Thu. Dec 12th, 2019

Why Harvard Is Right to Discriminate Against Asians

11 min read


A high profile lawsuit by East Asian (American) students claimed that Harvard, like other elite universities, discriminates against East Asian applicants in its admissions process. Although Asians are over-represented at these institutions (compared to their relative population in the U.S.), the evidence seems to suggest that there would have been even more Asians at Harvard if admittance was purely on high school academic records and test score performance.


This may seem unfair at first sight, but what if there was a perfectly valid and fair reason to effectively discriminate against Asians? What if, in spite of Harvard’s misguided diversity goals, such discrimination actually offsets some other unmeritocratic advantage that Asians have? {snip}

In this article, I will argue that young East Asians develop their cognitive abilities faster than the young of every other population and thus reach their full mental capacity much earlier than everyone else. In adulthood, many other people from other groups — in this analysis I will particularly focus on white Americans since there are other complex issues with Blacks and Hispanics — catch up with or even overtake them. This early development gives East Asians an early cognitive edge which they naturally use to gain a practice advantage in all academic subjects and cognitive tests, and get into gifted schools and elite universities. Unfortunately, this test score superiority does not translate to intellectual leadership or dominance in adulthood after other people’s brains also fully mature and/pr continue to mature.

If this hypothesis is true, then the real problem with Harvard is not that they effectively discriminate against East Asian applicants, but rather that they do not do enough of it. {snip}


Meritocracy vs Diversity?

I should emphasize from the onset that I do not believe diversity should ever be the goal of any rational institution or society. It’s obvious why the best minds should be allowed to advance as high as their ability can take them in any field: {snip}.


The Virtue of Testing

One of the best things to happen to American society was the introduction of intelligence testing (SATs, ACTsetc) for selecting students to elite universities. This was really an inevitable result of the American spirit of meritocracy making its full break from the aristocratic heritage of Old Europe. Smart children from poor families had the chance of buying their own ticket to the highest classes of society by simply proving their God-given talents on these tests. As they held that paper and pen to compete on solving these abstract puzzles, their future was literally in their hands.

Unfortunately, the assumption behind these tests has always been that all human populations everywhere are basically the same, and therefore develop at the same “normal” “human” pace. When the tests were given to Americans at the beginning of the 20th century, they were pretty accurate at predicting which people would become the next leaders of society in just about every field, because these tended to be more cognitively developed relative to their age. The most elite colleges selected for the highest scorers on these scholastic and achievement tests because they were expected to produce the next thought leaders of industry, politics, academia, law, media etc: the American innovators.

What has not been realized, as immigration has grown progressively in America, is that these childhood achievements are not necessarily accurate predictors of relative intellectual leadership ability when people being tested together are very different. Some people from some of the newer immigrant groups may do better on these tests, not because they have the highest intellectual potential to be the next leaders of the world, but simply because they are able to outperform others in the pre-adult stages of life.



The lawsuit against Harvard was not the only high profile anti-discrimination Asian lawsuit of recent years. In 2016, a group of Asian engineers sued a very selective (and very secretive) company in Silicon Valley called Palantir, founded by the iconoclastic investor, Peter Thiel. Although, like Harvard, Palantir has many Asians, the plaintiffs — the lawsuit was brought by the Department of Labor — had good reason to believe that Palantir would have hired many more of them if the selection was done purely on traditional “merit.” Asians, after all, are the best credentialed American subpopulation, especially with their large numbers graduating from elite universities like Stanford, Harvard, MIT, Caltech etc. Instead, Palantir apparently hired a few more whites with slightly less colorful credentials. They ultimately settled (without admission of guilt) and were forced to hire some of the Asians associated with the lawsuit, as part of the deal.

If Palantir follows anything close to Thiel’s personal philosophy on selecting the best minds, then it should not be surprising that they would essentially discriminate against some East Asians. One of the questions Thiel asks entrepreneurs who want his envied investment capital is, “tell me one opinion you strongly hold that other people tend to strongly oppose” (paraphrased). Thiel looks for a certain kind of independent thinking and originality in his prospective entrepreneurs; perhaps Palantir also wanted a bit of that imaginative creativity for some of its top engineering jobs, especially for overarching strategic suggestions involving more than just incremental coding abilities.

