19 April 2008

Black-White Test Score Gap

"The Black White Test Score Gap: An Introduction" by Jencks and Phillips is a book length look at the problem.
African Americans currently score lower than European Americans on vocabulary, reading, and mathematics tests as well as on tests that claim to measure scholastic aptitude and intelligence...the typical American black still scores below 75% of American whites on most standardized tests. __TBWTSG Chapter1

Nothing perpetuates the racial divide within societies so much as the "achievement gap." It begins early, and persists--even widens--throughout the lifetime. Despite society's best efforts to narrow the racial test score gap, it persists.
It is well documented that scores on cognitive tests taken by adolescents are predictive of future labor market outcomes, such as educational attainment and earnings.1 Even test scores at age seven have been shown to be correlated with measures of labor market success.2 These findings have led many researchers to assign a large role to "premarket factors" in explaining adult earnings inequality, where premarket factors are broadly interpreted to represent endowed ability, the effects of family background and the influence of schools. Premarket factors are also thought to be an important part of the explanation for racial disparities in test score performance.3 __(PDF) Source
Is it possible that tests are biased against some races, in favour of others?
The FDNY test was not the only test to show a gap. So did the SAT, GRE, GMAT, MCAT, LSAT, bar exam, police exams, IQ test - every test of aptitude. All of them are supposed to be racist....All of them show about the same gap - what psychometrists call one standard deviation. And all of them show that Asians are about a third of a standard deviation above whites.

Consider how difficult it must be to maintain this gap year in and year out if it were not real, but the result of a conspiracy...Every year, the test makers must work to make that the gap remains the same - and not just one one test, but for everyone from children taking the SAT and AP exams to doctors taking medical boards.

At the same time, East Asians must score better than whites - again, always by the same margin. The White Racist Conspiracy allows Asians to score higher because… why is it again? If the tests are developed by whites, why are whites failing to score higher than East Asians?...To make sure that hundreds, maybe thousands, of different tests conform perfectly to each other in terms of racial/ethnic/gender averages, and achieve those unfair differences through racist cheating for dozens of years, we would expect that there would be a conspiracy of hundreds of thousands of people over the generations since these tests were implemented.

Would it be racist to suggest that East Asians have higher IQ scores than whites? Would it be racist to say that Asians are better educated than whites? Would it be racist to say that Asians have significantly lower crime rates than whites? That they save more and waste less of their income than whites?...So why then is it racist to say all those things about whites as compared to blacks when all the tests and statistics show that these statements are factually accurate?

White people don’t break out in tears when they hear that they have lower IQ than Asians, on average of course. They do not feel that now they can’t go to school or that society is against them. They do not suffer low self-esteem as a result of knowing this fact. __Source
Researchers Charles Murray and James Flynn debated the question of whether the black-white gap is likely to every close. Here is the link for viewing the debate. H/T Reason

The test score gap has been persistent over the time period that aptitude testing has been commonplace. In Nazi Germany, IQ tests were outlawed when it was discovered that Jews were routinely outscoring Germans on measures of intelligence. Something similar has occurred in many institutions in North America.

But sweeping inconvenient data under the rug does not mean that the underlying phenomena no longer exists. That is the fallacy of Wikipedia censorship, and the censorship practised by Google in China. The phenomena are still there. All they accomplish by covering it up is to keep the masses of people clueless about the reality they are dealing with.

If there is ever to be a solution to problems of poverty, crime, civil disorder, lack of achievement, etc. that emanate from low IQ, humans must face problems squarely and study them intently. The long term aim is to raise the IQ of everyone, regardless of race and ethnicity. Many of the most severe problems facing humans today come from low achievement and poor problem solving. Low IQ and decadent culture both contribute to low achievement and poor problem-solving. Both of these lower level problems are likewise based upon problems even lower.

It is time to honestly get to the base of these problems so that we can open the way to a more widely participatory future, where human problems are solved rather than used as political hockey pucks.

Image Source

Addendum 20 April 08: The above posting takes no stand on the nature vs. nurture debate, regarding underlying causes for achievement and test score gaps between populations. Here is a brief, readable summary of both sides of the issue--nature and nurture.

For those drawn to more international comparisons, this Wiki article contains a table that gives comparisons of estimated average population IQ scores for 81 different countries.

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Blogger The Irrefutable Fool said...

I am wondering why there you never see a study that divides IQ by cultural rather than racial groups?
Would white kids from lower income neighborhoods also score lower? What about kids from the slums of Delhi vs those from more affluent areas of Delhi?

If the idea is to increase IQ scores for all Al, it might require spreading the wealth a bit better.

Saturday, 19 April, 2008  
Blogger Bruce Hall said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Saturday, 19 April, 2008  
Blogger Bruce Hall said...

