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Black-White Gap in IQ Scores Closing, Study Finds

The gap in IQ scores between Blacks and White has narrowed since 1972, according to a paper to be published this fall in the journal Psychological Science.

Researchers William T. Dickens, a senior fellow in economic studies at the Brookings Institution, and James R. Flynn, professor of political studies at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand, also say intelligence is not just genetic, but that environment plays a role. They came to the conclusion after analyzing 30 years of test score data from four different tests of cognitive ability.

“We don’t dispute that within races, intelligence is partly inherited … that evidence is rock solid,” says Dickens.

Some scholars claim that differences between races is due to genetic traits, but the authors say their findings conclude that intelligence differences among racial groups also may have to do with the environment.

Unsure of the exact reason for the narrowing of the gap, Dickens says it could be due to “improvements in school systems, lessening of discrimination or the booming middle class, so it could have to do with the Civil Rights Act, but that is speculation.”

The researchers found that Blacks gained an average of .18 IQ points a year on Whites from 1972 to 2002 for a total gain of 5.4 IQ points. Further, Blacks have gained on Whites at all points in the distribution of ability, with gains being only modestly lower for those in the top 10 percent.

The new study disputes the 2005 finding of Drs. Philippe Rushton and Arthur Jensen, who said the present-day  IQ difference between Black and White Americans was as large as it was nearly 100 years ago. Rushton has argued that Dickens and Flynn hand-picked only certain types of tests. But Dickens says they used every nationally represented test.

He also adds that co-author Flynn’s report on the worldwide rise in IQ scores over the last century has affected African-Americans.

“Black gains are on top of what everyone is making,” he says. “[The gains may have] changed or stopped in Scandinavia, but in the U.S. it’s still going on.”

— By Shilpa Banerji


Reader comments on this story:

There are currently 2 reader comments on this story:

“a relative concept”
I am shocked that these pschologist boldly purport to meaure something called an “intelligence gap,” when the definition of “intelligence” is no more sound today than it was when this debate began in the 1960s. Read The IQ Mythology by Elaine Mensh and Henry Mensh. The wealth of scholarship concluded that it is a relative concept, not absolute and heavily dependent upon who selects the elements that comprise the evaluative instruments to measure it. It re-emerges today in a conservative political culture and should be put back to sleep.

-Ronald Walters

“the myth of  racially-based IQ  differences”
For anyone who is interested I have written a series of articles over the last 10 years dissecting genetic rationales for race differences in IQ.  In particular I have written important articles explaining why J.P. Rushton’s claims about the evolution of race-based differences in IQ are wrong.  See below:

Graves, Jr., J.L., The Race Myth: Why We Pretend Race Exists in America, New York, NY: Dutton Press, soft cover 2005.

Graves, Jr., J.L., The misuse of life history theory: J.P. Rushton and the pseudoscience of racial hierarchy, in J. Fish, Ed., Understanding Race and Intelligence, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, pp. 43 – 57, 2002.

Graves, Jr., J.L., The Last Battlefield: Biological Theories of Race and the Future of American Society, in L. May, S. Collins-Chobanian, and K. Wong, Editors; Applied Ethics: A Multicultural Approach, (New York: Prentice Hall, 2002, pp. 422-433.)

Graves, Jr., J.L., What a tangled web he weaves: Race, reproductive strategies, and Rushton’s life history theory, Anthropological Theory, 2(2): 131-154, Sage Publishers, 2002.

Graves, J.L., The Emperor’s New Clothes: Biological Theories of Race at the Millennium, Rutgers University Press, 2001; 2nd printing 2005.

Graves, Jr., J.L. and T. Place, Race and IQ revisited: Figures never lie, but often liars figure, Sage Race Relations Abstracts Vol. 20(2):4-50, 1995.

Graves, Jr., J.L. and Johnson, A., The pseudoscience of Psychometry and the Bell Curve Special Issue: Myth and Realities: African Americans and the Measurement of Human Difference, The Journal of Negro Education Vol. 64(3):277-294, 1995.

Dr. Joseph L. Graves, Jr.

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