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
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