Monday, August 12, 2013

How successful are Jews really?

Jerry Z. Muller, writing at Project Syndicate, calls for more research into the question of "Why do Jews succeed?" He's hardly the first to ask this question. Even the famous economist Simon Kuznets thought Jews might contain the secret to human capital. The typical explanations for "Jewish success" are:

1. High IQ, possibly evolved in response to European social pressures

2. A culture that values education and hard work

3. Secret societies, cabals, nepotism, and other forms of clandestine skulduggery

(Notably absent from this list are 4. God, looking out for his "chosen people", and 5. Large noses, which allow us Jews to sniff out opportunities for profit.)

But before we sic the social science hordes on the Jewish Question, we should consider some other factors that might be making "Jewish success" stand out more than it should.

1. Selective immigration. The highest-income ethnicity in the U.S. is actually Indians. Filipinos rank extremely highly as well. No one asks about the reason; it's obvious that selective immigration policies have given us the best and the brightest (and often, the richest) of India and the Philippines.

So what about Jews? Most Jews came to America to escape repressive regimes in Europe. It stands to reason that more successful and/or wealthier Jews would have a better chance of making it out. So American Jews are not a random sample of all Jews; they're going to be biased toward the smart, the rich, and the risk-tolerant.

Note that this is a common feature of "model minorities" across the world, from the Lebanese in Latin America to the Chinese in Southeast Asia.

2. Urbanization. Jews in Europe were famously clustered in big cities. Probably this was in part because they weren't allowed to own a lot of land. But whatever the reason, the trend persisted when Jews immigrated to America. Sure, there are some Jewish hillbillies out there (I have some cousins in Arkansas who fit the bill), but you find Jews mostly clustered in big cities like New York and L.A.

It's a well-known fact that people in cities have higher productivity and higher incomes, on average, than people outside of cities (part, but not all, of that goes to pay higher rents). Although the causality can obviously run both ways, there is evidence that simply moving people to cities gives them an immediate productivity boost. So Jews' statistical success is probably exaggerated due to their tendency to be city folk.

3. The "one-drop rule". In Jewish tradition, you're a Jew if your mom was Jewish, or if you convert to the faith. But in the modern world, that definition is often...stretched, to include people with Jewish-sounding last names, people with a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother, etc. That can distort the statistics in a variety of ways.

First, the "one-drop rule" may be applied selectively more to successful people than to unsuccessful people; see the footnotes in this list of "Jewish" Nobel Medicine Prize winners, for example. Or see this song by Adam Sandler ("Harrison Ford's a quarter Jewish; not too shabby!").

Second, we may engage in confirmation bias and attribution error; upon seeing a successful person with one Jewish parent, we may attribute her success to the Jewish parent, but upon seeing an unsuccessful person with one Jewish parent, we may ignore her Jewish ancestry completely.

4. Temporary group effects. Jewish "success" became noticeable mainly after 1800 (perhaps not coincidentally, when Jews started migrating to big cities in Europe). Among the famous scientists and writers and mathematicians and thinkers of pre-1800 Europe, there are notably few Jews. Who is to say that Jewish achievement is not a temporary blip? In America, Jewish achievement seems to fit the pattern of overachievement among recent high-skilled immigrant groups, Indians and Filipinos being other examples. Already, many have talked of a reversion to the mean in Jewish achievement; here's Slate in 1996, and here's Ron Unz more recently.

It would not be the first time something like this happened. The 1700s and 1800s are sometimes called the "Scottish Golden Age". Scottish people were extraordinarily over-represented in Britain and the former British colonies during that time, in science and academia, in business and industry, in politics, and even in the upper ranks of the military. Anecdotally, people in the 1800s compared Scots favorably to Jews. Today, though I suspect Scots would still stand out somewhat on average if anyone was able to track ancestries carefully, Scottish overachievement is not really a hot topic. I can easily see the same happening to Jews, especially given ultra-low Jewish fertility rates (sure to be lower among the rich and educated), and the trend toward outmarriage among non-Orthodox Jews; the Jewish upper crust will simply evaporate away from the Jewish group identity.

5. Temporary country effects. Jews had the good fortune to be clustered in Europe at the time of Europe's greatest overachievement, and then to move to America just in time for the American Century. Obviously that doesn't explain Jewish outperformance within those countries, but it does explain a lot of Jewish outperformance in terms of global measures, like scientific achievement.

Now, I'm not saying that these factors explain 100% of Jewish overachievement. I'm simply saying that A) all of these factors make the original hypothesis of Jewish special-ness seem somewhat less interesting, and B) some, though not all of these factors will tend to bias upward any statistical measures of Jewish achievement.

