United States' North-South Achievement Gap

June 28, 2010

As in Modern Europe, achievement in the USA since its founding has been concentrated in just a few places, which has created a North-South gap that correlates with economic and educational disparities observed today. Nordicists are quick to jump on this sort of thing elsewhere but ignore it in their own backyard, or try to blame it on minorities, like the South's large black population. But Charles Murray, in his book Human Accomplishment, doesn't fail to note the gap, and the fact that it exists within the white population:

The geographic distribution of significant figures from the United States reflects the rapidly changing settlement of the country. The East Coast dominates, inevitably, because hardly anyone lived anywhere else for much of the nation's history. If I could show you a map of America's significant figures in the last half century, it presumably would look much different from the first half of 20C, just because the population shifted so radically westward throughout 20C. With that in mind, the figure below is offered as a summary of the story from the founding to 1950.

The states that are colored represent the origins of 90 percent of the American significant figures. The small dark blue slice running in an arc from Portland, Maine, to the southern tip of New Jersey encompasses the origins of about 50 percent of them. The light blue wedge encompasses another 25 percent, and the gray fills out the remaining 15 percent. Even after factoring in the history of American expansion, the primary concentration along the northeastern coast of the United States and the secondary concentration in the belt stretching to the Mississippi is striking.

An even more striking aspect of the map is the white space covering the American South. Although more lightly populated than the North, the American South had a substantial population throughout American history. In 1850, for example, the white population in the South was 5.6 million, compared to 8.5 million in the Northeast. In 1900, the comparison was 12.1 million to 20.6 million. By 1950, the gap had almost closed — 36.9 million compared to 37.4 million. While it is understandable that the South did not have as many significant figures as the North, the magnitude of the difference goes far beyond population. The northeastern states of New England plus New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey had produced 184 significant figures by 1950, while the states that made up the Confederacy during the Civil War had produced 24, a ratio of more than 7:1.

The scatter plots on the following page show the way in which the American significant figures break down over the three half centuries from 1800-1950.


Mark Wethman said...

Have you ever read Albion's Seed? I have not. But the discussions I have seen on the book suggest that it tracks the settlements of different streams of British immigrants to different parts of the country, with middle and upper class Englishmen settling in the northeast and the Midwest, and the lower classes settling in the south. This might help explain why most significant figures arose in the northeast, assuming one agrees that class correlates with cognitive ability.

Anonymous said...

Early nationwide IQ testing during WWI found northern blacks to score higher than whites from several southern states, I believe, though these scores were very old and might have reflected more heavily environmental factors like schooling differences, literacy and disease.

It's astoundingly unlikely for white IQ nationwide to be exactly equal for all states, and even if so, wouldn't change how 16% of the white population scores at or below the most recently measured black average. Averages like this are frequently jetisoned in this discourse, though.

Isn't it a frequent finding that southern whites perform worse academically than northern whites? Even on the SAT? (which I'm skeptical of being a valid measure of IQ)

Plus, aren't southern whites were more closely related to old stock american whites?

This nordicist over here uses similar ideas: http://racehist.blogspot.com/2008/04/two-maps.html

I'm not sure if this is specifically related to english-americans or only english of puritan descent.

Carlos said...

FAMILY DYSFUNCTION. That's the reason white people from Southern and Appalachian areas do worse than Northeastern and Midwestern areas. White people in the North generally try to keep feelings and issues private or within the family while Southern white people are more expressive. This expressive nature causes a lot of problems and takes away from work and school work.

Average Joe said...


Anonymous said...

@ Mark Wethman

I read Albion's Seed and recommend it highly. It isn't about class. It describes how different parts of the country were settled by people from different regions of England who brought their regional cultures with them. It is about the effects of culture and doesn't say anything about cognitive ability. It is extremely helpful in trying to understand some of the apparently contradictory features of American culture.

Anonymous said...

I am a lifelong Southerner with familial roots in the South since the early 18th century. The implied conclusion of the above analysis is that the upper class English are more intelligent, industrious and generally enlightened and this, therefore, rubbed off on the Northern blacks. Whereas in the benighted South the Scots-Irish denizens are reactionary, lazy dullards content with their squallor and family dysfunction.

