Brookings Does Diversity, Sort Of

The premier Democrat think-tank, the Brookings
Institution, has devoted the current issue of
its quarterly

Brookings Review
to "Diversity." On most
topics, Brookings produces worthy if slightly
dull efforts: e.g., "Is U.S. Science Policy at
Risk? Trends in Federal Support for R&D." Their
"Diversity" issue may leave you rubbing your
eyes, but not – this time – because they are
glazing over. Instead, you`ll be wondering if
your eyes are playing tricks on you.

It`s
hard to believe some of the statements got past the
editor`s Chortle Test. Consider one opening paragraph:


"As
the United States copes with large immigration flows and
increasing diversity in these highly uncertain times, it
may want to look to an unusual model country—Israel—for
some fresh ideas about taking full advantage of
diversity."

Robert Litan

VP,
Brookings Institution

"Diversity
in Israel: Lessons for the United States
"

Okay, stop giggling. What Litan is trying to say
is that the Israel makes
vigorous efforts to mold
Jewish
immigrants from around the world so that they
become less diverse. In that limited sense, he
has a good point.

Still, isn`t it easier to assimilate immigrants to the
norms of the Jewish State if you only allow Jews to
immigrate? Perhaps a “fresh idea” from Israel is: select
immigrants for cultural compatibility.

Or,
in "Getting
Uncle Sam`s Ear: Will Ethnic Lobbies Cramp America`s
Foreign Policy Style
?" by James M. Lindsay (a Senior
Fellow at Brookings), you are asked to believe that


"… Cuban Americans aside, Latino organizations usually sit
on the sidelines of foreign policy. Groups such as the
National Council of La Raza and the Mexican American
Legal Defense and Educational Fund have concentrated
their focus on the economy, civil rights, and
immigration because those are the issues that matter to
their members.
"

The
Brookings Institution evidently hasn`t noticed that the
domestic policy of La Raza ("The Race") is
the foreign policy of

Vincente Fox
and

Jorge G. Castaneda
. And a remarkably successful team
effort it has been.

Brookings essays generally are less flapdoodle-filled
than the mainstream prestige press. (See William
McGowan`s dispassionate bombshell
Coloring the News: How Crusading for Diversity Has
Corrupted American Journalism

for details on self-censorship at the New York Times
and the like.) And in fact Peter Skerry`s essay
Beyond
Sushiology: Does Diversity Work?

is excellent. "Sushiology"
is his term for the assumption, widespread among
journalists, that since mass immigration has widened
their choice in restaurants, then it must be an
unqualified blessing for all. Skerry writes:

“At the end of their
careful review of 40 years of research on diversity
(including racial and ethnic) in organizations,
psychologists Katherine Williams and Charles O`Reilly
conclude: “The preponderance of empirical evidence
suggests that diversity is most likely to impede group
functioning”…We need to recognize that diversity is no
free lunch.”

Generally, however, this
Brookings effort doesn`t rise much above the depressing
average level of American intellectual discourse about
diversity.

One major problem: intellectuals
seldom ask themselves whether their theories make sense
in the daily life they see around them. For example,
consider this widely-cited Brookings study from the
current issue:

"What sets high-technology centers such as San
Francisco, Boston, and New York apart from other
metropolitan areas? Why have some cities—many home to
some of the nation`s most prestigious university
research centers and college graduates—been unable to
attract talented technology workers? Our theory is that
a city`s diversity—its level of tolerance for a wide
range of people—is key to its success in attracting
talented people. Diverse, inclusive communities that
welcome unconventional people—gays, immigrants, artists,
and free-thinking `bohemians`—are ideal for nurturing
the creativity and innovation that characterize the
knowledge economy… Gays predict not only the
concentration of high-tech industry, but also its growth
…"

Richard Florida and Gary Gates

Technology and Tolerance: Diversity and High Tech Growth

Bunk. These research high technology centers are not
actually located in the cities of San Francisco, Boston
and New York at all, but in their much less diverse
suburbs. The authors` methodological blunder is obvious:
they use overly expansive definitions of "metropolitan
areas." Thus, they label "San Francisco" both the Gay
Capital and the Tech Capital, even though Castro Street
in San Francisco and Sand Hill Road in Palo Alto might
be 90 minutes apart – in normal traffic.

All across the country over the last 45 years, the
pattern has been unmistakable: the techno-innovators
congregate out in the far suburbs, a long, long way from
what is normally called "diversity."

Generally, high-hip equals low-tech. I used to live in
the extremely diverse Uptown neighborhood on the North
lakefront of Chicago, where about 100 languages are
spoken in two square miles. My wife used to live in the
New Town neighborhood, complete with a 6`-4"
transvestite hooker on her corner. Both neighborhoods
were high in tolerance – but not high in technology. In
Chicagoland, the tech firms are way out on the Silicon
Prairie in the sprawling high-tech low-hip suburb of
Naperville.

