in non-state societies. Anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon actually kept track of both homicides and births among the Yanomamo, and found that Yanomamo men who had killed more people had more children than Yanomamo men who had killed fewer people, providing a direct mechanism for genetic selection for traits related to homicide and other violence.

Many HBD bloggers, such as Peter Frost and HBD Chick, have discussed the ways in which states have discouraged crime, including (especially) executing criminals and thus preventing them from having children. The observed result:



That all said, there are things that no serious HBD-er claims:

A. That all people or sub-groups within a “race” are identical. As Peter Frost wrote, “No, blacks aren’t all alike. Who said they are?” There are smart black people and dumb black people. Hard-working whites and lazy whites. Extroverted Asians and Introverted Asians. Some white groups (like Russians, apparently,) have significantly higher crime rates than other white groups. Even within the US, there are differences between different groups of whites, with significant ethnic divisions between classes and regions.

B. That environmental effects don’t exist or that humans do not respond to incentives. Obviously if it is cold outside I will wear a coat; if a law is passed that jay walkers will be executed, I will immediately stop jaywalking.

C. Observed differences are set in stone. The world is always changing. Where selection pressures change, so do populations.


So to get back to Leuconoe’s first query, I would not be surprised if controlling for socioeconomic status made all (or most) racial differences in criminality disappear. In fact, this is basically what I would expect, because poverty, criminality, and low-IQ are correlated, so controlling for one will tend to control for all of them.

But why on earth would you do this? If we control for bad decisions, most differences in intelligence disappear. If you control for enough differences, differences disappear. But as JayMan says, you can’t just control for a groups entire history; likewise, you can’t just control for all their traits.

Moreover, this still doesn’t get at why different groups have different rates of criminality or poverty in the first place, nor whether A causes B, B causes A, or C causes A and B. And even if you could prove that poverty causes crime, you still haven’t answered why there’s so much more poverty in black communities than in white (or Asian) ones.

What do we know about race and crime in America?

I have written a few posts on the subject, like When Crime is a Euphemism for Lynching; Bullying Pt 2: Race, Crime, and the Police; South Africa, Democracy, and the Dangers of Demographics (okay that one is on South Africa, not America); Rupert Murdoch is a Lying Liar; Sorry, Les Mis: Criminals Gonna Criminal.

Given that I’ve written nearly 500 posts, this is clearly not my main focus. I therefore recommend everything by La Griffe du Lion, including Crime in the Hood; Crime and the Hispanic Effect; Politics, Imprisonment, and Race; Aggressiveness, Criminality, and Sex Drive by Race, Gendder, and Ethnicity; The Color of Death Row; and Analysis of Hate Crime. And if that is not enough for you, here is the entire updated Color of Crime, from whoever publishes it. Here are a few of its major findings:

  • The evidence suggests that if there is police racial bias in arrests it is negligible. Victim and witness surveys show that police arrest violent criminals in close proportion to the rates at which criminals of different races commit violent crimes.
  • There are dramatic race differences in crime rates. Asians have the lowest rates, followed by whites, and then Hispanics. Blacks have notably high crime rates. This pattern holds true for virtually all crime categories and for virtually all age groups.
  • In 2013, of the approximately 660,000 crimes of interracial violence that involved blacks and whites, blacks were the perpetrators 85 percent of the time. This meant a black person was 27 times more likely to attack a white person than vice versa. A Hispanic was eight times more likely to attack a white person than vice versa.
  • If New York City were all white, the murder rate would drop by 91 percent, the robbery rate by 81 percent, and the shootings rate by 97 percent.
  • Both violent and non-violent crime has been declining in the United States since a high in 1993. 2015 saw a disturbing rise in murder in major American cities that some observers associated with “depolicing” in response to intense media and public scrutiny of police activity.
source: https://www.newyorkfed.org/medialibrary/media/research/epr/99v05n3/9909levi.pdf
source: https://www.newyorkfed.org/medialibrary/media/research/epr/99v05n3/9909levi.pdf

So much for controlling for income. It looks like equally poor whites and blacks still have massively different homicide rates. (Of course, I should note that the US welfare system attempts to put a minimum floor below which people don’t fall. Without intervention, equally poor whites and blacks might be more similar.)

