Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Harvard Criticized Over Dissertation on Hispanics’ IQ

Harvard University students have gathered 1,200 signatures protesting the John F. Kennedy School of Government’s approval of a dissertation asserting that Latinos have low IQs.

The Boston Globe reports that the petition calls on the university to investigate how the dissertation by doctoral candidate Jason Richwine was approved. ”Academic freedom and a reasoned debate are essential to our academic community,” the petition said. “However, the Harvard Kennedy School cannot ethically stand behind academic work advocating a national policy of exclusion and advancing an agenda of discrimination.”

Richwine’s thesis argued that Hispanic children attending U.S. schools will not improve past their immigrant parents. “No one knows whether Hispanics will ever reach IQ parity with whites, but the prediction that new Hispanic immigrants will have low IQ children and grandchildren is difficult to argue against,” Richwine wrote in the paper.

He also called the average IQ of Hispanics “effectively permanent.”

Richwine’s thesis, “IQ and Immigration Policy,” came to light and stirred controversy this month after he co-authored a Heritage Foundation report asserting that the effective cost of immigration reform would be $6.3 trillion. Richwine has since resigned from his position at the foundation.

George Borjas, chair of the Kennedy School’s Standing Committee on Public Policy, which accepted the work, said the dissertation was sound. Borjas, who was born in Cuba, is an economist and professor who also has promoted reducing immigration to the United States.

So far, Richwine has stood by his conclusions, in which he says immigration policy should be based on IQ. ”The dissertation shows that recent immigrants score lower than U.S.-born whites on many different types of IQ tests,” he wrote in the National Review online. “Using statistical analysis, it suggests that the test-score differential is due primarily to a real cognitive gap rather than to culture or language bias.”

Petition spokesman Berdion Del Valle, who is Hispanic, said that it is important that research be academically rigorous and ethical.“If Harvard doesn’t apply rigorous academic standards for its research, how can we guarantee our policy discussions are not affected by irresponsible scholarship?” he told NBC Latino.

This debate reminds me of difficult issues that we have faced since the implementation of No Child Left Behind testing began. Speaking in support of the passage of that law, President Bush referred to the “soft bigotry in low expectations” that blocks progress in closing achievement gaps from happening. This debate exposes the unfortunate truth that there are many people out there, even those with advanced degrees, who still do not expect much of minority children.

What is being done to change these attitudes?