In addition, I think that a large part of whatever Jewish overachievement remains will probably be attributable to the fact that Judaism is a religious minority, and religious minorities tend to overachieve. Look at Quakers and Mormons in the U.S. Look at Sikhs and Jains in India. Even look at Christians in Taiwan and Korea. Religious minorities often seem to do well.

So the question should not be "Why do Jews succeed so well?" It should be "Do Jews, identified consistently, succeed enduringly well, relative to other religious minorities, relative to other Americans or Europeans, and after taking into account selective immigration and a preference for urbanization?"

The answer might still be interesting. But the question no longer seems quite so interesting, when compared with other hypotheses about human capital formation.

(Of course, there's also the question of why Jews are renowned as the world's greatest lovers... *ducks*)


  1. "Look at Sikhs and Jains in India." Parsees too, I think.

    And Quakers in the UK -

  2. The success of religious minorities can be explained very simply: the unsuccessful assimilate at a higher rate than the successful.

    If no Jews had ever assimilated, Jews would be a much larger group today, and they wouldn't stand out as much, if at all.

    1. That definitely makes sense, but is it true?

      In terms of Jews, the Orthodox intermarry and convert far less than the Reformed. But the Reformed are far more successful.

      There are lots of famous converts away from Judaism...Benjamin Disraeli, Max Born, etc.

    2. The Orthodox as well as the unaffiliated both have lower household incomes ( And, Noah? "Reformed"? Oy. [Reform; most Jews aren't Dutch :)].

      In the larger picture, I'm not convinced by #1: many Jews fled persecution (the pogroms of the early 1900s;

      I think we also need to think about what success means: Episcopalians and Anglicans are still disproportionately wealthy and well-educated (, even if their cultural and political 'moment' has passed (personally, I think the zenith for U.S. Jews was from ~1965-1990.

    3. Anonymous8:13 PM

      If you are part of a religious minority, you will immediately have a relatively strong social network in any location where your co-religious have congregated. When the norms of that religious community routinely lead to economic success, the pressures to conform and the social network can be a pretty powerful impetus to achievement. Alternatively, if the group norms/beliefs aren't compatible with economic success(perhaps because the group values other things more highly), then you would expect to see a religious minority that is notably less successful than the general population. Mormons illustrate this dichotomy well. Mainstream Mormonism is very compatible with worldly achievement, yet polygamist Mormonism so isolates its adherents that it is improbable to see them achieving much of anything except maintaining tradition.

  3. Anonymous7:01 AM

    Oy vey

  4. Since the post is clearly intended to stir up trouble, am I allowed to link to this guy?

    I think it's fair to point out that the Semitic Jews (dark skin, big nose, Middle Eastern appearance), and the Eastern European Jews (generally pale skin, often blue eyes, typical white European appearance) don't share much racial heritage. Of course they share 99.9% of their DNA simply because they are human (we are all very close to identical in terms of DNA). I guess I'm agreeing here with Noah on the confirmation bias, the definition of a Jew might be quite wobbly in statistics. I don't personally believe we have a way to reliably measure intelligence (not to say that I don't believe it exists, but our measurements are unreliable), nor do I believe we have a reliable way to measure "Jewishness" in any evolutionary sense. Thus, I find explanation [1] highly questionable.

    "2. A culture that values education and hard work"

    That seems more plausible to me, especially when you look at Protestant Christians who are for the most part unrelated to the Jews but also found great success by working hard and maintaining an ethic that promoted saving, dedication, persistence, and hard work. In many ways modern America is a victim of its own success... people these days are embarrassed about doing well or striving for anything. I've voting for cultural influence.

    "3. Secret societies, cabals, nepotism, and other forms of clandestine skulduggery"

    Name any culture, or any part of the world, where this doesn't happen. Pick up a history book, conspiracy and back stabbing are the norm. I'm sure that Jews, Christians, Muslims, and Atheists have all had a go at it.

    One other point (supporting the cultural theory) is that in Western Europe, the Christians had a big problem with usury, and yet were happy to employ Jews as bankers and tax collectors and accountants (possibly pragmatism beats religious purity at times) which was one of the things leading to the City of London getting special "traditional rights" awarded by the King. This in turn encouraged Jews to take an interest in accounting, bookkeeping, and mathematics. There was also a general hatred of Jews in England around 1200 AD (I'm too lazy to look up the actual date, call me out on it by all means) because everyone hates tax collectors, and beating up the King is dangerous work, but beating up your local Jewish tailor is relatively easy. Eventually the Christians accepted that Usury was OK (Muslims oppose it right to this day) but only after they were a long way behind.

