Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Black men are athletic, Hispanic women are not

In 2004, the GSS asked a question about self-assessed athleticism (and thanks to Jokah for alerting me to it). Conveniently, this is the same year interviewers were asked to rate respondents as being below average, average, somewhat above average, or considerably above average. Among those deemed to be remarkably thin, 27.5% responded that "athletic" described them well. Among those of normal build, it was 33.3%. For those overweight, 20.2%. And among the obese, 9.5%. So self-perceptions appear to be at least generally in line with reality.

The following table shows the percentages of people, by race and sex, who consider the adjective "athletic" either a good or very good descriptor of themselves:

Black men59.5%
White men39.7%
Hispanic men36.3%
Asian men25.9%
Asian women25.6%
Black women21.8%
White women21.0%
Hispanic women15.1%

Sometimes posts require no bloviating beyond the blog's tagline, and this is one of those posts. Color me loquacious though, because I'd still like to say a few words anyway.

Black men easily come out on top, followed by white guys, with Hispanics closely trailing them. This comes as little surprise to anyone who has played sports with blacks at a competitive level. They move quicker and jump higher, although the perception of black men as physically stronger than white men seems in my experience to be more of a conflation of general athleticism with upper body strength than an accurate reading of reality.

Men are more athletic than women are, except for Asians, where there is gender parity. Asian men are notorious for being bad at sports, tending to small and neither strong nor fast. I'm not aware of that stereotype existing for Asian girls, though I'm not aware of any particular Asian female prowess for athletics, either. The sample sizes for Asians are small (51 men, 49 women), so they should just be taken as suggestive in any case.

The rates of athleticism are even among white and black females, which probably has to do with corpulence among black women, who actually tend to have wider waists than black men do (among all other races, male waist size is larger).

I've played lots of soccer with Mexican men who are serious about the game (although the average Mexican guy doesn't seem to be particularly good at it--in the league games I've played, it's almost always the all white team I'm on against a team of likely illegal immigrants who speak broken English at best, and we always crush them), but the women who are there watching look to be in especially poor shape, with oozing tortilla flabbiness in abundance.

A few months back, a study was released suggesting that exercise may improve brain functioning. The implication that this is a formula for raising test scores and closing the achievement gap (more recess time for NAMs?) is standard blather from those antagonistic towards cognitive realism, but in my own personal experience, it is modestly beneficial. Specifically, my ability to focus is enhanced after I've worked out (unfortunately, I have to balance this with the realization that I simply don't lift as well and am more prone to tweaking in the mornings, especially within the first couple hours of waking up, so I generally do cardio in the morning and lift when I get home in the evenings).

Without any speculation on which way the causality arrow points, if there is an arrow at all, the percentages of people who describe themselves as athletic by intelligence follows. Respondents are divided into five groups forming a roughly normal distribution by wordsum score; Really Smarts (score of 9-10, comprising 13% of the population), Pretty Smarts (7-8, 26%), Normals (6, 22%), Pretty Dumbs (4-5, 27%), and Really Dumbs (0-3, 12%). To avoid the confounding factor of race, with blacks potentially skewing the correlation between athleticism and intelligence in an inverse direction, only whites are included. In a similar vein, only those 40 and under are considered, to avoid confounding from the elderly who may have considered themselves athletic in the past but no longer do so and who've also had a lifetime to stumble upon the definitions of various words:

Really smarts34.3%
Pretty smarts33.8%
Pretty dumbs38.4%
Really dumbs44.3%

To the extent that there is a relationship, it does indeed appear to be slightly inverse (although not statistically significant). It is conceivable that people who don't have a lot upstairs are more likely to emphasize their physical abilities. It's also possible that athleticism and intelligence are unrelated. If this is the case, the fact that professional athletes tend to be more intelligent than the population at large (when race is taken into account) is presumably the result of higher IQ leading to better nutrition, more discipline in working out and mastering positions played, etc.

GSS variables used: ATHLETIC, SEX(1)(2), RACECEN1(1)(2)(4-10)(15-16), INTRWGHT


Steve Sailer said...

