Skip to main content

Sailer versus Gladwell, Round Whatever

  • Author:
  • Updated:

We’re going to admit that every time we open an issue of the New Yorker carrying a Malcolm Gladwell article, we head immediately for Steve Sailer’s website for his response. Steve has made something of a hobby of shooting down some of Gladwell’s more contentious claims. Today he takes issue with Gladwell’s latest article arguing for the importance of “dependency ratios”—relation between the number of people who aren’t of working age and the number of people who are—to economic success at both the corporate and the national level.
Gladwell writes:

In Ireland during the sixties, when contraception was illegal, there were ten people who were too old or too young to work for every fourteen people in a position to earn a paycheck. That meant that the country was spending a large percentage of its resources on caring for the young and the old. Last year, Ireland’s dependency ratio hit an all-time low: for every ten dependents, it had twenty-two people of working age. That change coincides precisely with the country’s extraordinary economic surge.

And Sailer responds:

So, that must explain why Ukraine, with a total fertility rate of 1.17 babies per woman, is so prosperous these days! Ukraine has a higher percentage of its population in the age 15-64 bracket (69.3% according to the CIA World Factbook) than Ireland (67.6%).Yet, Ukraine's per capita income is barely 1/6th of Ireland's.
Similarly, Tunisia's population is more clustered in the working years "sweet spot" (68.6%) than Ireland's, yet Tunisia is not an economic hot spot. It's per capita income is only 1/5th of Ireland's.

Read both pieces, however, and decide for yourself whether Sailer is picking nits or whether Gladwell is cherry-picking examples to prove a thesis he already likes.

The Risk Pool
[The New Yorker]
Gladwell has a new article and I'm well glad [isteve .com]