West Hunter noted about the effects of lotteries:

Lotteries can be useful natural experiments; we can use them to test the accuracy of standard sociological theories, in which rich people buy their kids extra smarts, bigger brains, better health, etc.

David Cesarini, who I met at that Chicago meeting, has looked at the effect of winning the lottery in Sweden. He found that the “effects of parental wealth on infant health, drug consumption, scholastic performance and cognitive and non-cognitive skills can be bounded to a tight interval around zero.”

As I once mentioned, there was an important land lottery in Georgia in 1832. The winners received an 160-acre farm. But by 1880, their descendants were no more literate, their occupational status no higher. The families in the top 2/3rds of income managed to hang on to some of their windfall, but lower-income families did not.

West Hunter does note that there is probably a level below which material deprivation really will harm (or kill) you, and that a random windfall in such a situation will do you good, but virtually no one in the modern West lives in famine or near-famine conditions.

Picture 3  Picture 3

Picture 5

(I suspect it is really easy to catch car thieves in Hawaii.)


source http://maamodt.asp.radford.edu/Serial%20Killer%20Information%20Center/Project%20Description.htm
source: Radford University Serial Killer Information Center

Occam’s razor suggests that something is going on here.

To be continued…

11 thoughts on “Wise Tim, Crime, and HBD: Part 2, the HBD-view expanded

  1. Well there are some problems with the gene-crime correlation globaly. I have homicide stats for Russia and there is great fluctuation. The homicide rate was very low untill 1905 then jumped up, under Stalin it fell down and started to rise in the 1960, only reaching atypical (for Europe) hights in the 1980s After the fall of the USSR it exploaded and then stabilized at a lower (though still very high) level under Putin. Now it is Latin America that made me question HBD the most. If native DNA makes a person more violent then it just dosnt fit. Chile is around 40% native while Mexico is 55% a far to small diference for such a large difference in development and crime. Brazil is over 60% white but still very underdeveloped and crime ridden.

    If it is african DNA that explains Brazils high crime rate, what explains that of Venezuela or Columbia which are only about 20% black in DNA? Guetamala and Hounduras have far less black ancestry then Nicarague but have higher crime rates.


    • Many things here, but:
      Races aren’t homogenous. There’s no reason to expect the same crime rates from different groups of blacks, Asians, whites, Native Americans, etc. See for example “The American Nations,” ie, low-crime English Puritan whites vs. high-crime Scotch-Irish whites. Racial groupings are at best a rough guide.

      Also, I do think circumstances, like “are you in a country undergoing massive social collapse” affects people’s behavior. Other than Jayman, I don’t think anyone seriously suggests that such massive events can’t have an effect on crime rates.

      Third, we have the problem of potentially inaccurate crime stat gathering. I don’t really trust historical crime stats 100%. People like to say, “oh look how low US murder rates were in 1900,” but we’ve gotten a LOT better at police forensics and determining whether or not someone was murdered since then. I’m also not convinced that all countries are doing an equally good job at gathering crime statistics, and wouldn’t be surprised if Chile were marginally better at reliable statistics than the DRC.

      Russia’s specific history I don’t know enough to comment on, but I do know that it falls outside the Hajnal Line, if you are familiar with HBD Chick’s Hajnal theory, and that it contains people like the Cossaks, who made their living out on the steppe, a very violent place criss-crossed by Genghis Khan’s armies approximately all the darn time, so I don’t see Russia’s particular case as that anomalous. But I admit I know more about the US than Russia.

      I suspect many Native American groups actually do have really high crime rates, comparable to Aborigines and Sub-Saharan Africans, because they were at a similar point in the development of agriculture. (The descriptions of Aztec human sacrifice are pretty harrowing, and the Comanches, like the Mongols, used to terrorize the plains.) As always, there are some situational factors also involved, like Mexico bordering the US and drug trade driving much of the violence.