A bit of history: the climate of the northeast and midwest is not terribly mild while in the South one might grow just about any crop. The South was overwhelmingly agrarian and the North industrial prior to the Civil War. The South began the War and lost the War, but let's get our facts straight. In 1860 there were 5.6M white southerners and 33.5M souther blacks. There were 22M Northerners with mountains of material. Remember, there were only 8000 slaveholders with 50 or more slaves in the antebellum South. A very small minority owned slaves. The South very nearly brought the war to a victorious conclusion against such overwhelming odds. In the end the Southern states (in particular, Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia) were decimated of any and all industrial, scientific or economic resources. For the next 100 years Southerners were variously hated, ridiculed, patronized and dismissed. An ironclad wall of derision met any Southerner who wished a seat at the table of American lights. We are, down to this day, seen as violent, repressive, dull, humorous hicks with a few token good cooks and men of letters thrown in.

And what did the Southern blacks get when they went North in the 20th century? Government housing blocks and patronizing social engineering that helped destroy their families.

I tell you what we'll do. An army will start at Baltimore and burn every structure in a fifty mile-wide swath all the way to Boston and then occupy the Northern states for a couple decades. Then, with everything in desolation, we'll mock the North for its backward poverty and family dysfunction. Finally, 100 years hence we'll run a study that shows our own superiority and 'significant figures' and wonder why the North just can't get it together. Must be a class or ethnic issue...right?

Anonymous said...

I tell you what, we'll burn everything in a fifty mile-wide swath from Baltimore to Boston and occupy the North for a couple decades. Then we'll spend 100 years variously patronizing and mocking the North for its backward poverty and stupidity. Finally we'll run a study that wonders why there aren't more 'significant figures' that have emerged save a few weird writers and good cooks. Must be a class or ethnic thing....right?

patrick neid said...

The chart I want is the chart not here, 1950-2000.

The US of 1950 is nothing at all like the US of 2010.

A couple of other facts. The gentleman from the south is missing a decimal point. Most accounts have the white population of the slave states at 8 million with a black slave population of less than 4 million in 1860. Less than 2% of whites owned slaves.


Not at all fooled said...

I love how any criticism of the South brings out the cliche pedaling apologists.

Look, the issue here is that the South isn't distinctive, its generic. The South looks a lot like any Third World country. Or to put in another way, the South was only marginally involved in the Anglo-Saxon Worlds' rapid embrace of liberal government and society.

The South was run on a very conventional caste system, which went well beyond slaveholder and slave. This type of caste system is ancient and relatively predictable, that's why most of the world still embraces it. But it is not good at producing dynamism. The more liberal society of New England, the Middle Atlantic, and the Midwest is quantum leap toward dynamism.

For those who say that the Civil War is to blame, I tell you to get real. If the Confederacy was successful, it would have followed a path like Latin America. Jefferson Davis understood this and wanted to join up with Mexico and Central America and form a plantation based empire. Loosing the war was the best thing to happen to much of the South. The plantation empire dream died and instead they got a modicum of dynamism enforced from the North and they got huge financial assistance from the Federal Government, which continues to this day...

The South needs to get over itself and start embracing the promise of America more fully. Southern mythologizing has been more retarding than Sherman's march.

And if any of apologist clowns want to give me shit for this, I want you to know that the oldest English church in the South is on my ancestors' land and my family fought in the only Confederate Army unit that was not a complete joke. I tell you this just to say that you too can get over the Southern Apologists' lies and understand how lucky we are the Confederate traitors got the crap kicked out of them.

minka said...

Among my ancestors are the McCormick father and son duo who developed the reaper in Virginia (and went north to Chicago).

This illustrates a point, I think. Robert McCormick did a 'demo' of the reaper for the community and no one was interested. They didn't need a labor saving, productivity enhancing, device - they had slaves. The McCormick's HAD to go north for their business. So, they moved to Chicago in the 1840's.

Made a huge fortune. But, not only that: the reaper improved farm productivity by such a large margin ( 5x or 10x I think) that more Northern men were free to go to war. They had an effect on the size of the Northern army and thus the victory of the North.

This is about values - not only slavery versus freedom but openness, innovation, training, productivity, and the like. For these, they had to go North. Because of these values, the North powered ahead economically and also won the war.

Jesse said...

The determination of who is a 'significant figure' is incredibly soft, and this makes this study questionable.

A large number of 'significant figures' in the US are probably immigrants, both Asian and European for example, who did not originate in the UK at all. Nicolas Tesla and Albert Einstein come to mind for example.

