New evidence on racial test score gaps

In the United States, past research has consistently found that Black teenagers underperform White teenagers by an average of about one standard deviation on tests of IQ and academic achievement. Substantial racial test score gaps are found as early as age five.

Roland Fryer and I have written two papers on racial differences in test scores in the past (see here and here). In those papers, we were able to answer some interesting questions, but we didn’t have the right sorts of data to get at the question of whether the differences in test scores across races that are commonly observed might have a genetic component.

In a new paper, we tackle that controversial issue, using a large U. S. government data set that administers a test of mental functioning to children aged 8-12 months. No one has ever looked carefully at racial test score differences in children this age using a large, nationally representative data set.

As they approach their first birthday, how do you think the Black children do relative to the White children on these tests? Our preliminary answer is here. But before you look, make your own guess as to the results.

I think we will be seeing a lot of Steve Sailer on this site in the near future — this issue is even closer to his heart than legalized abortion.

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  1. bri says:

    “Large racial gaps in test scores have been found in children as young as two years old, and the one standard deviation racial gap observed later in life is present by age three. Even after accounting for a host of demographic and socio-economic factors such as parental income, education, occupation, home environment, birth weight, region, and urbanicity, a substantial Black-White test score gap generally remains.” (from preliminary answer).

    In light of this statement, as well as the lack of data supporting a genetic difference in the new study, I think it is safe to say that one of two things is true. Either the genetic difference displays itself after 9-12 months and before 2 or 3 years of age, or the accounting of a host of demographic and socio-economic controls is unsuccessful/unreliable.

    I find it hard to accept that either statement is correct. Given the relative short period of evolution leading to the distinct races, I don’t think it is realistic to expect a significant genetic difference leading to IQ variances.

    I then wonder how successful statisticians have been at controlling socio-economic factors. It is my guess that with better data / techniques we will discover that the true difference lies there, not in genetics.

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  2. bri says:

    “Large racial gaps in test scores have been found in children as young as two years old, and the one standard deviation racial gap observed later in life is present by age three. Even after accounting for a host of demographic and socio-economic factors such as parental income, education, occupation, home environment, birth weight, region, and urbanicity, a substantial Black-White test score gap generally remains.” (from preliminary answer).

    In light of this statement, as well as the lack of data supporting a genetic difference in the new study, I think it is safe to say that one of two things is true. Either the genetic difference displays itself after 9-12 months and before 2 or 3 years of age, or the accounting of a host of demographic and socio-economic controls is unsuccessful/unreliable.

    I find it hard to accept that either statement is correct. Given the relative short period of evolution leading to the distinct races, I don’t think it is realistic to expect a significant genetic difference leading to IQ variances.

    I then wonder how successful statisticians have been at controlling socio-economic factors. It is my guess that with better data / techniques we will discover that the true difference lies there, not in genetics.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  3. smili says:

    Interesting finding at 1 year of age.

    I was reading _The Bell Curve_ not long ago and was surprised at many of the findings – from data only looking at white respondents (to remove the racial impact from the data). The differing incedence of accidents/disability amoung groups of differing IQ in the same types of jobs was a completely unexpected finding to me. I work in the insurance industry and if you think credit rating is controversial in auto insurance – how about IQ based rating for risk factors?

    Bottom line – for some people there can be no acceptable answer that finds a racial link to intelligence. I wish we could be more open on the topic – and I wish it wasn’t career threatening for academics to tackle the topic.

    Blacks seem to me to be better atheletes in many respects vs. other races… I’m prepared to accept the possibility that there might be a genetic component that creates a difference like this between the races. I’m willing to accept that Asians may have superior intellect to whites if that’s what the data points to. And correctly controlling for socio-economic factors doesn’t have to explain away all the differences. (Socio-economic factors don’t have to explain why the fastest sprinters tend to be black, and they don’t have to explain away other differences either to be valid.) That most studies indicate IQ is 40%-60% heritable should at least allow us to consider a large genetic component is involved.

    I consider myself a fairly interested observer and that the science on this is still obscure general knowledge is bothersome. There are practical policy decisions that must be better informed.

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  4. smili says:

    Interesting finding at 1 year of age.

    I was reading _The Bell Curve_ not long ago and was surprised at many of the findings – from data only looking at white respondents (to remove the racial impact from the data). The differing incedence of accidents/disability amoung groups of differing IQ in the same types of jobs was a completely unexpected finding to me. I work in the insurance industry and if you think credit rating is controversial in auto insurance – how about IQ based rating for risk factors?

    Bottom line – for some people there can be no acceptable answer that finds a racial link to intelligence. I wish we could be more open on the topic – and I wish it wasn’t career threatening for academics to tackle the topic.

    Blacks seem to me to be better atheletes in many respects vs. other races… I’m prepared to accept the possibility that there might be a genetic component that creates a difference like this between the races. I’m willing to accept that Asians may have superior intellect to whites if that’s what the data points to. And correctly controlling for socio-economic factors doesn’t have to explain away all the differences. (Socio-economic factors don’t have to explain why the fastest sprinters tend to be black, and they don’t have to explain away other differences either to be valid.) That most studies indicate IQ is 40%-60% heritable should at least allow us to consider a large genetic component is involved.

    I consider myself a fairly interested observer and that the science on this is still obscure general knowledge is bothersome. There are practical policy decisions that must be better informed.

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  5. stuart says:

    KOKO the gorilla has tested 70-95 on a human IQ test but reached that IQ level at a much lower age than an average human child. Perhaps that supports the argument that genetic IQ differences are more to do with the length of intellectual development rather than intrinsic IQ at birth?

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  6. stuart says:

    KOKO the gorilla has tested 70-95 on a human IQ test but reached that IQ level at a much lower age than an average human child. Perhaps that supports the argument that genetic IQ differences are more to do with the length of intellectual development rather than intrinsic IQ at birth?

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  7. josh says:

    Beyond the fact that life would be much easier if their were no differences in average intelligence among races, doesn’t that seem pretty unlikely when considered in light of the theory of evolution. Australian aborigine were completely seperated genetically from the rest of human beings 50,000 years ago. You’re telling me there wasn’t some divergence between them and western europians (whom they probably have been genetically isolated from for most of the existance of homo sapien) in the way the brain develops for 50,000 years? Despite their radically different cultures and the radically different skills that would make one successful in those cultures? Objectively, doesn’t it seem like their has to be some difference in the way we think and develop. I mean, why would we see such strong evolutionary divergence in hair texture, but not intelligence type?

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  8. josh says:

    Beyond the fact that life would be much easier if their were no differences in average intelligence among races, doesn’t that seem pretty unlikely when considered in light of the theory of evolution. Australian aborigine were completely seperated genetically from the rest of human beings 50,000 years ago. You’re telling me there wasn’t some divergence between them and western europians (whom they probably have been genetically isolated from for most of the existance of homo sapien) in the way the brain develops for 50,000 years? Despite their radically different cultures and the radically different skills that would make one successful in those cultures? Objectively, doesn’t it seem like their has to be some difference in the way we think and develop. I mean, why would we see such strong evolutionary divergence in hair texture, but not intelligence type?

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