Race and IQ

My knowledge of genetic science is limited, but for the sake of conversation, I’d like to point to a series of Slate columns by William Saletan that buy into the theory that black people, on the whole, are less intelligent than whites, who are in turn less intelligent than Asians. Saletan says he’s been mostly convinced by race-matters IQ studies, no matter their small correlation values. He points to the smaller brain size of sub-Saharan Africans, and to studies showing that African children develop earlier and grow into more dexterous adults, while whites and Asians are late bloomers with bigger brains.

But after laying out an argument that confirms centuries of racist ideology, Saletan reassures his readers that yes, he’s still an egalitarian! After all, many individuals within each race buck the IQ trends. Hey, there are lots of stupid white people! And there’s always Barack Obama! (Saletan’s example, not mine.) So, despite everything Saletan has just written, he chides readers who might assume it’s now okay to judge people based on the color of their skin.

The argument is schizophrenic, not least because while IQ may be a good predictor of an individual’s academic and career success, Saletan doesn’t grapple fully with the fact that while we know both genetics and environment affect a person’s IQ, there’s little evidence that genetics are the more important factor. Indeed, as Saletan points out himself in an aside:

Hereditarians admit that by their own reading of the data, non-genetic factors account for 20 to 50 percent of IQ variation. They think malnutrition, disease, and educational deprivation account for a big portion of the 30-point IQ gap between whites and black Africans. They think alleviation of these factors in the U.S. has helped us halve the deficit. Trans-racial adoption studies validate this. Korean adoption studies suggest a malnutrition effect of perhaps 10 IQ points. And everyone agrees that the black-white IQ gap closed significantly during the 20th century, which can’t have been due to genes.

Does discussion about possible links between race and intelligence belong in our public discourse? Only if we exercise great caution. Deciding to believe that historically discriminated against Americans are dumber than whites, and then patting yourself on the back for remaining a political "egalitarian?" That doesn’t cut it. We should never talk about how American children of different races perform on IQ tests without noting the vast inequalities in access to health care, nutrition, early childhood education, safe schools, and good teachers that still exist — not in some theoretical society, but right here in the United States. Black children are much more likely to have been born preterm, to be uninsured, and to live in extreme poverty. About two-thirds of black kids attend racially and economically isolated schools, and those who don’t are much more likely to be as proficient in math and reading as their white peers, even when they come from poor families.

How can we possibly draw conclusions about race, genetics, and intelligence in America until we significantly close these environmental disparities? Until then, any claim that black Americans are genetically inferior to white Americans is counterintuitive guesswork at best, and nefarious at worst.

cross-posted at TAPPED

11 thoughts on “Race and IQ

  1. Breeder

    FWIW, Northeast Asian IQs do average 105 and Europeans IQs do average 100…but Europeans also have two counterveiling IQ advantages over NE Asians.

    1) NE Asian IQ is sharply bifurcated, with higher ‘math IQ’ than whites but lower ‘verbal’ IQ. Verbal IQ, as it turns out, is more crucial in creation of wealth. See here:

    link to lagriffedulion.f2s.com

    2) the standard deviation of NE Asian IQs is narrower than for whites, so they produce fewer extremely high IQs that whites do — fewer extremely low ones, too, but having more James Watsons and Francis Cricks is more than worth the trade-off of having more Homer Simpsons, too.

    So it’s technically correct to say “East Asians are smarter than whites,” but you have to append a couple of important asterisks to that statement.

    Reply
  2. ferin

    “1) NE Asian IQ is sharply bifurcated, with higher ‘math IQ’ than whites but lower ‘verbal’ IQ. Verbal IQ, as it turns out, is more crucial in creation of wealth. See here:

    link to lagriffedulion.f2s.com

    Either the notion that verbal IQ creates wealth or that Northeast Asians have low verbal IQ has to be wrong. Because China was the richest nation per capita from 1 AD to the 1700s AD and the wealthiest nation up until the 1870s. They will again the wealthiest nation in my lifetime. Unless you’re saying their verbal IQs suddenly dipped. The reason why there are few linguists and lawyers being imported from China is because you don’t import language jobs from countries that don’t speak your language, obviously. And if verbal IQ leads to the wealth of nations.. well, apparently it doesn’t lead to the *growth* of the wealth of nations because the Northeast Asian nations have the highest recorded gdp growth in the history of economics. That’s with little or few natural resources. Likewise, verbal IQ tends to increase for East Asians as they reach maturity, since it takes them longer to mature (and die) than other races. That, and Chinese is simply a harder language to process than English so more has to be done to eliminate some of the discrepancies in testing. That is, testing 3rd or 4th gen Chinese English speakers against their native populations or adopted Chinese children, with their ages and incomes. Data on SAT scores, A-Levels, and college entrance rates suggest that their verbal IQs are just fine.

    “2) the standard deviation of NE Asian IQs is narrower than for whites, so they produce fewer extremely high IQs that whites do — fewer extremely low ones, too, but having more James Watsons and Francis Cricks is more than worth the trade-off of having more Homer Simpsons, too.”

    Totally false. Only one study by Vining in the 70s ever produced these results; all others show the exact OPPOSITE, with Northeast Asian standard deviations being higher than all other races. See Gottfredson and Lynn’s work. A 1975 study of Asian Americans also put their SD at 16.48. PISA scores also reflect the high standard deviation; with Japan’s top 5% scoring (much) higher than all other groups.

    Reply
  3. ferin

    Another thing, is that the only two individuals alive with 200+ recorded on the stanford binet are both northeast asian men. From Korea and Japan; China hasn’t really developed well enough yet to take many IQ tests.

    Reply
  4. ferin

    Now that I think of it, it was probably opium that lowered China’s verbal IQ, thus decreasing their wealth.

    lagriffe is an idiot, no offense to him.

    Reply
  5. Anonymous

    “The argument is schizophrenic”

    Not only is this phrase a mental virus epidemic among many people suffering poor grammar, but it is a bigoted, ablist comment, which is ironic given the subject matter for which it is being used.

    Reply
  6. willman

    I think that the script developed by a people forcibly
    reflects there way of thinking.So does the ideogramatic
    script,based on pictures,of the asian peoples.

    Reply
  7. AsianReality

    Dana, Studies have been made by the most respected and emminent of academics. These adameics are more than capable of realizing that many factors such as environment and discrimination may contribute to IQ. Off course they factor variables into their studies. The studies conclusively show that Asian IQ is greater than that of Caucasian IQ which is in tern greater than that of Black IQ.

    link to charlesdarwinresearch.org
    link to charlesdarwinresearch.org

    In my opinion these IQ differences will only become greater with time. Places like China and Vietnam will get better food and healthcare and grow bigger and smarter. Europe is stagnating, and Africa be stuck living in grass huts.

    Reply
  8. Brian

    Dana, you’re overlooking Ashkenazi Jewish IQ. Their group average is 2/3 of a standard deviation above the european mean.

    G. Cochran, J. Hardy, H. Harpending, Natural History of Ashkenazi Intelligence, Journal of Biosocial Science 38 (5), pp. 659–693 (2006).

    link to homepage.mac.com

    Reply
  9. John

    What is considered “extreme poverty” here in America would be upper middle class living when compared to many third world nations. Also, blacks from families earning more than 70K score worse than whites from families earning 20K or less. How do you explain these descrepancies?

    Reply

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