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May 13, 2013


You seem to have missed the part of your post that shows differences in IQ have a small effect on educational outcomes and that quality of schooling dominates ability in importance. When people obsess over school quality, while ignoring the vast literature on intelligence, one has to wonder: What is the motivation?

It's rather disappointing that you would link to Coates. His article demonstrates the worst sort of anti-intellectual attempt to shut down discussion about difficult topics.

"Economists have been demonstrating for 15 years that somewhere between five percent and a third of the achievement gap can be attributed to poor children's lack of access to effective K-12 teachers."

And that is a good sign that the gap is purely environmental? At most a third of the gap can be attributed to quality of teaching, which you emphasize as being a key feature in engendering the gap, and you conclude that that shows how only environment figures into outcomes? Any half way decent scientist would conclude in any case that the true number likely lies toward the middle of the two estimates you offer in any case -- only roughly 20% of the gap. How is this evidence that the gap is strictly environmental, rather than evidence for the opposite conclusion?

Do you ever think through even your own facts, or apply any kind of sanity check to your own arguments?

A further point.

One way, of course, to test how much the environment figures into the gap is to consider transracial adoptees. The best way would be to study black children adopted into the supposed environmental acme of stimulation, the upper middle class white family, and see how they fare on IQ tests.

Well, such an experiment was performed, and by researchers who very much hoped that it would show that this sort of environment would eliminate the IQ gap.

While it seemed to show promising closing of the gap earlier in childhood, by age 17 the black adoptees had fully reverted in their scores to the mean of the larger black population of the area -- fully 1 SD deviation below the average for the white population of the area.


"many important jobs in our economy--picking tomatoes, delivering food, cleaning buildings--require little formal education or demonstrated intellectual ability, and that native-born Americans will not do them."

Please. That is insulting to American workers. The reality is that American employers will not pay enough money for such jobs to attract native-born Americans.

"So while Richwine does acknowledge that both genetic and environmental factors contribute to IQ, he locates environmental variability almost solely in the home, as if there were no inequality in contact with good teachers, orderly classrooms, up-to-date textbooks, and engaging curricula."

The school district a family lives in is strongly tied to the schools the kids are exposed to. That shows up as shared environment in twin studies, and yet there is very little role for shared environment in adult IQ: family effects fade when the kid leaves home.

Adoption studies change both family and school district, and don't seem to show lasting effects on adult IQ.

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