If the Golden State’s way of handling crime spreads, we’re all in trouble.
Connecting the dots the experts won’t
In 2016, in a systematic literature review of all major accounts of the post-seventies IQ plummet across Western countries, Edward Dutton of the Ulster Institute for Social Research concluded that the best explanation for the dawdling of the Western mind had both environmental and genetic components. The industrial revolution’s technological advances, he argued, precipitated massive gains on IQ scores “by establishing an environment which compelled us to think in a more scientific way, compelled us to become more educated, and saturated us with knowledge, information, and novel problems.”
But industry simultaneously brought “dysgenic fertility” practices. It precipitated a decline in fertility, especially for wealthy people, and those with weaker genetic material were able to survive and themselves procreate whereas they would have died in previous centuries. Dutton determined that the Flynn Effect is best explained as temporary superficial adaptation to new forms of education which disguised postindustrial genetic degradation for a period of time—until the truth of dysgenic fertility could overcome the effects of the new educational environment, a reversal which he identified as the negative Flynn effect. These conclusions, as well as his other forays into forbidden areas of scientific knowledge caused several problems for Dutton, namely his disaffiliation from the Ulster Institute.
Two years later, in a study entitled “Flynn effect and its reversal are both environmentally caused,” Swedish researchers Drs. Bratsberg and Rogerberg analyzed the IQ scores of Norwegian men born between 1962 and 1991. They found that scores increased by almost three percentage points each decade for those born between 1962 to 1975, but saw a steady decline among those born after 1975. The reverse Flynn effect was confirmed, but Bratsberg and Rogerberg insisted, against the conclusions of Dutton, in line with the demands of political correctness, that these changes have nothing to do with genetics. In an effort to rule out dysgenic fertility theory, they pointed out that the same trend occurred within families over time: the study looked at the IQ scores of brothers who were born in different years and found that, instead of being similar as suggested by a genetic explanation, IQ scores often differed significantly between the siblings. The researchers thus concluded that “environmental factors” exclusively have caused changes in intelligence—in other words, that they can not possibly be caused by any Idiocracy– or Camp of the Saints-style outnumbering of the intelligent by the relatively unintelligent. Which specific environmental factors are to blame? Bratsberg and Rogerberg leave those unexplored.
Let us leave behind genetics for the moment and take seriously the point that Dutton and the rest agree upon: that environmental factors are a significant driver of an intelligence avalanche in the Western world. The first question we should ask: what kind of environmental factors might we consider? Dutton and Bratsberg alike cite education, class, and healthcare, because scientific consensus suggests that these have a significant impact on the development of IQ in its most sensitive stage: early childhood. If early childhood is the foundation of IQ development, and if family environment is the foundation of early childhood, it follows that family life—which constitutes and defines a child’s education, class, health, as well as religion and culture—would have an immeasurable impact on IQ.
Were there any dramatic changes to the style and structure of family life in the Western world dating to around 1975, coinciding with the Flynn effect’s reversal? Well, of course. The 70’s saw the two greatest pivotal changes in the composition and dynamic of American family life in modern history. First, the proportion of women working outside of the home passed from minority to majority in 1974. Workforce expansion branded as the empowerment of women meant the children of the decade would come to be known as “latchkey kids.” For the slightly more conscientious parent, the 1970s saw the birth of the daycare industry, which has ballooned since its introduction: in 2021, just 15% of infants and toddlers are cared for in a family home.
In 1970, divorced California Governor Ronald Reagan brought no-fault divorce into law. All fifty states and Washington DC followed the progressive vanguard soon after. Divorce rates skyrocketed beginning in the late sixties—unsurprisingly for anyone familiar with suicide rates. Out-of-wedlock births also skyrocketed with the divorce rate, likely due to a drop in popularity of the shotgun wedding. By 2019, the percentage of children living in single-parent homes reached 34%.
A new kind of progressive living and learning environment was thus thrust upon children of all income brackets forevermore: one in which a growing majority of children were constantly subjected to unstable relationships with adults. Each development—from female labor participation, to industrial childcare, to no-fault divorce—was ushered in and celebrated as victory of the feminist movement. It wasn’t just the structural changes that made a difference: latchkey kids and millennial daycare babes alike, whether children of careerist mothers or absent fathers, were raised on a steady diet of mass media and fast food. These habits of consumption, adapted to a new, deconstructed family environment, eventually led to crises in obesity and screen addiction that have demonstrated impacts on intellectual ability in the long term. Even KFC marketed their chicken in the 1970’s by using the term “women’s liberation.”
As for the psychological impact of these changes, in a study entitled “Cognitive and Noncognitive Costs of Day Care at Age 0–2 for Children in Advantaged Families” published in 2020, Margherita Fort et al showed that “one additional day care month at age 0–2 reduces intelligence quotient by 0.5% (4.7% of a standard deviation) at age 8–14 in a relatively affluent population. The magnitude of this negative effect increases with family income. Similar negative impacts are found for personality traits.” Considering divorce, Spigelman et al demonstrated in 1991 that “Children of divorced parents showed significantly higher levels of hostility, aggression, and anxiety than children of married parents.”
Allow me to engage in a bit of epistemic trespassing: despite assuming a stance of radical chic, of late-night laugh-track condescension, of intellectual and moral dominion over provincial trads, feminists have made the world much, much stupider. By instituting and normalizing such destructive practices as no-fault divorce, careerism, fatherlessness, and fast food, the feminist movement and its lackeys are guilty of depriving tens of millions of children the stability in early life that would have made them more confident, competent members of a more confident, competent society at large.
Family-environmental changes which manifested during the 1970s have measurable, negative effects on long-term emotional well-being and IQ. That should have at least some impact on scientific consensus. However, for clearly political reasons, researchers cannot draw any sort of connection between these deep structural changes in Western society and our concomitant dumbing down. While scientists may perform discrete inquiries into the effects of one element or another, to highlight the connections which constitute the general picture remains dangerous.
The liberal scientist must detract from the arguments of the geneticist by drawing the world’s attention to “environmental factors.” But if we merely scratch the surface of “environmental factors,” we find ourselves once again in an uncomfortable position. The truth remains uncomfortable: liberal mythmaking and scientific inquiry have proven fundamentally incompatible.
The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.