California received a relatively low number of English immigrants as I recall, and yet it ranks with the northeast in signficance at least since the 1980's I would imagine. And this also speaks to the conversion of the South from a more agrarian society to a higher tech profile, especially in Texas and Georgia.

But it comes back to the ratings of 'significant figures' and the criteria used.

The whole conversation seems deeply flawed, going back to its initial assumptions.

Anonymous said...

After relocating to the rural south from the midwest (for the weather), it was not hard to see how the plantation mentality still permeates and holds back the south. The wealthy 2% control just about everything while the minuscule and shrinking middle class and huge lower and less than lower classes plod along and try to survive.

The wealthy made their money in the mills and factories and then shifted their investments to Asia. They are doing OK. Their trust funds that gran' pappy left them aren't doing as well as in the good old bubble days but profits keep rolling in from China while the old factories and mills decay to weedy brownfields.

The wealthy are for the most part descendants from the old slave holding/plantation families. The poor are descendants from former slaves and white subsistence farmers. In the 70's and 80's the success of the southern wealthy depended on transferring jobs from the higher cost unionized north to exploit the low pay low skill white and black poor of the south. That doesn't work any more but since they have reinvested in China, it doesn't matter to them.

To the wealthy here, low wages mean you don't have to invest in human resources and since they are just "coloreds" (yes, I've heard that and worse used here) and white trash meth heads you wouldn't see the point anyway. Keeping taxes low means local gov't can't provide educational or other services that might help blacks and poor whites achieve some form of economic independence.

Poverty, lack of education, lack of skills, lack of hope, crime, drugs, limited public services, dependence on federal aid, military as employer of last resort etc for the poor. Cheap labor for what work still exists, cheap property, cheap taxes, ability to buy the services gov't can't afford (elite private schools for their kids etc) for the wealthy whites.

As I've told northern friends, this place is stuck in the 50's - the 1850's.

kingaj12 said...

C'mon. What/who is a significant figure? And how did they get significant? What if the North lost the Civil War? Wouldn't history read a bit differently? Doesn't this thesis largely depend on that? Ugh. Please.

peter said...

Those maps might look significantly different if "significant figures" included jazz musicians, blues singers, barbecue chefs, and those seminole exiles who became masters of the florida swamps.

Anonymous said...

the south hates education, foreigners and blacks. so what else is new? only time has passed and now the southerners are overturning the Civil Rights Acts. slowly but surely, southerners have used the hated Government to upend as much "forward" thinking/legislation that would have helped integrate the South into the 20th century.

the power of the white good ole boys/elites ain't going away, thanks to the Republican use of God, guns and gays divide and conquer politics that Lee Atwater started in Nixon's days.

divide and conquer works. the Republicans proved how well it works.

Steve Sailer said...

In the highbrow fields of accomplishment, Boston was the source for all of America for a long, long time. For example, that famous Philadelphia, Ben Franklin (the only American to make Murray's lists in three different fields) grew up alongside the docks of Boston.

The descendants of English Puritans dominated highbrow fields in America for centuries.

Pseudothyrum said...

Though not entirely, I blame the climate. Too much heat and UV/solar radiation has surely damaged the abilities of many Southern Whites.

The border between Virginia and North Carolina is the 36th parallel latitude, which also correlates to the very southern tip of Spain. So basically, anyone living south of that line is living in a climate similar to the sweltering, UV radiation laden deserts of North Africa and the Middle East. Once you go further south - in to the Deep South like Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, etc - you are getting in to near tropical conditions with the combination of heat, humidity, and UV radiation. Obviously Whites cannot tolerate such climatic conditions. They do alright during the winter, but during the summer it really drains you - take it from me, the descendants of upper-middle class Southerners from the UK, redheads and blonds, blue eyes, etc. Whites cannot thrive in The South because the UV radiation and climate is just too much for them - Whites evolved for many thousands of years in far northern climates, and then colonized this area of the world which is very, very different from far northern latitudes.

Again, Whites cannot thrive in such a southerly climate. It is jut basic physiology - take note that many Southerners came from the UK - England, Scotland, and so on - which is at about 55 degrees north latitude. Take these people - many of them very fair skinned, red headed, blond, blue eyed, etc, and put them in a place with the UV radiation and climate of North Africa or the Middle East, and see how well they thrive. Even settling Englishmen, Scandinavians, etc in to southern Spain, Greece, Sicily, etc would damage their physiology and 'fry their brains,' and the American South is even further south than those areas of Europe.

