Neuroanatomical Correlates of the Income-Achievement Gap

Psychological Science, April 20, 2015


In the United States, the difference in academic achievement between higher- and lower-income students (i.e., the income-achievement gap) is substantial and growing. In the research reported here, we investigated neuroanatomical correlates of this gap in adolescents (N = 58) in whom academic achievement was measured by statewide standardized testing. Cortical gray-matter volume was significantly greater in students from higher-income backgrounds (n = 35) than in students from lower-income backgrounds (n = 23), but cortical white-matter volume and total cortical surface area did not differ significantly between groups. Cortical thickness in all lobes of the brain was greater in students from higher-income than lower-income backgrounds. Greater cortical thickness, particularly in temporal and occipital lobes, was associated with better test performance. These results represent the first evidence that cortical thickness in higher- and lower-income students differs across broad swaths of the brain and that cortical thickness is related to scores on academic-achievement tests.

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  • Let me guess. They want us to think that household income is the independent variable.

    • Oil Can Harry

      The clueless buffoons will simply demand that schoolteachers work harder to turn blacks and Hispanics into brainiacs.

      Last week a Puerto Rican co-worker lamented “De schools here in de Bronx keep turning out dumb students.” I could have advised him to read Friend Of AmRen Robert Weissberg’s book “Bad Students Not Bad Schools” but why bother?

      • It begins at home. I shunned negroball games and negrovision as a child, and was largely lonely as a result. At the last football game (CU Boulder) I attended, I scored a snowball right down the bell end of the Suzaphone in the marching band at half-time. I was 14, so that makes it over 34 years ago. I remember the snowball fight like it was yesterday, but do not recollect the opposing team or how Brian and I got home. We probably walked to my ex-father’s office in the physics tower. I was drunk at the time.

        He later asked me about the game, and when I said that we had a really good snowball fight, I never had to go see a football game again. If I had grown up in Europe, I would probably have been a soccer hooligan.

        I miss our old Romanian friend, Spartacus.

      • Light from the East

        Blaming the system outside and ignoring personal ability and responsibility are the typical traits of unsuccessful people, no matter they are in schools or society.

      • Tony Murphy

        They’re not clueless buffoons. They know exactly what they’re doing. And why.

    • Tony Murphy

      Of course.

  • a multiracial individual

    Once intelligence is understood biologically and interventions are developed, political correctness will evaporate rather quickly under the immense pressure of economic competition.

    • JohnEngelman

      The lies political correctness defends cannot forever survive the truths of science.

      • expitch

        The Democrats were the inventors and are the main propagators of PC, to the point of censorship and actual threats to people’s livelihoods. Yet you vote Democrat. Care to comment?

        • JohnEngelman

          For me the most important issue is the growing income gap. I want a well financed public sector of the economy paid for by steeply progressive taxation. I want strong labor unions, and a high minimum wage.

          I would like more restrictions on immigration, but I see little difference on immigration policy between Republican and Democratic politicians on immigration. Republican politicians pretend to be against easing restrictions on immigration, but they end up voting for more immigration anyway, because it lowers wages.

          • LHathaway

            At this point, labor unions only serve to increase income inequality. You do know school teachers, airline pilots, journalists, all have unions? When unions employees get a raise all they are doing are taking from the poor and giving more to the already established and set. Lets have a reality check when it comes to ‘labor unions’. Labor unions and their mystique and influence have done nothing but move people farther left. They’ve done not a thing other than that.

          • JohnEngelman

            Labor unions do not have the effect I would like because too few people belong to them.

          • Alexandra1973

            I’ve worked in a union shop, and I’ve seen slackers get their jobs saved.

            For example: A black guy was working as a temp. During the first 90 days a temp can be let go for ANY reason at all (this was during my time there). This guy had four write-ups (that I know of) and just before his 90 days were up they fired him. Then a black woman that worked there complained at the union meeting that “they fired him ’cause he was black.” A union steward explained to her that it wasn’t the case, this guy could have been let go at any time for any reason. And when you’re written up, a union steward has to be in the room with you.

            Anyone else would’ve been tossed out after the first write-up.

            They also don’t want anyone making more than anyone else, has to be equal. Now what incentive do you have to do a good job if you’re not going to have something to show for it?

          • LHathaway

            I don’t know if you intend to or not, John, but you could be suggesting we choose socialism at the ballot box. That could likely cause the effect you are looking for. I’ll wish you luck on that from where I sit on the sidelines. Perhaps it’s a good idea whose time has not yet come. Perhaps it will one day.

