Friday, May 21, 2010

Emphasis on education is a poor predictor of outcomes

IQ nurturists claim that blacks would be as smart as East Asians if they only placed the same value on an education.

General Social Survey interviewers presented a list of 13 characteristics to participants and asked: "Which three qualities listed on this card would you say are the most desirable for a child to have? b. Which one of these three is the most desirable of all? c. All of the qualities listed on this card may be desirable, but could you tell me which three you consider least important? d. And which of these three is least important of all?"

The qualities are: good manners; tries hard to succeed; honest; neat and clean; good sense and sound judgment; self-control; acts like a boy (or girl); gets along well with others; obeys parents well; is responsible; is considerate; is interested in how and why things happen; and is a good student.

On the question of "good student," answers were coded like this: least important (1); among the bottom three (2); not mentioned (3); among the top three (4); most important (5).  Here are the means by ethnic group:

Mean emphasis on education, N = 6,279

Asian Indian 3.25
Puerto Rican 2.93
West Indian 2.90
Chinese/Japanese 2.84
Black 2.75
Amerindian 2.77
Mexican 2.69
Polish 2.66
Italian 2.59
Russian 2.56
Jewish 2.55
Dutch 2.55
Swedish 2.54
Irish 2.53
English/Welsh 2.53
Norwegian 2.51
Scottish 2.50
German 2.49

You can see that the list has been ranked, and blacks are right next to East Asians (Chinese and Japanese Americans were combined to maximize sample size).

Attitudes just don't seem to predict much in terms of academic performance. Puerto Ricans, blacks, Amerindians, and Mexican Americans tend to do poorly even though they are on the top half of the list. The bottom half is made up of various white groups who generally do well. Ten groups score higher than Jewish Americans.

The country has been stressing the importance of getting an education to minorities for decades, and it looks like they buy the message. It looks like a bad attitude is not the problem. It looks like ability is.

(By the way, the difference between Germans and Asian Indians is one standard deviation--a big difference).


  1. I'm glad to see someone else catch on to this. Especially a conservative.

    There is a lot of dogma about how blacks have super bad attitudes toward academics and this is why they fall behind. Thomas Sowell and most conservative intellectuals take this "culture gap" as holy fact-- as the primary explanation for B-W disparities. Liberal intellectuals like John Ogbu made it something of a consensus among the left as well, by injecting the same basic idea with anodyne racism rhetoric ("... blacks hate school, but don't worry, it's because of white racism").

    But the truth is that blacks really aren't that opposed to academics and intellectual pursuit. Blacks don't fall behind because they are lazy, or because they are opposed to abstract thinking, but because they have lower IQ. There is an important difference.

    Of course lower IQ also leads to anti-intellectualism, so it's not like cultural theory would pose a problem for IQ theory either way. But the reverse is not true. Blacks do worse at g-loaded endeavors despite putting in a disproportionate effort, and that is an awkward fact for the cultural theorists. Which explains why they mostly pretend the research literature doesn't exist (or try and hand wave it, like the Thernstroms).

  2. This is an interesting finding, but I think the main anti-intellectual force in the life of a black American is not his parents, it is his peers. It is the peer attitudes toward education that are so bad.

    Would changing black culture erase the test score gap? Of course not, but it would put a dent in it, especially at the college and graduate level.

  3. By the way, this GSS analysis was already done by Richard Lynn and Satoshi Kanazawa for Jews. They even reached the same conclusions.

    I think the main anti-intellectual force in the life of a black American is not his parents, it is his peers. It is the peer attitudes toward education that are so bad.

    James, there are at least three things wrong with this theory. One, the full standard deviation IQ gap is often found at the age of three, before blacks encounter a peer culture. And IQ is virtually all there is to the story of black-white economic/educational disparity.

    Second, the research simply doesn't agree with black peers having a substantially worse attitude towards academics than white peers. Blacks and whites report similar kinds of academic values. Blacks nerds are no more likely to be harassed by their peers than white nerds. In fact, both blacks and whites with higher GPAs are more popular at school (At least up to a 3.0 average among blacks).

    Third, sociological experiments with the proper controls appear to indicate that peers don't have much effect on IQ. For example, siblings that share friend groups don't become more alike in intelligence. A huge problem with trying to explain black intelligence levels with these "within group" type social theories, is that "within group" intelligence levels are primarily determined by genetics. Jensen understood this 40 years ago, but elites, intellectuals, and social scientists haven't caught up yet.

    Why is everybody so slow to catch on to this? Because to get away from genetics you can't easily propose a "within group" type explanation for B-W gaps, you need to propose a "between group" explanation, but these sound so obviously implausible that few people dare to propose them (e.g. all blacks have worse attitudes toward education than all whites).

    So people need to ignore the research because it suggests genetics, and genetics are mandatorily outside of mainstream race discourse.

  4. Any research available on black vs white homeschoolers? Seems that this would provide a pretty good way to wash out a lot of the peer effect variables in the analysis. The ideal case, of course, is if you also had access to the SAT, ASVAB, wordsum or some other IQ proxy scores of their parents.

  5. I see more evidence of anti-school attitudes in Mexican-American culture than in African-American culture. You see Mexican kids who are decent students dropping out of high school to get jobs, but you don't see much of that among African-Americans. Also, I see more inclination toward intellectualism among blacks than among Mexicans. Blacks tend to like arguing about ideas. They like being articulate and eloquent. For about the last 15 years, big bookstores have found it reasonable to maintain an African-American shelf. I don't believe I've seen an English-language Latino shelf in bookstores yet, although there are a lot more Latinos.

    Similarly, Richard Rodriguez established himself as the Mexican American literary intellectual go-to guy for the NPR-type media way back in 1981, and, as far as I can tell, he still is just about it. He's good at it (he's a gifted prose stylist), but you'd think there be younger Mexican-Americans clamoring that they are the New Richard Rodriguez by now.

    Another bit of evidence: LSAT scores. Black LSAT scores are terrible (12th percentile of the white distribution), but that's because so many blacks think about going to law school (in contrast to other kinds of graduate schools, for which black scores are, typically, a little better). In contrast, Mexican-American LSAT scores are not too bad (29th percentile of the white distribution), but that's in part because so few Mexican-Americans want to go to law school.

  6. Anonymous8:52 AM

    I think many of the NW Euro groups at the bottom implicitly understand that these traits are correlated and that performance in school is largely genetics + effort.

    So favoring a trait like "Tries hard to succeed" or "Honest and thrifty" or whatever like is killing two birds with one stone.


The Inductivist admits that culture matters

A pure naturist would claim that the culture of East Asians would not change after moving to America. Let's test this with one question ...