The Plight of Mixed-Race Children

What’s it like to grow up with one parent who is black and another who is white?

In a recent paper I co-authored with Roland Fryer, Lisa Kahn, and Jorg Spenkuch, we look at data to try to answer that question. Here is what we find:

1) Mixed-race kids grow up in households that are similar along many dimensions to those in which black children grow up: similar incomes, the father is much less likely to be around than in white households, etc.

2) In terms of academic performance, mixed-race kids fall in between blacks and whites.

3) Mixed-race kids do have one advantage over white and black kids: the mixed-race kids are much more attractive on average.

The really interesting result, though, is the next one.

4) There are some bad adolescent behaviors that whites do more than blacks (like drinking and smoking), and there are other bad adolescent behaviors that blacks do more than whites (watching TV, fighting, getting sexually transmitted diseases). Mixed-race kids manage to be as bad as whites on the white behaviors and as bad as blacks on the black behaviors. Mixed-race kids act out in almost every way measured in the data set.

We try to use economic theory to explain this set of facts. I can’t say we are entirely successful. If we had to pick an explanation that best fits the facts, it would be the old sociology model of mixed-race individuals as the “marginal man”: not part of either racial group and therefore torn by inner conflict. One reason this model is largely consistent with our facts is because it makes so few strong predictions that it is hard to falsify, which isn’t really fair to the competing models.

Linda Crockett

You're welcome, Caliphilosopher.

Socially constructed phenomena or socially constructed conception both concern me as well. In general, civilization has placed many things upon too many (to count) individuals which outcome has not been in their, nor society at-large, favor. Tragically, the community of human species has not done well in searching out, learning, embracing, and esteeming its most humane qualities.

For instance, Ellison's reference to a study that states, "Socially defined categories of race-ethnicity correspond extremely closely to genetically defined categories" is disconcerting, yet. Attempts to scientifically link "socially" define concepts and practices to intrinsic ethnicity, like The Bell Curve, are the evidence of how deep rooted our moral conflict is with each other, so deep such that many endeavor to prove that the conflict (therefore social order) is natural, is genetically predisposition, a sort of divine fate which other human beings had nothing to do with, they are just responding naturally, and merely organizing and administrating civilization according to its natural order.



Where are your findnings from? How did you get these results? How many people did you survey?

It would be VERY interesting to get some facts about the way you find your data. With out background facts and some established data shown people can say what ever they want. But it doesn'r make it true!

Sorry I have to read something like this 2008!

Nora Jackson

Wow I'm not sure I can agree that mixed race children are more attractive. I've seen quite a few unfortunate looking mixed race children. But then again I've seen a lot of unfortunate single raced children too.


I was just wondering what the motive of your study was. I am black and i know what findings of studies like this one can be used to do behind the scenes in terms of job opportunities and community cohession. How did you measure the prevalence of STDs and IQs in these communities? Were your participants WELL INFORMED about the motive of your study? Who do you think is likely to use your study and for what.Did you control for generational differences in the black race. That is to day, was the finding the same for mixed race children of first generation blacks from Africa and those of black descendants of freed slaves?. Did you also control for mixe race children of Carribean origin and those of blak American and of African origin? How about religion? I will suggest that you bin your study if you fail to control for religion because you and i know that blacks are very religious and this is confirmed by research finfing. The reason for wanting to know if there is any differences between mixed children of mixed race first generation black Africans and descendants of freed slaves in America and the Carribeans is because of the diferent experiences of these two groups of people with a common ancestry.Controlling for this will be very informative to policy makers and social workers and psychologists working in black communities not only in America but also in Europe. Our brothers and sisters have a different experience that those of us who are first generation African migrants to Europe and America and i feel it is unfair to them for any one to lump us together when carrying out a very useful study like this. We are not asking for division in the black community we are the same and will always be the same.


bas bleu

TJ - You're savvy enough not to use the term "mud people," but that is white supremacist claptrap.

But since it's based on "studies," it probably passes muster. Perhaps Levitt or the NYT has a post for you!


"So, are we to believe that Africans and African Americans have the average intelligence (70 and 85 IQ respectively) of someone with Down's Syndrome? That's is what Lynn's research is asking us to believe. "

In the case of the average sub-Saharn black, yes. But you have to understand that something like Down's Syndrome also will affect someone in ways that are discernable through normal interraction and not measured by IQ tests. An IQ score in this range that is produced by some genetic defect or brain injury is referred to as organic retardation. An IQ score in this range that is the product of normal variations in IQ is known as familial retardation. Organic retardation results in a broader range of dysfunction to include social skills or the ability to perform basic care of onseself. Black Africans won't behave in the same way as someone with Down's Syndrome would and you wouldn't confuse the two, placing physical appearance aside. In any sort of academic setting, you can expect the average performance to be similar.

