Race and Intelligence: The Evidence

Jared Taylor, American Renaissance, November 1992

There is probably no greater intellectual crime than to point out that the average intelligence of blacks is significantly lower than that of other races. American society punishes those who publicly state this view almost as vigorously as Islamic republics punish anyone who defames the Prophet.

Indeed, in an increasingly secular America, the dogma of racial equality has become virtually a religion. Like early Christians under the Romans, or Russian dissidents under the Soviets, Americans who question the dogma keep their forbidden opinions to themselves or exchange them only in private.

Despite its strength, one of the most remarkable things about the racial dogma is how new it is. Until only a few decades ago, hardly anyone thought the races were equal. Kipling wrote of “lesser breeds without the law,” and the Encyclopedia Britannica noted matter-of-factly in its 1914 edition that “The Negro is intellectually inferior to the Caucasian.” Until only a generation or two ago, this was the view of virtually all Americans: Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, and Harry Truman, to cite only Presidents.

Something equally remarkable about the dogma of equality is that there is no evidence to support it. One would search the planet in vain to find a single group of blacks that has managed to build an advanced, civilized society. By whatever standard one chooses, blacks demonstrate at every opportunity that they are not equal to other races. The history of Africa and the status of blacks in the United States are roughly what we would expect if the races have different capacities. But if the races are equally intelligent, disciplined, and hard-working, then nothing about Africa or African-Americans makes sense. Every disparity, every failure, every moment in history must be painstakingly explained.

The egalitarian position is therefore not based on evidence — for there is no evidence for that position — but on excuse-making. It consists purely in excusing blacks from the conclusion to which all the evidence points.

Race and IQ

In the United States, what little discussion there is about racial differences revolves around intelligence. Study after study has consistently shown that the average black IQ test score is 15 to 18 points lower than the white average. It appears that the gap starts at about 15 points in childhood and widens to as much as 20 points in adulthood. The gap has remained unchanged for 70 years — ever since IQ tests were first given to large numbers of Americans. Civil rights laws, greater social equality, and affirmative action have not reduced the difference.

As is clear from the diagram on this page, there is considerable overlap between more intelligent blacks and less intelligent whites; some blacks are clearly smarter than some whites. Egalitarians seize on this fact to discount the entire notion of racial differences but this is as absurd as claiming that because some women are taller than some men, the average man is no taller than the average woman.

Despite overlapping intelligence distributions, only 16 percent of blacks have IQs of more than 100, the white average. Whites are six to eight times more likely to have scores in the “gifted” range of 135 and higher, whereas blacks are six to eight times more likely to have scores in the “retarded” range of 70 or lower. At the very highest, genius level IQ scores, blacks are hardly to be found at all.

Not even the most reckless egalitarians can deny the differences in test scores. Instead, they claim that the scores are either meaningless or do not measure intelligence. It is true that intelligence cannot be defined to everyone’s liking, but that does not mean it cannot be measured. IQ correlates almost perfectly with subjective impressions of intelligence. If you were to talk to five strangers for twenty minutes each and then rank them by intelligence, there is an excellent chance that you would give them the same rank order that an IQ test would.

Less subjectively, IQ tests are the best possible way to predict whether a student will get good grades or a white-collar worker will do a good job. If a test can accurately predict how well someone will do at any number of activities that we think of as requiring intelligence, it takes a peculiar stubbornness to insist that the test is not measuring intelligence.

IQ tests therefore measure what we understand to be intelligence. Blacks consistently score lower than whites on IQ tests. Are they therefore less intelligent than whites?

“Test Bias”

At this point, the egalitarian defense claims that IQ tests are somehow biased against blacks. Common as this charge is, it is nothing more than an ex post facto explanation for results that displease the egalitarians, for no one can look through a well-designed intelligence test and explain what the bias is and where it is to be found.

In fact, many modern IQ tests, such as Raven’s Progressive Matrices, have no verbal or cultural content at all. They test a person’s understanding of shapes and patterns, and are routinely given to people who do not even speak English. Other varieties of IQ test do involve language and inevitably have some cultural content — and these are the very tests on which the black/white gap in scores is narrowest. The more culturally specific an intelligence test is, the narrower the black/white gap becomes. The most abstract, culture-free tests show the largest gap.

