Sunday, September 23, 2007

Raising IQs key to keeping corpulence under control?

Poverty used to be roughly synonymous with not being able to get enough to eat. The poor kid had the sunken, sallow face and the skinny arms. Since it's inception in the mid-sixties, the poverty threshold has risen without taking increases in the material standard of living into account (it is basically three times the cost of nutriotionally-adequate yearly food costs). Today, the poor kids are the tubsters whose parents would rather buy high-starch foodstuffs that take little preparation time than cook actual balanced meals. Hence the contemporary correlation between the poverty rate and the obesity rate is a positive .45 at the state level.

The maudlin media has evolved with the changing waistlines of America's poor, with stories of how they must now eat themselves into obesity, since that's what is most available to them (thanks to the hard-nosed realists who retail in the realm of the underclass, carrying greater quantities of the stuff their patrons actually buy).

Lugubrious reporters try to paint it in Marxist terms. Yes, it is implicitly implied, America's poor have enough to spend on food, but only enough to buy (lots) of junkfood. Their economic disadvantages keep them from eating enough fruits and vegetables. That's absurd. A four-serving size can of green beans costs less than a king size Snickers bar does.

Might it be, instead, that the poor tend to be more impulsive and have a greater time preference than the rest of society? This immediate orientation means the good taste now weighs (heh) heavier in the mind than health benefits foregone, relative to the longer-term orientation of the burgher who foregoes the burger for the salad. More bluntly, those of lower intelligence are likely to eat less healthily because the realization of the benefits that come in doing so are difficult to pinpoint and only accumulate over time, whereas the sugary stuff tastes good now. Similarly, they are less likely to engage in physical activity for the sake of the health benefits derived in doing so.

The self-destructive tendencies of the duller underclass illustrate how the more intelligent, affluent a society is, the more libertarian it can afford to be in its social and economic frameworks. As a society trends toward Idiocracy, its governmental structure necessarily becomes more authoritarian and increasingly intervenes in the lives of its citizenry, through regulation of personal behaviors, wealth transfers, and the like.

Yet, at the state level, the inverse relationship between obesity (p6-7) and estimated IQ is only a modest .22. The fat numbers come from Trust for America's Health August 2007 report, in which obesity was calculated using the Body Mass Index. The BMI can be problematic, as it considers an NFL linebacker with 8% body fat to be obese.

The BMI shortcomings are personal. When I was in ROTC my freshmen year, I finished first or second in the program on the two-mile run portion, consistently in the 10:40s, in every monthly PT out of 80 pretty fit guys. Yet at the weigh-in I was consistently deemed overweight with a BMI of 28 (I'm 6'1", 210 lbs). I've plenty of problems, but physical fitness definitely isn't one of them.

Still, my vain personal bone aside, these imperfections are going to be sufficiently smoothed out over entire state populations. Athletic Coloradoans might prefer mountain biking more while fit Floridians enjoy pumping iron on the beach, but the overall distortion should be marginal.

Why, then, the modest relationship between fitness and intelligence? One caveat to the IQ estimates using NAEP data is that they are a measure of current adolescent intelligence, a glimpse of the intelligence levels that can be expected in the future. In states that are relatively demographically stable, this caveat may not mean so much. In areas such as the Southwest and the South, it becomes more important.

Fortunately, the study included, for the first time, rates of heftiness among children ages 10-17. Falling smack in the middle of that age range are the 14 year-olds who constitute the NAEP results used for the IQ estimates. The inverse relationship between corpulence and IQ among these youngsters is a much more robust .60.

Meh, maybe it's just a coincidence? But consider the Vietnam Veteran IQ estimates that come from the baby boomers who are now running the country. The inverse correlation between those estimates and obesity rates among adults is .62, almost exactly the same as the relationship between the two attributes for teenagers. The Vet and NAEP estimates are similar, but not identical. Some of this variance is surely attributable to changes in states' composition over the last four decades, as the Trust for America's Health study and the aforementioned relationships suggest.

