Standardized test scores: math and verbal

By Razib Khan | April 16, 2012 11:48 pm

Prompted by miko’s skepticism about the utility of WORDSUM (a vocab test) across subcultures, I went and looked for SAT data. My assumption was that math sections are more “culture-fair” (though from what I gather ETS tries hard in various ways to be culture-fair in general). The data was not hard to find:

You can also check the ACT results.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Uncategorized
MORE ABOUT: SAT
  • Odin

    I too, expected math to be culture fair. I’m quite surprised at the scores of blacks though, considering they are far better established in the U.S. than other minorities. It seems there really is a racial and/or cultural factor.

  • Pushkin

    I’m a “white” Cuban, and I did study Mathematics at the University of Havana. No one could seriously argue the existence of any bias against black people in Castro’s regime. Anyway, there was only one black guy in my course (about 60 students). They were a little more represented in Computer Sciences, at least in the first and second years, but only two guys graduated after a five years career. Back then, I thought it was due to cultural preferences, but now, with more available data, I think there’s a genetic factor involved.

  • Charles Nydorf

    I am a pretty good example of the interplay of genes and family culture when it comes to mathematics. Genetically, I am dyslexic and a terrible calculator who has trouble seeing the differences between numbers. I only had a good time and did fairly well in a small number of math courses. On the the other hand my family is highly mathematical with a lot of enthusiastic amateur mathematicians. Being close to people who liked math made me like math and I too developed into an enthusiastic amateur who cheers himself up by reading math texts.

  • Karl Zimmerman

    I’d be curious to see bell-curve style distributions of scores, although I know they aren’t available at the link.

    Honestly, the WORDSUM scores match closely the perceptions that I’ve made in life. African Americans are seriously under-represented in academia and other advanced degree backgrounds, but when comparing working-class blacks and whites I known, I don’t really see a difference in intelligence. The “right side of the bell curve” being curtailed could explain a great deal of the test score gap.

  • DK

    when comparing working-class blacks and whites I known, I don’t really see a difference in intelligence

    SAT does it see however: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d0/1995-SAT-Income2.png

  • Karl Zimmerman

    5 –

    Family income is not always indicative of future life outcome. And within each economic tier, there may be the same compressed right side of the bell curve.

    Regardless, my point was that in my experience from “working class” jobs, there isn’t a notable difference in intelligence of whatever social stratum of whites and blacks you are dealing with. Basically, “my god you’re a moron” moments have been pretty equal opportunity. If the average black person was really 15% less intelligent than the average white person, even though my dealings with black people as a whole have been less frequent, more instances of outright stupidity should have come to mind.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    #6, a note: this pattern is not evident when you control for wealth.

  • Art

    @Pushkin — Apparently you had blinders on while studying in Cuba. From Wikipedia’s entry entitled “Racism in Cuba”: “…racism in Cuban is systemic and institutional….Black people are systematically excluded from positions in tourism-related jobs, where they could earn tips in hard currencies… According to the EU study, black people are relegated to poor housing…excluded from managerial positions…five times more likely to be imprisoned….longest waits in healthcare…”

    Conservative pundits also allege continued profound institutionalized racism in Cuba. For example, search online for the editorial entitled “A Black Journalist Goes To Cuba” by Myles B. Kantor.

  • Karl Zimmerman

    Razib –

    I’m not quite sure what you mean, since there were discussions of two patterns in this thread. Assuming you mean the WORDSUM scores I first addressed, what do the results look like when you break out the different groups according to wealth.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    what do the results look like when you break out the different groups according to wealth.

    intelligence test is the same when you control for wealth. but not income.

  • miko

    I find it hard to believe Asian Americans aren’t kicking white ass a little harder on the verbal — maybe this includes ESL Asians. And let’s get it together, Mexican Americans, you should look like an Amerindian/European hybrid!

  • Pushkin

    @Art: believe it or not, before the turist boom, Cuban society was a lot different than after. Yes, what you point is true, and even then, there was enough hidden “racism”, but not to the point of interfering with education opportunities. You still could find a lot of black people in other careers, including technical ones. Of course, it’s just my word, not the Word from the Holy Wikipedia.

  • Ed

    @miko

    Mexican-Americans (even 2nd and 3rd gen) mostly pursue vocational careers and place a lot less value on higher education. I think this would partially explain the ‘lower than expected’ test scores.

  • Karl Zimmerman

    11 –

    Also, Native Americans, as defined in the U.S., are in large part “Mestizo” as well. The degree isn’t clear, because there is a strong stigma on genetic testing among Native Americans (in the narrowest sense, meaning those in the U.S.). Some tribes, (Navajo) are clearly less admixed than others (Cherokee). I wouldn’t be all that surprised, if one includes all tribal-affiliated persons, if the average Native American had less indigenous DNA than the average Mexican.

  • gcochran

    A 1-std difference in the mean automatically means a big difference in the fraction that exceeds a high threshold. This has been pointed out at least a jillion times. And what fraction of Americans understands this? one in 500, perhaps?

  • Pincher Martin

    “A 1-std difference in the mean automatically means a big difference in the fraction that exceeds a high threshold. “

    While clearly that’s true, empirically, when we look at different races and ethnic groups, I would have thought it wasn’t something we should “automatically” assume. Shouldn’t it depend on a somewhat similar distribution of scores — which must be tested empirically before assuming?

    Certainly, the opposite is not true when looking at gender. Men and women have identical, or close to identical, means when tested for math, but that doesn’t accurately predict that both genders will have the same comparable fraction testing over a “high threshold” in that field.

  • Joseph

    SAT scores reflect preparation and motivation as much as intelligence. I submit that the data above tells us nothing, as we cannot isolate the variable.

    Pushkin, you need to remove your blinders. I have never been to Cuba, but I know enough about Latin Americans to assert the following: 1) That they pride themselves on being less racist than us gringos, and 2) That they are actually more racist than us gringos. Your statement does nothing to challenge my hypothesis.

