The Black-White IQ Gap: Is It Closing? Will It Ever Go Away?
About This Event

For decades, the difference in the test scores of blacks and whites on the SAT, National Assessment of Educational Progress test, Armed Forces Qualification Test, and traditional IQ tests has been a vexed issue for American educational policy. Two of the leading scholars of this controversial topic, James R. Flynn Listen to Audio


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of the University of Otago (New Zealand) and Charles Murray of AEI, will debate the causes of the difference, its implications, and recent trends. New studies of the subject by Professor Flynn and by Mr. Murray will be available for distribution at the session.

Agenda
9:45 a.m.
Registration
10:00
Panelists:
James R. Flynn, University of Otago
Charles Murray, AEI
Moderator:
Christopher DeMuth, AEI
Noon
Adjournment
Event Summary

November 2006

The Black-White IQ Gap: Is It Closing? Will It Ever Go Away?

For decades, the difference in the test scores of blacks and whites on the SAT, National Assessment of Educational Progress test, Armed Forces Qualification Test, and traditional IQ tests has been a vexed issue for American educational policy. Two of the leading scholars of this controversial topic, James R. Flynn of the University of Otago and Charles Murray of AEI, debated the causes of the difference, its implications, and recent trends on November 28 at AEI.

James R. Flynn
University of Otago

After a thorough analysis of nine standardization samples for four major tests of cognitive ability, we can now say with certainty that the black-white IQ gap is a myth. The data shows that black Americans gained four to seven IQ points on non-Hispanic whites between 1972 and 2002. These gains have been shown to be fairly uniform across the entire range of black cognitive ability.

While other scholars such as Charles Murray have analyzed some of the same trends to make the case for a black-white IQ gap, the quality of their standardization samples was lacking. Nonetheless, all results from these other studies are compatible with our estimate of an average IQ of 90.5 for black schoolchildren in 2002. All existing data suggest that since the 1960s, black children have made large IQ gains relative to whites, even if the precise timing of those gains is uncertain.

A balanced look at the evidence indicated that the racial IQ gap is not of genetic origin. Blacks have gained four to seven IQ points on Whites over the past thirty years. Changes in neither the ancestry of the individuals classified as black nor changes in those who identify themselves as black can explain more than a small fraction of this gain. Therefore, the environment has been responsible. Further progress in the improvement of the environment of blacks would most certainly engender further black IQ gains.

Charles Murray
AEI

There is agreement that the gap between black and white Americans did narrow during the twentieth century by the amount that Dickens and Flynn (2006) estimate. However, there is disagreement over whether the gap has stalled for persons born since the 1970s. Although we can expect the narrowing to resume, there are reasons to think that the remaining gap will be with us indefinitely.

Based on IQ standardization, national college admissions tests, studies of No Child Left Behind, and national surveys, we have strong evidence that the narrowing of the gap has stalled. The best data for persons born from the 1970s onward comes from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY), which yields significant evidence that the black-white difference did not diminish for the sample of children born from the mid-1970s through the mid-1990s. The NLSY should be regarded as the most accurate source due to its large sample sizes, its extensive background information, and other factors.

Given everything that is known about heritability of IQ and the remaining environmental differentials between blacks and whites, unless the dysgenic pattern of black fertility changes, any narrowing of the IQ gap will be confined to children. Among adults, the IQ gap is unlikely to do any better than remain at present levels.

AEI research assistant Joe Manzari prepared this summary.

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AEI Participants

 

Christopher
DeMuth
  • Christopher DeMuth was president of AEI from December 1986 through December 2008. Previously, he was administrator for information and regulatory affairs in the Office of Management and Budget and executive director of the Presidential Task Force on Regulatory Relief in the Reagan administration; taught economics, law, and regulatory policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University; practiced regulatory, antitrust, and general corporate law; and worked on urban and environmental policy in the Nixon White House.

     

  • Phone: 2028625895
    Email: cdemuth@aei.org
  • Assistant Info

    Name: Keriann Hopkins
    Phone: 2028625897
    Email: keriann.hopkins@aei.org

 

Charles
Murray
  • Charles Murray is a political scientist, author, and libertarian. He first came to national attention in 1984 with the publication of Losing Ground, which has been credited as the intellectual foundation for the Welfare Reform Act of 1996. His 1994 New York Times bestseller, The Bell Curve (Free Press, 1994), coauthored with the late Richard J. Herrnstein, sparked heated controversy for its analysis of the role of IQ in shaping America’s class structure. Murray's other books include What It Means to Be a Libertarian (1997), Human Accomplishment (2003), In Our Hands (2006), and Real Education (2008). His most recent book, Coming Apart (Crown Forum, 2012), describes an unprecedented divergence in American classes over the last half century.


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  • Assistant Info

    Name: Caroline Kitchens
    Phone: 202-862-5820
    Email: Caroline.Kitchens@aei.org
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