Monday, January 03, 2011

Takes on why blacks fare more poorly than whites do

In response to the release of the 2009 PISA results by country and ethnicity within countries, Steve Sailer wondered if there exists a "silent but sensible majority" that believes, if not on the surface or just below it, that deep-down HBD is a substantial factor in how such things shake out. He excerpts from a reader who puts it in the 90%-100% range of the general population. Steve isn't so sanguine, and Inductivist quickly provided data from the GSS supporting Steve's sentiments, which are expanded upon below.

The GSS has a set of questions it has consistently asked relating to poor outcomes for blacks relative to whites. They compartmentalize neatly into four broad schools of thought on why racial disparities (specifically, why blacks have "worse jobs, income, and housing than white people") exist in contemporary Western society.

1) Blacks face discrimination--favored by whites like Tim Wise and most of black punditry
2) Blacks have less in-born ability to learn than whites do--a brief, crude description of HBD thinking
3) Blacks' lack of education--politically correct conventionalism favored by SWPLs and moderate leftists
4) Blacks' lack of willpower or motivation--many neocons and libertarians are here

The following graph shows the percentage of respondents agreeing with each of the following explanations by race. Whites are further separated by political orientation (split the difference a little closer to the conservative percentage and away from the liberal percentage on each explanation and you have the percentage for all whites). Because adding a legend made the graph feel clustered, bars are instead color-coded. White liberals are blue, white conservatives are white, blacks are black, Hispanics are brown, Asians are yellow, and Native Americans are red. For contemporary relevance, all data are from 2000 onward. The sample size for is 1111 for white liberals, 1631 for white conservatives, 817 for blacks, 318 for Hispanics, 172 for Asians, and 62 for Native Americans.

Despite being the most affirmed explanation, lack of motivation is still almost untouchable on the popular right. Can you imagine Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity agreeing with it? Maybe Michael Savage would, but having even briefly entertained the idea of differences in intelligence distributions by race, he's largely disowned by mainstream conservatives. If the cultural explanation is untouchable, it goes without saying that the HBD explanation is radioactive. Notice how whites, both liberal and conservative, are less likely than any other non-white group to attribute black failure to innate differences in intelligence.

Irrational racism (explanation #1) doesn't even get a majority of white liberals. NAMs have a vested interest in viewing white America's inherent discriminatory practices as a reason for their struggles, so it's not surprising that many Hispanics and Native Americans, who judge blacks relatively harshly elsewhere, show substantial support for the discrimination explanation.

On the mainstream left, that oh-so chronic problem, a lack of educational attainment, is the favored reason for black struggles among white liberals and Asians (who, despite often being thought of as natural intellectual allies of white HBDers, repeatedly show the greatest similarity with SWPLs on culture, politics, economics, etc). On the mainstream right, and among non-black minorities, the laziness explanation is the most favored.

Clearly, culturalism appears to have won out among the general population. The education and laziness explanations (#3 and #4) are the easiest for non-blacks to hold in the sense that they do not morally indict those holding them (as the discrimination explanation does), but they hold out hope that solutions to racial disparities are achievable, and relatively easily--send more blacks to college in the case of #3 and reverse the breakdown of the black family by ending the welfare lifestyle in the case of #4. The horrifying idea that biology might have something to do with the stubborn gaps that have steadily remained over the century they've been measured is something the vast majority of Americans apparently would rather not consider.

As an interesting aside, just over 13% of respondents did not agree with any of the four possible explanations, none of which was asked in a way to insinuate that it necessarily be the primary explanation. Thus it is completely understandable why respondents would've agreed with multiple explanations, but hard to imagine how to rationalize a respondent not favoring any of them. Perhaps this indicates that one in eight people simply refuse to think about racial disparities, even when prodded into doing so. Or is there another valid explanation out there that the GSS left out?

GSS variables used: RACDIF1, RACDIF2, RACDIF3, RACDIF4, RACECEN1(1)(2)(3)(4-10)(15-16), POLVIEWS(1-3)(5-7)


OneSTDV said...

Now the fourth time someone has looked at this GSS data:

Ian Jobling, me, Inductivist, and you

Isn't there somewhere else we can survey results from?

IHTG said...

Or is there another valid explanation out there that the GSS left out?

That God wills it? The curse of Ham and all that.
Not sure how "valid" that is, though.

B Lode said...

Let's not discount the power or ubiquity of denialism. I'm sure a lot of people believe the PISA results, differential dropout rates, etc., don't exist or are faked. The "least racist" explanation of all, way better than explanations implicating discrimination or bad education, is that a mean racist journalist dreamed up PISA to hurt black people's feelings, or mean racist test graders gave black people lower scores for the same reason.