BTW, the term "retardation" was once used to categorize IQ's below 85. This was lowered to 70 by the AAMR when it was discovered just how many blacks fell into that category.



Wow, i am really curious the source used for your facts. How do you determine that mixed race children grow up in a home similar to blacks? I mean were you just saying whatever came to mind or were you being funny? It's perplexing that you throw in your opinion as to how "mixed-children" look better on average. Are you aware that you are steryotyping mixed children? It's like saying all Asians are smart...or all African-American's eat chicken. As a mixed person your comments need a little weeding through. Your editor should be more sensitive....


I'm mixed, where most people can't tell if I'm black or white (I think, most mixed black/white children are identified as black by the general populace).

While I consider myself attractive, I find not clearly being one race or another definitely hurts my ability to attract women, as even open-minded folks prefer people of their own race just as I prefer certain characteristics.


This so-called "Black Culture" is nothing more than whatever the top rappers are doing or wearing, and the phrases they use. It's really a shame because strangely enough, even ELDERLY black people are influenced by this peer pressure. So you could literally sell Lil' Wayne and his latest fashion statement to any black person living (or any other rapper). All these people will sell out for a dollar or two, so paying a few rappers to dress and act a certain way, you could literally control what ALL black people will buy. Quite a sociological mystery to me. You won't see that from any other race or culture. Ultimately I wish it wasn't that way, but unfortunately it is.


I don't even know if I can take this seriously, especially with the number 3 observation:

3) Mixed-race kids do have one advantage over white and black kids: the mixed-race kids are much more attractive on average.

More attractive based on what gorunds? Not anything that I would take seriously (birth weight, height and a rating from a sampling of how many?)


Do you think the attractiveness thing is down to evolution rewarding the combination of diverse genes? Makes sense, no? Yay for mixed race!

I have to say, though: biologically and anthropologically, there is only ONE human race. The concept of "race" is more commonly used in North American and other "Anglo" societies like Britain. In my opinion, the differences are more down to cultural and socio-economic factors than colour of skin. The problem is that socio-economic status for a long time was tied to skin colour. This is being perpetuated by the use of the category (or social construct!) "race" in research as presented above.

I think we should focus on the individual and the factors that are associated with individual behaviour - after all, we are economists.

Linda Crockett

TJ, thank you for the compliment, you noticed huh. Actually many of my family, friends, co-workers, community do appreciate my humorist talent.

However, in this case, I (and many individuals) don't find the humor in working poor, war, starvation, murder/genocide, infant mortality, illiteracy, lack of medical insurance and quality care, nor the gap between the rich and poor. But I definitely support your prerogative to find those matters amusing.

As you pointed out, many people do perceive science and philosophy as rivals / competing. I understand your frustration. It can be difficult to appreciate philosophical perspective since it cannot be measured or charted - difficult to perceive its equal value and necessity alongside science, anthropology, religion,, rather than view it (philosophical viewpoint) as "amusing" or an inference or recommendation that society / civilization should cease and forgo scientific effort to learn and to understand humanity.

You're not alone TJ, many others also view effort to find meaningfulness in life from multiple perspectives as competing, as opposing forces.

I am not a scientist, anthropologists or priest, I am a philosopher who is an ally / partner / collaborator with these and other searchers of truth, perhaps one day your ally as well.

While others probe / scrutinize humanity from the perspective of DNA and Melanin variations, etc. etc., I examine from the perspective of human relationships and what those "facts" are. In the end - after all the (so called) expert scientist, anthropologist, priests, and yes philosophers too have said their spill, after the research and data is all typed up, printed and published - how do we (humanity) actually treat each other everyday, every year, every decade, every century - after one-million years how do we treat each other?

After one-million years I am asking:

Is it scientific analysis of the intricate and intrinsic differences between human beings (ethnicity, culture, religion, diet, politics even) and its data / hypothesis proffered that moves human beings to compassion, tolerance, forgiveness, peace, love for one another?

Is it self-analysis of one's own conscious and soul (heart, values) that compells a human being to unite with, to collaborate with, to accept and to love another human being - particularly their (perceived or real) enemy?

Would research and analysis statistically show that it has generally been the educated, academically achieved (mostly males, sadly), the so called experts that designed and constructed living institutions dedicated to identifying the differences in humanity - not to marvel - but to create a social order, power structure and privilege system based on the differences?

Would the study reveal that, by far majority, it has been the uneducated and oppressed people - people of color (generally and globally) - that challenged and deconstructed the institutions erected to uphold the ideology behind and the privilege in front of human diversity?

Is it coincidence, paradox or indictment that "who's black, who's white, who's not, who's smarter and who's more attractive" is yet being ingested and regurgitated after a few million years?


Charles Ray

I won't argue with the study, but I would offer that kids today, regardless of race, behave poorly in general. That has more to do, I think, with poor parenting than with their racial composition, though it might be the case that mixed race families are more likely to go easy on their kids, thus reinforcing bad habits. I have also heard that old saw, "mixed race kids are cuter," for decades. As the father of mixed race children, I won't argue that my children are cute, but I am also related to children who are not obviously mixed (I say obviously because, as a southerner I know there have many swimmers in my family gene pool from the other side of the fence), and who are just as cute.

This seems like a hasty, though politically correct, conclusion drawn on the basis of analysis of isolated variables, without regard to other factors that might have an impact on the outcome.


What I would like to know is why, in America - and *only* in America - people of mixed racial backgrounds are considered 100% minority even if they are of 100% non-minority physical appearances. In no other country on the face of the Earth is this the case. But here, we cannot accept the idea that people can be of two (or even more) races. Why?



No insult taken. Your post was more or less ink from a squid. I think you are afraid of implications, so you deny facts. I'd suggest reading Pinker. There are genetic differences between individuals that can be correlated with the phenotype. Meaning: I can do much better than random in guessing who might be predisposed to something like sickle cell (one example) by looking at the color of ones skin. Does that catch everyone - nope. No need to go back far either we can use present day looks - if you wanted to play that game we are all the same as a fruit fly, since we share so much DNA. By implication you yourself are suggesting we stop somewhere on the evolutionary tree.

Finally, dude, man, brother/sister: Seek out the data, work with the data, know the data, and find the flaws there attack them. Because you say it isn't so, doesn't mean it isn't so. Also once you set foot outside of physics isn't everything pretty much arbitrary? That's no excuse to put the blinders on and refuse to try to understand how the world works. You provide no evidence, no facts, and no data to support the supposition that races are all genetically exactly same. Ahh remember you're argument requires zero differentiation by the "human drawn" race lines - zero my friend zero. Otherwise your argument dies. I think I've already killed it twice. Personally, I have no problem with the truth. Yes! I win! Again!



"Mixed-race kids grow up in households that are similar along many dimensions to those in which black children grow up: similar incomes, the father is much less likely to be around than in white households, etc."

I am black and my husband is mixed. My parents stayed together, his divorced. We had vastly different upbringings due to that fact, economically and otherwise.

Our children - living in a world that measures "race" - are technically 75% black and 25% white, so we are raising them as black. How should that 25% (not to mention whatever percentage of European ancestry I have, as most blacks do have some) affect their academic performance, or their propensity to disappoint us by acting out?

We need to to spend more time focusing on class. The more we try and disect race, the more I realize that black and white is actually a gray area.


do they outperform oreos?


I'm usually willing to consider politically incorrect research and it's controversial conclusions, but when you put the word "plight" into your title, your bias shows so badly that the rest of the words go down bitterly. So you should not be shocked by the critical reactions you're getting.

Emotional repulsion aside, let's think about your numbers: You guys really ought to take a look at the book The Nurture Assumption, by Judith Rich Harris. If biracial kids get into more fights, it is without a doubt due to the fact that more of them are being raised in neighborhoods where fighting is the norm. If they are smoking more, it is because those kids are growing up in peer groups where smoking is the norm.

Here's why you're getting your data: You're essentially looking at some biracial kids who live in white (middle-class) neighborhoods, and some biracial kids who live in black (poorer) neighborhoods and reading the results as ONE GROUP despite coming from TWO DIFFERENT SETS OF DATA FROM TWO DIFFERENT ENVIRONMENTS.

When a black family raises their kid in a white neighbhood, those kids develop white kid's "bad behavior", too. Really. Read Harris's book.


BO Bill

I believe that attractiveness is entered as a standard of judgment because attractiveness is not possible to measure.


I'm with #18.

How did you come up with "the mixed-race kids are much more attractive on average."