David Brooks, who, if he'd paid a little more attention to the predictive power of IQ in terms of determining the viability of a liberal democracy, might not have been one of the most unrestrained, vociferous supporters of the Iraq plunder, says paying attention to IQ reduces us to obsessing over "electrical impulses and quantifiable pulses". Uh, the sociological and statistical work on IQ in books like The Bell Curve, of pundits like Steve Sailer, and papers like that of VCU's Professor McDaniel, do not deal with this much at all.

Well Mr. Brooks, in addition to the material standard of living, infant mortality, wealth, life expectancy, criminality, employment, educational attainment, and livability, among others, comes the relationship between IQ and physical health as measured by tubbiness. If IQ was meaningless--essentially a randomly assigned number--it wouldn't correlate with anything. If it was merely a rough proxy for some other measurable trait, it wouldn't relate to some variables more strongly than whatever that it is putatively proxying for does.

Virtually every way it is looked at, IQ correlates positively with favorable social variables and negatively with pathological ones. Human resources are of crucial importance to any institution's success. It's past time we looked at IQ as a valuable human resource that should be cultivated.

People like Brooks want to kill the idea of innate differential intelligence (or temperament, physical dexterity, etc) because their ideologies are at essence institutionally biased. The neocon right (free markets, equal representation, and democracy) wants to claim an equal playing field will lead to equal opportunity and maximum prosperity. The big government left (redistributive income, universal healthcare, affirmative action) wants to claim it can direct equality and prosperity into existence. For both of these broad ideologies to work, people must be blank-slates responding identically in identical situations. That's becoming increasingly difficult to maintain in the face of quantitative sociology and advances in human genetic sequencing.

Feeling threatened, they're lashing out sophomorically, asserting that everyone who is anyone knows--knows!--IQ is bunk, so why are you thinking about it? NPR's Talk of the Nation ran a ridiculous 'hit segment' on the putative moribundity of IQ several weeks ago that was frustrated over and over by callers who persistently took more moderate positions on the subject.

If these blank-slatists, especially on the neocon right, believed IQ testing, correlation, and research to be worthless, they'd allow it to occur without protest. Just like irrational racial discrimination, right? The market will punish it. Of course, the market rewards it because it brings rewards in the market, which is why companies try to sneak in things like the Wonderlic test wherever they can (my employer uses them) even with the sword of Griggs v. Duke Power hanging over their heads, why the military and academia make extensive use of aptitude testing, and why business moguls like Bill Gates have leveraged it to attain greatness.

As maintaining an appropriate weight becomes more of a choice (in the sense that almost everyone has the ability--although not necessarily the genetic predisposition--to choose whether or not he will become obese), intelligence will become an increasingly important factor in determining obesity rates in the first-world. Part of the strategy employed to deal with burgeoning healthcare costs should be to take steps to increase the average IQ of the population through eugenic birthing incentives (and the ending of disincentives like the EITC and the child tax credit), changes in the tax code, a restrictive merit immigration policy, the liberal use of genetic testing and sperm banks, and the like.


Kurt9 said...

The really intertaining thing about the PC crowd is they have no problem accepting the idea that athletic ability is genetic, yet they squirm so much to accept the same thing about intelligence.

MensaRefugee said...

Brilliant Post! Nice to see the Obesity/IQ angle quantified.

P.S Your Company uses the Wonderlic? If its ok can you email me where ever you happen to work?

I gave the Wonderlic for the Canadian Government once, it really is scary (and a lil depressing) how a lil 12 minute test can correlate so well with 1-2 hour full blown IQ tests.

I wonder how long it will be before the Canadian Government stops using such tests. From reading over at Steve Sailer's blog, it seems the US Government has long since been cowed into not using such pseudo-IQ testing.

agnostic said...

You're 6'1 and 210 lbs? Definitely not the typical Magic card addict I pictured -- and your icon doesn't help!

Raising IQ would help, but so would research into the pathogenic side of obesity. That's easier to attack.

Plus, more organized religion to shame them into exercising self-restraint. Gluttony is a sin. Just what the op-ed columnists are proposing, I'd imagine.

John said...

Congratulations on another contribution , which could lead to more successful interventions. Maybe the poor, with low-IQ and poor impulse control could be candidates for surgery to control the problem behavior. What's next state IQ and cigarette consumption per capita?

Audacious Epigone said...


