The Black-White IQ Gap as Being Environmental

The Black-White IQ Gap as Being Environmental July 31, 2020

I am tired of the racists who come on these threads and attempt to spread their agenda-laden claptrap of race realism. The latest example was an article I wrote concerning a comment that I so thoroughly debunked that it was no surprise to see the level of cognitive dissonance in the original defenders of that comment in the thread below my article.

Evidence and rational argument apparently count for nought in such debates, it appears. Water off a duck’s back.

The sorts of comments that keep reappearing concern IQ, as Otto T. Goat opines:

The fact mean black IQ is 85 explains all the “racial disparity” in advanced courses and gifted education.

That’s an interesting claim because, in the article above, the claim this person made rebutted with linked evidence that precisely proved this wrong (that when like for like black and white children are compared, the black child is over two times less likely to receive gifted and talented education). I’ll lay out the abstract to one analysis:

Students of color are underrepresented in gifted programs relative to White students, but the reasons for this underrepresentation are poorly understood. We investigate the predictors of gifted assignment using nationally representative, longitudinal data on elementary students. We document that even among students with high standardized test scores, Black students are less likely to be assigned to gifted services in both math and reading, a pattern that persists when controlling for other background factors, such as health and socioeconomic status, and characteristics of classrooms and schools. We then investigate the role of teacher discretion, leveraging research from political science suggesting that clients of government services from traditionally underrepresented groups benefit from diversity in the providers of those services, including teachers. Even after conditioning on test scores and other factors, Black students indeed are referred to gifted programs, particularly in reading, at significantly lower rates when taught by non-Black teachers, a concerning result given the relatively low incidence of assignment to own-race teachers among Black students.

This is exactly what was set out by Malcolm Gladwell. But, as I said, evidence means nought.

He feels very strongly about the IQ differences, so much so that he feels it explains ALL of the crime differentials and other black-white outcome differences. (I am not going to dispute the fact that there is an IQ difference here or even pick particular issue with IQ as a signifier of anything, which certainly can be done,  for the sake of argument.) For example:

The difference is Baltimore is full of low IQ blacks. Homicides in 73% white Portland are disproportionately committed by blacks.

This is staggering, the idea that IQ translates directly over to crime stats. Of course, he cherry-picks his crimes. His don’t include white colour crimes that end up defrauding tax incomes by the billion, or other such “high-IQ crimes”. Or crimes committed by white people. This approach is to say, “Look at these types of crimes; they are more likely to be committed by black people, and this is because they have a low IQ due to genetic differences associated with being black. As such, there is nothing we can do about this apart from be prejudiced against black people.”

I have often asked that even if this was the case, what does he want to do with this knowledge, policy-wise? Halt immigration of black people? What?

Because, as I set out in my challenge to him, if he is really, genuinely worried about crime stats, it turns out that men are 882% more likely to commit violent crimes than women, a stat that destroys the black-white differential. So, any position he takes against blacks should be levelled even more so against men. But no. No, no, no. He doesn’t do that because it is actual racism that underwrites his opinions, not rational thought and argument. His claims of “false analogy” are just, well, false.

He admits Asians have higher mean IQs than whites, an oft-cited statistic that supposedly allows such people to claim they aren’t racist. Except they never apply the punitive measures they want to apply to blacks to whites in relation to Asians. Funny that.

Damn, I forgot, it’s just a cover-up for good old racism.

Occasionally, he admits it might not solely be genetics, but he won’t quantify this, and in all his comments, he effectively apportions meaningful causality to genetics:

Income, wealth, poverty, and education differences are largely because blacks have lower average IQ’s than whites. Blacks are incarcerated at a higher rate because they commit crimes at a higher rate than other races. Blacks have lower life expectancy partly from genetic reasons and partly for cultural reasons.

So with an absence of “genetics is responsible for X% difference in IQ, and this then causally translates to Y% difference in a given outcome”, we’ll take him at his obvious intention here: that genetics is responsible for lower IQ and this is then responsible for higher crime rates, lower education etc., in totality, even though he might occasionally throw in a “largely” (where this would normally be about an 80%+ effect, anyway).

So the pitched battle between those who are called “hereditarians” and “non-hereditarians” still rages. This is because there is evidence both ways for genetic influence on racial groups. The points being as to whether racial groups are a meaningful way of differentiating people, whether IQ tests are biased and culturally skewed, and whether any genetic influence on IQ is actually statistically/causally meaningful when looking at other differentials (such as crime, educational attainment and so on), or do environmental factors do a much better job of accounting for (if not all then most of) the outcome differentials between blacks and whites.

There are plenty of other arguments concerning this arena, such as punishing high-achieving IQ black individuals on account of mean averages, and so on.

