Like one of Rush Limbaugh’s pilonidal cysts, the race/IQ kerfuffle has flared up again. Ezra Klein has a good response, even if he is far too kind to intellectual fraud Charles Murray (and, yes, Murray is a fraud: the analysis underlying his genetic arguments could have been and was refuted by a first-year graduate student).
But onto the modest proposal. By way of background, here’s what some asshole with a blog wrote a while back on this topic:
NAEP math scores have been used as proxies for IQ (pdf, pdf). If we look at the NAEP 8th grade math data for 2011, when we compare students with college educated parents who aren’t poor, there is a about a twenty point gap in scores for any given socioeconomic group between black and white students (where a ten point difference roughly corresponds to one grade level). We know conclusively, based on studies in marginal journals edited by racists, that this racial difference is largely genetic (and we have controlled for a deleterious environment by excluding poor students and poorly educated parents). For instance, in Massachusetts, white students (with college educated parents who aren’t poor) have an average score of 312, while black students have a score of 291 (p less than 10-6). Meanwhile, Alabama whites score 293, with no significance difference compared to black students in Massachusetts (p = 0.49). The gap between Massachusetts whites and Massachusetts blacks is the same as the gap between Massachusetts and Alabama whites.
Ergo, Alabama whites are also genetically inferior untermenschen whom we should not waste our time trying to educate. Look, I’m just bravely telling it like it is. If it doesn’t fit for your conservative preconceptions, that’s too bad. We have to heroically follow the data where they lead us. And when you look at other states, it’s clear: ‘heartland’ whites are genetically inferior to Massachusetts (and Maryland) whites, and we need to fundamentally rethink our social policies accordingly.
So let’s look at some more NAEP data. We’ll limit ourselves to students who are not low-income and whose parents are college educated (so when I refer to ‘whites’, I mean whites with college-educated parents who aren’t low-income). This allows us to look at scores when parents fall into the highest educated category and students are not affected by poverty (there’s a difference between poor in Massachusetts and Mississippi, though poverty sucks no matter what). The last year we can do this is 2013, since budget cutbacks lowered sample sizes making accurate estimation unreliable for these subgroups.
In Massachusetts, 8th grade black students scored 300 on the NAEP, while white students scored 316 (white students had a standard deviation of 29). This means a student at the 50th percentile among blacks (300) would score at the 29th percentile if he were white. Meanwhile, in Mississippi, white students scored… 294. Yes, worse than the black Massachusetts students. A white student at the 50th percentile would score at the 23rd percentile were he in Massachusetts. But clearly, the difference among blacks and whites in Massachusetts has a strong heritable component and says something about races, while the difference between Massachusetts and Mississippian whites is…?
And, for anyone who says that a test that only requires basic math (introductory algebra is the most advanced topic) has little to do with IQ, then you’re arguing IQ is essentially irrelevant: if IQ isn’t correlated with a very simple math and logic test, then what is? That’s the whole fucking point of g.
But to return to Klein, he makes a very good point (boldface mine):
Here is my view: Research shows measurable consequences on IQ and a host of other outcomes from the kind of violence and discrimination America inflicted for centuries against African Americans. In a vicious cycle, the consequences of that violence have pushed forward the underlying attitudes that allow discriminatory policies to flourish and justify the racially unequal world we’ve built.
To put this simply: You cannot discuss this topic without discussing its toxic past and the way that shapes our present…
Apply this to the American experience. Over hundreds of years, white Americans have oppressed black Americans — enslaved them, physically terrorized them, ripped their families apart, taken their wealth from them, denied their children decent educations, refused to let them buy homes in neighborhoods with good schools, locked them out of the most cognitively demanding and financially rewarding jobs, deprived them of the professional and social networks that power advancement.
Among the many, many awful effects this has had is to deny black Americans the full cognitive advantages of navigating the modern economy, of wearing their scientific spectacles. For this reason, Flynn argues that “the black/white IQ gap is probably environmental in origin.”
…We have leaders of the civil rights movement who were nearly beaten to death who still serve in Congress. Today, black families that make $100,000 or more live in neighborhoods with the income composition of white families that make less than $30,000. Today, the average white family has a net worth of $171,000 and the average black family has a net worth of only $17,600, and that wealth gap carries, for whites, all the attendant advantages that family wealth gives children.
Today, white and black children do drugs at similar rates, but black children are arrested far more often. Today, our schools are more segregated than at any point in half a century, with all the attendant damage that does to black children. Today, among children born into the top fifth of the income distribution, white children have a 41 percent chance of holding their station, while black children have only an 18 percent chance.
International evidence suggests oppression, discrimination, and societal resentment lowers group IQs. As the New York University philosopher of neuroscience Ned Block has written, quoting the work of anthropologist John Ogbu, oppression has a clear effect on marginalized groups globally. “Where IQ tests have been given, ‘the children of these caste-like minorities score about 10-15 points … lower than dominant group children,’” he writes.
Block’s point, and this is important, is not that IQ isn’t heritable, or even that it’s impossible to imagine it differing among groups. It’s that it’s impossible to look at the cruel and insane experiment America has run on its black residents and say anything useful about genetic differences in intelligence.
“Environmental differences, then, including the sort that affect Black Americans, are known to have large effects on IQ,” Block continues. “Moreover, we currently have no way to quantify these effects. So we should draw no conclusion about the probability of any Black genetic IQ advantage or disadvantage.”
Regardless, I would like to hear ‘racial’ explanations for the massive Massachusetts-Mississippi gap among whites. I’ll make the popcorn.