Thursday, March 05, 2009

Why do Hawaiian white kids fare so poorly on NAEP tests?

In response to the post on the relationship between health and intelligence at the state level, Peter wondered why Hawaii's NAEP scores (on which state IQ estimates are based) are so low. Pacific Islanders average in the mid-eighties on IQ tests, so the islands' indigenous populations offer some indication, but 40% of the state's population--over 500,000 people--is non-Islander Asian. More than half are Japanese, Chinese, or Korean. So the poor performance of the state's NAEP Asian population (which groups non-Islander Asians with native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders)--converted into an estimated IQ of 93.6--seems a little flummoxing. However, while half the state's total population falls into NAEP's broad Asian category, 73% of the students actually taking the assessments do. I suspect Filipino, native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander students are over-represented relative to their total numbers in the larger population and that East Asians are conversely underrepresented.

Where I'm really in the dark is on the question of why Hawaiian whites do so poorly. When I put together IQ estimates based on eighth grade math and science scores from 2005, the only state with lower achieving whites was West Virginia. The most recent results again show Hawaiian whites nearly at the bottom, ahead only of Alabama and, again, West Virginia.

With Pacific Command headquarters and the consequent large military presence in the state, the low scores are even more surprising. The Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA), comprised of the brats of servicepeople stationed overseas, does very impressively. If the DoDEA schools were aggregated and counted as an individual state, they'd have the eighth highest estimated average IQ (100.6) in the country, just behind Minnesota and ahead of Wisconsin. More remarkable than that is that the DoDEA manages to get said results from a demographic pool that is only 58% white, 22% black, and 10% Hispanic, and 9% Asian. If estimates are broken down by race and by state, the DoDEA schools fare astoundingly well. For Hispanics, as its own state the DoDEA would rank first, with an estimated IQ of 100.2. Ditto for blacks, at 95.8. For whites, it'd come in third, at 102.8. For Asians, it'd be a middling 11th of 23, at 101.3--hardly a score to be ashamed of.

Are Hawaii's military personnel of a different stripe than the aggregate stationed overseas? While the military presence in the state is relatively large, it's still small in an absolute sense, representing about 4% of the state's total population, so maybe it's too diminutive to have any meaningful influence.

Also, Hawaii is probably the most expensive place in the US to live and median income in the state is among the nation's highest. But these Marin-lite settings do not translate into Marin-like results. Why is this? Is Hawaii too much of an earthly paradise, with the beach always calling, for people to put emphasis on intellectual pursuits?


The Undiscovered Jew said...

Maybe the economy in Hawaii is so geared towards tourism that they cannot attract high IQ whites?

Even considering how much of a mess California is these days, California still has a strong high tech industry, some good universities, and many other productive industries.

Hawaii on the other hand has a very high cost of living but no great Universities or intellectually challenging career paths to attract wealthy high IQ whites.

ironrailsironweights said...

Is Hawaii too much of an earthly paradise, with the beach always calling, for people to put emphasis on intellectual pursuits?

If that's the case, and it certainly sounds possible, children in Hawaii should do better on straight IQ tests than their scores on educational-achievement tests would predict, even if the latter tests are normally good proxies for the former.

Hawaii may be a state of underachievers, in other words.


Audacious Epigone said...


Even though Hawaiians are pretty well educated, that sounds plausible.


NAEP doesn't have results broken out for Hispanics or blacks from HI due to small sample sizes, but the state's Asians are dead last and whites are almost at the bottom. That's circumstantial evidence for HI being a place for underachievers. I can't help but think of Jimmy Buffet in a 'Hawaiian' shirt...

Jason Malloy said...

Median IQ for Hawaiian ethnic groups from The Global Bell Curve and a few other sources:

White: 100
(Portuguese): 90

East Asian: 101
(Chinese): 99
(Japanese): 101
(Korean): 102
(Chin-Haw): 91

Filipinos: 89

Hawaiians: 88
(White-Haw): 93

Puerto Ricans: 78

Audacious Epigone said...

Applying those averages to the state's NAEP population, assuming an overrepresentation of Filipino and Native Hawaiians gives an IQ estimate of about 95. But based on NAEP scores, HI whites do not appear to have an average IQ of 100.

Jason Malloy said...

Applying the ethnic demographics of Hawaii (from Wikipedia) to the IQ numbers listed above, we surprisingly get the same numbers as the NAEP IQ estimates virtually down to the same decimal point.

Japanese 101/16.7%
Chinese 99/4.7%
Filipino 89/14.1%
Korean 102/1.9%
Polynesian 88/16%

Weighted IQ = 93.8
NAEP IQ = 93.6

Non-Portuguese 100/21.9%
Portuguese 90/4.0%

Weighted IQ = 98.5
NAEP IQ = 98.5

ironrailsironweights said...

Why are the IQ estimates for the Portuguese so low?


Anonymous said...

Not to make light of a very disturbing truth. The Islands are an abundant and relaxed environments. After living there and seeing first hand, just two phrases encompass 95% of the issue...

1. Surf's Up (Really, anything having to do with the beach)

2. Laid Back (A cultural aversion to most things that causes anyone to work up a sweat, physically or emotionally)

That's why we chose to leave and raise our children on the mainland.