Saturday, September 03, 2005

Why society cracked   posted by dobeln @ 9/03/2005 03:05:00 PM

There has been widespread debate about the reasons behind the rapid breakdown of law and order in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. One factor, however, is consistently overlooked in this discussion: IQ.

Katrina did not merely devastate New Orleans physically – she also most likely caused a catastrophic drop in average population IQ of more than one standard deviation. The drop occurred before Katrina had even made landfall, during evacuation.

Given that all but 40 000 to 80 000 (average: 60 000) of New Orleans’ inhabitants (city proper) evacuated the city, we get the table below:

The table assumes that virtually all non-evacuees are black (as this fact is given by media reports). It also assumes that people closer to the bottom of the IQ distribution were the least likely to evacuate. These assumptions can be shifted around a lot, of course, given that quality information on the disaster is still scarce – but the bottom line remains: The evacuation most likely dropped the average IQ of New Orleans substantially, eroding the social capital of the city. When the storm finally hit, the lack of social capital resulted in society simply breaking down.

Addendum from Razib: I prodded Bangladeshi blogger Rezwan to post about Katrina, so I might as well link to him . Bangladesh is a low-IQ grinding poverty corruption ridden familialist* culture...but it is also a society that has learned to "live" with flooding. There is so much Katrina chatter that I don't have much to contribute, only to caution that examing single variables without the scaffolding parameters seems all too common on the blogosphere (ie; it was the feds, it was the local gov., it was the poverty, it was the media, etc. etc.).

* I think the familialist networks are important in the case of flooding in Bangladesh as the moral suasian (and implied ostracism and exclusion from the utilization of those networks) of relatives probably imposes some consideration of time preference in the rational calculations of sociopaths.