  • Pushkin

    … and you’re right, Joseph. Racism and prejudice are universal. But I was not making a judgement. I was only providing some data. I have some black ancestry, by the way. That’s why I choose this nick.

  • Pincher Martin

    “SAT scores reflect preparation and motivation as much as intelligence. I submit that the data above tells us nothing, as we cannot isolate the variable.”

    Poppycock. SAT scores are highly correlated with IQ scores. They are so well correlated that some researchers say you can effectively use the SAT as an IQ test.

    SAT prep? It moves the score very little, on average. And a higher percentage of minority test-takers use test prep than do white test-takers.

    Motivation? You have no clue what you’re talking about. Try to even frame this question in an objective testable manner.

    Racism? European Jews in the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, and the overseas Chinese over the last two centuries, have faced far more discrimination (both institutional and personal) than any ethnic minority in the U.S. has faced in the last forty years. It’s not even close. And yet they couldn’t be kept down — not even with a stick. They excelled in secular pursuits the moment the ruling majorities gave them any room to excel.

  • Joseph

    Pushkin, fair enough.

    Pincher, I can think of responses to all of your points based on my personal experience, but anecdotes are no substitute for data so I’ll refrain. Suffice it to say that more work needs to be done before skeptics like myself are persuaded. Or if you have a study that you think will blow my mind, enlighten me.

  • Joseph

    “European Jews… and the overseas Chinese… have faced far more discrimination (both institutional and personal) than any ethnic minority in the U.S. has faced in the last forty years.”

    Is that supposed to be a joke?

  • Kiwiguy

    ***SAT scores are highly correlated with IQ scores.***

    Another thing you could look at are elementary cognitive tasks that measure reaction time and processing speed (which correlate with g and reduce the scope for motivational factors). Bryan Pesta & Peter Poznanski have a paper on this, but with relatively small sample sizes – Intelligence, 36, (2008) 323-329.

    http://www.csuohio.edu/business/academics/mlr/documents/Pesta_08_intell_race_iq.pdf

  • Pincher Martin

    What books have you read on the science of IQ?

    Based on your remarks here in this comment section, I suspect you haven’t read a single scholarly monogram on the subject and that the journalistic accounts you’ve read have all been heavily biased against the field. If that assumption is correct, then I suggest you read a few short blog comments before wading into the topic any deeper.

    Racial Amplitudes of Scholastic Aptitude will give you a lot of useful information about SAT and IQ as it pertains to race. You should read all of the hyperlinks he provides at his site.

    Steve Sailer has a reader-friendly IQ FAQ section that’s very good at answering basic questions about IQ for someone not interested in going through a lot of numbers or charts. He also has one for Race that fills a similar need.

    I can’t think of any website or blog which deals with the effect of institutional racism on academic performance, but there are certainly many history books on ethnicity which have described how many persecuted minorities have outperformed their persecutors the moment any opportunity was available to them.

  • Pincher Martin

    Is that supposed to be a joke?

    No, why would it be?

  • Joseph

    PM, then explain what you mean.

  • Pincher Martin

    I thought I did. You mentioned racism in Latin America as a way of explaining performance differences in Cuba. I explained that heavy persecution did not prevent Ashkenazi Jews or overseas Chinese (or any other number of ethnic groups) from excelling in fields they had frequently been brutally prevented from entering by the majorities which had persecuted them.

    You might counter by saying that the Jews in Europe were not enslaved for long periods of time. That’s true, but their situation wasn’t substantially better, and may have even been worse on occasion, than what African-Americans have dealt with for the last hundred-fifty years in the United States.

  • Kiwiguy

    @ PM & Joseph,

    Putting aside which group has experienced greater discrimination, the relationship between discrimination and group outcomes on psychometric measures seems pretty tenuous. There are market dominant minorities in various places that face discrimination but outperform the majority population.

  • Pincher Martin

    Kiwiguy,

    “Putting aside which group has experienced greater discrimination, the relationship between discrimination and group outcomes on psychometric measures seems pretty tenuous. There are market dominant minorities in various places that face discrimination but outperform the majority population.”

    I agree. But I’m trying to get him to understand this point in a historical context he might be able to appreciate. I’m not sure your economic Amy Chua-like thesis does this any better than my more focused historical summation.

  • DK

    @16: Men and women have identical, or close to identical, means when tested for math , but that doesn’t accurately predict that both genders will have the same comparable fraction testing over a “high threshold” in that field.

    It does quite accurately predict data. Because what you are saying is not true at all. There hasn’t been a single year of SAT tests where males did not have 0.2-0.4 SD advantage over females in math scores. E.g., see the link below for the most recent data.

  • DK

    @17: SAT scores reflect preparation and motivation as much as intelligence

    But the stubborn facts insist on the failure of every single approach to raise SAT scores substantially. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124278685697537839.html – “SAT coaching resulted in about 30 points in score improvement on the SAT, out of a possible 1600, and less than one point out of a possible 36 on the ACT”. (Note that the % improvement, ~ 2%, is ~ the same for SAT and ACT). Compare to the 160 points difference between math scores for Blacks and Asians in the graph above.

  • Pincher Martin

    DK,

    I don’t see your link, but thanks for the info. I was able to google the scores on my own.

    I thought the gap was nonexistent, or had narrowed significantly, once it was controlled for size. I must have been unintentionally extrapolating from the general IQ scores for men and women, which are roughly equal.

    I do know that Larry Summers’ controversial comment on the matter mentioned the narrower distribution of women’s scores compared to men’s. He speculated that was one reason why there were fewer women in the upper echelons of math and science even though their mean scores were roughly equal with men’s.

  • miko

    Not picking a horse here, but why would we expect whatever “SAT coaching” is to remedy a life time of exposure to adverse influences on testing outcomes?

  • http://www.isteve.blogspot Steve Sailer

    You’ll notice that Asians do better on the new Writing test relative to the old Verbal test than anybody else. I presume this is because the Writing test is somewhat coachable, and Asians invest more in test prep.

