Race, IQ, and culture: Steve Sailer has fascinating posts up, quoting William Saletan and John McWhorter discussing race, IQ, and Sailer himself. I'm interested in the claim made by McWhorter that blacks underperform because they lack a tradition of reading. The General Social Survey asked 781 Americans in 2006 how often they read the newspaper. Answers ranged from "every day" (1) to "never" (5). Since many younger people get their news from the Internet, and perhaps more whites than blacks, let's limit the analysis to those over 50. Here are the means by race:
Mean newspaper reading frequency (N = 314)
Keep in mind that high averages mean low reading. These numbers indicate that whites read more often than blacks, and the difference is about three-tenths of a standard deviation.
So whites read more, but is this due to a culture of reading? If there is some general force influencing a population's behavior, that force should reduce the variance of the behavior; in other words, whites should be more similar than blacks in their reading habits. If blacks have no reading culture or a more anemic reading culture, you should see blacks more often following their individual preferences: some will read, some won't. We shouldn't compare standard deviations because they are influenced by sample size, and whites are much more numerous than blacks. The coefficient of variation is used to adjust for differences in group size:
Reading coefficient of variation
Once again, if whites have a reading culture and blacks don't, you would expect whites to be more similar in terms of their reading than blacks. These numbers show they are not. Whites are slightly more diverse. Based on the GSS, McWhorter seems to be wrong.