The Black-White achievement gap in America’s schools remains enormous. The question is whether the cause for the gap is something happening in the schools or something that the students bring with them. And if it’s the latter, is the gap due to economic background, something about family environment, or is the gap due to genetic differences? Given America’s racist history, the question is enormously sensitive. The suggestion that the gap might be genetic is especially sensitive.
Roland Fryer and Steven Levitt (“Testing for Racial Differences in the Mental Ability of Young Children”) report new evidence. Both the raw data and the conclusions drawn from the statistical analysis are sure to draw attention. First, the new raw facts.
- Tested between 8 and 12 months, the IQ differences across races are very, very small.
- By age 2, large differences appear.
The authors then allow for the possiblity that parental ability affects child IQ through environmental factors. Once they do this, they show that the data cannot distinguish between genetic and environmental effects.
So while it is clear that children of different races bring different intellectual abilities to the schoolroom door, it is also clear that we don’t know the source of these differences.