  • Ed

    There are definitely people more cognitively gifted than others. Still, I think many are confusing intelligence with education. If SAT tests were truly a measure of intelligence and not education then a cognitively gifted person who never graduated the first grade should be able to score fairly well right? He would just pull those mathematical formulas and vocabulary words etc. out of his ass. There’s no reward for hard work or studying in these types of tests, only a fool would think so. Guess I’ll be telling my kids to not to study for them or even try on them at all.

  • Pincher Martin

    Ed,

    Longitudinal studies show that there isn’t a lot of variation for kids’ IQ scores during their education if they are tested multiple times in their youth. Those who test well at, say, age six generally test well at, say, age seventeen. Those who test poorly at a young age generally test poorly if they manage to make it to graduation. And so on. The kid who scores a 150 IQ at age six is not going to score 100 at age seventeen unless you keep him out of school and away from books for most of his youth.

    Education is universal in the United States, so unless you plan on locking your kids in a box during their formative years, their access to education won’t provide them with any relative benefit when taking an SAT test. That’s probably why SAT tests so closely correlate with IQ tests. In a world where nearly every American has access to a basic education, you would expect SAT scores to closely track IQ scores. And indeed the research shows that is what happens. Exposure to an education would appear to be more important than hard work during your education for the purposes of these tests.

    That doesn’t mean hard work isn’t important in life or education, but there are severe limits to what it can help you achieve cognitively.

  • Ed

    “The kid who scores a 150 IQ at age six is not going to score 100 at age seventeen unless you keep him out of school and away from books for most of his youth.”

    Still, this is admission that the quality of education does indeed influence IQ/SAT scores. If he didn’t know any of the math formulas or vocab words, he wouldn’t do well. Say for example, if his teacher was just going through the motions (or other poor ‘educational environment’) and he had no self-motivation.

    “Education is universal in the United States.”

    Assuming people value education, plan on going to college etc. maybe. Even then to say that a student in say Oakland CA gets the same education a student from an affluent neighborhood in San Francisco does, would be inaccurate. I find it funny when people try to deny and pussyfoot around the environmental variables that influence SAT/IQ/PISA. Sure there are some people who will never do well no matter how much they study, but all you have to do is look at the questions on these tests to know that it is not a measure of innate or immutable anything. People who pay attention or try in class will do much better than someone who is going to be working with his family in a landscaping business regardless.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/education/8368240.stm

    “That doesn’t mean hard work isn’t important in life or education, but there are severe limits to what it can help you achieve cognitively.”

    There definitely are (I wouldn’t doubt that there probably are certain ‘groups’ that will produce individuals who are cognitively talented on average), but to say that we can measure people’s potential intellect with SATs is naive. From my experience both ‘blank slaters’ and those who insist IQ is a a measure of innate/immutable cognitive potential rather than cognitive levels, usually have some kind of personal investment or political bias. Hsu is a good example, a physics professor who claims that “the only department requiring true intellect is advanced math and physics.” I’ve watched a few of his lectures.

  • Pincher Martin

    Ed,

    “Still, this is admission that the quality of education does indeed influence IQ/SAT scores.”

    I was very careful to use the word “exposure” to education, not quality of education, when talking about SAT scores. The SAT doesn’t test difficult or abstruse subjects, and so there is no reason to believe that a kid who scores low on an IQ test when he enters school and then tests poorly again on the SAT when he leaves school ten years later has his education to blame.

    “Assuming people value education, plan on going to college etc. maybe. Even then to say that a student in say Oakland CA gets the same education a student from an affluent neighborhood in San Francisco does, would be inaccurate.”

    So? The SAT is a test of basic skills. All Americans are exposed to that education, and many low-achieving kids keep taking the basic classes until they show enough mastery of the subject to move on in their education. Their direct exposure to these basic skills, which are tested on the SAT, might be more in depth than what many kids at elite schools are exposed to. You don’t have to take an AP Calculus course to get a perfect score on the math section of the SAT. Yet ironically enough, the kids who waste their time taking the AP Calculus course in high school tend to be the kids scoring the best on the math section of the SAT. Go figure.

    The coddled children in an elite SF school might have a Mandarin language class, field trips to Spain, and a massage theorist on call to tenderly manipulate their stressed-out temples when they feel overworked, but since none of those things have been shown to improve SAT scores, they are no better off for having those gaudy features at their school when it comes time to take the test than are the Oakland students who did not have them at their learning institution.

    “Sure there are some people who will never do well no matter how much they study, but all you have to do is look at the questions on these tests to know that it is not a measure of innate or immutable anything. People who pay attention or try in class will do much better than someone who is going to be working with his family in a landscaping business regardless.”

    You seem to have a hard time understanding the implication of what it means when a kid aged six is testing in the same general area relative to his peers as he will be at age seventeen.

    “There definitely are (I wouldn’t doubt that there probably are certain ‘groups’ that will produce individuals who are cognitively talented on average), but to say that we can measure people’s potential intellect with SATs is naive.”

    This is an empirical question, Ed. It can be tested. And the results are in.

    “From my experience both ‘blank slaters’ and those who insist IQ is a a measure of innate/immutable cognitive potential rather than cognitive levels, usually have some kind of personal investment or political bias.”

    From my experience, those who talk about their own “experience” when discussing scientific questions are usually at a loss to discuss the actual science.

  • Karl Zimmerman

    I’d be willing to say that IQ and standardized test scores are, all things considered, highly heritable. Studies of adoptive versus biological children pretty much prove this, IMHO.

    That said, a trait being heritable does not prove it’s genetic. Off the top of my head, I can think of the following possibilities.

    1. Lead poisoning is much more common in low-income neighborhoods in urban areas. Although I can find no particular statistics, MA HREF=”http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100302093336.htm”>in 2010 Michigan State University found lead poisoning was so closely correlated with race that race should be used as a factor to determine who is tested. Even discounting those with full-on lead poisoning, elevated lead levels can result in the loss of around 4 IQ points. Another study found a drop of 7.4 points. So a significant amount of the IQ gap could be explained right there.