          • listenupbub

            John, you do know what race of people ends up making up the unions in the public sector, and taking these jobs, don’t you?


            And after them, it will be hispanics.

            You can see how ineffective public-sector labor is in NYC. Potholes are often filled with nothing more than gravel. The dindus cannot even bother to pour some cement down.

            I respect you, I do. But liberalism is not appealing to me in a multiracial country where wealth redistribution is so strongly benefiting minorities at the expense of whites.

          • JohnEngelman

            I am in favor of expanding unionization in the private sector. I am opposed to affirmative action.

          • listenupbub

            And what about the postal service workers, bus drivers, groundsworkers, etc. for the city?

            Why is equality important, anyways?

    • Interventions? I can think of quite a few, such as methods of retroactive abortion, but back in the day I was an engineer, rather than a genuine scientist.

    • listenupbub

      Jared Taylor says two things are necessary: a belief in racial differences in IQ, and a belief that mankind is “tribal” by nature.

  • JohnEngelman

    I hope the person who wrote this keeps his job.

    • Usually Much Calmer

      “This research was funded by grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (to J. D. E. and C. F. O. Gabrieli) and the National Institutes of Health (F32 HD079143-01 to A. P. Mackey and F32 MH095354-01 to A. S. Finn).”

      Quelle surprise!

      • JohnEngelman

        Software is an IQ business.

        – Bill Gates

        With an IQ of 160 he knows what he is talking about.

        • George Moriarty

          Q 1, Yes, but just what is really happening at Microsoft these days? I think new found diversity may be part of the problem.
          Q 2, All that money he is spending on Africans, is he getting value for money or any results at all?

        • Bossman

          If he’s so smart, why is he doing so much to help the population of black Africa explode. He sometimes sounds like a hopelessly naive Christian minister.

          • Reverend Bacon

            Yes, I used to call him “that eco-terrorist,” because of his mucking with the ecology in Africa. He seems to have gotten a bit of religion lately, including wanting to give free Depo-Provera to all of Africa. It’s a start. Let’s hope he handles this report like a scientist, and accepts it; not burying it like a True Believer would.

          • listenupbub

            That is because these tech leaders are socially retarded. Nobody is more socially inept than Zuckerburg, who claims that facebook will change the world. Guess what? Facebook is losing popularity FAST. Young people won’t use it.

            Zuckerburg has been described as extremely self-conscious and awkward.

            It is like their brains are totally optimized for the task of memorizing code and thinking about algorithms, and they have neglected learning about human nature.

            Gates did grow up in a congregationalist church.

          • Many really bright people have Asperger’s Syndrome, which makes them socially inept.

          • listenupbub

            I didn’t want to say that, but I think it is possibly half-true. These guys are a little Asperger’s-ish.

            My brother is a software engineer, and he has trouble understanding social cues and body language. He is not so bad that people who didn’t grow up with him would know immediately, but my parents and I know about it.

            But even my brother will spend tons of time researching current events and social developments on the internet, understanding humanity through the written word. He also was a student in philosophy. So he is good at grasping human nature and motivations when he sits and thinks about it. He is darned good at analyzing arguments; formal logic really helps if you have the IQ to quickly apply it to vernacular.

            These tech leaders seem to be a little more socially clueless, which should be possible.

          • Alexandra1973

            I’m socially inept, always have been, but I don’t remember not knowing how to read. I sometimes wonder if I’m an Aspie.

            Surprisingly I’ve done fairly well at counter-jockey jobs.

        • withcaution

          It’s highly unlikely that Bill Gates has a very high IQ. Microsoft has always been a dismal company and it’s only claim to fame was being lucky enough to be the recipient of IBM’s stupidity.

          • TruthBeTold

            I wrote about Gates’ IQ and was inundated with comments that it was true.

            I see Gates’ business sense but I don’t see his innovation.

            I keep reading about how Gates is funding various projects and people attribute this to his high IQ when he’s only funding other peoples’ innovations.

          • Lexonaut

            “I wrote about Gates’ IQ and was inundated with comments that it was true.”

            And when I gave you the evidence you finally conceded the point, yes?

          • TruthBeTold

            No. I just don’t argue as fervently.

            I just don’t see the genius. I see the smart business sense to hire smart people to carry out his vision but I don’t see the genius breakthroughs.

            What really annoys me is that people link him to other peoples’ innovative ideas as if he thought of them. He didn’t. He’s only funding the ideas and works of other people.

            And if he’s so smart, why does he believe he can improve anything in Africa? (but that’s a facetious question)

          • JohnEngelman

            Do an internet search for “Bill Gates” + IQ

            Every website that search will list gives 160 as the answer.