Would you say they have no problem accepting it? I think generally it is still not talked about too openly, although it is so blatantly obvious that is hard to deny with a straight face. I presume that eventually other human differences will reach that same level of (forced) acceptance.



Regarding the employer, email me if you want to know. I don't want to make it public, since there is no reason the company should be associated with any of my personal opinions outside of a work setting.


The men are big out here in the Midwest. Not quite Iowa, we're they're corn-fed, but we're caught in between that and Texas, where college-sized monsters start playing football from the time they can walk.

I played the game when I was younger, but I've been out for a few years now. My problem is that I have too many hobbies without really excelling in any of them.

I wonder if the GSS offers any insight into piety and physical health, when word score (the IQ proxy) is taken into account.



It is yet another illustration of how IQ correlates positively with almost everything that is socially desirable.

Audacious Epigone said...


Sorry, email is:

J. said...

A correlation of 0.6 is not so high...

(it is an argument ad hominem because I am fat. Very fat.)

Audacious Epigone said...


An r of .6 is high for the social sciences. As for your personal struggles, well, those are your demons to face, but I'd suggest dueling with rather than consuming them at this point.

Anonymous said...

I'd not expect to see any particularly strong religious correlations on obesity in the US. Having attended mushy mainline, semi-pentecostal, and conservative evangelical churches in my day, I can't say I've ever heard anyone sermonize against gluttony. Perhaps the Catholics still occasionally preach against that member of the seven deadly sins.
Obesity is also pretty heavily concentrated in the suburbs (people who live in cities usually get more exercise walking, and hence are less obese on average). A visit to your local Costco should be sufficient as a demonstration of this---smoking rather than obesity is the essential urban vice :-). Since urban dwellers are less churched (particularly white urban dwellers), I'd expect the correlation, if anything to run the other direction.

Rob-ot said...

I don't have any data to back it up or anything, but I have to go anonymous: Church and fat probably correlate positively, or have no relationship.

We have a pretty free market of religion. Obese people who hear about gluttony every Sunday will change churches.

From my observations, religious women tend to be obese. Maybe religion is a substitute for... y'know.

Blacks have higher religiosity and higher obesity, so that should alone should make them covary.

Religion and IQ covary negatively, so do IQ and obesity, making it likely that Religion and obesity correlate positively.

OTOH, being religious(or at least going to church) probably means that one is concerned with what others think, so controlling for other factors that covary with being religious, maybe religion keeps 'em thin. Someone with GSS ability should look into it.

But, my tiny amount of money says religion makes people fatter these days.

Audacious Epigone said...

Robot stole my thunder.

Religiosity correlates inversely with IQ, as does obesity, both at statistical significance and at high levels. In the US, blacks are more religious than Hispanics, who are more religious than whites, who are more religious than Asians. It would be statistically improbable that piety and thinness would be positively related.

But that is a trap that invariably makes religion look ugly when it might not be justified. Unless we are arguing that religiosity makes people stupid (and no doubt some would make such an argument, but few probably take that line in the HBD realist camp), that is.

My question is, once IQ is controlled for, what effect does religion have on people's waistlines, if any.

Fat Knowledge said...

Part of the strategy employed to deal with burgeoning healthcare costs should be to take steps to increase the average IQ of the population through eugenic birthing incentives (and the ending of disincentives like the EITC and the child tax credit)

How is the EITC a disincentive? I am not able to follow how you came to that conclusion.

And what eugenic birthing incentives are you suggesting? Are they based on IQ directly, or something which works as a proxy for it?

Audacious Epigone said...


It is essentially a $40 billion wealth transfer from the middle and upper classes to the poor. It's the ultimate in the progressive tax system, as it can actually be credited even if no taxes are paid, so that it actually becomes a stipend for some.

I like what Project Prevention does. Also, progressive instead of regressive credits for dependencies and grants for high-IQ (or highly educated, if that is more palatable) people who have children or donate eggs/sperm.

MensaRefugee said...

And what eugenic birthing incentives are you suggesting?



Free Market...good.

Will arrive at the same outcome but without the potentially evil side effects.

Rob-ot said...