I just want to include a number of points set out by Mother Jones in their article “Here’s Why the Black-White IQ Gap Is Almost Certainly Environmental“:

  • Modern humans migrated into Europe about 40,000 years ago. That’s a very short time for selection pressures to produce a significant increase in a complex trait like intelligence, which we know to be controlled by hundreds of different genes. Even 100,000 years is a short time. It’s not impossible to see substantial genetic changes that fast, but it’s unlikely.
  • Speaking very generally, recent research suggests that the heritability of intelligence is about two-thirds biological and one-third environmental. That amount of environmental influence is more than enough to account for the black-white IQ gap.
  • There’s a famous result in intelligence studies called the Flynn Effect. What it tells us is that average IQs rose about 3 points per decade throughout the 20th century. That’s roughly 20 points of IQ throughout the entire period, and it’s obvious that this couldn’t have been caused by genes.³ It’s 100 percent environmental. This is clear evidence that environmental factors are quite powerful and can easily account for very large IQ differences over a very short period of time.
  • The difference in average IQ recorded in different European countries is large: on the order of 10 points or more. The genetic background of all these countries is nearly identical, which means, again, that something related to culture, environment, and education is having a large effect.
  • It is very common for marginalized groups to have low scores on IQ tests. In the early years of the 20th century, for example, the recorded IQs of Italian-Americans, Irish-Americans, Polish-Americans and so forth were very low. This was the case even for IQ scores recorded from the children of immigrants, all of whom were born and educated in the US and were fluent English speakers. These IQ scores weren’t low because of test discrimination (at least not primarily because of that), they were low because marginalized groups often internalize the idea that they aren’t intelligent. However, over the decades, as these groups became accepted as “white,” their IQ scores rose to the average for white Americans.
  • The same thing has happened elsewhere. In the middle part of the 20th century, the Irish famously had average IQ scores that were similar to those of American blacks—despite the fact that they’re genetically barely distinguishable from the British. However, as Ireland became richer and the Irish themselves became less marginalized, their IQ scores rose. Today their scores are pretty average.
  • In 1959, Klaus Eyferth performed a study of children in Germany whose fathers had been part of the occupation forces. Some had white fathers and some had black fathers. The IQ scores of the white children and the racially mixed children was virtually identical.
  • Over the past few decades, the black-white IQ gap has narrowed. Roughly speaking, it was about 15 points in 1970 and it’s about 10 points now. This obviously has nothing to do with genes.

The author concludes:

(a) the short time since humans migrated to Europe doesn’t allow much scope for big genetic changes between Africans and Europeans, (b) it’s clear that environment can have a very large effect on IQ scores, and (c) anyone who thinks the marginalization of African Americans isn’t a big enough effect to account for 10-15 points of IQ is crazy.

It is well worth referring to Alan Duval’s piece here at ATP: “Race and IQ“. In that paper, Duval took issue with Otto’s reference of particular  paper, and took the paper to pieces. The first five points in hits summary refer directly to that paper, but his next nine are relevant here:

  1. When poverty is made salient a 13-point drop in state IQ is noted. Wave 4 participants were in their 30’s – no longer juveniles living with a parent.

  2. When raised in poverty individuals may be more than one SD (>15 IQ points) behind peers by age 15.

  3. These two potentially additive effects could cause as much as two SDs to be wiped off what would genetically be expected – but African-Americans are only behind by one SD according to Otto’s cited paper.

  4. African-Americans are arrested for marijuana possession at 15 times the rate of whites, and imprisoned at between four and eight times the rate, despite the fact that whites use marijuana slightly more than African-Americans.

  5. African-Americans have, on average, around 20% European DNA.

  6. 2% of self-defining African Americans may have less than 2% African DNA, but 10% non-European DNA.

  7. Whose definition of “African” is used by the study, or indeed by race realists?

  8. The impact of paler skin on access to Socio-Economic improvement has been the case for 400 years and is not necessarily linked to European DNA, given that relative darkness caused individuals to be forced to work in the sun thereby getting darker.

  9. Some Africans were possibly Caucasoid, but are nevertheless now considered African-American by racialists.

So, for Otto to make his race realist case, he has to account for all 14 issues (some obviously easier than others).

The fundamental problem Otto has is that African-Americans have, on average, around 20% European DNA, and one has no way of knowing whether the relevant SNPs that make up that 20% impact intelligence, and whether they do so positively or negatively, likewise with the 70+% that actually is African.

Otto will have difficulty claiming that the genes for melanin production and intelligence are linked. So, whether he assigns someone an African-American identity (with around 20% European DNA), or they self-identify as African American (with a 2% chance of only having 2% African DNA) there are some serious statistical issues for making the case stick.

The likelihood that 400 years of racism continues to relegate African-Americans to disproportionately low Socio-Economic Status, and thus lower IQ, irrespective of gene-based intelligence, cannot be discounted by the paper, or Otto’s rhetoric.

That’s enough for now. This should suffice to shut Otto up.

But it won’t.

Because, you know, racism is a really strong driver.

 


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