Friday, December 03, 2010

Is cheating eugenic?

Randall Parker pointed me to a study finding that those least likely to attend college based on family background, abilities, and peer group tend to gain the most from it relative to those more likely to do so based on the same considerations. After chewing on this, he asked a more general question: Is single motherhood dysgenic or eugenic? If women get knocked up by men out of their league for marriage, their children could benefit as a result.

I'm not aware of a way to measure this directly, but from previously sifting through data on cheating in the GSS, I know that more intelligent people are more likely to cheat than less intelligent people are. I wondered, then, if there was a substantial difference in the relationship between intelligence and cheating for men and women.

If smart men and dumb women tend to cheat, it's conceivable that the consequences are eugenic--dumb men end up raising children that are not theirs with their dumb, unfaithful wives, children who are instead the offspring of smarter cuckolds. And smart men end up not only having children with their smart wives but also other children with other women of lesser intelligence as well. Because men are able to procreate multiple times in a short period of time while women are not, smart men spreading their seed around and dumb women taking the seed of men smarter than they are is eugenic. In contrast, if the pizza delivery guy knocks up the rich, desperate housewife, the result is more dysgenic than if her husband would've done the inseminating.

This makes some enormous assumptions about a couple of aspects of cheating for which I have no evidence: 1) That cheaters do not take measures to separate their creeping fornication from procreation, and 2) That cheaters move up or down the intelligence ladder when they cheat, rather than tending to cheat with people similar to themselves (and their spouses). Further, it doesn't really get at Randall's question, since the GSS only queries about cheating among those who cheated while married--respondents who have never been married are excluded.

As it turns out, there isn't a big difference among men and women when it comes to intelligence and infidelity. The correlation between wordsum score and having cheated is .69 (p=.02) for men and .54 (p=.09) for women. Either both men and women are cheating with those similar to themselves, or both are descending down the intelligence ladder when they fool around. If everything assumed above is accurate, the eugenic effect is marginal at the most.

GSS variables used: EVSTRAY(1-2), SEX(1)(2), WORDSUM


FuturePundit said...

Are the guys who are knocking up single women mostly married or unmarried?

Are the married men who are knocking up single women smarter or dumber than the non-married men who are knocking up single women?

My guess is that the overwhelming majority of single women getting knocked up are getting knocked up by guys who are not married. Now, these guys might be seeing 2 or 3 women at the same time. But not married.

Lots of promiscuous single women are willing to sleep out of their league. They'll go to bed with a guy who does not see them as good enough for a long term relationship, let alone for marriage. That ups the odds that some of the resulting pregnancies are eugenic. Though it depends on the qualities the women are going for.

silly girl said...

For it to be eugenic, the kids would need to inherit conscientiousness as well as intelligence.

Are cheaters conscientious?

FuturePundit said...

silly girl,

We do not know these single moms are getting knocked up by married cheaters. They might be getting knocked up by single guys who are alphas.

We do not know enough about the patterns of reproduction of those making babies out of wedlock. The women getting knocked up out of wedlock are probably, on average, getting knocked up by different kinds of men than they would have before the birth control pill, divorce, and rampant promiscuity.

Audacious Epigone said...


Those are the relevant questions, but I don't have the answers to them.

While it seems to me that the characteristics that make men attractive to women generally correlate with what makes one successful in contemporary society, the relationship isn't that strong and there are lots of exceptions, without even considering interracial copulation.

FuturePundit said...


Okay, we see the same questions, the same unknowns.

It is frustrating that the data isn't available. It might tell us our deterioration isn't as fast as it seems. Or it might tell us the deterioration is even faster than it seems.

Oh, and that reminds of another related question: what is the effect of serial monogamy? Do guys who divorce and remarry with younger women take those younger women away from dumber young guys? Do these remarrying guys make more babies that are smarter than would otherwise be the case?

Audacious Epigone said...


At the national level, age spread and IQ are inversely correlated, and it's my guess that also tends to be the case within countries, but I wouldn't be surprised if it is primarily due to the younger woman being of below average intelligence. Unfortunately, the GSS doesn't inquire about spousal age, so I'm not sure how to go about answering those questions.

Tusky said...

Look at the example of Thom Jefferson and Sally Hemmings. Did Jeff dally for fun and Sally to put her offspring "in the big house'? Three gens of this and you had the "octaroon", a person that could and did pass into white society. So in the black slave quarter, where marriage was tenuous (certainly, compared to white society)it was easily possible that the occasional dalliance behind the haystack was spontaneous for the man and planned for the woman.


Audacious Epigone said...


Great example. It is certainly eugenic at least some of the time.

Anthony said...

The answer for what's happening now will be different than the answer for pre-1960, because of abortion.

If the woman who is involved in cheating is relatively smart, she's (a) less likely to get pregnant in the first place, (b) more likely to get an abortion if she does get pregnant. Her partner is fairly likely to be pretty smart, but if it's a fling with the (dumb) pizza boy, she's even more likely to get an abortion.

If the woman is relatively dumb, she's more likely to get knocked up. While a smart man is more likely to prevent her from getting pregnant, it will happen sometimes. However, the smart man who does sire an out-of-wedlock baby will be less likely to have (or likely to have fewer) children in marriage, as his earning power will be compromised by paying child support, etc., which is likely to have a somewhat dysgenic effect, as his legitimate children would be more likely to be with a smart woman.

Anonymous said...

Not sure where you got the idea that more intelligent men are more likely to cheat. Recent studies have shown otherwise:

Wilhelmina said...

What namely you're saying is a terrible mistake.