    1. I think it's fair to point out that the Semitic Jews (dark skin, big nose, Middle Eastern appearance), and the Eastern European Jews

      Actually, I checked up on this, and found that the evidence was split:


    2. "In many ways modern America is a victim of its own success...people these days are embarrassed about doing well or striving for anything."

      Uh, what circles do you run in? In my experience, most Americans do not exactly have a surfeit of humility (compared to most Europeans or even East Asians) & want to do well & strive as much or more than most other people in the world.

      Do you (choose to) hang out with slackers?

    3. Anonymous10:14 AM

    4. Uhm, pretty sure "semetic" isn't the word you are looking for. In general people use the term Sephardic which has come to mean non-Ashkenazi Jews. Originally Sephardic meant Spanish Jews and Mizrahi (eastern) is also often used to describe non-Ashkenazi even though it meant the Jewish community who took their lead from the Babylonian community.

      Or did you just mean those people who didn't have the prototypical Jewish features as being Semetic.

      I still find it ironic that some German radical in 1881 used Semitic to mean Jew and it lost its meaning which included all people of the near east including Palestinians and Syrians. (The term is an old anthropology word which identified the Jews, Assyrians and Palestinians with Shem, one of Noahs sons back when the bible was still authoritative)

    5. I was using the word "Semitic" in the old way, to mean a racial group centered around the Middle East. Of course, all racial groups are approximate, and yes I know that words get re-used in various ways.

      What I found is, if you try to keep up with the latest reshuffle of word meanings, it gets too tiring and you end up with no time to think about anything useful. So I just stick to the one meaning even when it starts to look antiquated... people figure it out.

      The study about tracking the Jewish Y chromosome is interesting, and could well show a long lineage back to the original exodus, but at any rate plenty of genetic diversity has crept in over the years. Yes, I grant you that some tiny spark of "success power" could be coming from that little bit of Y chromosome... it is possible... just highly improbable.

      I would be like saying, most of the DNA doesn't make any difference, but this little bit over here is the bit that makes you successful. I can't exactly prove that's wrong, but I don't believe it.

  5. The writer of this blog might pay more attention what it is that he wants to say, and what it is that he is saying.

    He begins by scare-quoting "Jewish success" (and continues thoughout), meaning to suggest that, rather counter-intuitively, there is in fact no such thing. A few hundred words later, we find him explaining the many reasons *for* Jewish success, refuting his own argument.

    1. I fail to understand how putting in quotes constitutes an argument. The entire post lays out pretty clearly how real I think Jewish success is. So I don't think I'm self-refuting.

    2. Clearly Noah, you are a self-refuting Jew. (Sorry couldn't resist that one).

    3. The entire post lays out pretty clearly how real I think Jewish success is

      Either we have differing definitions of clarity, or you overstate your case.

      So is the answer to your question--"How successful are the Jews, really?"--that Jews are really successful?

      (I note that, further down the page, you reply to the statement, "maybe Jews aren't that successful, but are pretty successful in industries that have your attention" with: "definitely".)

    4. So is the answer to your question--"How successful are the Jews, really?"--that Jews are really successful?

      They are pretty successful (by the normal metrics of money and academic and social status).

      But probably not as abnormally successful as many believe. A lot of their success (though not necessarily all) can probably be ascribed to boring, obvious factors, instead of to cultural or genetic advantages.

      Does that make sense?

  6. I think Noah knows full well that 4 or 5 words explain this mystery:

    "My son the _________" allowing for a certain quantum uncertainty between doctor and lawyer.

  7. Ankur9:14 AM

    Okay, best picture reference ever.

  8. Anonymous9:56 AM

    Dear Noah,

    I think explanation 3 (the one-drop rule) is fascinating and eminently plausible. For support, look at Saperstein and Penner's work on how negative status changes influence the odds an interviewer will code a respondent as white or black. Specifically, they look at inter-individual changes in race in longitudinal surveys. Men who experience unemployment or time in prison are more likely to be coded as black at time t1 controlling for race as coded at t0, etc. Here's the most recent paper of several from their work.

  9. Anonymous12:07 PM

    Isn't the real question, why do Jews love puns so much?

  10. Anonymous12:21 PM

    Jerry Z. Muller, writing at Project Syndicate, calls for more research into the question of "Why do Jews succeed?"

    I think this is actually a question into which we could probably do with less research, as as we could do with less research into all of the other distasteful and distracting inter-ethnic rivalry, hostility and chauvinism that are offered an umbrella of dignity by the scientific establishment.

