The Asian Flynn Effect

The Unsilenced Science, August 5, 2012

Recently, activist and entrepreneur Ron Unz used results from a short English vocabulary test, called Wordsum, to argue that Mexican Americans have risen in intelligence, shrinking their intellectual disadvantage relative to white Americans by two-thirds. David Sanders (an alias) countered this claim, using one of my previous posts on racial group differences in SAT performance.

Here is how Unz responded:

Although several different arguments were made, the strongest and most detailed focused on an examination of the ethnic distribution of American SAT scores between 1980 and 2010 [sic], performed by another highly quantitive racialist blogger. The article pointed out that there was virtually no net change in the substantial Hispanic/white performance gap on the SAT during those four decades. Since the SAT is a far better proxy for IQ than my Wordsum values, and the number of participants across those years number in the millions, any possibility of a large rise in Hispanic IQ would seem completely disproven. My claims had focused on American-born Mexican-Americans rather than Hispanics in general, but since the former group represented a large and rapidly growing portion of the latter, my argument would seem to have suffered a very serious blow.

However, this is incorrect…. With some effort, I managed to obtain the ethnic distribution of SAT test-takers back to 1975 and then compared these results with the ethnic distribution of 18-year-olds during those years, found in the Census-CPS [Current Population Survey] data.

Just as I had suspected, the changes were dramatic. In 1975, 22% of whites took the SAT, and this had risen to 33% by 2011, a substantial rise of 50%. However, during these same decades, the percentage of Hispanic test-takers had grown from 6% to 32%, an enormous rise of over 400%. Thus, in 1975 white 18-year-olds were nearly four times more likely to take the SAT, but by 2011 the ratios were almost exactly the same…. Since the white/Hispanic gap remained unchanged during this tremendous broadening of the Hispanic testing pool rather than greatly widening, the only possible explanation would seem to be a huge rise in average Hispanic academic performance, just as was reflected in the Wordsum-IQ scores….

Thus, upon closer examination the SAT evidence cited for the alleged lack of Hispanic gains actually becomes very powerful evidence for strong Hispanic gains.

After going through reports from CPS, I have been unable to replicate these numbers precisely. Most of the reports that I found give combined totals of 18- and 19-year-olds, so I divided those in half, which I consider a fair estimation. I also cannot locate a report for 2011. Assuming CPS has released it somewhere, the notion that the participation gap dropped from nine percentage points to one in a single year defies credulity.

For white students, my results are similar to those of Unz. Their participation rose from 21% to 34%, an increase of 61%. If one looks at the full range, rather than just the bookend years, the rise is 19% to 34%, 79% higher. I found that Hispanics rose from 7% to 25%, which is a 257% increase. That is still a huge jump, even if it is not 433%. The rates of change of participation in the graph look similar, but Hispanic students start much lower.

However, discussion of the exact calculations is moot because both sets are based on a falsehood. Take a close look at the graph. Notice anything strange? In 1987, non-Mexican Hispanic students suddenly resolved to take the SAT in much greater numbers. Before one goes searching for a mind-blowing ‘80s Spanish public service announcement, I must reveal (again) that the College Board added a third category of Hispanic in 1987, in addition to Mexican and Puerto Rican, and this new category was “other Hispanic.” A group of people who had previously been something other than Hispanic consequently metamorphosed into Hispanic people with sombreros, I think. Other Hispanic students (or, as I prefer, “Hispanica Miscellanea”) rival Mexican-American students in number. The dramatic quality of the rise in Hispanic participation merely represents an artifact of definitional change. Calculations with a starting year of 1987 give a white student range of 23% to 34% (a 48% increase), an African-American student range of 12% to 29% (a 71% increase), and a Hispanic student range of 14% to 25% (a 79% increase).

Unz was making the point that SAT data support a secular rise in Hispanic cognitive ability, according to the fundamental law of participation level-actual ability direct correlation. This law allows us to assume that Hispanics are becoming smarter if they can take the test in greater numbers while only slightly worsening their score performance relative to white students. My only problem with the law is that the SAT dataset is riddled with countervailing examples, as I previously discussed.