In
Southern California, the tech districts are spread all
over the map: biotech in Ventura County, aerospace in
the high desert, and telecomm in posh North San Diego
County. Even Hollywood (the industry) centers not around
Hollywood (the place), but around the uncool suburb of
Burbank. Conversely, East LA is extremely "diverse"
(i.e., all Hispanic). But there`s no high tech there,
just lots of low-tech manufacturing. And Compton is
closer to no-tech.

Obviously, colleges can play important roles in creating
tech centers, as can nice weather and good scenery. Yet
the Bay Area`s technopolis didn`t grow up around UC
Berkeley, as the Florida & Gates` theory would predict,
but around Stanford – the school for smart rich kids way
off in the orchard-filled Santa Clara Valley. As the
great Tom Wolfe painstakingly documented in a 1983
article collected in his latest book
Hooking Up

most of the men who pioneered the Silicon Valley
were products of the much-derided Midwestern Protestant
culture.

Bohemians don`t invent technology. Nerds do. Perhaps
because I possess many of the personality traits of the
classic nerd – obsessiveness, shyness, inability to say
the right thing at the right time, and so forth – but
sadly few of the technical skills – I`ve studied the
important phenomenon of nerdism in detail. (Click
here
for my 1998 essay.) Nerds tend to be especially
devoted family men, possibly because they find chasing
women so painful.  And the most important component of
any serious technology company`s workforce is married
men with children.

The suburban high tech
nerdistans
(to use Joel Kotkin`s phrase) are diverse in the
sense that they are full of not only white nerds, but
also Chinese and Asian Indian nerds. But that`s not
exactly what most pundits mean when they talk about
Diversity.

Another Brookings Review essay, "Brain
Circulation: How High-Skill Immigration Makes Everyone
Better Off
" by AnnaLee Saxenian, implicitly suggests
that nerds are found more in some parts of the world
than in others. The UC Berkeley professor writes:

"More than a quarter of Silicon Valley`s highly skilled
workers are immigrants, including tens of thousands from
lands as diverse as China, Taiwan, India, the United
Kingdom, Iran, Vietnam, the Philippines, Canada, and
Israel."

However, the total number of immigrants from those nine
nerd-rich countries comprised less than a quarter of all
legal immigrants to the U.S. in 1998. And that`s not
even counting illegal immigrants, who overwhelmingly
come from nerd-poor countries.

Our immigration system isn`t set up to bring in the best
and brightest even from nerd-fertile regions like
southern India. In 1998, only 11.7% of legal immigrants
were admitted for "employment-based" reasons. [And that
includes the workers` spouses and children!] In
contrast, 72.0% got in because they were related to
somebody, typically a recent immigrant.

While talent does run in families, it also fairly
rapidly regresses to the mean, as the first heredity
scientist, Darwin`s even smarter cousin
Francis Galton,
pointed out in 1869. Thus, the average skill level of
Indian immigrants has been dropping. American
Demographics
magazine reported in 1995:

"`The third segment
[
of
Indian immigrants] is made up of relatives of
earlier immigrants who have been sponsored by
established family members in this country. They are
often less well-educated than members of the first two
segments. This is the group most likely to be running
motels, small grocery stores, gas stations, or other
ventures."
 

So
a brother-in-law of an Indian chip designer at Advanced
Micro Devices gets admitted solely on nepotism. He
drives a cab until he saves enough to put a down payment
on a motel in Biloxi. There, he fires the black maids
and hires his newly arrived sisters to clean the rooms.

The economic benefits to American citizens are mixed –
Americans who stay in motels get slightly cheaper and
cleaner rooms; Americans who work in motels get
unemployment checks.

There`s also a hidden opportunity cost to nepotistically
selecting undistinguished immigrants. They crowd out
talented immigrants. Thus, under the current system, we
end up with a lot of immigrants who outcompete
African-Americans and other American citizens for taxi
and motel jobs, but couldn`t design a chip to save their
lives.

Not that I could either. But there are people in this
world who can. We are passing many of them up in order
to bring in somebody`s in-laws.

So
Dr. Saxenian ends her article with a ringing call to
make our immigrant selection system less nepotistic and
more meritocratic – right?

Wrong! She doesn`t a breathe one word on the subject.

For the Brookings Institution, that would be a little
too intellectually diverse.


[Steve Sailer [email
him] is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and


movie critic
for


The American Conservative
.
His website


www.iSteve.blogspot.com
features his daily
blog.]

January 23, 2002