SOME RATHER NUTTY (but very "correct") "SCIENCE"

The academic article below (plain-language summary here) is a contribution to the religion that black intellectual disadvantage is solely due to environmental factors. They examine verbal ability, which is the strongest single correlate of general intelligence. The message is that black kids who have grown up in ghettoes are permanently harmed by it. I imagine that might be true to some extent. Environment does indeed have SOME effect on IQ development. But the article below does not prove that. It shows that the black ghetto kids studied fell more and more behind age-norms as the years went by but it overlooks the basic truth that blacks fall behind whites as they grow up anyhow, REGARDLESS of their early or other environment. See here. The fact that the research was by sociologists with no apparent participation by psychometricians may account for its naivety.

The article also seems to make some heroic assuptions about WHERE blacks move to when they move out of a ghetto. That the place that they move too might also be low-quality seems not to be taken seriously. Do we really believe that about 42 percent of the black children living in the worst neighborhoods in 1995 moved to a nondisadvantaged neighborhood later on? Pull the other leg! If we DO believe any part of that, however, the movers (and their kids) were probably brighter than those who stayed behind so the nearest thing the researchers had to a control group wasn't really one.

Durable effects of concentrated disadvantage on verbal ability among African-American children

By Robert J. Sampson et al.


Disparities in verbal ability, a major predictor of later life outcomes, have generated widespread debate, but few studies have been able to isolate neighborhood-level causes in a developmentally and ecologically appropriate way. This study presents longitudinal evidence from a large-scale study of >2,000 children ages 6-12 living in Chicago, along with their caretakers, who were followed wherever they moved in the U.S. for up to 7 years. African-American children are exposed in such disproportionate numbers to concentrated disadvantage that white and Latino children cannot be reliably compared, calling into question traditional research strategies assuming common points of overlap in ecological risk. We therefore focus on trajectories of verbal ability among African-American children, extending recently developed counterfactual methods for time-varying causes and outcomes to adjust for a wide range of predictors of selection into and out of neighborhoods. The results indicate that living in a severely disadvantaged neighborhood reduces the later verbal ability of black children on average by ~ 4 points, a magnitude that rivals missing a year or more of schooling.

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, December 19, 2007

One thing that always rather gets me is how Leftists ignore the fact that blacks from bad environments often rise to pre-eminence in sport (e.g. here). So how come a bad environment cripples the cortex (the part of the brain critical to intelligence) but empowers the muscles and the cerebellum (the part of the brain critical for co-ordination)? The brain, the muscles and the nervous system are all parts of the body so how can they be affected differently?

One might perhaps argue that ghetto kids improve their cerebellum and not their cortex because they do a lot of leaping about (do they?) and not much talking but then we have to ask why is that. Verbal ability and intelligence are intimately related so is intelligence not important for survival? Given the great need for "street smarts" in the ghetto, one would think that intelligence was very important in the ghetto so how come it is not selected for there? How come the cortex is not trained too? How come blacks are not geniuses with words? And I know a lot of very restless and very active Dutchmen and Germans who almost never seem to sit still but I cannot think of any sport dominated by blacks where Germans and Dutchmen are also prominent. Blacks just wouldn't be genetically different, would they?

Posted by John Ray

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