August 13, 2010

Dark-eyed Europeans were more likely to leave for the colonies (data)

The Europeans who left for America, Canada, and Australia were obviously not a representative sample of their home populations. Since they were not plucked at random by a Martian lab scientist, there must have been something different about them that made them want to leave. We can imagine all sorts of socioeconomic factors influencing this decision, but let's not forget that some people just have a greater sense of wanderlust than others.

In populations where eye and hair color vary a decent amount, like Northern Europe, correlational studies show that children with lighter eyes or hair tend to be more socially nervous, less exploratory in social situations. When we humans domesticated animals, their coat and eye colors lightened up (even if only partially, like large patches of white). Something similar probably happened when Europeans domesticated themselves, as they had to settle down in order to farm well. Looking at it the other way, the darker-colored ones like Christopher Marlowe must have had wilder personalities compared to their countrymen.

It's not very hard to see that Americans and Australians are a lot more sprawling and rambunctious than the British, and even Canadians are closer to the former than the latter. I've always wondered why there is such a disconnect between North Americans and the British on the topic of dark Irish or Scottish beauties. We seem to have a lot of them here, while those in Scotland and Ireland swear there's no such thing, that we Americans must be delusional. (It seems like there's more agreement on the presence of handsome, darker-looking Irish and Scottish men in the UK.)

Maybe, I thought, the colonies drew away the Europeans with darker eyes and hair? It would fit with the picture of lighter hair and eyes being associated with a less roaming social nature. Fortunately GameFAQs ran a poll on the eye color of its users. These are mostly 20-something males who are into video games. I collapsed blue, gray, and green into a single "light" category. Nation-level data were available for some parts of the world, including three Northwestern European countries and three former Anglo colonies. Here is the percent who have light eyes within each:

% Country
57 Netherlands
54 Germany
53 UK
38 Australia
37 Canada
35 US

The clear and big split is between the homeland populations and their colonial offshoots. Notice how little variation there is within each of the two clusters -- mid-50s for Northwestern Europe, upper 30s for the former colonies. The lower numbers outside of Europe are not due to the greater presence of Southern Europeans, Africans, Asians, etc. If that were true, it would imply that the Northern European populations of all three former colonies were only about 2/3 of the entire country. In the US, it's somewhere in the 70-80% range, in Canada in the 80-90% range, and in Australia about 90%. (The US may look so similar to Canada and Australia in this poll, despite having more dark-eyed people, if the American users of GameFAQs are mostly white. The website has never run a poll on race or ethnicity.)

So little data is collected on eye color that I'm sure this is the first demonstration that the colonists who set off from Northwestern Europe were darker-eyed than those they were leaving behind. It fits with the tiny number of studies done on eye / hair color and personality. And it also helps explain why Americans and Britons can disagree so much on the prevalence of dark Celtic beauties -- looks like we have a lot more of 'em outside of the UK.

15 comments:

  1. Rollory8:11 AM

    This is all very interesting, but there is no way I am going to take polls by GameFAQs as any sort of reliable evidence for anything.

    It's not data. It's hand-waving.

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  2. Very weak post. Early American settlers were probably slightly fairer than the countrymen they left behind. Hrdlicka: "COMPARISONS. Suitable data for comparison are scarce. From what is available it appears that the pigmentation of both hair and eyes in the Old Americans is much like that of the present population of Great Britain, though the latter appears to show some excess of both dark eyes and dark hair." They certainly weren't darker (much less, dramatically so).

    "I've always wondered why there is such a disconnect between North Americans and the British on the topic of dark Irish or Scottish beauties. We seem to have a lot of them here, while those in Scotland and Ireland swear there's no such thing, that we Americans must be delusional."

    My experience has been closer to the opposite.

    "The lower numbers outside of Europe are not due to the greater presence of Southern Europeans, Africans, Asians, etc. "

    Obviously, they are.

    "If that were true, it would imply that the Northern European populations of all three former colonies were only about 2/3 of the entire country. In the US, it's somewhere in the 70-80% range, in Canada in the 80-90% range, and in Australia about 90%."

