John Derbyshire: Time To Stop Importing An Immigrant Overclass
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Adapted from the latest Radio Derb, available exclusively on

Last week, I ventured some remarks about the Justice Department case against Harvard University for discriminating against Asian Americans. This brought in a surprising number of emails. I'll take just two main points:

  • First main point raised by readers: Import an overclass? We already did that!
Listeners who made this point were referring of course to the Ashkenazi Jews who poured into the U.S.A. 1880-1920.

Indeed; and colleges responded to second-generation Jewish academic prowess just as they are now responding to Asian-Americans. They imposed quotas.

The parallel's an obvious one. I didn't raise it last week for two reasons. One, it was too far off the main topic, which was Asian American quotas. Two, the rise and fall of the mid-20th-century Jewish quotas is a long and tangled tale, very capably told by Ron Unz in the American Conservative article I mentioned: The Myth of American Meritocracy. [November 28, 2012]

While I'm at it, I'll tell you again that if you don't like reading long-form articles online, the essay is also on paper in Ron's book with the same title.

Ron's account is closely based on a 2005 book by Berkeley sociologist Jerome Karabel: The Chosen: The Hidden History of Admission and Exclusion at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. In brief:

The Ivy League universities in the early years of the 20th century practiced a more or less meritocratic admissions policy, with academic merit the main consideration. The Ashkenazi immigrants of the Great Wave, however, had a mean IQ significantly higher than the WASP elites who ran those universities; so, when Ashkenazi children came of college age, they began to swamp the admissions.

The WASP elites responded at first by imposing frank, open quotas. That caused controversy, though; so the university presidents backed off to a so-called "holistic" process — basically a subjective one that, as Ron wrote, allowed the ethnicity of the student body to be shaped as desired by undeclared de facto quotas:

The Jewish portion of Harvard's entering class dropped from nearly 30 percent in 1925 to 15 percent the following year and remained roughly static until … the Second World War.
After the war those de facto quotas collapsed. Jews today are again at 25 percent of the student body at Ivy League universities. Since the college-age population is only 1.8 percent Jewish, that's an extraordinary over-representation. Twenty-five divided by 1.8 is almost fourteen. Given the "tail effect" you get in statistical distributions with different means, though, it perhaps reflects the reality of higher mean Ashkenazi intelligence.

But then the question arises: Why can elite colleges get away with admissions policies that reflect the higher mean IQ of Ashkenazi Jews when they are apparently not willing to let those policies reflect the higher mean IQ of Asian Americans?

I'll offer a three-part answer.

  • Part One of my answer: The breakdown of the anti-Jewish de facto quotas after WW2—what caused that?
From Ron Unz:
Karabel convincingly demonstrates that the collapse of the long-standing Jewish quotas in the Ivy League during the decade following World War II only occurred as a result of massive media and political pressure, pressure surely facilitated by very heavy Jewish ownership of America's major media organs, including all three television networks, eight of nine major Hollywood studios, and many of the leading newspapers, including both the New York Times and the Washington Post. By contrast, Asian-Americans today neither own nor control even a single significant media outlet, and they constitute an almost invisible minority in films, television, radio, and print. For most Americans, what the media does not report simply does not exist, and there is virtually no major media coverage of what appear to be de facto Asian quotas at our top academic institutions. [Emphasis added].
  • Part Two of my answer: Jews are white, Asians are not, and while any overclass is resented, a racially distinctive overclass is resented more than one that barely looks any different from the resenters.
Anti-Semites know this; that's why they put out drawings of the hunch-backed, hook-nosed cartoon Jew when they want to inflame anti-Jewish feeling. It makes the Jew plainly a different race.
  • Part Three of my answer: even under the current covert quotas, Asian Americans are enrolled at elite colleges in numbers far above their five percent share of the U.S. population.
Yes, they're being held down: on a strictly meritocratic basis their numbers would be much higher yet, because of the arithmetic of those distribution tails. Still, strictly measured by demographic proportionality, they're high.

So yes, we were importing an overclass a hundred years ago. Elite universities dealt with the issue by fudging and chicanery—just as they are dealing with this repeat performance.

There are some key differences, though. Jews are white, which makes things easier to fudge. Also, the high IQ of Ashkenazi Jews is more verbal than visuo-spatial, leading to that dominance in the shaping of opinion.