    2. Another aspect is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. A study of data from the 1980s suggested it is eight times more prevalent among blacks than whites. This appears to be a function of two things. First, black women are less likely to become total abstainers during pregnancy. But more importantly, there appears to be a huge way between how pregnant women of different races deal with alcohol. I have read that studies have suggested different guidelines for white versus nonwhite women (e.g., drink in moderation versus total abstinence), but there are worries about having a “double standard” guideline even if it is factually correct. Regardless, as with lead poisoning, there are sub-clinical levels of fetal alcohol exposure, which 1% of all children in the U.S. may suffer from.

    3. More generally, there are issues regarding neonatal nutrition. Dutch children who were born following the Famine of 1944 famously had many health issues throughout their lives (although I’m aware of no intelligence issues). I recall reading such severe environmental stress can continue to be felt in the third generation and onward – making it quasi-hereditary, even if it’s not genetic in origin.

  • Ed

    #37

    LOL. It’s true though, most people who desperately want IQ to be ~95% heritable usually have a personal stake in it. Or maybe political:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pioneer_Fund#Political_and_legal_funding

    All I’m saying is that the SAT isn’t a good enough test to measure innate, general or immutable intelligence. Not that everyone has the same cognitive potential. I wouldn’t be surprised if certain groups were more inclined to have more cognitive potential/ability on average than others.
    We just need to develop new tests that are better at ascertaining people’s ‘innate’ talents.

    Is the Flynn Effect explained ‘only’ by an increase in general intelligence? Or are there other factors involved in these tests? Even assuming 100% heritability, the fact that scores can improve 21 points in just 30 years shows that low-IQ groups might not have much to worry about. :)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flynn_effect#The_rise_in_IQ

    Also, suggest to students seriously hoping to attend a high-end college not to study for the SAT. Tell them it won’t matter. Too funny

  • Chuck

    Re: 38. “That said, a trait being heritable does not prove it’s genetic. Off the top of my head, I can think of the following possibilities.”

    This is a really interesting statement — because it speaks a great deal about the terminological confusion that these discussions are still wrapped in. When most behavioral geneticists use the term “heritability” they typically mean “variance caused by genes”; when they use the term “narrow heritability,” they typically mean “variance caused by additive genetic effect.” If this is what heritability means, then, what would it possibly mean to say “a trait being heritable does not prove it’s genetic”? (I’m assuming here that Karl didn’t mean “a trait being heritable within populations doesn’t prove that it’s heritable between populations” — which is trivially true.) These assertions aren’t limited to Karl. You can find all sorts of discussions on “cultural heritability” versus “genetic heritability.” (A google scholar search gives me 181 hits for the oxymoronic former.) And recently Eric Turkheimer has made the case — in response to the Visscher program — that narrow heritability doesn’t really mean narrow heritability in the additive genetic sense. What’s going on here? What’s going on is that behavioral geneticists are inferring genetic causation from statistical associations and quasi-experiments (e.g., virtual twin adoptions). Environmentalists question the inferences and instead of straightforwardly arguing that the inferences are incorrect they reemploy the term “heritability” in atypical senses. As a result of the confusion sown, you now get a lot of people like Karl who argue that “heritability doesn’t imply genes” or that “narrow heritability doesn’t imply environmental immalleability.”

  • Kiwiguy

    ***We just need to develop new tests that are better at ascertaining people’s ‘innate’ talents. ***

    @ Ed,

    The use of basic processing tasks discussed in the paper by Pesta & Pozniaki # 22 above is one example.

    Also, Choi et al

    “Our neurometric model of IQ contributes to a literature showing that brain images can be used to predict complex behaviors and traits (Haynes and Rees, 2006; Knutson et al., 2007). Although our model still does not approach the predictive power of psychometric tests, its high accuracy suggests that neurometric assessments of intelligence may soon become a useful complement to psychometric test. For example, brain images might be used to improve intelligence estimates for individuals whose psychometric scores systematically underestimate their IQ.” The Journal of Neuroscience, 8 October 2008, 28(41):

    ***Is the Flynn Effect explained ‘only’ by an increase in general intelligence? Or are there other factors involved in these tests? Even assuming 100% heritability, the fact that scores can improve 21 points in just 30 years shows that low-IQ groups might not have much to worry about.***

    Maybe, although Jelte Wicherts found the Flynn effect gains were qualitatively different from the b-w differences in the US. There was a paper on that issue a couple of years ago too – Intelligence 38, (2010) 213-219). http://tinyurl.com/7vlafdp

  • Karl Zimmerman

    Chuck –

    I know you wanted to make a broader point here, but I’m aware that something which isn’t genetic isn’t, in the strictest terms, heritable. However, it can provide the appearance of heredity. All the examples I gave are environmental factors which would take place in the womb, with the effects possibly set for life regardless of further interventions. While not genetic, this sort of inherent biological condition shares more with nature than nurture, as it shows we aren’t “blank slates” and culture cannot mold us into anything.

  • AG

    “intelligence test is the same when you control for wealth. but not income”

    Really like this part for many reasons.

  • Miley Cyrax

    @39, Ed

    “It’s true though, most people who desperately want IQ to be ~95% heritable usually have a personal stake in it. Or maybe political:”

    A .82 correlation between SAT and IQ has been found.

    An R of .7 to .8 has been repeatedly uncovered for the heritability of g.
    http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2011/07/heritability-20.html

    Straw men and ad hominems can’t change that.

    @38, Karl

    “black women are less likely to become total abstainers during pregnancy.”

    I would imagine future time orientation and discipline, which I presume are correlated with IQ, are heritable, too…

  • Pincher Martin

    Ed,

    “LOL. It’s true though, most people who desperately want IQ to be ~95% heritable usually have a personal stake in it. Or maybe political:”

    I don’t know anyone who claims IQ is ~95% heritable, but the same basic point about a personal or political stake in this matter could be said of any scientific question with social implications. And the allegation of political bias can be directed at both sides of any scientific question. Are Stephen Jay Gould and Leon Kamin less political than Charles Murray and Arthur Jensen?

    Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. Either the science stands up to repeated tests or it doesn’t. And, no, standing up to repeated tests does not mean standing up to “commonsense” speculation by laymen who believe their worldly experience of looking a man in the eye when giving him a firm handshake gives them a window into his soul and a peek at his real IQ.

    “All I’m saying is that the SAT isn’t a good enough test to measure innate, general or immutable intelligence.”

    And yet the SAT is a very good test of g. Fancy that. Isn’t it amazing that the world of science doesn’t have to operate according to your preconceptions of the way it should operate. It doesn’t have to find the results you believe make sense.

    “Also, suggest to students seriously hoping to attend a high-end college not to study for the SAT. Tell them it won’t matter. Too funny”

    Many people don’t. In fact, of all major demographic groups in the United States, white test takers are the least likely to take an SAT prep course. Yet they seem to do okay the day of the test.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    , white test takers are the least likely to take an SAT prep course.

    really? is test prep a big deal in the black and hispanic communities?

  • Karl Zimmerman

    As was stated earlier, SAT test prep appears not to raise test scores much in aggregate at all. Thus even if minorities are disproportionately likely to use it, it probably doesn’t mean much more than 1 or 2 IQ points.

  • Ed

    #47
    I find that odd. IQ tests have vocab words and mathematical formulas as part of the test questions. IMHO the tests should consist of mostly matrix reasoning type questions that are nearly impossible to prep for.

    I know this has been mentioned in previous discussions, but it’s relevant so I’ll leave it here.
    http://cscs.umich.edu/~crshalizi/weblog/520.html

    Let me sum up.

    1. The most common formulae used to estimate heritability are wrong, either for trivial mathematical reasons (such as the upward bias in the difference between monozygotic and dizygotic twins’ correlations), or for substantive ones (the covariance of monozygotic twins raised apart neglects shared environments other than the family, such as maternal and community effects).

    2. The best estimate I can find puts the narrow heritability of IQ at around 0.34 and the broad heritability at 0.48.

    3. Even this estimate neglected heteroskedasticity, gene-environment interactions, gene-environment covariance, the existence of shared environment beyond the family, and the possibility that the samples being used are not representative of the broader population.

    4. Now that people are finally beginning to model gene-environment interactions, even in very crude ways, they find it matters a lot. Recall that Turkheimer et al. found a heritability which rose monotonically with socioeconomic status, starting around zero at low status and going up to around 0.8 at high status. Even this is probably an over-estimate, since it neglected maternal effects and other shared non-familial environment, correlations between variance components, etc. Under such circumstances, talking about “the” heritability of IQ is nonsense. Actual geneticists have been saying as much since Dobzhansky at least.

    5. Applying the usual heritability estimators to traits which are shaped at least in part by cultural transmission, a.k.a. traditions, is very apt to confuse tradition with genetics. The usual twin studies do not solve this problem. Studies which could don’t seem to have been done.

    6. Heritability is completely irrelevant to malleability or plasticity; every possible combination of high and low heritability, and high and low malleability, is not only logically possible but also observed.
    Randomized experiments, natural experiments and the Flynn Effect all show what competent regressions also suggest, namely that IQ is, indeed, responsive to purely environmental interventions.

    7. Randomized experiments, natural experiments and the Flynn Effect all show what competent regressions also suggest, namely that IQ is, indeed, responsive to purely environmental interventions.

  • Pincher Martin

    Razib,

    “really? is test prep a big deal in the black and hispanic communities?”

    Among those taking the test, apparently.

    Here’s the online source:

    “The inflection point between the years of rapid progress for black students and the present stagnation seems to be around 1990. Steve Sailer pointed to the crack epidemic, as well as increased black participation in SAT testing over the years and disparate rates of test preparation course usage. Actually, black, Hispanic, Asian, and Native-American students are all more likely to employ test preparation courses than white students.”

    I didn’t look at the original source, and I probably should have because the fact does seem suspect enough to double-check.

  • JL

    Ed, some comments on the seven points:

    1. There are also downward biases in the classic twin design, e.g. assortative mating which is almost never controlled for. Most evidence suggests that maternal effects also tend to make twins more dissimilar, not more similar. For example, the birth weights of twins are more discordant than those of singletons from the same mother. And there have been attempts to identify those supposed MZA shared effects, but it’s been to no avail.

    2. That’s not the best estimate. That’s the lowest estimate found in the newer literature. It also disregards the age trend in heritability. The Visscher method, which bypasses all the traditional criticisms of heritability estimates, puts a lower bound of 40 to 50 percent to the narrow heritability of intelligence.

    3. A large number of studies from different countries using different methods converge on similar heritability estimates. There are also studies that contain entire twin birth cohorts from a country. Those sorts of criticisms would be more plausible if there were data to back them up.

    4. The evidence on SES-heritability interactions is very mixed. Turkheimer found an interaction, others have not or have even found that genetic effects are stronger in low-SES environments. A recent big study by Plomin et al. found some evidence for stronger between-family effects for low-SES families, but they are skeptical that even those modest effects will last as the children grow up.

    5. I’m not quite sure what this argument means. Why would these traditions affect siblings proportionately to the extent that they share genes? Or is he talking about e.g. racial comparisons?

    6. Heritability is not irrelevant to malleability. Assuming that there are no large GxE or G-E effects (which seems reasonable at this point), 80 percent heritability means that removing all the extant sources of environmental variance (an impossible feat, but let’s leave that aside) leaves 80 percent of the variance in intelligence intact. Perhaps there are as yet undiscovered environmental interventions that could change this picture, but that does not mean that heritability is irrelevant to malleability. There no known interventions (save the Harrison Bergeron method) that could eliminate the current, strongly genetically influenced population variance in intelligence.