Many Asians now believe they are just victims of some kind of racial bias from white Americans (especially) that keeps them from these top decision-making jobs in Silicon Valley and elsewhere. They call it “the bamboo ceiling,” and they believe that white employers are simply affected by the Asian stereotype of lack of creative leadership abilities, or that they may just want to promote fellow whites.

However, the East Asian creativity problem is even acknowledged by China itself, the largest East Asian country. Thus, although China now has many patents granted to its most “inventive” citizens, Chinese government officials themselves have constantly decried the lack of true originality contained in most of these uninspiring patents. {snip}

The Asian disconnect between test score prowess in school and subsequent intellectual achievement is not limited to the tech industry. Asians now complain about the bamboo ceiling in the entertainment industry, the legal profession, the advertising industry, and so on. But it is very unlikely that there is a coordinated conspiracy to keep them down in all these areas where ascendance is predicated on distinguishing oneself through constant initiative. {snip}

What is more likely is that Asian intelligence develops faster than everyone else and takes many Asians through elite programs that grant them exceptional credentials, but that cognitive advantage disappears in adulthood as others also reach full development (while missing similar elite credentials sometimes), which leads to an awkward social paradox. Only the truly best of the best Asians remain dominant at these older ages; but the numbers are only a fraction of those who passed through these selective elite programs and received their accreditation of presumptive genius!



Hereditarian IQ expert, J Phillippe Rushton, seemed to suggest that East Asians actually develop slower than everyone else, biologically, which would imply that even their cognitive ability develops more slowly.

But a cursory analysis of Rushton’s own reported data shows that the opposite trend is much more plausible, at least in the area of cognitive development. In one of his most famous articles, co-authored with Arthur Jensen, Rushton reports on the incredibly high IQs of young East Asian children, many of them coming from low socioeconomic conditions before being adopted into white American families:

Three studies of East Asian children adopted by White families support the hereditarian hypothesis. In the first, 25 four-year-olds from Vietnam, Korea, Cambodia, and Thailand, all adopted into White American homes prior to 3 years of age, excelled in academic ability with a mean IQ score of 120, compared with the U.S. norm of 100 (Clark & Hanisee, 1982). Prior to placement, half of the babies had required hospitalization for malnutrition.

In the second study, Winick, Meyer, and Harris (1975) found 141 Korean children adopted as infants by American families exceeded the national average in both IQ and achievement scores when they reached 10 years of age. The principal interest of the investigators was on the possible effects of severe malnutrition on later intelligence, and many of these Korean children had been malnourished in infancy. When tested, those who had been severely malnourished as infants obtained a mean IQ of 102; a moderately well-nourished group obtained a mean IQ of 106; and an adequately nourished group obtained a mean IQ of 112.

A study by Frydman and Lynn (1989) examined 19 Korean infants adopted by families in Belgium. At about 10 years of age, their mean IQ was 119, the verbal IQ was 111, and the performance IQ was 124. Even correcting the Belgian norms upward to 109 to account for the increase in IQ scores over time (about 3 IQ points a decade; see Section 13), the Korean children still had a statistically significant 10-point advantage in mean IQ over indigenous Belgian children.”

If these children are scoring as high as 120 on average at the age of four (despite being hospitalized for malnourishment) and 110 to 112 at the age of ten, it is implausible that their IQ goes up as they grow older, and neither is it likely that it stays the same. If we accept that Asian adult IQ is 104 to 106 as Rushton and others suggest, then even by their own data, it is more likely than not that Asian IQ goes downwards as they grow older. Your IQ, after all, is only about how you perform compared to people in your age group. If they begin to catch up or overtake you, this will show a decline in your IQ even without you necessarily becoming less “smart.”

Rushton was not the only psychologist to report such high scores for East Asian children. Another IQ researcher, Jason Malloy, later published some interesting scores from a long-lost study of Korean adoptees:


Actually, in 1975, Professor Richard Lynn found that children in Japan were now scoring at 111 on an IQ test. He thought that this indicated a growing gap in real IQ between Japan and the West, but it was more likely just a reflection of the growing Westernization of Japanese culture, which reduces the cultural bias of the tests, and reveals the superior IQ of these children compared to European children. We know this because even Korean and Chinese children adopted to the West score as high as that, if not higher.