One counterexample is particularly illustrative. In 1998, CPS discovered the existence of a group of people called the Asian Americans. This extraordinary new tribe possesses a pleasing aesthetic, but they can only eat with primitive sticks. After a detailed analysis of Asian SAT performance and participation, I can confidently state the broad conclusion that Asians are different.

As the above graph proves, Asian Americans so enthusiastically partake in the SAT that they achieve participation proportions greater than all of them. It seems that some proportion of Asian SAT takers are foreign students unrecognized by the US Census. I wonder if the Hispanic-American community also includes a group of census-undercounted individuals who nonetheless live here. Asian students are the one racial group whose SAT performance is taking off, and they have achieved this while increasing their test participation 105%, and I already dispelled attempts to use foreign-student involvement to explain away Asian score advancement. For emphasis, I shall present this graph of the Asian-Hispanic score gap in standard deviations, superimposed over the Asian-white score gap, with the colors of the latter set to grey.

In fairness, my essay raised the possibility to white aptitude decline relative to other groups and included in the reasoning a possible decline of white participation. If those who do not identify their race are largely white, as I hypothesized, then white students have decreased their participation from 43% in 2003 to 37% in 2010. However, that would also mean that white students had increased their participation since 1987 by 87%, at their peak, which is a greater increase than that of Hispanics, and the possible rise and fall left no footprint in the graph of the Hispanic-white gap.

Despite the racial disquiet that the SAT invokes, the test might actually be hiding the full extent of the racial gaps. First of all, the College Board altered its scoring algorithm in 1996 with theexplicit purpose of narrowing racial gaps. Second, unlike the score range of many IQ tests, the SAT score range is, itself, sufficiently narrow so as to construct a secure floor for the bell curve’s far left and a ceiling that holds down the absolute best. I have perhaps overemphasized in the past the fact that African-American students have a larger gap with white students on the SAT mathematics subtest than on the writing and reading subtests. I cannot rule out that the subtest differences result purely from the massive number of African Americans who occupy the floor of the reading and writing subtests, as I previously graphed. Likewise, I can now reveal additional years of the white and Asian mathematics subtest bell curves that demonstrate substantial increases in perfection or near perfection of what was already outstanding Asian mathematics success.

Therein lies the crux of the issue. If all Unz wanted to prove was that the “Strong IQ Hypothesis” fails to account for the malleability of cognitive results, he could have cited the Asian advancement on the SAT. By bothering to analyze SAT results over time and by describing the progress of Asians, I have already implicitly acknowledged that some things do change and environment matters, at least under some circumstances. Usually, efforts to deny the existence of, minimize the importance of, or supply loose elasticity to IQ share the same impetus as the linguistic pursuit of calling “race” a “social construct.” The canards aspire to overrule by abstraction or technicality evidence for sociological generalizations labelled “stereotypes” or to beg the question regarding biological causality without dirtying one’s hands with biological evidence. Recognizing an Asian academic model only reinforces a stereotype, to which even many Asians strain to take offense. That the SAT does not yet demonstrate an unmet potential in Hispanic Americans provides no paradox of proven unmet potential. To even engage the issue is to take for granted a stereotype. All good people are asleep and dreaming.

[Editor’s Note: Ron Unz has replied to this analysis in a comment here.]

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  • The Verdict of History


    It took 3 hours for anyone to even consider commenting on this article…

  • potato78

     When you mention the Hispanic people, you never thought about SAT scores.  You always thought about rumba, mambo, samba, reggaeton, and cha cha, etc.

  • GravitonX

    Why do so many  still subscribe to the myths about IQ?  IQ is nearly entirely based on the education one receives, whether in school, in the home, through “osmosis” in the society at large.  It’s nearly as worthless as trying to use an apple pie to study the genetics of apple plants.

    • KevinPhillipsBong

      Nope. Do a search for studies of monozygotic twins and IQ. You’ll see that genetics counts for at least half of the variability of IQ scores. For a quick primer on the subject see the Wikipedia article on Heritability of IQ.