    For the 14-30 y.o. segment of the population (who frequent video game websites)? In a poll from 4 years earlier than the eye color poll, 25% of respondents report black hair; 40% report dark brown hair. Nearly all of those reporting black hair and a substantial fraction of those reporting dark brown hair will be non-Northern European.

    "correlational studies show that children with lighter eyes or hair tend to be more socially nervous, less exploratory in social situations."

    Key word: children.

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  3. hm. compare east anglia and northern new england. that's the bluest-eyed region of southern england, and there are parts of northern new england still mostly yankee when you exclude the quebecois immigrants. there was also a subsequent serial founder effect from new england to the great lakes and upper midwest, and finally oregon.

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  4. Anonymous1:14 PM

    Further re: age structure, if we assume they're young then - http://anepigone.blogspot.com/2010/05/demographics-by-state-generation-down.html

    "At the national level, public schools are 55.8% white, 17.0% black, 21.1% Hispanic, 4.8% Asian, and 1.2% Native American (2007 data)." And White should track Northern European nations fairly well. These aren't exactly 20 somethings of course.

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  5. This is very interesting. Might I suggest another explanation? In both Britain and Ireland, there tends to be a greater proportion of dark-eyed persons at the outer western fringes. For example inhabitants of Somerset, Devon & Cornwall in the UK, Wales and the west coast of Ireland.

    There was less mixing on this seaboard with the Angles, the Saxons, the Jutes & the Vikings than in the rest of the country (although there was some mixing; there are a lot of very fair people here too). I'm not sure if the ancestors of these people were Celtic, or pre-Celtic, but they were definitely dark haired and dark eyed.

    These parts of the country tended to be poorer, and if you look it up I would suspect they had a much higher percentage of emigrants to the US than the more prosperous Eastern part with a higher percentage of light eyed people. Certainly in Ireland this was the case.

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  6. "there is no way I am going to take polls by GameFAQs as any sort of reliable evidence for anything."

    Then you need to go back to stats class and learn the diff between error and bias. We only dismiss data when they're biased, and in a way that we can't correct for.

    " "The lower numbers outside of Europe are not due to the greater presence of Southern Europeans, Africans, Asians, etc. "

    Obviously, they are. "

    Right, all those Mexicans swarming over Australia -- and somehow no such thing going on in the UK with all those Caribbean and South Asian immigrants, eh? You're an idiot.

    "In a poll from 4 years earlier than the eye color poll"

    That is from the entire globe, not for any particular country I mentioned, hence irrelevant here.

    "Key word: children."

    Ah, because it reverses in adulthood -- as shown by all those blonds, rather than dark-haireds, among extraverted rock musicians, right? They're majority dark-haired even in Scandinavia!

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  7. "compare east anglia and northern new england."

    Yeah, I've made a map of the entire US by state, and you do see a higher prevalence of light eyes around Maine and out around Utah and South Dakota.

    But even then, there's no state in the US that has light eyes at the same frequency or higher than the UK average, although SD comes close enough. That was pretty surprising, especially with all the English and Scandinavian converts to Mormonism in Utah.

    I'll put more stuff together and do a follow-up on Monday or so.

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  8. "At the national level, public schools are 55.8% white, 17.0% black, 21.1% Hispanic, 4.8% Asian, and 1.2% Native American (2007 data)."

    But not in Canada, and especially not in lily-white Australia. Remember, the pattern to make sense of here is a clear and big split between NW Europe and its former colonies, and almost no variation among each cluster.

    "These parts of the country tended to be poorer, and if you look it up I would suspect they had a much higher percentage of emigrants to the US than the more prosperous Eastern part with a higher percentage of light eyed people."

    Hmm, could be. I'm pretty uncommitted about the mechanism behind the difference, though the personality thing fits. Mostly what I want to work on is establishing the basic facts.

    BTW, these two ideas aren't entirely distinct -- perhaps the darker-eyed regions of the UK were poorer because of a difference in the average person's personality. Where the more lighter-eyed people lived, people were more self-domesticated and could profit more from a farmer's way of life. Darker-eyed places would've had more restless people, who wouldn't have done quite as well in a settled-down farming way of life.

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  9. Anonymous3:19 AM

    "not in Canada, and especially not in lily-white Australia"

    Have you got any data on this though?

    ...