The female athleticism thing is likely tied in part to getting into college. Being a decent athlete in high school to look good to colleges, and maybe getting a college scholarship, is something that more females than males can accomplish through pure willpower, so Asians come out on top among women.

I've noticed a growth in the number of good high school quarterbacks who are Hispanic over the last decade Mark Sanchez being the most famous, but there is some depth there. It's not a big number, but it's bigger than ten years ago.

Anonymous said...

Did you try breaking out the %athletic by observed body type separately by race and/or gender? 9.5% of obese people considering themselves athletic surprised me. I have to imagine that's mostly a male delusion.

My two cents is that I would expect this kind of self-reported data to be very culturally influenced. "Athletic" probably has a tom-boy association for a lot of women, while for men it's an unqualified positive outside of the ironic jock-loathing hipster crowd.

Needless to say, you also need to account for group self-esteem differences when dealing with self-reported data. Maybe you could make a name for yourself by looking at this data, along with wordsum and self-assessed intelligence or other subjective/objective pairings and come up with a formula to normalize self-reported data!

Son of Brock Landers said...

As far as delusions, 59.9% of black men consider themselves athletic, when 67% are obese or overweight. Just because you wear a alternative colored jersey and matching baseball hat does not make you athletic.

Anonymous said...

"Asian men are notorious for being bad at sports, tending to small and neither strong nor fast."

My first impression was that statement was correct. Considering that China and India combine for around 1/3 of the world's population, Asian mens' absence in sports is apparent.

But, Asia is kinda a big place for that statement... Asia includes South Asians, like Indians, Pakistanis... SE Asians like Vietnamese, Filipinos.., East Asians (Chinese/Japanese/Koreans), etc. Different body types in all those groups...

Hmm. Some of the Japanese kids that I grew up with were really quite fast runners (not as fast as blacks, though). Come to think of it, Japan got the bronze in the 4x100 meter in the last Olympics:

Another example... Manny Pacquiao is Filipino. In fact, Asia used to do pretty well in a lot of sports (Olympics, boxing) but then those countries became rich and well, most athletes come from poor countries. Even among athletically superior blacks, the chances of becoming a pro are extremely remote, so an emphasis on athletics is typically a waste of resources.

Jack said...

I have a feeling 43% of "really dumb" white guys are not athletic. Just a hunch. You do need SOME brains for most sports, or at least to have the discipline needed to be good at them.

The really dumb may not even know what athletic means.

Audacious Epigone said...


13% of obese men consider themselves athletic, compared to only 7% of women. That 1 of 8 tubsters say they're athletic is evidence of some level of delusion, virtually all offensive linemen are obese by BMI standards, so in a few of these cases the description is actually legitimate.

Steve Sailer said...

I always liked watching highly-coordinated fat guys like Kevin James and John Goodman. They can have an elegant economy of motion.

Stopped Clock said...

For men, adding a chest/waist circumference ratio to the BMI calculators would be a good way to screen out mesomorphs like Schwarzenegger, who with a BMI-only method is classified as death-temptingly obese. I don't know why they don't do that. Granted, some men have fat distributed around their whole bodies, but the ratio at least tends to be a good predictor of body type.

syon said...

Steve Sailer: What is the racial breakdown in the growth in the number of Hispanic High School quarterbacks?Are the mostly Amerind or mostly White? If Mark Sanchez is any indication, they seem to be coming from the ranks of White Hispanics.

chef-in-the-making said...

rudeee!! im a hispanic women, im offened about the "oozing tortilla fat" not only is that extreamly racist (since not all hispanic women enjoy tortillas, ex. myself) and also biased. how many hispanic women do you know.only enough to make the accusation that we are all fat? in every race there is a large fat population, especialy white females. dont go pointing fingers untill you get your facts straight. and by the way, HISPANIC soccer plays are great, MEXICAN soccer plays, i cannot acount for.

Anonymous said...

Also, think about intelligence testing being normed to white, heterosexual, English speaking men. It's not a completely fair measure of "cognitive" ability.