  11. Since you are economist you should read the Chosen Few by Botticini and Eckstein. The book explains Jewish human capital accumulation and demographics as a result of Talmudic restrictions. Much better than this conjecture without evidence post.

  12. I grew up in Greece, a somewhat antisemitic country where a large percentage of the population still believes that the Zion protocols are real, and where stereotypes about Jews are prevalent even among the Jewish community. Every year I get into heated arguments with friends and relatives who keep repeating such stereotypes. Among them, my mother always wonders why I get upset when she attributes someone's financial success to their Jewishness. "I mean that as a compliment for Jews" she says. What people who repeat such claims don't understand, is that stereotypes are evil regardless of whether they are positive or negative, because they prey on people's tendency to focus on observations that confirm their priors and ignore those that go against their priors. Once that door is open, it is hard to control where it will take you.

    To debunk the stereotype that Jews are somehow hard-wired for financial success, I usually point out a recent study in the New York area, which finds that poverty is prevalent and rising at a faster rate within the Jewish community:
    As the study mentions, this is particularly true among Russian-speaking and Hasidic Jews. This means that, what kind of Jew you are matters, just like it does for Muslims or Christians, Greeks or Germans, well, the entire human race. And that is a good thing, because it makes it harder for anyone to dehumanize Jews, or any other group for that matter.

    1. An irony in this in that many WASPS would see Greeks and Jews similar as Eastern Mediterranean.

    2. Yes, WASPS would also see Arabs or black Americans that way, yet this has not stopped many Arabs and some black groups (e.g. the Nation of Islam) from buying into myths and stereotypes about the Jews perpetuated by the Nazis. Once they take root, they are hard to uproot. That's why people need to defend outside groups to their own (some of the people I have argued with asked for proof that I am baptized Greek-Orthodox and not Jewish to grant me any credibility-they just couldn't understand why a non-Jew would get offended by their absurd theories).

  13. I would like to note that the most influential jewish writers in history were most likely the astronomers and philosophers of the Jewish community in Al-Andalus before they were expelled during the Reconquista.

    They provided not only the philosophical underpinnings of scholasticism which laid the groundwork for the renaissance and humanism, but were often the primary transmission mechanism for Greek philosophy being rediscovered. Aristotle might be a later discovered footnote if not for these Sephardic Jews. Would Aquinas have known logic without reafing these Jewish texts? (translated of course from Arabic)

    I have a friend who is doing a PhD in Arabic studies focusing on medieval Arabic poetry who also raves about the Jewish poets of Al-Andalus.

    I don't know much about Judiaism but I thought that there may be a little recency bias in evaluating their achievements.

    Of course like 19th century Germany, Al-Andalus was at the bleeding edge of scientific and philosophical thought in its era and provided a perfect opportunity for a religious minority to achieve great things.

  14. This comment has been removed by the author.

  15. There is a new book out about gentic differences and sports achievement where the author documents how research is often stifled because of fears that the research will be percieved as promoting some kind of racism. Yet, early studies of west africans killed hordes of people because they were given iron supplements because people discounted how genetic differences left certain groups anemic to protect against malaria.

    Studies of genetics and social aspects of specific groups are useful and shouldn't be suppressed in some unthinking way because some rascist assholes misuse the data.

    1. I would agree with your last statement, so long as these studies can back their claims quantitatively with hard data. Instead, most of what I see are simply educated or not-so-educated guesses.

    2. My point was that the data is not there because researchers can never get funding for their hypotheses (guesses) because of how the data may be perceived. What if there is a genetic reason that certain aggregated groups with racial definitions are shown to be inferior at certain selected tasks. Nobody would want to approve or fund a study that could be used to provide a basis for rascism.

      Yet, black people don't get skin cancer (duh) but we don't understand exactly why. Why is a specific tribe in Kenya the best marathoners in the world? Why is a subset of Jamaican runners from a tiny interior part of the Island the fastest runners? The pop-culture answer is that they are all descended from a group of escaped slaves who came from a warrior society. These answers and theories are unsatisfactory and the science community needs to stop discouraging studies into these questions.

      My favorite candidate would be why a subset of Indian kids who always seem to win the National Spelling Bee descend from a specific region of India?

    3. Blacks don't get skin cancer? We don't understand why? Someone better tell them:

      And what about the success of east African marathon runners? The scientific community discourages studies into these questions? Darn, I suppose these guys got away!

      The scientific community is much more open-minded than you think! If people don't look at the data it is because a) data are not available that far back in history, or b) they don't like to let the data get into the way of a cool story.