      • JohnEngelman
      • GravitonX

         If you are going to cite a reference, you should at least read it.  However, my guess is that most people on this site don’t actually know what they are talking about but simply cite references to give the appearance of being scholarly.  The wiki reference, at best, concludes that the link between genetics and IQ is inconclusive, and at worst, disproved by other observations, e.g. the Flynn Effect.

    • Luke

       Baloney, GravitonX.

      You have obviously never spent five minutes studying the subject of genetics and the laws of heredity. 

      Two blacks, both with IQs of 75 or 80, one a 4th generation welfare queen and the other a drug pushing, gang banging, high school drop out with an arrest record as long as your arm do not copulate and produce offspring that pop out with an IQ that is the sum total of the two parents IQs added together.

      You wouldn’t happen to be someone who purchased a ticket on The Miscegenation Express Railroad, by any chance, would you?

      • GravitonX

        I’ve studied Molecular Genetics.  I also have a BS in Electrical Engineering.  I think I know what I’m talking about.  I don’t sit in worship of pseudo-intellectual nonsense.  I actually critically analyze the material.  And, I’m sorry, I remain unconvinced by your intellectually dishonest comparison between a stereotypical black gang banger and Einstein.

  • JohnEngelman

    Here is a website that shows SAT scores from the school years of 1990-91 to 2009-10. 
    Blacks made some progress. Whites made more progress. The race gap between them increased.
    Asians made the most progress. In 2009-10 they were still somewhat behind whites in reading, but way ahead in mathematics. The Asian category included non Orientals. I am confident that the Orientals scored even better. 

    • potato78

       I humbly accepted that far east asians are very talented.  They have the fairest skin and also genes that make them look much younger in the world.  I really encourage the scandinavian women move to far east area and far east women come to scandinavia region to create some scandivasians with super high IQ and good looking.

      • JohnEngelman

        Whites and Orientals get along well. Whites who resent the presence of Orientals are usually those who cannot compete with them intellectually. 

        • The Verdict of History


        • Luke

           Wrong, Mr. Engelman.

          I have personally known and worked with a number of Asians, and despite that fact that I generally liked them and admired many of their interesting characteristics – including what I perceived to be an above average work ethic – every one of these Asians are not white and they are not ‘us’, to borrow an expression that Jared Taylor has used countless times over the last 20 or so years.

          Some varieties of Asian women are very attractive – but, not once have I ever entertained the idea that I should race mix with them and I most certainly do NOT wish to be ruled by them.    And, this desire has zero to do with any insecurity on my part about being ‘intellectually’ inferior.  I want to be lead and ruled by people of my own RACE, people who are racially loyal to their own race and with which I share a common language, a common history, the same general values and traditions and heroes and who I can count on to defend our ethnic groups perfectly legitimate and perfectly justified ethnic specific interests.

          Which clearly does not allow for the peaceful or harmonious presence of race traitorous liberals who try to pass themselves off as White European, but who instead have genetics that take them somewhere else.

          I am a White racial Nationalist, Mr. Engelman.   I have no desire to be ruled over by any other race and I also have no desire to rule over or oppress other races.    All races have an equal right to self rule and self-determination.   Just not inside the same piece of territory, because that cannot work and it will always lead to violence and conflict.

  • The Verdict of History

    As for Japan, it was Germans and White Americans who stimulated what was at that time their latent and dormant cultural capacities and genetic potential…. and fomented the conditions for their technological rise and expertise to blossom.

  • Luke

    I don’t care if Hispanics or Africans or Guatemalens or Asians or that forbidden to mention other middle eastern minority have IQs over 1,000 points higher or lower than White Anglo-Saxon-Celtic Americans.   None of this IQ business makes any real difference to me or to most of the other ‘thinking’ pro-Whites, White Nationalists or White race realists.

    What we want is to not to be reduced to a minority inside our own native homelands and ruled over, and subjugated to the dominance and oppression of ANY other group of non-whites.

