Jones on IQ and immigration


Jason Collins


April 14, 2011

David Henderson has posted on a recent presentation by Garett Jones of George Mason University in which Jones discussed IQ and cooperation.

As Jones notes, higher IQ people cooperate more in repeated prisoner’s dilemma games, are more trusting, have lower levels of divorce and engage more in activities such as voting and organ and cash donation. Jones suggests that if this link between trust and IQ improves a country’s institutions, countries should seek to raise national IQ, and one way of achieving this is by boosting immigration of high IQ populations.

Henderson states that:

In Q&A, I asked him if he was suggesting something like Canada’s immigration rules that seem to put a higher weight on IQ indirectly or whether he would be happy with a Bryan Caplan solution that would allow pretty much anyone in who wanted to come. …. Garett seemed to lean to the former and said that one thing the government could so is, when an immigrant got a Ph.D., “staple a green card to it.”

It is interesting that Jones might suggest such an indirect method of achieving his objective. Would a simple IQ test be more effective? Or does Jones hope to capture people with other traits that a PhD might be indicative of, such as a propensity to work? Another question is whether a country should adopt such a passive method of giving residency to those who have already come to a country (which as Henderson notes, probably has some selection effects in itself)? Could a country be more aggressive and set up IQ testing stations in countries around the world and encourage immigration by all those who pass?

A natural implication of this policy is that it will lower the average IQ of the donor country, and following Jones’s logic, lead to poorer institutions in that country. The net effect for the high IQ person is likely to be overwhelmingly positive, but the long-run dynamic effects on the donor country could be negative.