      I get the impression that Chile received a very different sub-set of whites than Mexico did, and native Chileans, as far as I know, don’t share the Aztecs’ reputation for human sacrifice and cannibalism. Brazil got Portuguese, and Portugal is one of the poorest countries in western Europe, (something something Hajnal line, I’d wager,) not to mention whatever effects the rainforest may have caused, eg, the Yanomamo, famously one of the most violent groups in the world, live in Brazil/Venezuela. But I don’t know enough to comment on the exact details of each country, sorry.


      • To many unknowns, to much speculation. THats why I believe that we can realy only trust the Black-White IQ gap in the USA because how well researched it is and how much data we have. When we go outside of the US we stumble around in the dark, orienting ourselves on very rough markers that light up in a sea of darkness.

        For instance, the leftist Noah Smith believes that the Black White IQ gap is partly genetic but atributes it to the fact that most blacks that were made slaves were of the lower classes and thus the gap is a matter of class not race. He thus argues that Africa itself will have the typical European IQ once developed. A similar explenation was proposed by Gregory Clark.

        Now his theory might sound strange but it is not impossible. After all there are so many unknowns in Africa and culture is an important factors (and to answer JayMan culture is influenced by much more then genes, it is influenced by geographical factors, exposure to other cultures, war and peace, rule by elites and outright chance). Flynn believes culture to be the main reason for IQ diferences, he might be right or he might be wrong. So far I dont see any of the theories being proven on a global scale. When it comes to the USA Black White gap I think its fairly clear that its not poverty since much poorer populations across the globe have much higher IQ so its either genetics or culture. But even if we acsept its genetics its still unknown if its race or classbased genetics.


      • BTW, there are 3 more posts in this series coming.

        Once developed, I think selective pressures will reward the intelligent and pretty much the whole (current) 3rd world will end up with higher IQs. Current IQs reflect the past, not the future. See, for example, Isaac Bacirongo’s account in Still a Pygmy. There are lots of smart people trying to succeed in Africa, but things like war are really in the way. Change the selective pressures and you change the outcomes; give people the chance to succeed and they will.

        (Gotta deal with disease, too, but that’s outside this post’s scope.)


  2. I wrote a fairly long blog post on homicide and race. It’s pretty clear that IQ only explains a relatively small fraction of the between group differences. Though I wouldn’t necessarily argue it’s causal (especially not 100%) single parent rates are a much stronger predictor across multiple levels of analysis and pretty much explain all systematic variance when aggregated by group.


  3. My primary frustration with HBD is that the leap from “different sets of genes respond differently to various stimuli,” to “all behavioral traits are hereditary” leads many HBDers to jump to conclusions based on insufficient data. Decent social science statistics are only a century or two old, and come from perhaps the two most disrupted centuries in human history. The “pathological altruism” bull is prime offender, but even crime rates don’t hold up well. The Japanese have very low rates of violent crime, and yet just a few generations ago they were treating the rest of Asia in a not so peaceful way. Most likely, the trait we see modeled in most of this research is a variant on the capacity for compliance. When the culture says jump, how do people respond. This would obviously correlate with violent crime, but also with things like support for gay marriage. My suspicion is that this correlates very strongly with whether a population descends primarily from agricultural, horticultural, or pastoral stock.


    • I’ve often wondered if WWII killed off a lot of the most aggressive Japanese.

      Compliance is an interesting thought, but IMO, aggression is different from being merely non-compliant. This is just my experience, but some people are much more likely than other people to jump to thinking they have been insulted and respond aggressively and to escalate against others. Other people are more likely to give others the benefit of the doubt or try to de-escalate. Among the people I know personally, some are non-compliant but peaceful, and some are aggressive but actually pretty compliant. But they all seem to have compliance and aggression levels similar to their biological relatives (only considering cases where I know anything about their relatives.)

      Obviously, “I know a guy” is not science, but it’s part of one’s worldview.


  4. “That all people or sub-groups within a “race” are identical.”

    I’ve come across people who believe this. Can’t fathom why they believe it. There is variation between siblings, and then races. Useful mutations persist, which changes the population over time. This is of course based on the environment.

    On MAOA, Beaver et al (2013) showed low MAOA activity and antisocial behaviors were linked, but only in males “who had been maltreated during childhood.”



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