Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Flynn effect among Hispanics: I showed in a prior post that scores on the General Social Survey's vocabulary test (WORDSUM) have increased since the 70s among Mexican Americans. The nomination of Sotomayor to the Supreme Court made me wonder if Puerto Ricans have had a similar increase.

Mean Wordsum score

Mexican Americans, N = 393
Seventies 4.17
Eighties 4.04
Nineties 5.11
This decade 5.53

Puerto Ricans, N = 102
Eighties 4.57
Nineties 5.28
This decade 5.12

I limited the sample to those born in the United States. The improvement for Mex-Ams in the past two decades over the seventies and eighties is significant at the .05 level. There were too few Puerto Ricans in the 70s to calculate a mean, but we also see an increase for them in the past two decades (not significant).

I'm not sure why the numbers have risen. I doubt that the schools are doing a better job. My guess would be more hours of watching TV. People always knock TV, but the children of uneducated parents will hear the best English from teachers and TV, and who listens to teachers? My daughter soaks up television and DVDs like a sponge. Many of her phrases are from kids' shows. This might also explain why blacks have higher Wordsum scores than Hispanics.

Anyway, this is some good news for people who worry about Hispanic assimilation.


  1. Anonymous12:57 PM

    Is this the Flynn effect, or just better English skills among Hispanics? You're using GSS WORDSUM as a proxy for IQ, right? But it's only a proxy, and it's almost certainly biased against non-native English speakers.

    intellectual pariah

  2. The parents still probably don't speak English at home and some hispanics will be able to interact mostly with other Spanish speaking kids even if they are US born and can speak fluent English. Blacks don't have that option.

  3. "But it's only a proxy, and it's almost certainly biased against non-native English speakers."

    I limited the sample to Hispanics born in the United States. From what I have read, there is no bias as long as you are born here, but no doubt Ms. X is right that, on average, a Hispanic kid will hear less English and poorer English from parents, and more importantly, peers. But I think more TV might help explain the improvement seen in the past two decades.

  4. I have read that the Flynn Effect has stopped in the early 1990's.

    This is probably explained by the changing demographics of their parents. Possibly the 70's Mex-Ams had non-Enligh speaking parents and the current Mex-Ams have Enligh speaking parents. Or integration into mainstream society is more encouraged now or TV sounds good too. Probably plenty of reasons.

  5. Thanks. That's good to know.

  6. Anonymous2:22 PM

    "This might also explain why blacks have higher Wordsum scores than Hispanics."

    Blacks may have better wordsum scores but they do not score higher then Latinos on the verbal SATs(a definite proxy for IQ).


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