The theory of “test bias” is that unfair tests consistently underrate blacks’ abilities. If that were true, blacks who got the same test scores as whites would do better than the whites at the things test scores are supposed to measure: they would get better grades and do their jobs better. This does not happen; blacks do no better than the test scores predict. This raises a larger and different issue. Both the tests and the abilities they are supposed to measure may be biased against blacks. Some egalitarians actually make this argument, but it comes dangerously close to arguing that ability and intelligence themselves are somehow biased against blacks.

The “cultural bias” position is further weakened by the fact that newly-arrived Asian immigrants, for whom the United States really is an alien culture, outperform both blacks and whites on IQ tests. The assertion that the same tests that are culturally biased against blacks somehow favor Asians strains credibility.

If blacks are as intelligent as whites, there must be some way to demonstrate this. None has ever been devised. Are we to conclude that the intelligence of blacks remains forever hidden because every method for measuring it is faulty? Believers in test bias cannot explain why it is impossible to design an intelligence test — carefully eliminating all bias — on which blacks score as well as whites. The explanation is that there is no bias to eliminate. “Bias” is an imaginary culprit.


If tests cannot be shown to be biased, the next line of defense for egalitarians is to admit that, yes, IQ tests measure intelligence fairly and that blacks therefore may be less intelligent. They nevertheless insist that the difference is due to environment rather than genetics.

Some radical egalitarians talk as if intelligence were wholly a product of environment, but this is obviously not true. Mentally retarded children usually start life in the same environment as their normal siblings, but there is clearly something wrong with them and not with their surroundings. Intelligence comes in fine gradations all the way from genius to idiot. To admit that idiocy is genetic but to claim that every other level of intelligence is due to environment is like saying that the heights of dwarfs are governed by genes but that the heights of everyone else are governed by environment.

The nature v. nurture debate as it applies to intelligence is therefore about which predominates, and the best evidence comes from twin studies. Identical twins are genetically the same, whereas fraternal twins are no more similar to each other than ordinary siblings. When they are reared in the same household, twins have environments that are as similar as can be, but occasionally twins are separated at birth and reared apart. The crucial finding is that identical twins reared apart have more similar IQs (and personalities) than fraternal twins reared in the same household. Identical genes count for more than an identical environment.

Sir Cyril Burt, Hans Eysenck, R. Travis Osborne, and, most recently, Thomas J. Bouchard, are just a few of the people who have studied the intelligence of twins. They have concluded that intelligence is under considerably greater genetic than environmental control, with heredity accounting for 60 to 80 percent of all differences in intelligence. Thus, if one person has an IQ of 100 and another an IQ of 125, heredity accounts for 15 to 20 of the 25-point difference. Not even the most heroic environmental intervention could close the IQ gap by more than 10 points.

It is sometimes argued that if intelligence is affected even in the slightest by environment, society owes the less intelligent whatever boost a good environment can give them. Obviously, it is the intelligent who would have to provide the less intelligent with an IQ-boosting environment. So far, the evidence suggests that we do not know how to manipulate the environment to produce lasting IQ gains (see A Head Start Does Not Last) and if we did, the intelligent would demand the same treatment for themselves as for the unintelligent. The gap would presumably stay the same or grow wider.

One superficially plausible egalitarian argument is to claim that the meager circumstances in which blacks live thwart their development; rear blacks in good, middle-class homes, it is claimed, and they will be as smart as whites. In fact, a good number of adopted blacks have been reared in white homes, but their IQs remain closer to those of their natural parents than to their adoptive parents. The meager-circumstances argument likewise founders on the IQ scores of American Indians, Mexican immigrants, and Puerto Ricans. They often live in conditions of greater squalor than blacks, yet outperform them on intelligence tests.

Scores on the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) provide some of the most eye-opening data on the relative unimportance of environment. The SAT is not designed as an intelligence test, but it gives results that virtually mirror intelligence. Black students who grow up in families with incomes of more than $70,000 a year get lower scores than whites who grow up in families with incomes of less than $20,000 a year. It would be hard to find more persuasive evidence that race counts for more than family circumstances.

