Sunday, May 11, 2008

Differences between black and white women: One of the central interests of this blog is to examine racial differences. The Longitudinal Study of Violence Against Women asked 1,537 female college students about how well a list of statements described themselves. Answers ranged from "not at all like me" (=1) to "very much like me" (=5). I present below the mean scores for blacks and whites, along with the difference between the two groups as a proportion of the measure's standard deviation.

Mean scores and mean differences as a proportion of the standard deviation

Whites 2.34
Blacks 2.03
.26 SD difference

Whites 2.80
Blacks 2.38
.33 SD difference

Whites 1.85
Blacks 1.52
.29 SD difference

Whites 2.20
Blacks 1.91
.24 SD difference

Whites 2.52
Blacks 2.24
.23 SD difference

Feels like crying
Whites 3.05
Blacks 2.81
.18 SD difference

Down in the dumps
Whites 2.07
Blacks 1.85
.18 SD difference

Feels peaceful
Whites 3.04
Blacks 3.26
.19 SD difference

Wakes up rested
Whites 2.43
Blacks 2.59
.13 SD difference

Take charge kind of person
Whites 2.84
Blacks 2.68
.15 SD difference

Very emotional
Whites 3.48
Blacks 3.13
.28 SD difference

Gives in easily
Whites 4.11
Blacks 4.53
.44 SD difference

Brags a lot
Whites 1.46
Blacks 1.28
.25 SD difference

Busy and active
Whites 3.76
Blacks 3.38
.36 SD difference

Likes to do for other people
Whites 4.21
Blacks 3.78
.47 SD difference

Doesn't have a lot of nerve
Whites 2.02
Blacks 1.68
.30 SD difference

Comfortable in the background
Whites 1.75
Blacks 1.39
.39 SD difference

Whites 1.61
Blacks 1.45
.18 SD difference

Needs the approval of others
Whites 2.73
Blacks 3.36
.31 SD difference

Feelings are not easily hurt
Whites 1.96
Blacks 2.22
.25 SD difference

Nags other people
Whites 2.06
Blacks 1.82
.24 SD difference

Whites 3.02
Blacks 3.23
.16 SD difference

Gives up easily
Whites 4.24
Blacks 4.41
.24 SD difference

Doesn't trust others
Whites 2.25
Blacks 2.54
.26 SD difference

Must think of oneself first
Whites 1.95
Blacks 2.48
.50 SD difference

Out for revenge
Whites 1.42
Blacks 1.69
.35 SD difference

Tries to understand others' feelings
Whites 4.39
Blacks 4.22
.21 SD difference

Gives in to please people
Whites 2.01
Blacks 1.51
.48 SD difference

Plays it safe
Whites 3.35
Blacks 2.91
.40 SD difference

Trustful so easily fooled
Whites 2.54
Blacks 1.83
.57 SD difference

Doesn't know what to do in a tough spot
Whites 3.49
Blacks 3.71
.21 SD difference

This is a very long list, so let's summarize. First, none of the differences here are as large as the black-white IQ gap. (Some of this might be due to more measurement error in these single items). The take-home message is not that these differences are insignificant; it is that the IQ gap is huge.

Compared to black women, white women are more high-strung, moody, depressed, nagging, unassertive, thin-skinned, greedy, busy, persistent, decisive, empathetic, altruistic, trusting, easily duped, risk-averse, and less vindictive and in need of approval.

If we limit the differences to the large ones, white women are more altruistic and trusting and less assertive.

While far from perfect, one way to boil this down is to say that white women are less masculine.

Men are next.


  1. How can you rely on self-reporting data for a question like this? We know that blacks usually show higher self-esteem despite a lower level of objective achievement. I would think that means they are likely to overrate their own tendency toward certain qualities if those qualities are socially valued. You need some way of weeding out the personal bias of the respondent if you really want to describe behavior -- rather than just self-perception of behavior.

    Also, black women in college is a highly self-selected group. White women in college, not so much so, but still you are comparing apples and oranges.

  2. Most of those are almost word-for-word items from a good personality test like the Big Five's NEO-PI. The ones having to do with moodiness, emotions, self-consciousness, etc. are about Neuroticism. The ones about trust, empathy, altruism, compliance, etc. are about Agreeableness. The remainder are about Extraversion: busy and fast-paced life, assertive, etc.

    So, it looks like White women are higher in N and A. It turns out that in all cultures females score higher than males on N and A -- these personality traits show the largest sex diffs.

    So you're right: White females have more female-typical personalities.

  3. Correction: in some parts of sub-Saharan Africa, there is a slight reversal of the sex diff pattern, e.g. males being more Extraverted. It's a slight reversal, but still, you don't see anything like it among White countries.

  4. Anonymous10:38 PM

    Trustful so easily fooled
    Whites 2.54
    Blacks 1.83
    .57 SD difference

    This my friends is why black men target white women!

  5. Check Neuroticism among Jews, I bet it's higher.

    The five factors are Extraversion, Neuroticism, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, and Openness to Experience. Agnostic, can you come up with some good proxies in the GSS?

  6. Anonymous4:26 PM

    Black woman gestation time 39 weeks
    White Woman gestation time 40 weeks


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