Hereditarian IQ experts have always used the fact that children in East Asia scored slightly higher than white children in the West as evidence that there was absolutely no cultural bias in the tests. But this is obviously a logical fallacy: they forgot to consider the possibility that Asian children were in fact scoring lower than they would without the cultural bias factor!

The bottom line is that East Asian children have extremely high IQs in those younger ages, but stagnate in older age, relatively speaking.

{snip} We know, from their intellectual performance in adulthood, that they obviously do not have that many gifted people among them!

Caltech vs Stuyvesant

This downward trend in Asian cognitive dominance is probably demonstrated through a comparison between selective elite programs at different age groups.

The most test-based meritocratic university in America is arguably the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, California. It also happens to have one of the highest populations of East Asians at 43 % (incidentally, internal memos released in the Harvard case revealed that Asians would be exactly 43% of Harvard if only academics were considered!).

43 percent sounds very impressive until you compare it to Asian over-representation at an even younger age. Stuyvesant High School in New York City famously uses nothing but test scores to admit the best students in the city. Although Asians are only 15 percent of New York’s population, they are an astounding 74% of Stuyvesant!

This pattern is repeated all over the country where competitive gifted programs are offered in wealthy or powerful multiethnic cities.


Apparently, as you go from meritocratic high school to meritocratic college, Asian dominance starts dissipating a bit. And when you go beyond college, it starts approaching normal, before moving into reverse, until a “bamboo ceiling” starts showing up everywhere. At Caltech itself, the ratio of East Asian professors is much less than the Asian ratio of undergraduate students.

I looked at the department most likely to favor Asian numbers due to their strengths in quantitative fields, the Department of Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy. I counted only about 8 East Asians out of 74 professors. At 10.8 %, this is still high for a group that is only 5 % of the American population, but it is nowhere near its 43% Caltech student population or its unbelievable 74% at Stuyvesant and other gifted schools.

At older ages, Asians struggle to keep their edge. Professorships come at older ages than national merit finals, Fields Medals in mathematics come at older ages than math olympiads. Most executive positions in the corporate world come at even older ages.

Thus, although Asians are 12 percent of American professionals, they are only 5% percent of the executives. This means that the group that was vastly overrepresented at meritocratic schools and colleges are now almost exactly the same as their ratio to the rest of the US population (5 percent) when it comes to positions where gifted adults are most likely to thrive. In short, they literally regress to the average.

Conclusion and Suggestion

It may seem impossible that East Asians just happen to lose their large childhood IQ advantage in adulthood, but it is not so implausible if you think about it. For example, psychologists say that general intelligence can be subdivided into two parts: fluid and crystallized. They say that crystallized intelligence (which correlates with verbal intelligence etc) does not stop growing until quite late in adulthood, whereas fluid intelligence (which correlates with quantitative reasoning etc), starts declining after age 20.

Asians are apparently strong on fluid intelligence, or at least the quantitative factor in it (hence their math prowess), but count verbal intelligence as their biggest Achilles’ heel. Given the trajectories of these two aspects of intelligence in adulthood, it should not be completely implausible to expect an average Asian decline in total cognitive ability relative to groups that are stronger in verbal intelligence. (This may possibly explain why Ashkenazi Jews have the opposite reputation in adulthood since verbal intelligence, their strongest endowment, is apparently the new competitive landscape in cognitive adulthood).

But even if my “cognitive crossover” explanation of why Asians dominate at young ages but not at older ages is quickly falsified, the fact that they do not maintain the same level of “giftedness” in adulthood is incontrovertible {snip}.


Truly gifted children not only score above their peers on tests, they also show signs of a higher character of independent thinking and creativity; they tend to march to the beat of their own drum, without losing their mind (usually). Besides the regular tests, a real test of creative independence should be included in the selection process.

By asking his prospective entrepreneurs to describe any opinion they hold that sets them apart from (and against) their smart circles of friends, Peter Thiel has designed a simple formula for identifying the truly gifted from among those who likely also have test smarts. {snip}

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Author: DissentWatch