          • TruthBeTold

            If everyone hears the same lie and repeats the same lie that doesn’t make the lie true.

            If the original source material is an erroneous idea planted perhaps by the person who benefits it doesn’t make the idea valid.

          • Transpower

            According to various sites on the Web, Bill Gates does, indeed, have an IQ of 160.

  • Luca

    “Greater cortical thickness, particularly in temporal and occipital lobes, was associated with better test performance”.

    How soon will it be before we hear that this is just racism dressed up as science?

    • how about this

      Cortical thickness is just a social construct, man.

  • Frank_DeScushin

    Liberals will simple argue the greater income caused the greater brain volume rather than the greater brain volume causing the greater income. Liberals are Lysenkoists.

    • Harvard Professor of Medicine

      I am sure it is a combination of both factors. Richer kids tend to have more intelligent parents, as intelligent people tend to become rich. At the same time, they have significantly better environments, while poor kids would have less intellectual environments. While I am no expert on neuro-plasticity, recent research suggests that the brain, and in particular the brain of children, is much more plastic than we once taught. Traditionally, it was believed that only trauma (ie complete lack of social interaction, blindness sue to cornea infection, etc) could have a significant impact on neural connections, but recent research is suggesting otherwise.

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  • David Ashton

    An occasional UK news report will tell us that wealthy children do better in school than poor children. This puts the environmental cart before the genetic horse. But the remedy for overlap is careful and flexible selection in the classrooms, whereas the editorial comment suggests that the successful adults should be taxed further to subsidize the youthful failures, with mixed-ability classes maintained to the disadvantage of all the students and with harder unnecessary work for the teachers.

    • Alexandra1973

      Dubya was a C student. LOL

      • David Ashton

        With Dubya and Uncle Sambo, who you know and who knows you, have been more important that what you know.

        I read your post about Aspies. One of my children was so diagnosed as on the spectrum late in life – articulate, extremely high IQ, talented artist and (surprisingly) actress, member of a top level choir, but unable to read social/personal associations correctly or plan ahead to a timescale. Too much enters her consciousness at once, and the brain cannot rapidly sort things out according to their importance. On top, she has had continual tinnitus following a childhood vaccination that coincided with an inner ear infection. My compassion is used up on her, and there is none left for the terrorists of Timbuctoo.

  • MekongDelta69

    Let’s make this simple…

    A higher IQ gives you a chance at more success, IF you study hard and work hard.

    • Oil Can Harry

      Dass rayciss!!! Nome sane, dawg?

      • Lexonaut

        Naw. You gots to say “dat be rayciss”. Den I feel you. For real.

  • Johann Wald

    It never ceases to amaze me the extent to which today’s scientific community will dance around making the most obvious conclusions from solid studies such as this one.

  • I would prefer to run the all-night firing squads after the revolution.

    • phillyguy

      I’ll be right there with you.

    • 3G4Me

      Hear, hear! Count me in.

  • phillyguy

    to summon it all up Bill Gates is a piece of s**t.

  • WR_the_realist

    Liberals will conclude that wealth of parents causes greater cortical thickness in their children’s brains, they will not conclude that children with greater cortical thickness usually have parents with greater cortical thickness and that that helped those parents to earn more money.

    Thus liberals will conclude that we must transfer more money to poor people (especially members of the diversity) so as to improve the cortical thickness of their children’s brains.

    • Jason Lewis

      Cortical thickness privleged.

      • Nonhumans

        White Matter Privelege

        • Lexonaut

          White don’t matter. Black matter.

  • Jason Lewis

    They won’t just come out and say it.

  • IstvanIN

    I wonder if this is why so many black males have tiny heads?

    • GAWZ

      Skull size and intelligence were dismissed as a Nazi pseudoscience a long time ago. Anyone who believes that there is a correlation between the two is labeled as a Nazi or racist. We have now becomes slaves to the notion that research in that area is as monstrous as the Holocaust. Personally, I think the Germans were on to something.

      • Alexandra1973

        Guilt by association.

        I am no Holocaust denier (it wasn’t about just Jews, it was basically an Inquisition), for the record. I’m not against such research, but I am against justifying genocide. It’s not the research itself that’s evil, it’s what you do with it.

        I’m beginning to think Nazism was one huge feat of social engineering. Equate race realists with Nazis.

        Thing is, just because I acknowledge that Toby doesn’t have the brains Skyler does, doesn’t mean I want to murder Toby and his family.