The conditions in which blacks live are the result, not the cause of low intelligence. If an anthropologist were to imagine a society composed of people with an average IQ of 85 — with one sixth as many gifted people and six times as many retarded people as in white society — would he not come up with something like pre-colonial Africa or the American inner city?

America is increasingly a society in which intelligence determines social status and success in life. Despite endless claims that America is inveterately prejudiced against non-whites, citizens of all races reap the rewards of intelligence. Prof. Linda Gottfredson of the University of Delaware has calculated that there are slightly more black doctors, lawyers, and PhDs than the distribution of black intelligence levels would suggest.

If this is true, it has profound implications. It would mean that blacks have already gotten as far in American society as their natural limitations permit. It would also mean that the number of blacks at high levels cannot be increased unless standards are further lowered and that the lingering handicaps of slavery, Jim Crow, and segregation have completely disappeared. In other words, there is no such thing as “the legacy of slavery.”

Blacks in Other Societies

Surprising as this conclusion may seem, it is born out by the record of blacks in other white societies. For example, blacks are one eighth of the population of the United States and one eighth of the population of London, England. In both cases they commit about half of the reported crime. Canada does not keep official crime statistics by race, but informal estimates are that the two to five percent of the people of Toronto who are black commit 30 to 40 percent of the crime.

Large numbers of blacks have been living in Canada and England for only a few decades, yet their crime rates are equivalent to those of blacks who have suffered “400 years of oppression” in the United States. Although data are scarce, Canadian and British blacks also seem to have rates of poverty and illegitimacy that are the equivalents of American blacks.

All other multi-racial societies show the same pattern. In Brazil, for example, slavery was never as widespread as in the United States and race relations are consistently described as better than they are here. Yet the disparity between black and white incomes is greater in Brazil than in the United States. Cuba also has a mixed population and is famous for its aggressive, socialist egalitarianism. Though Cuban officials are embarrassed by this and try to keep it a secret, blacks are invariably at the bottom of society.

The primitive circumstances of pre-colonial Africa are well known, as is the spectacular failure of Africans to build modern nations after independence (see “Why is Africa Poor,” AR, Jan. 1992). Africans suffer from primitive levels of public health, but they may also be held back by an average intelligence even lower than that of black Americans. Most American blacks have at least some white ancestry, which raises their intelligence. Professor Richard Lynn of the University of Ulster in Ireland, probably the most prominent student of national differences in intelligence, reports that average IQs may be as low as 80 in Uganda and Ghana, 75 in Nigeria, and 65 in Zaire. Such low levels of intelligence would rule out any possibility of real development.

The Caribbean nation of Haiti presents an interesting parallel to the failures of black Africans. Its six million inhabitants are all black, the descendants of slaves. Haiti has essentially been governed by blacks ever since the slave insurrection of 1791, in which nearly all whites were killed. Thus, it has a history of independence and black rule that is much longer than that of African nations. Despite such different histories, Haiti is practically indistinguishable from Africa in terms of GNP per capita, infant mortality rates, average educational level, and all the other indices of modernization. Its governments have been the corrupt shambles that is typical of Africa. If Haiti were dragged across the Atlantic Ocean and attached to the coast of Africa, it would seem perfectly at home.

To recapitulate, there is no evidence, either in America or abroad, in the present or in the past, that suggests blacks are as intelligent as other races. All of the evidence points to a significant and durable inequality.

The body of research is now so great that virtually no one who has taken the trouble to look into it remains an egalitarian. There was a time when some reputable scientists, such as Stephen Jay Gould, Leon Kamin, and Richard Lewontin seriously maintained the egalitarian or environmentalist view. They have now fallen silent. Their views are now echoed primarily by people who know nothing about current research data and show no interest in it. They appear to be driven by some motive other than the search for scientific truth.

That a proposition for which there is no evidence can have become dogma is one of the mysteries of our time. Part of the explanation for this is that a great many people seem to believe that even if racial differences can be proven they must be denied and suppressed. As we will show later in this series, it is vital that racial differences be recognized and accepted.

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