  16. Btw, though I think all your points are interesting and thoughtful, the Scottish counter-example doesn't quite work. The Scots' success largely stems from the fact they pioneered the modern university as integrated into urban cultural life (i.e., urban middle class culture and university culture became intertwined for the first time). In short, there were more and more accessible Scottish universities early on. E.g., at one point they trained the majority of university-trained physicians in the UK (i.e. in Scottish medical schools).

    1. They also had universal literacy. But whatever the reason, Scottish achievement persisted when Scots immigrated to the New World. Edison and Bell, to name just two examples. Also most U.S. presidents have had Scottish ancestry. If culture is behind the 200-year-long burst of extreme Scottish overachievement, then culture is pretty "sticky"!

    2. Culture _is_ pretty sticky, and small differences 300 years ago could have magnified over time.

      I, for one, see nothing wrong with that explaination.

    3. I did not know the immigration aspect of it.

      There was an interesting article I read years ago comparing the Catholic Irish to the Protestant Irish in the US. The Catholic did much better, but what the author pointed out wasn't the religious minority effect but that the Catholic Irish organized politically and entered the middle class through urban public sector jobs (police, civil service).

  17. A culture that values education and hard work

    especially the hard work.

    1. Actually, in this day and age, especially education. People in Greater Appalachia also value hard work. On average, they haven't gotten as far.

  18. Anonymous6:28 PM

    jerry springer is jew and not a single jew among his guests and viewers . pretty much sums it up

  19. Anonymous6:56 PM

    That cultures are "sticky" accounts for all the other "stickies". (prices, wages whatever )
    ...If our biological propensities are included in the definition of what culture is; as I think it should be.

  20. Anonymous6:57 PM

    A more interesting question to me is why so many Nobel Prize winners in economics, the two most recent Fed chairs, and the top two candidates for the next Fed chair are all Jews.

    1. Anonymous8:10 PM

      just about all economists are.........Khazars.

      I am a big believer in the "Khazar" theory. Lets note Queen Elizabeth,Adolph Hitler and Ron Paul all had direct Khazar linages. While many converted to what would be called "Judaism", many did eventually convert to Christianity and many groups fought the spread of Christianity much like the Germans did for hundreds of years.

      Khazar's are not "ancient Israelites". They are a mostly white/some mongoloid mix and the ancient Israelites were branch off the negroid tree. They were not "albino" looking and as the bible said, "Adam's" complexion was of the soil.

      It is a discussion, we have LONG needed to clear the air. I think Khazars are very smart and brillant. They make terrific scientists, lawyers,politicians,economists and entertainers where thinking fast and on your feet is necessary for success.

      All FED chairs through history have been Khazars or sig. heritage to the Khazars.


      Also, please note that "Fed" is not an acronym. It stands for "Federal Reserve".

  21. Anonymous8:59 PM

    Are Jews successful in sports? Or in fashion? Those are lucrative industries.

    Maybe Jews aren't that successful, but are pretty successful in industries that have your attention. Its pretty possible to live in a bubble in which there are no successful Jews in sight.

    1. "Are Jews successful in sports?"

      Not as much.

      "Or in fashion?"

      Very much so. Just ask Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, or Kenneth Cole, to name a few. You seem unaware that the Lower East Side was at one time the heart of the US garment industry.

      "Maybe Jews aren't that successful, but are pretty successful in industries that have your attention. Its pretty possible to live in a bubble in which there are no successful Jews in sight. "

      OK, name those lucrative industries where there are no successful Jews in sight. Even in sports, there are some.

    2. Maybe Jews aren't that successful, but are pretty successful in industries that have your attention. Its pretty possible to live in a bubble in which there are no successful Jews in sight.

      Definitely. Interestingly, Jews (and other groups) often seem to "clump" in traditionally Jewish fields, avoiding fields with similar skill sets but no established tradition. For example, you see a ton of Jewish physicists but relatively few Jewish electrical engineers. Why? Physics and EE require essentially the same skill set! But in physics, you have a lot of famous successful Jews, like Einstein and Feynman, while in EE the famous founders - Tesla, Edison, etc. - are mostly non-Jewish. Accident of geography and history. Though of course there are exceptions.

      I think it illustrates the importance of role modeling.

    3. relatively few Jewish electrical engineers.

      Andrew Grove, born András István Gróf, is Jewish, an electrical engineer and reasonably successful by most standards. How's that for a role model!

    4. relatively few Jewish electrical engineers

      Charles Proteus Steinmetz - born Karl August Rudolph Steinmetz.

    5. Never heard of Steinmetz. Yeah, Grove is the only example I could think of, and really he's more famous as a businesman than a researcher.