  • GAWZ

    Smart people are pretty good about obtaining the basics of life and then some. They also marry other smart people. These couples procreate, bringing in further smart people. Since the smart couple are good bread winners, they can have more children vs. the not so smart people who, incidently, experience higher mortality rates.
    It’s a good thing (for certain ethnic groups) that smart people also seem to have a sense of humanity and good will towards not so smart people.

    • Not all of us do. I have some stupid people on my HOA board’s architectural control committee, and I think they would be fine candidates for use in medical experiments.

    • Alexandra1973

      My husband and I are both fairly smart people (though smart people can make monumentally stupid choices in life). Our son is smart. He’s mildly autistic, but he’s smart as a whip.

      Our son has a lot of German on his father’s side and some from my side; I heard that Germans are on the top IQ-wise among Whites.

  • GAWZ

    I remember over 20 years ago hearing about Gates’ underhandedness in acquiring said Operating System from Kildall. I never wanted to believe it because like most people, I was also drinking the ‘Bill Gates is a genius’ cool aide.

  • Diversity Heretic

    The full article costs $35.00, which I’m not inclined to spend. But I remember reading on a Steve Sailer article comment thread that the authors of the study had to “race-norm” the results. They found that the difference between white and black brains “washed out” the income and brain configuration relationship that they sought to study. I have seen other data showing that the children of white parents earning between $20,000 and $40,000 outperform children of black parents earning more than $200,000 a year on standardized tests. Children of white parents earning less than $20,000 a year underperformed children of black parents earning over $200,000 a year by only a small margin, although the difference was statistically significant. Perhaps someone with institutional access to this article can inform us whether the findings reflect race-norming.

  • Lexonaut

    So … Their IQs really are lower than ours — but it’s a nutrition thing and therefore the white man is fully responsible for the black man’s lower IQ.

    Got it. Check.

    • A “nutrition” thing, in spite of food stamps, WIC, free breakfasts, lunches and dinners at school all year long. Sure. OK.

      • Alexandra1973

        To be fair, to make your food stamp dollars stretch, you have to get cheap stuff, which is bad for you.

        Still…if you make smart choices and plan ahead, you can actually get healthy stuff. I’m getting good at making stuff stretch.

        Hm. Still goes back to intelligence.

        • carriewhite64

          That’s what I was going to say to you. Resourcefulness is a major factor of intelligence, and that’s why you eat well on a small budget.

  • Lexonaut

    “Bill Gates’ success can be attributed to his purchase of an “operating system” from developer Gary Kildall.”

    Kildall developed CP/M, not MS-DOS, and it was developed primarily for the Z80 platform and its derivatives. What Gates bought was 86-DOS from Seattle Computer Products. He modified it heavily to meet an IBM spec for the upcoming IBM pc.

    Both CP/M and MS-DOS/86-DOS were, in essence, reverse engineering of DEC’s RT-11 operating system. I know this stuff because I worked for DEC during 1971-1981 and knew Kildall while he was still at Tektronix.

    For those who remember the Gypsy Fortune Teller machine in the main waiting room of Grand Central Station, that was a Gary Killdall production.

  • Light from the East

    The gap is growing because people of low IQ in the US are increasing.

  • Hilis Hatki

    Intelligence is dime a dozen. Wisdom is whats elusive.
    Memorization — Regurgitation the key to academic success.
    Lets put a good speller in charge.

  • 3G4Me

    Typical of a non-White, what you are advocating is essentially “citizenism” for the purportedly high-IQed. Of course, all Asians and Indians (dot heads) are convinced they’re frigging geniuses (that’s why their home countries are such marvelous places to live), and without them we poor, stupid Whites would sink back to the terrible standard of living we used to have, pre-enrichment. The fact that pre 1965 America was a decent place, even after Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt and the Ellis Islanders did their best to destroy it, is irrelevant. They’re smart, you see.

    I’d far rather live in a White nation with the standard IQ distribution curve than a nation composed of purportedly “smart” Indians, Asians, and Jews. As a matter of fact, my husband and I are desperately searching for a suitable place to relocate (yet within distance of his job) that is populated almost exclusively by working-class Whites.

    Culture is a by-product of race, Without my people and culture, what use to me is “intelligence?” Wisdom is something totally different, and learned the hard way – and it tells me that “a multiracial individual” does not, indeed CANNOT, have the same goals as I do. A successful future for such a one will be a disaster for my White sons – and it has NOTHING to do with IQ, which they have aplenty.

  • Paleoconn

    So it’s true that poverty causes brain shrinkage!

  • 3G4Me

    No, I want what’s the best for European White people. The rest put themselves and their people first, as is natural. Why are you prejudiced against White Europeans?