Here is a crazy long comment I left on gnxp a while back on eugenics, now that we've drifted onto the topic.

These I think are the most acceptable plans with eugenic, eusocial, and euenvironmental effects:

Long term birth control until age 18: at least girls, because there are currently no options for LTBC for boys. Justify restriction to girls on: lack of reasonable options for boys, and boys don't get pregnant and suffer the physical risks of pregnancy and childbirth (which are worse for teens than early-mid twenties). Say teens cannot reasonably make the decision to have a child before 18. In effect they lack the capacity to "consent" to having kids. If needed, point out that boys' lives are not affected as much by having a baby because our brutal, sexist, patriarchal society expects women to take care of kids. Girls deserve a chance to be worker drones without the burden of a child to advance feminism.

Pros: Dumb girls start having children earlier, so direct effect. Indirect effects: Second child has lower marginal costs than the first in dating, lifestyle, jobs and education, etc: so lower IQ women may have even fewer if than the 1-2 they would have had as teens. Even lower-IQ women maybe make better choices reproductive partners after they're 18. Even if they don't, prison and death rates are inversely correlated with IQ, so they male pool is a bit better for 18+.

Does not single out minorities.
Arguing for more teen preg. loses elections.

Cons: I like pros, but please give 'em. Don't tell me it is not legal: Of course we'd have to change laws. Is it unconstitutional? Could Europe do it though?

Speaking of cons: allow the eugenic effect of prison to work on women. When women abuse or neglect a child, make their sentences comparable to a man's. And increase length of all the scentences. Justification: No child deserves to be beaten by a parent twice. A man or woman who abuses one child do not deserve a second chance at abusing that one, or another one.

Women have shorter reproductive careers than men: prison will have a bigger eugenic effect on women.

Maybe, if mom's boyfriend abuses a child, and the mother does not contact the police, send her to jail as an accomplice, and vice-versa of course. Who can argue that she isn't aiding, if she knows, or should know, that it's happening.

Arguing any eugenics plan: Do not necessarily argue eugenics. Talk in terms of things that only home life provides. Say it is horrible that more children don't get adopted, but that can't really be changed: we have tried hard. Where I live, there are commercials advertising babies to adopt: as if children were commodities.

Just thought of this: "Anti-family" taxes discourage adoption: Increase the tax deduction (NOT CREDIT) for each child. If only parents of adopted children, that'd be like paying people to take kids, do you really trust someone who adopts for money? But legally, adopted kids are your "real" children, so I don't think we can single out parents of adopted children: so for every parent. Raising kids is hard, and they deserve all the things their parents worked hard for. I won't work out exact numbers here, but at 20K a year, a deduction is worth about 1/3 of what it is to at 60K. So smarter women get more money, and overall, married couples get more.

Talk about making problems smaller, and breaking cycles of violence, poverty, etc. because it is easier to help if there are fewer people who need it. Say we want to help bad parents become better parents, without the burden of additional children, or the opportunity to mistreat, abuse, etc more kids. Point out that children are the future, and affect everyone. If someone calls you a Nazi: ask why they want horrible parents to have more kids to abuse.

In general, go through the Bell Curve, and find bad things that correlate with low IQ, and lobby for longer scentences.

Project Prevention: I usually say that as a recovering addict, I think it is a wonderful program. My experiences in active addiction: addicts are terrible parents, so bad stories about them sound like propaganda. We love drugs more than anything at all. In NA, we tell ourselves how bad we are at managing our lives. Anyone who will take 500 bucks for LTBC, imagine what they would use a child for. Tell horror stories of junkie parents. Always talk meth, it has white connotations, never, ever, say crack.

If someone says that crack babies were a racist myth(I do not know if that's so or not).It came up on a feminist board, according to some some study, when controlling for a great many things that drug abuse causes: like abuse, malnutrition, maternal education, income, etc, babies born to crack addicts are the same as other children: "So, anyone who drinks, smokes, has sex for money, never goes to an Ob-gyn, is utterly uninterested in pre-natal care, spends days or longer without eating or sleeping, sometimes without drinking water, has open sores that they never even cover, much less get treated...have children 3 months pre-mature, crack babies are just as healthy as those kids? That's fantastic!!!"