    7. There’s a difference between “vehicles” (i.e., measurement instruments), and the actual construct that’s being measured (i.e., intelligence). For example, it seems that the Flynn effect is mainly a measurement artifact — our great-grandparents were not in fact all morons. Another example which Shalizi cites is Rick Heber’s Milwaukee study (let’s leave aside the fact that that study is rather dubious and Heber went to prison for pilfering much of the funds). While that very expensive experiment produced some apparently lasting IQ gains in the treatment group, it did not make them better students than the control group, suggesting that the experiment improved narrow IQ test-taking skills (=vehicle) but not intelligence. This does not mean that no environmental intervention can make people more intelligent, but the fact is that the effects are much more modest than people realize.

  • Ed

    #50

    6. Heritability is not irrelevant to malleability. Assuming that there are no large GxE or G-E effects (which seems reasonable at this point), 80 percent heritability means that removing all the extant sources of environmental variance (an impossible feat, but let’s leave that aside) leaves 80 percent of the variance in intelligence intact. Perhaps there are as yet undiscovered environmental interventions that could change this picture, but that does not mean that heritability is irrelevant to malleability. There no known interventions (save the Harrison Bergeron method) that could eliminate the current, strongly genetically influenced population variance in intelligence.

    Above seems about right. It seems like something’s unaccounted for with the questions on SAT (Vocab, Formulas other material able to be prepped for) determining innate cognitive ability.

    #41.

    Yeah I know The Flynn Effect’s not the same thing that causes the black and white gap. Just showing that the tests need change/improvement is all (21 point increase in 30 years?!). Ty for that link btw.

  • Ed

    “I didn’t look at the original source , and I probably should have because the fact does seem suspect enough to double-check.”

    Seems like an unbiased and objective source to me(why the need to double check?). Especially with this image upload of Trayvon “Standing on the shoulders of giants” Martin.
    http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-76ENjTWA2r0/T4VxJ14hysI/AAAAAAAAASQ/LHjdti1a29E/s400/trayvon.jpg

    Accompanying text:
    “As white culture took a sudden turn towards introspection and sensitivity, black culture veered elsewhere. Not one for subtlety, in 1992 rapper Ice Cube depicted himself literally kidnapping the feel-good, mainstream rapper MC Hammer and forcing him into a Kahlid “Kill the White Babies” Muhammad re-education camp.”

    This doesn’t reek at all of political bias.

    There is a strong positive correlation between IQ and Shoe size too. :)
    http://www.cmu.edu/CSR/case_studies/shoe_size.html
    Please, no ad hominem on my source.

  • Pincher Martin

    “Seems like an unbiased and objective source to me (why the need to double check?)…. This doesn’t reek at all of political bias.”

    It was mainly just laziness on my part, Ed. Most political hacks don’t bother to link to scholarly sources when making a point, especially when that point is abstruse and buried in a long piece. It’s dangerous to your credibility if you don’t succeed in passing it off, and not helpful to your general argument if you do. So I assumed he was on the level. It would also cost $32 for me to access the paper at home, which seems excessive to ease my mind about the certainty of a fact I’m not that committed to.

    Like a hound dog, you have zeroed in on the 5% of the blog entry that’s over-the-top. Most of the commentary is well-written, well-sourced, and intelligently argued.

    It must be hard being the only objective man in the country, having to put up with the politics and prejudices of others.

  • Ed

    Maybe you’re right. There’s no way a g loaded question like this is coachable:

    A special lottery is to be held to select the student who will live in the only deluxe room in a dormitory. There are 100 seniors, 150 juniors, and 200 sophomores who applied. Each senior’s name is placed in the lottery 3 times; each junior’s name, 2 times; and each sophomore’s name, 1 time. What is the probability that a senior’s name will be chosen?

    There is no way a superior education or top of the line tutors would change the outcome of a test loaded with such questions, I apologize sir. There’s no way income is in any way a predictor variable. Someone with more credentials than me said so, it must be true.

  • http://theunsilencedscience.blogspot.com/ nooffensebut

    “Seems like an unbiased and objective source to me(why the need to double check?).[sic]”

    Please check my sources.

    “This doesn’t reek at all of political bias.”

    Please bite me.

  • Pincher Martin

    Ed,

    Post #55 should probably stand as the final rebuke to your efforts to make this subject all about you and your supposed keen sense of sniffing out the biases of others. Clearly, you’re in over your head on this topic and not entirely aware of your own biases. You believe your good horse sense and experience are more than a match for a science with a century of research behind it. It doesn’t seem to have occurred to you that many smart people have been studying IQ, from various angles, for a long time. Did you seriously believe you would come in here and upend their efforts with a few skeptical, commonsense observations?

    The science of IQ has serious critics. You are not among them.

  • Ed

    #55
    What criteria did they use to determine that blacks obtained the ‘highest level’ of SAT prep? Why post supplementary display out of context of how they obtained the data, I’m curious. Lol…

    #56

    Oooh I’m in over my head. :)

    I guess I should leave all the ‘hard thinking’ to such unbiased and oh-so-knowledgeable people like you? Please… Why don’t you tell me, since you’re obviously an expert, why the question above isn’t coachable. Why is it ~80% determined only by genes. Explain in layman’s terms please, wouldn’t want you to go over my head now. (Post # 54 in case you have trouble finding it.)

    Implying that science isn’t capable of political bias or that abstracts don’t sometimes dress up what they actually have proven/found with sensationalist wordplay. Naive, dense or willfully ignorant.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pioneer_Fund#Political_and_legal_funding
    White nationalist, anti-immigration funding for Rushton and Lynn (cited in here a few times). I knew it would be a tough crowd because even the idea of SATs being “partially” affected by nonhereditary factors drew massive flamer.