  22. So you are Jewish? How does "a Jew" (not sure exactly what that means by the way) get a name like "Smith".

    1. P.S. I'm a Scottish, Irish, English (Anglo-Saxon and Norman heritage) Australian. I guess you could say British or Celtic in heritage - or just European. I live in Germany, where I like to say that "my ancestors where here before yours were", to the indigenes. So racial, or particularly sub-racial categories seem a joke to me.

    2. How does "a Jew" ... get a name like "Smith".

      Maybe one of his ancestors worked with iron? Immigrant names get Anglicized. There is a lovely story about a Jew who was asked for his name at Ellis Island. Not speaking English he replied something like "schon vergessen" - "I don't understand" - and lived out his days as an American named "Sean Ferguson". :-)

    3. Yep, my ancestors were Lithuanians named "Kuznets" (like Simon). It means "blacksmith". We changed it at Ellis Island, thinking no one would be able to pronounce the original.

    4. Absalon,
      "schon vergessen" doesn't mean "I don't understand" - it could mean "I forgot" but more likely "have you already forgotten it"? Most likely he understood some English - or simply knew what name meant, but couldn't speak it.

  23. Noah,

    There is a simpler explanation: Darwin!

    Or, Jews, that could not deal with, were wiped out. I have a suggestion: look at crows as a group. At PBS website, you could find a program called A Murder of Crows under nature.

    FYI. This story is the same in every race, creed, and any way you want to slice it.

    I find it difficult that you have perpetuated a myth about most of the time good people. There are dumb Jews, and I do not know whether I could put you in that category but you are approaching it very fast.

    If you really want to contribute to betterment of the world, why is it that Jews are disliked (much kinder words) world over? I understand that within a group of Jews there are a few who are equally disliked...

    1. why is it that Jews are disliked (much kinder words) world over?

      Hmm...that's not true! Jews are well-liked in the U.S., East Asia, and South Asia. Not sure about Africa. And Europe likes them a lot more than it used to.

    2. You need to revisit that subject about Europe, especially when they exterminated 6M+ willfully and methodically. Neo-Nazis are there and previous guys of their kind decided that they are a superior race and Jews needs to be purged. This type of thinking did not just evolve in a few years. If you look at Roma people of Europe, they are treated very poorly, and some think the European programs for them are intended to eliminate them as a culture.

      And, it is not about big noses, Arabs have big noses too.

    3. True, Arabs have big noses...maybe that's why they are the "Jews" of Latin America! ;-)

      And yes you're right about Europe, but in many places - UK, France, Italy, Ireland - antisemitism is not really prevalent beyond a vague feeling that Jews are "outsiders". But they seem fairly well liked despite that perception. Tolkien based his dwarves on Jews...

  24. Anonymous5:53 PM

    I didn't know they were re-knowned as the world's greatest lovers of ducks.

  25. Anonymous9:07 PM

    What I really want to know is, if Jews are so poysecuted by Whites, why do they insist on following Whites everywhere they go and sticking closer to them than their own skin?

    (I'm also interested in why Jews so vigorously oppose the nationalism of all other groups, Whites particularly, while maintaining an almost neurotic level of ethnocentricity themselves. But that's not as mysterious a question).

    1. Well first of all, I don't think Jews maintain a high level of ethnocentricity unless forced to by outside pressure. In the U.S., Jews out marry more than almost any other group (see the article I linked to), and rarely raise their kids as Jews (this is why non-Orthodox Judaism is vanishing). Only the Orthodox maintain a high level of ethnocentricity.

      As for your first question, to my knowledge, all Caucasian Jews see themselves as "white". In America, at least; I have no idea about Israel.

    2. Oh sorry, forgot about the nationalism question. I think you're right; in many countries, Jews feel that nationalism will lead to their exclusion. An exception is the U.S.; many Jews strongly support American nationalism, because they feel that they are an integral part of the nation.

    3. Noah,
      I don't think you should honour anonymous racists with polite answers.

    4. I don't think you should honour anonymous racists with polite answers.

      Why not? You can't shame people into changing their minds about stuff. And I'm certainly not at all offended.

      There are only a small number of Jews in the world, and most of them (understandably) get upset when people start talking about stuff like this. So there are a lot of people out there who think incorrect stuff about Jews, like "Jews aren't nationalistic". So the world needs a few Jews to go out and tell what's really going on. Since I could never be offended by anything that anyone could ever say about Jews, I figure I'm the one to do it.

    5. " You can't shame people into changing their minds about stuff."
      Noah I think I once thought that this was in fact a reasonable answer. But it forgets about externalities. You treating the unacceptable as acceptable might affect third parties. That is why I mostly ignore trolls, but when trolls make reasonable sounding arguments, I try to demolish them, not to change the mind of the troll (impossible), but to prevent third parties from thinking they have a point.

    6. Well, maybe. But what I see happening is that a lot of people fall victim to the "Nobody wants to talk about it, so it must be the Awful Truth" fallacy. They half-believe a bunch of tired old conventional ideas simply because those ideas seem secretive and cool and verboten. I think that's how most of the sexist and racist stuff survives.

    7. Maybe the sort of answer I would be looking for is "Whites wtf are they"? You mean Barry White?

    8. This comment has been removed by the author.

    9. OK Noah,
      I'll a little less subtly. Why do you describe yourself as "a Jew". Why aren't you just an American of eastern European descent? I consider myself an Australian of western European (primarily the British Islands) descent. What does that label mean? Why is it important?

    10. And following another part of the post - I could follow the paternal line to my paternal grandfather and claim proudly to be Scottish - but regard that as completely ridiculous (I'm a complete mongrel - although that seems to be where academic ability in the family comes from). Why do you see it otherwise?

    11. Why do you describe yourself as "a Jew". Why aren't you just an American of eastern European descent?

      Because...who cares?

      although that seems to be where academic ability in the family comes from

      See, I knew Teh Scots were the Teh Best! :-)

    12. MaxUtility1:27 PM

      "all Caucasian Jews see themselves as "white". In America"
      I think this is generally true, but definitely not universal. There is a debate internal to the jewish community about their own "whiteness". However, I think the answer is rarely resolved mostly due to the issue that "white" has generally been and remains pretty much undefined. I don't think "white power" advocates see Jews as white certainly.

    13. But business success seems to lie more on the other side of my family (the Norman heritage).

    14. MaxUtility - the use of the term "White" (capitised no less) - is just nuts. Go back far enough and we are all africans. Go to a beach in Germany in summer and you will see all shades of colour. On the other hand asians who avoid the sun are paler than the average European. Humans move around a lot, and interbreeding between populations is very common. Trying to squeeze them into strict categories is just an odd thing to do.

    15. P.S. The talk about Norman and Scottish is also nuts - just a joke really. I have a scottish grandfather, but he had an Irish name. I had a grandfather with a Norman name, but what fraction of his ancestors were Norman I can only guess - and there is no reason to thinki that that diminishing fraction has a strong influence over many generations.

    16. There is a debate internal to the jewish community about their own "whiteness".

      Really? This is the first I've ever heard of such a debate in my three decades of life.

    17. Ironically my paternal grandmother was born a "Smith". But I would bet that a Smith from East London is not an East European Jew. So no relation.

  26. Anonymous10:24 PM

    Jews would be more successful if they used more vowels:

  27. Anonymous6:17 AM

    Werner Sombart thought Jews invented capitalism, so there is a reason to be successful. Austrian economics might be called Hebrew economics because it was derived from the European Jewish economic and political experience.

    I asked a friend and he said he thought Jews preferred vocations and professions that were portable, just in case. His uncle was a Jewish strongman named Breitbart. Werner Hertzog did a movie about him. He came from a family of blacksmiths. This could be Noah.

    He had a hard death involving a series of amputations after breaking an oak board over his knee. The board contained a nail and the wound became infected.

    1. MaxUtility1:31 PM

      I'll just state that Jews also tended to "prefer" vocations that they were legally allowed to practice. Jewish culture and traditions did not evolve in a vacuum, they're have been many aspects affecting Jews that had little or nothing to do with their own "preferences".

  28. Anonymous9:38 PM

    Not very good work Noah. You probably have looked at the response to Unz's claims from Andrew Gelman. Would welcome your critique.

    On the other hand I didn't know you were Jewish but suspected that you might have been when you wrote about depression.

    Why do you think that thought occurred to this depressive Ashkenazic assimilated atheist two generations out of the pale of settlement?

  29. Nathanael11:33 PM

    "2. A culture that values education and hard work"

    Don't underestimate the value of a culture which values education.

    There are actually a lot of cultures which value education. And then... there are some which DON'T.

    The cultural groups which sneer at education and valorize ignorance really *do* have a tendency to be less successful than the ones which value education. You can chart this out with any number of examples, including Republicans today (who tend to sneer at education and valorize ignorance) vs. non-Republicans (who don't).

    Of course, when I put it this way, the reaction may be "well, duh". Valorizing ignorance, rejecting education, and resolutely living in a fantasy world don't *sound* like they should help with success, do they? WTF would they help?

    And for a Jewish example, there are certain Jewish Haredi groups who sneer at "secular learning", and they have not exactly been successful except in becoming violent and intolerant thugs with high birthrates living off welfare.

    I guess I'm also redefining the question, though along different lines. Being a negative-minded person in general, I think the "why are X so successful" question is really best asked in the form "Why are Y so *un*successful". I think that "X do better than average" claims often conceal that the "average" being compared against comes from a multi-modal distribution with the identifiable unusual groups being on the other end.

    As for the answer to the "Why are Y so unsuccessful" question, often it's discrimination, often it's starting poverty, and occasionally (as in the case of groups which are truly, openly hostile to education) it's genuinely bad attitudes.

    I complete discount any claims about "valuing hard work". Why do I consider claims about valuing education but not ones about valuing hard work? Because it seems to have been pretty well proved that people can inculcate their kids with values about whether education is good or not, but I've never seen any evidence that people can inculcate their kids with values about hard work. It doesn't seem to be teachable; some of the hardest working people I know had complete slacker parents and vice versa.

    1. ". It doesn't seem to be teachable; some of the hardest working people I know had complete slacker parents and vice versa."

      That seems logical - in a household there is always a certain amount of work that must be done. So if the parents don't do it, the kids must - and vice versa. You could just as easily say that hard working parents teach their kids to be lazy (because they do everything for them).

  30. William Wilberfang3:09 AM

    Think of Einstein, Von Neumann, Feynman...

    "Their argument has four main premises:

    Today's Ashkenazi Jews have a higher average mathematical and verbal IQ and an unusual cognitive profile compared to other ethnic groups, including Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews.

    From roughly 800 to 1650 CE, Ashkenazi Jews in Europe were a mostly isolated genetic group. When Ashkenazi Jews married non-Jews, they usually left the Jewish community; few non-Jews married into the Jewish community.

    During the same period, laws barred Ashkenazi Jews from working most jobs, including farming and crafts, and forced them into finance, management, and international trade. Wealthy Jews had several more children per family than poor Jews. So, genes for cognitive traits such as verbal and mathematical talent, which make a person successful in the few fields where Jews could work, were favored; genes for irrelevant traits, such as spatio-visual abilities, were supported by less selective pressure than in the general population. Furthermore, ostensibly intelligent Rabbis were not barred from reproduction as learned scholars of Christianity were, who were sequestered in monasteries and nunneries.

    Today's Ashkenazi Jews suffer from a number of congenital diseases and mutations at higher rates than most other ethnic groups; these include Tay-Sachs, Gaucher's disease, Bloom's syndrome, and Fanconi anemia, and mutations at BRCA1 and BRCA2. These mutations' effects cluster in only a few metabolic pathways, suggesting that they arise from selective pressure rather than genetic drift. One cluster of these diseases affects sphingolipid storage, a secondary effect of which is increased growth of axons and dendrites. At least one of the diseases in this cluster, torsion dystonia, has been found anecdotally to correlate with exceptionally high IQ. Another cluster disrupts DNA repair, an extremely dangerous sort of mutation which is lethal in homozygotes. The authors speculate that these mutations give a cognitive benefit to heterozygotes by reducing inhibitions to neural growth, a benefit that would not outweigh its high costs except in an environment where it was strongly rewarded."

    Also from:

    "Ashkenazi Jews have high intelligence (IQ ~110) but their achievement is in excess of this. There is also some evidence for high psychological ‘intensity’ among Ashkenazim (MacDonald, Understanding Jewish Influence) and for high levels of serum urate. In the study of Erdberg, Boner, van Dyk and Carel (1991;, Ashenazi patients with insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus and controls had significantly (p < 0.05) higher levels of serum urate than Sephardics. This suggests to me that Ashkenazim have high serum urate levels, which may explain their achievement and intensity (serum urate is a psychostimulant and correlates with high academic achievement when controlling for g). What do you think?"

  31. Noah, Good post. Oddly I did a post on a similar topic recently. I left this in the comment section--I wonder if you have any thoughts:

    Also some people mentioned that this is an awkward topic to discuss. What can we learn from that? Would it be awkward to discuss the poor educational/income achievements of various other minority groups? Obviously not, for instance the media is full of articles about how poorly the Roma in Europe have done in education/income. They were viewed as inferior by the Nazis. Hence there is nothing intrinsically sensitive about discussing the achievements of different groups, even groups with a history of Nazi persecution. Does our discussion of the Roma implicitly give comfort to people with Nazi-era stereotypes? But this issue is sensitive. We could learn a lot about people’s beliefs if we understood why.