While it is politically correct to dismiss differences between various groups of humans [is that better than saying "races"?], we know with certainty that there are general physical differences [beyond color] that have given various groups advantages in their particular geographies. For example, smaller statures survive better in areas where food is scarce due to reduced caloric requirements. Larger torsos relative to extremities are an advantage in cold climates. The large lung capacities of Andean natives is a distinct advantage at higher altitudes.

The list goes on....

Is there reason to doubt that certain spatial perceptive or other cognitive differences based on brain function could offer one group advantages over another. For example, abstract reasoning may offer a distinct advantage for a group that relies on matching wits rather than physical strength with opponents.

Yet, as the fool indicates, there are questions about subgroups. Is there a general intelligence difference between those in higher versus lower socio-economic groups or is the culture itself both a cause and result of less socio-economic opportunities? Are Appalachian whites of lower intelligence than other subgroups of whites and, if so, is it because they are less intelligent that they produced a substandard subculture or did external conditions limit the subculture's opportunities and, hence, the importance of education and intelligence? Were Ashkenazi Jews more successful in banking and commerce because they had a genetic advantage which also conferred distinct medical disadvantages?

"Spreading the wealth" assumes that money is the answer to the differences in ability. Yet too many urban school districts with significant minority populations have shown that high spending per pupil has not changed educational success rates. In fact, as an example, the more the Detroit school system spends per pupil, the lower the graduation rate becomes.

In my view, the perspective that all individuals simply require the same provided opportunity to succeed and success will follow is naive and, for lack of a better word, incorrect. The single biggest differentiator among educationally successful and failing subgroups is the "cultural" attitude toward education. Government and taxpayer money simply can't override the fact that ignorant and dull? parents beget ignorance and dull children in vastly greater quantities than informed and intelligent parents.

Is that ignorance and dullness cultural or is the culture a result of being ignorant and dull-witted?

Saturday, 19 April, 2008  
Blogger al fin said...

I truly wish it were as easy as that, TIF. While you are correct that children who are given more intellectual challenges and opportunities (and better nutrition etc) at an early age show higher aptitude later in life, there are limits.

It is best to understand and accept that pre-natal environment, post-natal environment, and genes all work together and provide limits and advantages.

A lot of studies have looked at socioeconomic groups vs. test scores, and find a relationship. But the test score differential by race still remains after matching for SES. The study of intelligence is much more sophisticated than the public understands (or wants to understand).

And as Bruce points out, there are limits to what the spending of money can achieve in terms of enforcing equality of outcome.

The changes I anticipate involve both the optimising of environments and the optimising of the genetic and epigenetic components that bear on intelligence.

I am currently writing a blog post on the effect of music training on the young brain. It is not a subtle effect.

Saturday, 19 April, 2008  
Blogger The Irrefutable Fool said...

No doubt that there exists adaptations that enable more successful exploitation of ones environment. But you'd have to admit that this occurs in a single given context, such as 'The United States of America' or 'Alabama' or 'The High Andes'.

If the purpose of the article is to support the argument that some groups are inferior, then it must be taken in context. Put your average White North American by himself in the jungles of Borneo and see how well he does. This is another valid 'Intelligence' test ,no? Or even just put a CEO on the streets of (insert poor neighborhood here) and see how well he does.

Were it simply a matter of inherent genetic inferiority leading to a certain culture, how would one explain 'escapees' from that background? And what about those from 'the chosen ones' that do poorly or sink into lower strata?

And in terms of spreading the wealth, doesn't it seem obvious that no matter how much you spend in a school on a student, it will still hamper your success if you have to go home to drug or alcohol addiction, or if the mortality rate in your neighborhood is significantly higher than average and you live in constant fear of getting shot?

I generally take umbrage to the idea that the poor are poor and deserve to be poor through some sort of genetic fault. Not only because it smacks of racism, but also because mitigating factors are conveniently dismissed.

Yes there are people who won't move to improve their lot. Yes there are lazy people. Yes there are unintelligent people and yes there are uneducated people.

But to simply group them together as 'blacks' or 'Iranians' is the lazy mans way of dealing with it. Each individual on his or her own will score well in their own context and poorly in another.

The real tragedy in my mind is that we're quick to dismiss other groups as being unsuitable for betterment (whatever that really means). There are billions of people on the planet, and the majority of them go underfed and undereducated and more concisely, underutilized in terms of bettering ourselves and our societies. In my mind the main reason for this state of affairs
is ideologies that promote one group as more deserving than another that are not based on merit, but instead based on relativism.

Sorry for the long winded post. I hope some of my points were salient enough.

Saturday, 19 April, 2008  
Blogger Richard Sharpe said...

TIF seems, in his fool's paradise, to have hit the nail on the head:

Put your average White North American by himself in the jungles of Borneo and see how well he does. This is another valid 'Intelligence' test ,no? Or even just put a CEO on the streets of (insert poor neighborhood here) and see how well he does.

Put you average denizen of the jungles of Borneo (or any less advanced civilization) down in the US and see how well they do.

Note, I said average. There are always outliers in any population who will do as well as, or perhaps even better, than the average in another population.

Perhaps more to the point, you will not easily even educate the average denizen of those less advanced places because they are marching to the beat of a different drum and are not the least bit interested in the skills you are trying to hone in them.

Finally, if TIF thinks that the jungles of Borneo are so all-fired important, he is welcome to move there.

Saturday, 19 April, 2008  
Blogger Max said...

Fool, your arguments regarding how well the CEO would do in the jungles of Borneo is completely irrelevant to the issue at hand. In case you need reminding, the issue at hand is how to address the IQ gap between whites and blacks, given that IQ correlates with a wide variety of positive life outcomes in modern, technological societies. Does IQ correlate with success in the jungles of Borneo? Who knows? Who the hell cares? It's compeltely irrelevant to what's going on in America.

If you want to talk about intellectual laziness, take a look at your own presumption that lower iq=inferior. Are whites inferior to Asians because we have lower IQs, on average? Are we inferior to Jews because we have much lower IQs, on average? As a white person I certainly don't feel inferior to either of these groups. So why should a black person be inferior to a white person because black people have lower IQs, on average, than whites?

Your mistake is that you are taking one aspect of the individual (general intelligence) and making it the basis of their humanity. That's silly. You might as well take upper body strength and make that the basis of humanity, then say that women are inferior to men because they aren't as strong.

I'm sorry to be snippy, but the issue here is a serious one, and it seems to me that everytime it gets debated someone who has very little familiarity with the data pipes up with a whole bunch of ideas and protests that have been either addressed or refuted time and time again. Please, do yourself a favor: familiarize yourself with the research. You'll find that all your questions have been addressed.

Saturday, 19 April, 2008  
Blogger al fin said...

No, you make your points well enough, TIF. There is something of a disconnect between what my blog posting actually says, and the offenses that you seem to be objecting to.

I understand that to point out an unpleasant observation--no matter how well established--is often seen as in poor taste, or worse, politically incorrect. That is all the more reason to occasionally speak some unfortunate, unpleasant truths.

Because if one actually wants to do something to improve an unpleasant--perhaps even intolerable--situation, one must face it head on.

The current university setting is too often the forum for academic lobotomies and indoctrinations, rather than any type of preparation for the real world. Political correctness is too often used as the guide in academia, but political correctness has no soul, and is not real.

The main point is that one must face reality to change it.

Your other points are fine as far as they go, but they really do not connect cleanly with the posting.

Saturday, 19 April, 2008  
Blogger The Irrefutable Fool said...

Make no mistake, I have no issue recognizing that racial gaps exist in IQ scores. My issue is that I think it is much a more a nurture issue than a nature one. Even the editorial review at amazon seems to agree:


This statement
"Finally, if TIF thinks that the jungles of Borneo are so all-fired important, he is welcome to move there."

to me is a rewording of
"If you don't love America, why don't you get out"

--which is designed to silence another party. I would prefer to engage in amiable and thought provoking discourse if you don't mind. I could equally state 'If you don't like the current situation in your country why don't you get out?', but I refrain, as it adds NOTHING to information exchange beyond conveying hostility. Instead, lets make our points , allow the other party to think and process them , rinse , lather and repeat.

Before you state that I've lazily supposed that lower IQ = inferiority , why not go back and take a look at the article headline and preamble, and also note that in part I'm responding to Richard Halls comments. My point of view is that socioeconomic background ( the context) plays a larger role than an inherited genetic factor. There is a work ethic component too, again something I assign to context rather genetics.

Hall's comment that the lower IQ causes the lower socioeconomic background and hence the disadvantage is a statement that implies the genetics are the cause of the IQ drop, and I'm sure you can fill in the blanks about who is higher on the scale genetically and who is lower.

@Al , I agree. Lets look at all the evidence and research before we jump to conclusions. Single minded dogmatic thinking is the bane of the modern world. I think its the distilled threat that fundamentalist thinking presents. Discussion of valid points is a good thing.

Intelligence & socioeconomic status

Herrstein and Murray (1994) argue that low intelligence causes low SES, rather than the other way around. So, according to these authors, while SES is correlated with IQ, it should be considered a consequence rather than a cause.

However, adoption studies seem to indicate that SES has a strong, causal effect on intelligence, e.g.:

"Well-controlled adoption studies done in France have found that transferring an infant from a family having low socioeconomic status (SES) to a home where parents have high SES improves childhood IQ scores by 12 to 16 points or about one standard deviation, which is considered a large effect size in psychological research." Wahlsten (1997, p. 76).