    Exactly 1/3 of the human race has to die for the human race to be sustainable.. Black people we’re looking at you. Plz no attacks on my source.
    http://www.theonion.com/articles/scientists-look-onethird-of-the-human-race-has-to,27166/

  • Pincher Martin

    Ed,

    “I guess I should leave all the ‘hard thinking’ to such unbiased and oh-so-knowledgeable people like you?”

    I’m not asking you to leave the hard thinking to other people. I’m saying you’re incapable of hard thinking. Note the critical difference between those two statements.

    I’m also not claiming I’m unbiased or an expert on the research involving IQ. But then I don’t have to be an expert when discussing this subject with you because you quite obviously don’t even have a dilettante’s interest in the subject matter. In your land of the blind, Ed, I’m the one-eyed man who’s king.

    Let’s take an obvious example from upthread where you mention the fact that a kid in the Oakland public school system would probably not get the same quality education that a kid in an elite San Francisco school would receive. Do you really believe, my dear Mister Ed, that most of what must be hundreds, possibly even thousands, of scholars who have studied IQ and education never bothered to consider, control for, and dismiss that fact? Do you think they were all waiting around for you to point out these educational discrepancies so that they could give themselves a collective slap on their collective forehead and exclaim in unison, “Of course, why didn’t I think of that?!”?

    “Why don’t you tell me, since you’re obviously an expert, why the question above isn’t coachable. “

    You don’t have to be an expert to know that ten years of a public education for what are mostly college-bound students is enough to show approximately what percentage of seventeen-year-old kids that question is coachable to. If they can’t figure out the answer to your question after ten years of “coaching” — even if it’s “coaching” you consider inferior — then they’re probably not going to figure it out with a little more coaching in the form of test prep or a student guide or a tutor.

    “Implying that science isn’t capable of political bias or that abstracts don’t sometimes dress up what they actually have proven/found with sensationalist wordplay. Naive, dense or willfully ignorant.”

    This statement is why, in my opinion, you’re not coachable, Ed. Despite my best efforts.

    Nowhere have I ever claimed that scientists are unbiased. I have never claimed that the sources I linked are unbiased. I have not claimed I’m unbiased. If you think otherwise, show the proof.

    What I stated in the very beginning was that ultimately it didn’t matter. The scientific results would either stand up to repeated tests to disprove them or not. That’s because biased scientists exist on both sides of this question. There are numerous scientists at work today trying to disprove everything I think I know about IQ. Those scientists would make their bones if they ever succeeded. You can instinctively distrust the motives of every scientist you ever meet and still trust the process.

  • Ed

    ” I’m saying you’re incapable of hard thinking. ”

    Didn’t read the rest of your post. I think meaningful discussion ended long ago.

    Hmm I guess you could be right though. Maybe it’s just destiny that East Asians sit at the top of the pyramid. According to ‘unbiased’ science anyways. :)

  • Justin Giancola

    I actually do not know the direct formula to solving that problem; I tested highly as a kid, was in the gifted program, and nearly anytime I meet strangers they comment on my astuteness / intelligence. I only took up to algebra 2 in high school, as that was all that was required – and I didn’t like school. I went to a good public school and a private school, and have yet to take another math class having finally gone to college years later.

    I took a math entry test with no studying, just to see how much I really knew; the questions got harder the more you got right, and would stop from getting a just a few wrong. There were many questions I had to just figure out “a way” as I didn’t know the formulas. I eventually came to a question I had no idea how to wing. Lo and behold I completed up through Algebra 2.

    I’d imagine I could wing that problem and possibly figure it out, but that would take time and the SAT is timed, so I’d likely not answer all the questions. As for my actual SAT score it was the lowest in my family, yet everyone thinks I am the smartest. I was having a shitty time around when tests were held – even that specific day no less – and didn’t plan on going to college, so no prep and a whatever mindset. I did worse than on the preSAT which was told back then we’d all do better than. Another thing to consider: people’s attitude.

  • Pincher Martin

    Ed,

    “Didn’t read the rest of your post. I think meaningful discussion ended long ago.”

    For once, I suspect you’re right. But you missed a good post.

    “Hmm I guess you could be right though. Maybe it’s just destiny that East Asians sit at the top of the pyramid. According to ‘unbiased’ science anyways.”

    You refer to this fact as if I — or anyone else here knowledgeable about the findings of IQ and demography — would be surprised by it. But this is once again a case of you treating commonplace knowledge about IQ as if it’s revelatory or shocking.

    I do wonder, though, what sort of cognitive dissonance you have to live with when you suggest that “white nationalists” are really the only sort of people who take to this stuff about IQ and demography, while at the same time you correctly state that whites trail not only East Asians, but Jews, in the hierarchy of IQ scores. Don’t you think white nationalists would be a little more careful in arranging their hierarchy? You know, as long as they were making shit up, anyway, why not just put mighty whitey up on top?

    I think you would be surprised at the diversity of those who think there’s something to this science, as well as the whiteness of those who fight against its findings most vehemently.

  • Kiwiguy

    @ Ed,

    Regarding the Pioneer Fund it’s probably worth bearing in mind that at one point there was even hostility to twin studies because they might reveal significant genetic influence on behaviour. Thomas Bouchard had to go to them to get funding for his twins reared apart study. If there was easily available funding for studies looking at the genetic basis for group differences then your objection would carry more weight.

  • http://www.apesorangels.com Cornelius Troost

    Pincher Martin has defended what mainsteam genetics has discovered. He is right on all counts. Ed seems not to fully grasp the powerful case for diversity of IQ among races. Darwinian evolution would predict the often serious differences resulting from many thousands of years of geographic isolation.

    The reason for liberal resistance is the religiosity of the myth of equality. For Nisbett, Gould, Kaku, and even Matt Ridley, whose The Agile Gene is excellent, the myth is overpowering. Ridley cannot accept IQ differences even as he believes in enormous variation. This is a major impasse. Humans must be made equal! The late James F. Crow, the Father of American genetics, discussed diversity as a racial reality but he, too, realized that liberalism conflicts with biology. Darwin’s truth defies liberalism.