Asian Americans, by contrast, are much more visible as a group. And their high IQ is more visuo-spatial than verbal, giving us more engineers and scientists, fewer writers, lawyers, comedians, movie and newspaper moguls.

But in both cases, non-Asian gentiles get squeezed. We un-squeeze blacks and Hispanics with Affirmative Action, but that just squeezes white gentiles even more.

Under our current state ideology, the orthodox approach to that hovers somewhere between "Who cares?" and "Serve them right!"

Whether that ideology can be sustained going forward through the 21st century, is an interesting question.

  • Second point main point raised by readers: any merit-based immigration system imports an overclass.
I agree. Consider for example India. The mean IQ of that country is 82. The mean IQ of Indians in the U.S.A., on the other hand, is 106—higher than the mean for white gentile Americans.

So there's an overclass we've imported … from a low-IQ population.

The same applies to Africa. The mean IQ in black Africa is 70, which is very low. Assuming a normal distribution with mean 70 and standard deviation 15, Microsoft Excel tells me that only 0.0032 percent of the population is higher than 130 IQ.

That's a teeny-tiny percent; but there are an awful lot of black Africans: 1.2 billion is the latest number I've seen. Point zero zero three two percent of 1.2 billion is 38,000. Every one of those 38,000 very-smart Africans is applying for a U.S. student visa.

Caribbean blacks are, for complicated reasons, somewhat smarter than black Africans. Add them into the mix and we're importing a small black overclass.

Is this something we should be bothered about? We-e-ell … there are contrary factors to consider.

Under the present regime of chain migration, for example, all those smart Indians and Africans can bring in their way-less-smart siblings, brides, parents, and even cousins. You could argue that long-term that evens out the mix.

There's also regression to the mean. The offspring of these high-IQ immigrants will regress towards their population mean — although not all the way to it, or else Natural Selection wouldn't work. Given the likelihood of assortative mating, in fact — smart immigrants marrying other smart people — regression all the way back to the population mean is highly improbable, even after many generations.

So, no, this is not a great issue. It is an issue, though — an issue that lurks behind all the happy talk about a merit-based system of immigration.

The first time America imported an overclass, we did so accidentally. When that Great Wave of Ashkenazi Jews came in after 1881, we had only the vaguest ideas about population differentials in intelligence and personality. Psychometry as a quantitative science was just getting started.

Now we understand much more, and can make better decisions. If we import a new overclass today, we'll be doing it deliberately. We know enough to not do it.

And any overclass we import now will be nonwhite. That follows just from the balance of races in the world being much different than it was 100 years ago.

If you're a nonwhite who doesn't like white people, you are fine with that. If you're a white person living in one of the globalist-bubble districts — big coastal cities, college towns — you may think it's no big deal, we can all get along.

The rest of us are shaking our heads.

Wait a minute, someone at the back of the hall has a question. Yes, Sir? … OK, for those of you who couldn't hear, the question was:

"Mr. Derbyshire: You are against mass immigration from south of the border because you don't want to import a low-IQ, low-human-capital underclass. And you're against merit-based immigration because you don't want to import a nonwhite overclass. So who would you let in for permanent settlement?"
To which I'll give my standard answer.
  • Spouses and dependent children of U.S. citizens.
  • Nobel Prize-level geniuses.
  • Solzhenitsyn-level distinguished nonviolent dissidents from despotic states.
  • Foreigners who've put their lives on the line to help U.S. interests.
  • A few hundred other special cases per annum — a statutory maximum of one thousand, say — considered individually.
  • Nobody else at all.
We've had the doors wide open for fifty years. Time for an assimilation break.

Time for a moratorium.

Not the time to raise the temperature of social discord by heaping further insults and injustices on white gentile Americans.


John Derbyshire [email him] writes an incredible amount on all sorts of subjects for all kinds of outlets. (This no longer includes National Review, whose editors had some kind of tantrum and fired him. ) He is the author of We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism and several other books. He has had two books published by com:FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT (also available in Kindle) and FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT II: ESSAYS 2013.

For years he’s been podcasting at Radio Derb, now available at for no charge.His writings are archived at

Readers who wish to donate (tax deductible) funds specifically earmarked for John Derbyshire's writings at can do so here.

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