    I'm personally highly skeptical that color morphs are connected with domestication, at least not purely (or with domestication driving the trend). Why not in more Southern Europe or South Asia with its longer history of agriculture? Especially given the high rates of homicide and violent crime at the epicenter of the blue eyed distribution (the Baltic states). I could stretch to it maybe being linked to some kind of social anxiety (or low desire to show off), but certainly not lessened willingness to do derring do or physical fear.

    But overall it just seems, if we're going with a domestication hypothesis, too pat that these morphs just happened to be in Northern Europe where light conditions are low, even though these areas have no especially long history of agriculture or a particularly large segment of the population devoted to it compared to other West Eurasian reasons.

    I also tend to have the European bias where America came to be settled by the losers who couldn't make it at home, rather than by pioneers. People running away scared because they weren't able to compete at home rather than people who didn't fear traveling to new lands. This might be wrong.

    I also have to say that most people in Britain would acknowledge that there are lots of pretty, Sinéad Moynihan, Kirsty Gallacher, Andrea Corr, Christine Bleakley and Michelle Ryan types. Not sure who would react against this to the extent of reacting against their existance at all, but I would guess it's merely an overreaction to American romaticism of the Old Country (and an assumption that you are one of these folks).

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  10. perhaps the darker-eyed regions of the UK were poorer because of a difference in the average person's personality. Where the more lighter-eyed people lived, people were more self-domesticated and could profit more from a farmer's way of life.

    They were poorer primarily because the land was poorer on the western seaboard. In Ireland, they were hit particularly badly by the 19th century potato famine (the land was so bad very little would grow on it other than potatoes) this is when the greatest number of Irish emigrated to the US. It seems that the dark eyed people were the original inhabitants of England, Wales & Ireland (maybe even of Europe), who were pushed westwards by successive waves of blonder invaders from the east.

    Darker-eyed places would've had more restless people, who wouldn't have done quite as well in a settled-down farming way of life.

    Funnily enough I have heard the view expressed that people from these areas are brighter, because life was harder & their ancestors had to be smarter to survive than people living in areas where the land was prosperous agriculturally. A form of natural selection. So even though their ancestors were originally weaker than the invaders, perhaps the conditions under which they lived ultimately resulted in an improvement of the stock intellectually over and above the descendants of the invaders.

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  11. I wonder then if fairer light-eyed explorers/adventurers would have been thin on the ground?

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  12. agnostic_fan12:32 AM

    OT - but you are linked
    http://www.alternativeright.com/main/blogs/untimely-observations/on-the-intellectual-capacity-of-women/

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  13. Anonymous12:17 PM

    Clearly, lots of mixture happened after settling.

    My brother and I have Irish, Welsh, Scots-Irish, German, and Huguenot French in our blood.

    Yet we both not only have dark eyes and hair, we have long slender builds, delicate facial structures, and an olive cast to our complexions that lead people to guess we're Spanish or Italian.

    Though we have all that Northern European blood, just a dollop of Southern French seems to exert a disproportionate influence.
    I do not know my full bloodline. God knows what else could be in there!

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  14. Anonymous1:40 PM

    From Wikipedia:

    A 2002 study found that the prevalence of blue eye color among Caucasians in the United States to be 33.8 percent for those born from 1936 through 1951 compared with 57.4 percent for those born from 1899 through 1905.[10] Blue eyes have become increasingly rare among American children, with only one out of every six or 16.6%, which is 49.8 million out of 300 million (22.4% of white Americans) of the total United States population having blue eyes.[33][34] The plunge in the past few decades has taken place at a remarkable rate. A century ago, 80 percent of people married within their ethnic group. Blue eyes were routinely passed down, especially among people of Western and Northern European ancestry.[33][34][35]

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  15. Very interesting post. I was recently researching my ancestors who emigrated mid 1600's from Thornbury, Gloucestershire, England. I found an interesting statement in an old genealogy book online:

    "No. 1298. I A. THOMAS THAYER

    "A progenitor of a numerous offspring, by some said to be a distinct race from Richard, but it is not positively known as to the facts. Both families settled in the same town (Braintree, Mass.) about the same time..."

    Memorial of the Thayer Name
    by Bezaleel Thayer

    ReplyDelete

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