  • Eric

    Regarding Jews and IQ scores:
    Shanghai IQ score > American Jew IQ score. Shanghai isn’t even the ‘intellectual Mecca’ of China anyways according to Hsu (?) If I recall correctly.

    Standardized tests are pretty consistent with intelligence tests as well. (SAT especially)
    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_n1cdSAim23E/SR8Tg2TOW5I/AAAAAAAAAO8/H_Cy-jG6j7U/s1600/PhyChemBio.jpg

    Intel Talent Search 2012:
    http://cache.daylife.com/imageserve/02tA7ChaIM43S/576x.jpg

    70% of engineers with PhD’s who graduate from U.S. universities are foreign-born:
    http://www.forbes.com/sites/ciocentral/2011/01/20/danger-america-is-losing-its-edge-in-innovation/

    Can’t argue with results I guess. Even if it is debatable whether it is cognitive levels rather than potential causing such results.

  • http://www.apesorangels.com Cornelius Troost

    Eric is hung up over “cognitive levels” vs potential. This is a false dichotomy. Potential is the learning capacity handed to each child via genes. It contains strong developmental aspects but reaches its peak in high school. If you have the capacity to test out at an IQ of 175, you will do so if exposed to a reasonable amount of education. College is duck soup for such a person.

    The routine work of theoretical physicists is about the highest cognitive work there is. They have the highest IQ’s among scientists and must completely degrade their language in writing as Paul Davies does for the general public. While there may be “levels” of cogntive skill the term IQ covers the kinds of analytic thinking common to much science and engineering.

  • http://www.apesorangels.com Cornelius Troost

    Pincher Martin is additiionally correct re the diversity of the conservative forces fighting the worthy battle for America’s soul. Blacks are in general orrupted by the role reversal of our society and play almost zero part in attacking the vagueries of Leftism. This paralysis is mainly a product of intoxication with power as they feel quite omnipotent in the face of white physical fear and white impotence in the face of weapons like the word “racist.” The statistics of black on white crime ought to scare all thinking persons.

    Even a bright intellectual like Tom Sowell has trouble with genetics realities. Rare indeed is the black able to objectively assess the evidence from behavioral genetics. Thus, we find our friends primarily among Asians like Steve Hsu, a really sharp physicist able to outthink the best of the barbarian Left. Steve digested enough genetics to teach a basic course and he poses a formidable threat to the Left on that count.

    Needless to say, Razib is another formidable thinker whose worldly sophistication can at times be downright scary. He seems to know more history and literature than most even as he demonstrates a knowledge of genetics far beyond most. If you go to http://www.apesorange ls.com you can read his review of my little book. Iam currently revising the book and hoping that Ed and others will become readers. White nationalists are not my audience but they readily join us in blogs, creating confusion and chaos at times. Whites do indeed have a battle for survival but a KKK solution is counterproductive. We have science on our side so if millions read my little book we can begin to turn the tide. Liberalism has virtues that helped make our democracy great but equality misconstrued can become downright evil. Will science defeat the forces of obscurantism??

  • Kiwiguy

    Just fixing that link Dr Troost.

    http://apesorangels.com/

  • Jm8

    There seem to be only small racial gaps in Britain according to this recent and fairly detailed analysis in several posts of data from iq and other g loaded tests at:

    http://occidentalascent.wordpress.com/

    It concerns African and Caribbean Blacks, British Whites, and in some cases various South Asian and other groups.

  • Ed

    Are you aware that ‘left vs right” and ‘liberal vs collective’ scales are completely separate from each other Cornelius? Seems as if you are using the words left and liberal interchangeably.

    I agree btw, that preference for the majority (collectivism NOT autocracy) is superior to liberalism (rights of the individual at the expense of the majority). The left vs right scale is completely economic… Giving preference to the few whether it be minorities or corporate oligarchs will come at the expense of the majority, national security and sovereignty.

    Look at all the countries projected to be the top economies in 2050. Most guide their economies to benefit the majority as well as the state. Look at the nations in the EU with positive outlooks: Norway, Sweden etc. (I won’t get caught up in a debate about strict definitions of capitalism, communism, state capitalism, socialism etc… Suffice to say they are more middle ground, maybe just right or left of center while USA is autocratic laissez faire with a preference for the few ‘elites’ AKA crony capitalist.) Again, can’t argue with results.

    What we have now in the US is liberal capitalism, what we need is ‘right-wing socialism’

  • Jm8
  • http://www.apesorangels.com Cornelius Troost

    I don’t agree with your prescription for our future but certainly right-wing or conservative values are endangered by current trends. Rampant immigration these days involves a stupendous risk as our IQ and crime data suggest. The temptation to go socialist will be accelerated by the invasion of poor peasants whose desire for dependency will drive much of politics toward the liberal end.

    I was primarily defending Pincher Martin for his excellent arguments. You can learn much from him. I prefer not to engage in a definitional battle over political terms right now. Iam sure, however, that equality is central to liberalism and misuse of that idea has created vast trouble in our society. We need to learn to live with human variability but to invite hordes of lesser IQ types is surely a questional policy for national progress.

  • Ed

    Lol definitional battle. There is no battle, the fact that you don’t know this and blog about politics is frightening. Left vs right is 100% economic. Libertarian vs collective/autocratic is completely independent of this. Just because the “left” in this country tend to be more libertarian doesn’t mean that all liberals are left, Ron Paul *cough*. On the opposite end you’d have someone like Mao (autocratic far left. )

    @KiwiGuy #62

    Sorry didn’t notice your post until now.

    While there is no such thing as a completely unbiased source, a source funded by anti-immigration hard liners and white nationalists warrants cynicism no matter how you would attempt to justify it.

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

Gene Expression

This blog is about evolution, genetics, genomics and their interstices. Please beware that comments are aggressively moderated. Uncivil or churlish comments will likely get you banned immediately, so make any contribution count!

About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com

ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT

RSS Razib’s Pinboard

Edifying books

Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »