For as long as official statistics have been kept, blacks in white societies have been overrepresented in all indices of social pathology: crime, illegitimacy, poverty, school failure, and long-term unemployment. The conventional liberal explanation for this is white “racism,” past and present, which has forced blacks into self-destructive choices. More clear-headed observers, however, have sought a partial explanation in the low average IQ of blacks.
Low IQ can lead to crime because less intelligent children do poorly at school and fail to learn the skills needed to get well-paid jobs, or even any job. Unemployment is therefore two to three times higher among blacks than whites. People without jobs need money, and have relatively little to lose by robbery or burglary, and may therefore commit property crimes. The association between low intelligence and crime holds for whites as well, among whom the average IQ of criminals is about 84.
Nevertheless, as Charles Murray and the late Richard Herrnstein showed in their book The Bell Curve, low IQ cannot entirely explain a black crime rate that is six-and-a-half times the white rate. When blacks and whites are matched for IQ, blacks still commit crimes at two-and-a-half times the white rate. This shows that blacks must have some other characteristic, besides low intelligence, that explains their high levels of criminality.
Prof. Herrnstein and Dr. Murray found the same race and IQ relationship for social problems other than crime: unemployment, illegitimacy, poverty, and living on welfare. All of these are more frequent among blacks and are related to low IQ, and low IQ goes some way towards explaining them, but these social problems remain greater among blacks than among whites with the same IQs. Low intelligence is therefore not the whole explanation. Prof. Herrnstein and Dr. Murray did not offer any suggestions as to what the additional factors responsible for the greater prevalence of these social problems among blacks might be. They concluded only that “some ethnic differences are not washed away by controlling for either intelligence or for any other variables that we examined. We leave those remaining differences unexplained and look forward to learning from our colleagues where the explanations lie” (p. 340).
I propose that the variable that explains these differences is that blacks are more psychopathic than whites. Just as racial groups differ in average IQ, they can also differ in average levels of other psychological traits, and racial differences in the tendency towards psychopathic personality would explain virtually all the differences in black and white behavior left unexplained by differences in IQ.
Psychopathic personality is a personality disorder of which the central feature is lack of a moral sense. The condition was first identified in the early nineteenth century by the British physician John Pritchard, who proposed the term “moral imbecility” for those deficient in moral sense but of normal intelligence. The term psychopathic personality was first used in 1915 by the German psychiatrist Emile Kraepelin and has been employed as a diagnostic label throughout the twentieth century. In 1941 the condition was described by Hervey Cleckley in what has become a classic book, The Mask of Sanity. He described the condition as general poverty of emotional feelings, lack of remorse or shame, superficial charm, pathological lying, egocentricity, a lack of insight, absence of nervousness, an inability to love, impulsive antisocial acts, failure to learn from experience, reckless behavior under the influence of alcohol, and a lack of long-term goals.
In 1984 the American Psychiatric Association dropped the term psychopathic personality and replaced it with “anti-social personality disorder.” This is an expression of the increasing sentimentality of the second half of the twentieth century, in which terms that had acquired negative associations were replaced by euphemisms. There are other examples. Mentally retarded children are now called “slow learners” or even “exceptional children;” aggressive children now have “externalizing behaviors;” prostitutes are “sex workers;” tramps are now “the homeless,” as if their houses were destroyed by earthquake; and people on welfare are “clients” of social workers. However, the term psychopathic personality remains useful.
While psychopathic personality is a psychiatric disorder, it has long been regarded as the extreme expression of a personality trait that is continuously distributed throughout the population. In this respect it is like other psychiatric disorders. For instance, severe depression is a psychiatric disorder, but everyone feels depressed sometimes, and some normal people are depressed more often and more severely than others. It is the same with psychopathic personality. There are degrees of moral sense throughout the population, and psychopaths are the extreme group.
There is a difference between blacks and whites—analogous to the difference in intelligence—in psychopathic personality considered as a personality trait. Both psychopathic personality and intelligence are bell curves with different means and distributions among blacks and whites. For intelligence, the mean and distribution are both lower among blacks. For psychopathic personality, the mean and distribution are higher among blacks. The effect of this is that there are more black psychopaths and more psychopathic behavior among blacks.
In 1994 the American Psychiatric Association issued a revised Diagnostic Manual listing 11 features of anti-social personality disorder: (1) inability to sustain consistent work behavior; (2) failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behavior [this is a euphemism for being a criminal]; (3) irritability and aggressivity, as indicated by frequent physical fights and assaults; (4) repeated failure to honor financial obligations; (5) failure to plan ahead or impulsivity; (6) no regard for truth, as indicated by repeated lying, use of aliases, or “conning” others; (7) recklessness regarding one’s own or others’ personal safety, as indicated by driving while intoxicated or recurrent speeding; (8) inability to function as a responsible parent; (9) failure to sustain a monogamous relationship for more than one year; (10) lacking remorse; (11) the presence of conduct disorder in childhood.
This is a useful list. Curiously, however, it fails to include the deficiency of moral sense that is the core of the condition, although this is implicit in virtually every feature of the disorder. All of these behaviors are more prevalent among blacks than among whites, and suggest that blacks have a higher average tendency towards psychopathic personality.
Questionnaires can be used to measure psychopathic personality in normal populations. The first to be constructed was the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI), which was devised in the 1930s. This instrument consists of a series of scales for the measurement of a variety of psychiatric conditions regarded as continuously distributed in the population, such as hysteria, mania and depression, and includes the Psychopathic Deviate Scale for the measurement of psychopathic personality.
During the 65 or so years following its publication, the MMPI has been administered to a great many groups. Mean scores have been published by different investigators for a number of samples of blacks, whites, Asian-Americans, Hispanics and American Indians. All of these studies show a consistent pattern: Blacks and Indians have the highest psychopathic scores. Hispanics come next followed by whites. Ethnic Japanese and Chinese have the lowest scores. The same rank order of racial groups is found for all the expressions of psychopathic personality listed by the American Psychiatric Association, and these differences are found in both children and adults.
The terms psychopathic personality and anti-social personality disorder, however, are not used for children or young adolescents up to the age of 15 years. They are instead said to have conduct disorders. The principal criteria set out by the American Psychiatric Association (1994) for a diagnosis of conduct disorder are persistent stealing, lying, truancy, running away from home, fighting, arson, burglary, vandalism, sexual precocity and cruelty. Childhood conduct disorder is therefore an analogue of psychopathic personality in older adolescents and adults. A number of studies have shown that conduct disorder in children is a frequent precursor of psychopathic behavior.
Studies have found that the prevalence of conduct disorders is about twice as high among blacks as among whites. This is the case not only in the United States but also in Britain and the Netherlands. Other racial groups also differ in the prevalence of conduct disorders among children. As with all the other expressions of psychopathic personality, conduct disorders are frequent among American Indians.
Children with conduct disorders are sometimes suspended or expelled from school because of constant misbehavior, particularly aggression. In both the United States and Britain, black children are disciplined in this way three or four times as frequently as white children, while East Asians have low discipline rates. In misbehavior in schools, as in so much else, East Asians are the “model minority.” In the United States, Indians have a high discipline rate.
Lack of honesty is one of the core features of the psychopathic personality, and one measure of this characteristic is the default rates on student loans. About half of American college students take out loans but not all graduates repay them. The 1987 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study consisting of 6,338 cases reports default rates as follows: whites—5 percent, Hispanics—20 percent, American Indians—45 percent, blacks—55 percent.
Bad credit ratings also reflect a failure to honor financial obligations. A report by Freddie Mac of 12,000 households in 1999 found the highest percentage of poor credit ratings was among blacks (48 percent). The next highest was among Hispanics (34 percent), while whites had the lowest at 27 percent.
Psychopathic personality is the extreme expression of a personality trait that is continuously distributed throughout the population.
A prominent feature of psychopathic personality is a high level of aggression, which is expressed in a number of ways including homicide, robbery, assault, and rape. All of these are crimes, so racial and ethnic differences appear in crime rates. High black crime rates have been documented by Jared Taylor and the late Glayde Whitney in The Color of Crime. For homicide, rates for black males are about six times the white rate, and for black females they are about four times higher. The homicide rate for East Asians is about half that of whites. The high homicide rate of blacks is also found in South Africa, and homicide is generally higher in black countries than in white and East Asian countries.
As regards other crimes, the robbery rate for blacks is about twelve times the white rate, while the assault rate is about five times higher. The high black rates for these crimes are followed in descending order by Hispanics, American Indians, whites and East Asians. The rate for rape is about five-and-a-half times greater for blacks than whites, and two to three times greater among Hispanics and Indians as compared to whites, while East Asians commit rape at about half the white rate.
Domestic violence shows the same race differences. Severe violence by husbands against wives is about four times more common among blacks as whites. Black wives assault their husbands at about twice the white rate. American Indians assault their spouses even more often than blacks do. High crime rates among blacks have been found not only in the United States but also in Britain, France, Canada and Sweden.
A prominent feature of psychopathic personality is an inability to form stable, long-term loving relationships. David Lykken, a leading expert on psychopathic personalities, writes of the psychopath’s “undeveloped ability to love or affiliate with others,” and Robert Hare, another leading expert, writes that “psychopaths view people as little more than objects to be used for their own gratification” and “equate love with sexual arousal.”
Marriage is the most explicit expression of long-term love, and a number of studies have shown that blacks attach less value to marriage than whites. Questionnaire surveys have found that blacks are less likely than whites to agree that “marriage is for life.” Two American sociologists, R. Staples and L. B. Johnson, write that “Blacks do not rank marriage as highly as whites” and that “Black Americans’ acceptance of this form of relationship is inconsistent with their African heritage.”
In a study of an American sample of 2,059 married people, C. L. Broman found that “blacks are significantly less likely to feel that their marriages are harmonious and are significantly less likely to be satisfied with their marriages.” Other studies of racial and ethnic differences in attitudes have found that whites think about marriage more often than blacks, and have a stronger desire than blacks to find the right marriage partner. There are also racial differences in rates of cohabitation, which also reflects a commitment to a long-term relationship. A survey of 24-to 29-year-olds in Britain found that 68 percent of whites had cohabited but only 38 percent of blacks.
Blacks in the United States, Britain, France and the Caribbean are less likely than whites to marry or enter into stable relationships. In an American survey of 18-to 64-year-olds carried out from 1990 to 1996, 61 percent of whites were married but only 35 percent of blacks. The most likely to be married were East Asians (66 percent). Fifty-five percent of Hispanics and 48 percent of American Indians were married. The same race differences are found in Britain. In a survey carried out in 1991, among 30-to 34-year-olds 68 percent of whites were married but only 34 percent of blacks. Studies of marriage rates for France in the 1990s have also found that blacks are less likely to be married than whites. These differences are also found for cohabitation, with fewer blacks living in unmarried cohabitation relationships than whites.
Differences in marriage rates are reflected in differences in illegitimacy rates. In the United States, black illegitimacy rates are down slightly from their high in 1994, when 70.4 percent of black women who gave birth were unmarried. The 2000 figure of 68.7 is still the highest for any racial group, and is followed by American Indians at 58.4 percent, Hispanics 42.7 percent, whites 22.1 percent, and Asians 14.8 percent. The Asian figure includes populations with greatly differing illegitimacy rates, with native Hawaiians, for example, at 50 percent, Japanese at 9.5 percent, and Chinese at 7.6 percent.
Low rates of stable relationships are found among blacks in the Caribbean islands. In a review of the literature the sociologists B. Ram and G. E. Ebanks write that “In the Caribbean in general . . . there is a substantial amount of movement from one sex partner to another and also a very high percentage of reproduction outside marriage.”
When they do marry, blacks are less tolerant than whites of monogamous constraints. An extreme form of intolerance is murder of one’s spouse. In Detroit in 1982-3, 63 percent of the population was black but 90.5 percent of those who killed their spouses were black. Less extreme forms of aversion to monogamy are adultery and divorce. The Kinsey data on college graduates, collected in the 1940s and 1950s, found that 51 percent of blacks were unfaithful to their spouses during the first two years of marriage compared with 23 percent of whites. Several other studies have confirmed that the incidence of marital infidelity is greater among blacks than among whites. Blacks cite infidelity more frequently than whites as a cause of divorce.
Blacks also have more sexual partners than whites. The Kinsey survey found that about twice as many black college graduates had had six or more partners before marriage than whites. Many later studies have confirmed this. A survey of 2,026 15-to-18-year-olds in Los Angeles in the mid-1990s found that 38 percent of blacks had had five or more sexual partners, 26 percent of whites, 21 percent of Hispanics and eight percent of East Asians.
The same differences are found in Britain. In a study of a nationally representative sample of approximately 20,000 16-to 59-year-olds carried out in 1990, 36 percent of blacks had had two or more sexual partners during the previous five years, compared with 29 percent of whites and 18 percent of Asians.
Delay of Gratification
The impulsiveness component of psychopathic personality includes an inability or unwillingness to delay immediate gratification in the expectation of long-term advantage. The first study to demonstrate differences between blacks and whites in the delay of gratification was carried out by W. Mischel in Trinidad in the late 1950s. He offered black and white children the choice between a small candy bar now or a larger one in a week. He found black children were much more likely to ask for the small candy bar now, and this difference has been confirmed in three subsequent American studies. This racial difference has been noted but given different names by different writers. In The Unheavenly City Revisited, Edward Banfield writes of the “extreme present-orientation” of blacks, and Michael Levin writes of “high time preference,” an economist’s term for preferring cash now rather than a greater sum in the future.
The APA Diagnostic Manual refers to the psychopathic personality’s “inability to sustain consistent work behavior,” and a number of studies have shown that blacks are less motivated to work than whites and Asians, while Hispanics are intermediate. For example, black students do fewer hours of homework than whites and Asians. Among college students with the same Scholastic Aptitude Test scores, blacks get poorer grades than whites, probably because they don’t work as hard.
This helps explain black unemployment. Several American ethnographic studies of inner city blacks have concluded that many are unwilling to work. Thus, E. Anderson writes that “there are many unemployed black youth who are unmotivated and uninterested in working for a living, particularly in the dead-end jobs they are likely to get.” The sociologist S. M. Petterson writes that “it is commonly contended that young black men experience more joblessness than their white counterparts because they are less willing to seek out low paying jobs.” American Asians are the opposite of blacks in this respect. They have low rates of unemployment and it has been shown by James Flynn that they achieve higher educational qualifications and earnings than would be predicted from their intelligence, suggesting they have strong work motivation.
In the United States, unemployment rates are highest among Indians followed in descending order by blacks, Hispanics, whites and ethnic Chinese and Japanese. These differences are frequently attributed to white racism but it is difficult to reconcile this explanation with the lower rate of unemployment among East Asians as compared with whites, and also with the higher rate of unemployment among Indians as compared to blacks.
Blacks in Britain, Canada and France are frequently unemployed. In Britain, the 1991 census found that 26 percent of black men were unemployed, compared with 11 percent of whites and ethnic Chinese. In Canada in 1991, 13 percent of black men were unemployed compared with seven percent of whites. In France in 1994, 11 percent of black men were unemployed compared with eight percent of whites.
Psychopaths appear to enjoy taking risks because it stimulates them, and there are several ways in which blacks show greater recklessness and risk taking than whites or Asians. In the 1989-93 American Teenage Attitudes and Practices Survey, 9,135 youths aged 12 to 18 were asked to consider the question: “I get a kick out of doing things every now and then that are a little risky or dangerous.” Fifty-six point nine percent of blacks agreed, as compared with 38.6 percent of whites. Driving habits are an index of risk taking and recklessness. A number of studies have shown that blacks run red lights more often than whites, and have more frequent accidents. Five studies have shown that blacks do not use seat belts as often as whites. Hispanics and Native Americans likewise have more accidents caused by recklessness and risk-taking than whites and East Asians.