Several recent US studies have demonstrated improvements in children's IQ's by improving the lives of infants in disadvantaged circumstances.
These studies employed random assignment of children and families to treatment and control conditions.

These studies selected families with:
• low parental IQ
• low parental education
• minimal financial resources

Experimental group received:
• enriched, educational day care outside the home every weekday from 3 months to start of schooling

Control group received:
• nutritional supplements and pediatric medical care or crisis intervention but no educational day care

Even though the children returned to their home environment every day and spent holidays and weekends with their families (mostly unemployed, single mothers) in poverty-stricken neighbourhoods, there were large gains in IQ; almost as much as in the French studies previously mentioned.

Furthermore, the mean IQ of the enriched groups appeared to be quite typical of healthy American children. These children continued to show higher IQ scores than controls at age 12 (Wahlsten, 1997). Of course, in these American studies, SES and education were being manipulated. There is of course a strong correlation between SES and education in both directions.

Again, sorry for the big wind.

Sunday, 20 April, 2008  
Blogger Max said...


Sorry again for being snippy.

The evidence does not support your claim that differences in SES are to blame for the black white IQ gap. Consider that the black white IQ gap remains the same - about one standard deviation - across all socioeconomic groups. If low SES were the primary cause of the gap, there would be NO black white IQ gap once you controlled for SES. Blacks and whites would score the same once you adjusted for SES, but there would be an overall gap because blacks are generally low SES. But again, this is not what we see. Whites born into poverty still outperform blacks born into upper class families on IQ tests.

As for adoption, I actually work as a researcher for a large adoption-related organization, so this is right up my alley. :) The unfortunate truth about adoption and IQ is that while adoption into a good home often raises a child's IQ in childhood (as the study you cited shows), those gains don't last into adulthood. As people transition from childhood to adolescence to adulthood, their IQ becomes more a function of genes and less a function of environment. This is evidenced by twin studies, where twins adopted by families of different SES are tested over time. In childhood, the twin in the higher SES bracket has the markedly higher IQ, as you would expect. But as they transition into adolescence, their IQs begin to converge. By the time they are adults, they achieve parity. Why? Because, again, IQ is one of those things where genes overtake environment as people age.

We see the same pattern in studies of transracial adoption. As children, blacks adopted by white parents do quite well on IQ tests, scoring very close to their white adoptive siblings. As they age, however, their IQs drop, and by the time they enter adulthood they test one standard deviation below their white peers. (Google Minnesota Scarr Adoption Study)

So, both transracial adoption studies and intelligence studies that control for SES strongly suggest that the black white IQ gap is genetic in origin.

Sunday, 20 April, 2008  
Blogger al fin said...

TIF, to find the truth in this complex maize of conflicting claims, you would need to go several levels deeper than you have gone so far. You would also have to be willing to accept what the evidence shows you. It is not enough to show the conclusions from one side of the argument.

It is good to keep the argument alive, however, since there are still many unanswered questions. Thank you for enriching the argument.

Emotional attachment to a particular point of view is the enemy of good science, just as it is the enemy of good medicine and good fiction. The best scientists, physicians, and fiction writers have to rise above their attachments and view the evidence, ideas, and concepts in a more detached way than the ordinary person is willing to do.

Sunday, 20 April, 2008  
Blogger al fin said...

Marc is correct that one does not see the genetic contribution to IQ as clearly (for most people) until late adolescence or later.

All of the studies that focus on interventions in pre-schoolers, grammar schoolers, or high schoolers--but do not follow the children into adulthood--stand a good chance of missing most of the genetic contribution, unwittingly.

The exception to that rule would be prodigies and highly exceptional children. As Richard Sharpe commented in the music thread, it is a mistake to believe that every child is a budding prodigy, subject to clever enough environmental manipulation at an early age.

On the other hand, most children-- even in the best homes --are not immersed in their ideal learning environment, for reaching their best potential.

Initially, we owe it to all children to provide as ideal an environment for learning as possible (which does not mean spending as much money as possible on misguided educational schemes and systems). I suspect that 30 years after intervention is initiated, we would see rising achievement scores. But gaps between populations would almost certainly remain. The size of the gaps between populations might narrow a bit or might even grow wider.

After optimizing for environment, further interventions depend upon what has happened to achievement gaps after optimizing the environment for learning, and what science has told us regarding the possible causes for aptitude and achievement variability between groups.

When we get to the point where we understand the fundamental reasons for achievement and aptitude gaps between populations, and also have the power to do something about those fundamental reasons, we will have to confront the question of trade-offs. Nothing comes free. To gain one thing, we must often give up something else.

"The perfect is the enemy of the good." What is perfect in one situation, is not so perfect in another situation, or environment.

We are not there yet. It is decades too early to fossilize our minds in any fixed belief state.

Sunday, 20 April, 2008  

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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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