Addicts usually smoke, and drink, it is very hard to abuse drugs and eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day: Everything that's bad for a pregnant woman and the fetus, addicts do to an extent most people cannot conceive of. Talk about the stress of pregnancy, on top of the stress of drugs. Every child deserves to be loved, not to be an accident of prostitution.

On Project Prevention: Give a bit, admit your uncomfortable with sterilization(I am, when LTBC is available, and can greatly reduce a woman's lifetime reproductive potential) and the fact that white drug addicts may not be getting the same opportunities to benefit that African-American women do is truly disturbing. Share that you think male addicts should not have kids either, because they deserve to a chance to get clean without the stress and guilt of a child being damaged because of what they did.

PP needs to find a woman who got LTBC from them while she was in active addiction. A couple years later, she got clean, went to school, and met a great man, and now has two beautiful, healthy children... and a woman who tried to get her life restarted, but was so burdened by a 2.5 pound retarded child...and is racked with guilt every day that she did that to her baby. I am so grateful I never had a child when I was using.

Even if PP had no eugenic benefits: it has such social benefits, especially for addicts.

In general, on social and legal mechanisms altering fertility. I was talking with acouple I know, and told the husband: you know I support eugenics? of course he did. His wife said that she didn't think those decisions should be made for anyone. I let it drop. Got to how to punish rapists, and she said that they should be sterilzied. That's the thin edge of our wedge: I am willing to wager that most women think the government should choose for some men.

The other side uses contrived examples: what about serial killer sperm bank: Does the government have any interest there? Or a sperm bank for convicted felons only? Should men in prison for sex crimes be allowed to donate to any sperm bank?

I sometimes ask if they think prisoners should be allowed conjugal visits at any time, from anyone. Almost everyone says no. Has an effect on peoples reproductive choices. Most still say that prisoners should not have free access to any willing partner. So, possibly for some crimes, judges or juries could offer LTBC or permanent BC as an alternative to prison: sort of a "prison lite" without all the effects of prisons, or "destroying communities" by removing huge numbers of young men.

Audacious Epigone said...


Thanks for that.

Incidentally, I give you full rights to anything you want to pull from here. You're a far better salesman than I am, and your delivery is better.

I've not argued for the delayed childbearing mandates. Beneficial as they might be, at least in the US they seem politically infeasible.

The 'bloated' prison population is definitely eugenic. I'm a big fan of stiff mandatory sentences in consequence.

Generally, positive eugenics are more palatable than negative eugenics are. Do you have a blanket euphemism to replace the term, or are you just suggesting avoiding its use while pushing its objectives in their various forms?

Barbara Harris came up with the organization's name at a time when the crack epidemic was still fresh in people's minds, and as an active foster mother, she'd seen its brutal effects on children firsthand, multiple times. Cocaine is the 'quintessential' black drug, while the various concotions that are collectively known as "meth" tend to be made in the suburbs and in rural areas.

That said, the biggest chunk of CRACK's clients are white, with almost 40% more treated than blacks, the next largest bloc. And DepoProvera is the most common choice elected by clients, ahead of ligation.

Rob-ot said...

Thanks AP,

If I'm a better salesman than you, no offense, but you might be autistic.

I'd love to have a better term for eugenics than eugenics. But I can't think of one. I'll start trying though. But I'm arguing that we should pursue eugenics policies by other names. And use every argument we can to support them, without saying anything about eugenic effects.

Delayed childbearing: I'm not arguing that adults should have childbearing delayed: only that children should.

Project Prevention, come to think of it, the racial angle, when given with proper refutation, give them more publicity, which is good.

Positive vs. negative eugenics: Do both. As to which is more palatable, I don't know. I'd go with mild negative eugenics being easier: the recipients are already living under what Murray and Hernstein called custodial democracy. I think a majority of voters would like the fraction of the population who are taxeaters and more criminal to be smaller. As long as the great majority of voters don't feel that they or people they like will have reproduction restricted, it could be fairly popular.

Already some of us are supporting a euginic policy putatively for other reasons: Reduced third world immigration. If we could keep out a million Mexican criminals each year keeps IQ from dropping about 2.5 points/decade.