Sexual behavior can be reckless. Among those who do not wish to have children, blacks are less likely to use contraception than whites, and this has been found in both the United States and Britain. One result is that black women have more unplanned babies than whites. In the United States in the 1990s blacks had about twice the proportion of unplanned babies as whites and Asians. In Britain, a survey of teenage births carried out in 1994 found that these were three-and-a-half times more common among blacks than among whites and Asians.
The behavior of reckless men also causes unplanned pregnancies. Surveys have asked adolescent males if they would feel “very pleased” or whether they would care if they were responsible for an unplanned pregnancy. Twice as many blacks as whites say they would be very pleased or that they would not care. To be very pleased or not care about saddling a teenage girl with an unplanned pregnancy expresses a great degree of a reckless regarding the well-being of others. In the United States, the percentage of teenage blacks who have fathered an illegitimate child is approximately three times greater than that of whites, with Hispanics intermediate.
Another consequence of reckless avoidance of contraceptives is that blacks are more likely to get sexually transmitted diseases—including HIV and AIDS—all of which are more prevalent among blacks than among whites and Asians. At the present time, about 80 percent of the word’s HIV carriers are blacks in sub-Saharan Africa.
A common expression of conduct disorder in children and young adolescents is sexual precocity. Many studies have shown that blacks are more sexually precocious than whites and Asians. Surveys in the United States in the 1990s have found that about a third of black 13-year-olds have had sexual intercourse compared with 14 percent of whites and Hispanics, and four percent of East Asians. Similarly, a survey in Britain in 1990 found that by the age of 16, 18 percent of blacks had had intercourse compared with 13 percent of whites and five percent of Asians.
We consider finally the psychopathic characteristic described by the American Psychiatric Association as “inability to function as a responsible parent.” One of the most straightforward measures of this is abuse and neglect. The American Association for Protecting Children has found that black children constitute approximately 15 percent of the child population and about 22 percent of cases of child abuse and neglect. The First (1975) and Second (1985) National Family Violence Surveys carried out in America examined the use of violence towards children, defined as hitting them with the fist or with some object, and kicking, biting and beating them up. It does not include slapping or spanking. It found that 1.2 percent of white parents and 2.1 percent of blacks inflict this kind of severe violence on their children.
Data published by the United States Department of Health and Human Services for 1996 showed that maltreatment was about three times more common among blacks and about one-and-a-half times more common among Hispanics, than among whites.
The most extreme expression of the inability to function as a responsible parent consists of killing a child. Racial differences in the homicide of infants in their first year of life were examined for approximately 35 million babies born in the United States between 1983-91. This study found that 2,776 of these had been murdered, the great majority by mothers or the mothers’ husbands or partners. The rate of infant homicides for blacks and Native Americans was 2 per 10,000, compared with 0.6 per 10,000 for whites and 0.4 per 10,000 for East Asians. In the early 1990s the racial differences became even greater, with blacks having four-and-a-half times the infant homicide rate of whites and Hispanics.
There is almost complete consistency in the racial differences in outcomes that can be considered measures of psychopathic personality. In everything from child behavior to sexual precocity to adult crime rates we find Asians at one extreme, blacks and American Indians at the other, and whites Hispanics in between. These differences are not only consistent through time but are found in countries such as France, Britain, Canada, and the United States, which have very different histories of what could be called “racism.” Indices of high psychopathic personality in blacks are likewise found in the virtually all-black societies of Africa and the Caribbean.
Racial differences in psychopathic behavior persist even when IQ is held constant, and the same racial differences are found in essentially every kind of measurable behavior that reflects psychopathic personality. The most plausible explanation for these differences is that just as there are racial differences in average IQ, there are racial differences in what could be called “average personality,” with blacks showing greater psychopathic tendencies. The argument that white “racism” is responsible for black social pathology is increasingly unconvincing. AR
Richard Lynn is professor emeritus of psychology of the University of Ulster. This article is based on a longer paper published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, 2002, Vol. 32, pp.273-316.