Climate matters. But worst of all is the UV radiation, which if strong enough passes right through skin, bone, brain, and everything else - and the UV is definitely strong enough in The South. Again, if the Anglos who settled the American South originated at around the 55th parallel north - which obviously has rather weak UV radiation - and then colonized the American South, which lies below 39.5 degrees latitude (the Mason-Dixon line), you can understand the toll such UV radiation and climate takes on people.

Pseudothyrum said...

In the future, White people should avoid living in the South - especially the Deep South - during the Summer months. The UV radiation is just too damaging during that time of year. It would be good if Southerners could move north to work during the summer to avoid the heat and solar radiation, perhaps have a modest second home in the north to avoid the damaging solar radiation. Similarly, northerners could have a 2nd home in the South to which they could come to live and work during the winter months.

Also, the prevalence of race mixing in the South clearly correlates to some Whites seeking to minimize the physiological damage of semi tropical UV radiation in their children. Interbreeding with Blacks, remaining Indians, Hispanics, various Asiatics, and other tropical races clearly confers a certain amount of physiological advantage, as the physiology of those races can better handle heavy UV radiation and higher temperatures.

Pseudothyrum said...

Finally, and I don't want to say this is a 'conspiracy,' but many millions of Northern Whites have been forced to migrate to the south in the last few decades in search of more 'economic opportunities' due to the decimation of northern economies during the post-industrial era.

Huge numbers of northerners from New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Michigan, and so on have moved to the south to find jobs after their factories and farms were shuttered in the last few decades. I wonder how many northerners have been physiologically damaged by this southward move? Surely you can't take northerners from Minnesota or Michigan, many descended from Germans or Scandinavians or other Northern Europeans, and force them to move to a southern state with the UV radition levels of North Africa, the Middle East, Egypt, and so on and expect them to thrive. Something is amiss here. I'm a southerner, and I've known northerners - good industrious people - who moved here and ended up faltering in a big way. I blame the UV radiation to which they are physiologically not evolved to handle.

Anonymous said...

Who you calling significant?

Crimson Guard said...

According to Oppenheimer the major Scandinavian incursions into Britain occurred in northern and eastern Britain. But the areas given to the UK by Murray is actually southern England and southern(well Lowlands, Glasgow) Scotland.

Northeastern France actually has the highest overall for Europe.

Anonymous said...

are you f@cking serious? your post is so wrong on so many levels it boggles the mind.

1. non-whites make up less than 20% of all southern state populations (in most southern states, non-whites make up less than 10%), and the state with the largest african american population is New York.

the states with highest percentage of english ancestry are all southern. you don't find to many catholic churches south of the mason dixon line, but a mess of episcopalians and baptists.

2. per capita, the south has contributed more significant individuals to america's culture heritage than any other region: in politics, the south gave us the author of our constitution, the author of our declaration of independence, the greatest civil rights leader the world has ever known, and our single greatest president, among others. in writing, it has contributed the vast majority of our greatest authors and literary works from twain to faulkner to whelty to poets like justice and books like to kill a mockingbird. and finally it has produced all of our truly great supreme court justices.

the south's problems are not genetic, they are a combination of entrenched poverty (mostly of whites from english heritage); and the lingering damage from 75 years of reconstruction, and the remnants of a caste system wherein 95% of the white population's only "consolation" was that "they weren't much, but at least they weren't black."

civil wars leave deep scars, ours has left a seeping, festering, never quite healed wound, that plays out in every election cycle and every major issue battle.

confine your racist apologies to europe and leave us out of it.

Racial Reality said...

I think you've misunderstood the point of this post. I never said that the South's problems were genetic. I'm arguing against that kind of thinking, using white southerners as an example that Nordicists can identify with.

A couple of corrections:

Jefferson and Madison were from Virginia, which is in the "Upper South" (as opposed to the "Deep South"), and you can see that Murray highlights Virginia on his map, so that's not really the part of the country he's talking about.

New York may have the largest number of blacks of any state, but they make up a much higher percentage of the population in Southern states than anywhere else. More than half of all African-Americans live in the South.