    Even if they might be a little smarter or with enough plastic surgery and a few nose jobs, able to make themselves as attractive or more attractive than White European people.

    This endless babble about IQ, as far as I can see, is taking our movement nowhere.  

    • potato78

       You got your point.  But the reality is that all the big cities, like LA, NY, NJ, and San Diego, etc are a full of Hispanics and Blacks with small portion of minorities.  In these states, California, Florida, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, “whites” have already been a  minority.  Now, I have not seen any sign that “whites” will not become a minority based on the developed trend.  The only way I observed is that we just produce as many babies as we can with the cost of decreasing our IQ to the point of like Blacks and Hispanics.  By then, do you think that we will be strong as an individual and nation?

  • newscomments70

    Most Hispanic kids are not bilingual. Sometimes first generation American citizens are somewhat bilingual because the language is spoken at home. They usually only speak, but cannot read nor write in the language. That is the case for other cultures as well. They usually revert to English, like those “dumb white kids” you speak of. Kids of all races , including Asians, like to play video games and do as little homework as possible. Most will not become bilingual scholars. I’ve lived in California and worked in Texas. Most American-born Mexicans I knew could not speak Spanish, even educated professionals. Your average Hispanic kid is not reading Jorge Luis Borges nor writing business letters in Spanish. 

  • Athling

    Mr. Unz confuses cause and effect. If asked the question, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?”, Unz would confuse cause and effect and answer that the egg came first. Would he be correct? No, he wouldn’t. The chicken is primary.

    Unz would have us believe that raising the living standard will magically raise a persons IQ. So then the reverse would also have to be true — lowering an intelligent person’s high IQ can be achieved by merely lowering his living standard. Does that make sense?

    A normally healthy person’s IQ is a product of two factors. Human effort which is affected to some degree by environment. And genetic capacity, the biological factors involved in acquiring and processing external information.

    What percentage each plays in intelligence is debatable but not that both are involved in intelligence. The equalitarians would argue otherwise.

    As I’ve repeatedly said, we have direct observation at our disposal. Historical and modern evidence argues against Unz. Look at humanity’s greatest achievements throughout history. Which people were involved?

    Here’s a question: are all races of people completely equal genetically? Obviously not. Why would we consider then that the genetic factors involved in intelligence are completely equal among differing races?

    • Athling

      Allow me just to add the following.

      It is irrefutable that the most creative, artistically inclined, intelligent people on the planet are caucasians. One cannot argue with facts.

      Is this entirely due to human effort, i.e., the environmental part of the equation? Is it the caucasian’s dogged and relentless efforts that propelled him to outperform other races in terms of intelligence and that genetic factors had no role to play in all this?

      Suppose we have a caucasian who has put forth every possible human effort in training for the one hundred meter run in the Olympics. His competitor, a Jamaican, has also put forth his best training efforts. They race and the Jamaican wins. They race repeatedly and the Jamaican wins repeatedly.

      It is not due to a lack of effort on the caucasian’s part that he cannot win against the Jamaican. It is not due to his environment or diet etc. The caucasian’s genetic capacity has been reached and no amount of additional effort will change that fact. Genetic capacity is the limiting factor on human effort.

      The same is true for intelligence. The acquisition, processing, and internalizing of external information gained through the physical senses is limited by one’s genetic capacity.

      The Jamaican runner showed that he had the greater genetic capacity for the one hundred meter run. Caucasians have shown that they have the greater genetic capacity for intelligence.

      • Athling

        Another point should be mentioned in the nature vs nurture, environment vs genetics debate, one rarely addressed by those of the nature/environment persuasion. Namely, that one of the indicators of intelligence is the ability to manipulate one’s environment presumably for the better. Man is not merely a product of his environment. He has, through intelligence, the ability to alter his environment.

        It follows then that those with lower IQs will have altered their physical environments only in very modest ways. This is exactly what we find in the natural world.

      • potato78

         That is the reason of why Caucasian’s skin color is whiter than Jamaican’s.