Better than that would be combining the latter explanation (marking correct answers by black people wrong) with the "lack of education" explanation, i.e. that blacks get substandard education because their schools don't get enough money, then go on to produce dynamite results on the PISA, which are graded unfairly to make them look bad. Can't get more unracist than that world-view.

kpresidente said...

Most conservatives think it's because blacks' poor performance is subsidized by the government. I'd be willing to bet if you added that option, then 60-70%+ of white conservatives would select it.

What's interesting is that if I'm right, that this is the standard conservative position, my guess is that the number of white conservatives who select "lack of willpower" would drop to a point similar to the number of white liberals who feel the same.

B Lode said...

IHTG and kpresidente also offer decent options.

Surveys like this are pretty limited, but still useful in their way. I am particularly struck by the huge majority of Amerindians who picked the "willpower" explanation.

tony torso said...

"Asians (who, despite often being thought of as natural intellectual allies of white HBDers"
The chart does indicate that Asians were the most likely to choose "less in-born ability", about 15% (compared to Whites' 6-7%), so maybe they are indeed the most HBD-friendly.

Anonymous said...

AE, I'd guess aggregated Whites would be closest to aggregated Asians (relative to all racial categories), but with a higher internal standard deviation (more internal political diversity, less internal consensus), and a lower positive reply on everything (and a higher rate of "no answer"), but with the strongest difference on "HBD" and the least on willpower. Does this more or less match up to the data?

Audacious Epigone said...


There is the WVS internationally, and Inductivist uses a few other surveys on a regular basis. But there is nothing else as comprehensive and wide-ranging as the GSS.


Heh, I think the religious argument might be even less popular than the in-born ability explanation.

B Lode,

Undoubtedly, although I assume that more or less fits under the discrimination explanation.


Yeah, that leaves blacks less morally culpable. "Yes, it is due to black behavior... but blacks aren't really responsible for that behavior, the government is."


True. I thought that might have been a result of a high percentage of them being foreign-born, but the frequencies are virtually identical for the native- and foreign-born Asians sampled.


Yes, although whites as a whole are less likely to buy the education explanation than Asian (as well as the in-born ability explanation). They are, like Asians, relatively skeptical about discrimination as a cause.

Frenris said...

I think its amusing too that will power is an ok explanation while IQ* isn't, as Will power probably has similar levels of heritablity to IQ, I guess it comes down the duality of soul and body. People still think of will as something originating outside of biology.

*treating inborn learning as code for IQ

Audacious Epigone said...


Yes, that extends more generally to personality, attitude, and the like, which, while people will grant to some extent is fixed (ie, "That's just the kind of person he is"), is still not seen as unmalleable.

bbartlog said...

Huh. I would have expected HBD to be at least a *little* bit more popular. 7% is along the lines of the number of people who think the moon landing was faked, i.e. a really marginal viewpoint.

Mike Courtman said...

If Black people were primarily driven by laziness, wouldn't they have fewer kids and work limited hours at relatively high paying jobs?

Even for someone who is lazy, going on welfare only makes sense if you have poor prospects, as being a solo mum for example is easier than doing long hours at an unskilled, low wage job. However it's probably harder and more unpleasant that working part time in a relatively high paying skilled job. Most people for example, would probably prefer to be an accounting temp or fashion model who works 25 hours a week and has no kids, than a welfare mum with 3 kids, or a agricultural worker who has to work 50 hours to make what a smarter, lazier worker can do in 20.

Going on welfare usually only makes sense if you are lazy and lacking in marketable skills due to low intelligence etc.

B Lode,

Good point, a lot of left liberals believe almost all empirical studies are biased to the point of being useless. For example, in New Zealand I meet an educated journalist who didn't accept that Maoris had higher crime rates than whites, despite decades of solid empirical evidence to the contrary.

Anonymous said...

RE bbartlog:
I would have expected HBD to be at least a *little* bit more popular. 7% is along the lines of the number of people who think the moon landing was faked, i.e. a really marginal viewpoint.

OTOH, only ~30% whites answer the true PC response, #1.

JW Ogden said...

Or is there another valid explanation out there that the GSS left out?

1. Inheritance both wealth and wisdom.

2. Religion.

JW Ogden said...

Oh and another one Short term orientation, impulsiveness.

And Environment.

You could say all of what I suggested overlap with those given but there is some distinction in people's minds.