J. Michael Bailey and eugenics

en français

J. Michael Bailey had an interest in eugenics long before he arrived at the Psychology Department at Northwestern University.

Bailey studied under eugenicist Lee Willerman at University of Texas Austin while pursuing his doctorate. Willerman, a member of the American Eugenics Society starting in 1974, spent much of his career producing research that claimed certain groups have lower intelligence than others, and that this was largely genetic. Willerman seems to have been a father figure for Bailey, shaping his thinking and setting him on the path he would follow to this day:

My advisor, Lee Willerman, was a much better role model. Lee was one of the most intellectually and personally delightful people I've ever met, and he led me to discover a love of individual differences- IQ, sex differences, psychopathology, behavior genetics, etc. And he taught me the human sexuality course when I learned about an interesting theory of sexual orientation, which I investigated for my dissertation. The theory involved maternal prenatal stress, and I found no evidence for it. However, I loved the research area, and have stayed there, more or less.

Bailey's initial work on twins led to several papers on the heritability of homosexuality. Bailey has also authored papers with Aaron Greenberg while at Northwestern, arguing that screening for and aborting gay fetuses is "morally acceptable" and a matter of parental rights, as well as arguments for castrating criminals.

Bailey is currently involved in a study of gay brothers with Alan Sanders and Khytam Dawood. After many raised concerns about Bailey's involvement with this project, he attempted to defend his writings in 2005 (Barlow 2005).

For a thorough overview of Bailey's ties to the eugenics movement, please read American Eugenics: Race, Queer Anatomy, and the Science of Nationalism by Nancy Ordover, pages 57-124. You may order it through the publisher, University of Minnesota Press, through Amazon, or through your local independent bookseller.


Bailey JM (2003). Personal information. via his Northwestern University website.

Barlow G (2005). NU professor defends controversial gay, trans research. Chicago Free Press, 4 May 2005.

Conway L, Kieltyka A (2004). Bailey, Cochran and Sailer on Homosexuality and Eugenics.

Conway L (2005). J. Michael Bailey attempts to defend his writings on homosexual eugenics – to an almost empty auditorium. 29 May 2005.

Greenberg AS, Bailey JM (2001). Parental selection of children's sexual orientation [abstract] [full text] Archives of Sexual Behavior. 2001 Aug;30(4):423-37; discussion 439-41.

Loehlin JC, Horn JM, Schultz R, Raz N, Bailey JM (1997). Lee Willerman (1939-1997). Intelligence, 1997, 24, 323-328.

Ordover N (2003). American Eugenics: Race, Queer Anatomy, and the Science of Nationalism. 2003: University of Minnesota Press, pp. 57-124.