Why middle class blacks do as badly in school as poor blacks

Meanwhile, complementing the disturbing fact, discussed by California schools chief Jack O’Connell at the Achievement Gap Summit, that middle class black children test the same as lower class black children, the Pew Charitable Trust has recently published a study (also reported in the Washington Post) with an even more disturbing finding: a high rate of downward mobility among blacks. Jared Taylor writing at Vdare summarizes the downward mobility as follows: “[B]lacks are three times more likely than whites to drop out of the middle class into the lowest fifth of income earners.”

Taylor offers a refreshingly cogent explanation for this phenomenon: regression to the mean. This is “the tendency for natural phenomena to draw back from extremes towards the average.” While all groups exhibit regression to the mean, in IQ as in other traits, the catch is that the mean IQ for whites is 100 and the mean IQ for blacks is 85. This means, tragically, that very smart black parents are so far above the black mean that their children are likely to have much lower IQs than themselves. Taylor mentions two further factors that handicap black middle class children: greater impulsiveness among blacks than other groups (even when IQ differences are factored out), and higher measures of psychopathic personality traits among blacks, as Richard Lynn has demonstrated.

If we combine (1) regression to the low black mean, with (2) greater black impulsiveness, with (3) higher black psychopathic personality traits, the result is middle class black youths performing academically like poor black youths—and, thus, downward black mobility.

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Bill from Maryland writes:

You discuss “the disturbing fact … that middle class black children test the same as lower class black children.”

This is not quite true; they test somewhat higher, but well below the corresponding white level. Of course this is not news, as shown in this Wikipedia article (this is a useful graph to show to liberals, since they implicitly trust wikipedia). In a recent AEI debate with James Flynn, Charles Murray christened it “The Shaker Heights Phenomenon.” See also this.

You write: “the result is middle class black youths performing academically like poor black youths—and, thus, downward black mobility.”

I think it means that, though exceptional blacks can make it to the middle and upper middle class, their offspring will tend to sink to lower SES levels, so that, though we will always have a (relatively small) black middle class, blacks who move into the higher SES levels will not be able to establish middle class lineages. The establishment of an enduring, hereditary black middle class was the great hope of the sixties, and an early justification for affirmative action. The argument went as follows: “AA is morally problematic, but once the pump is primed, we won’t need it any more.” What we may be witnessing here is the last gasp of the Sixties egalitarian fantasy, at least as far as black academic performance is concerned. As can be seen from the Wikipedia graph, all of the above applies also to Hispanics.

LA replies:

That’s a great point by Bill. It should be the nail in the coffin of AA. However, that only applies to the logic of the argument. As far as the real world is concerned, AA is not in the coffin yet, and is not anywhere near the undertaker’s establishment, but is alive and thriving. So we have some work to do before we’re in a position to drive in the final nail.

Charles G. writes:

As you say, “…we have some work to do before we’re in a position to drive in the final nail.” But we should understand that affirmative action is most valuable to the left as a SYMBOL of power over middle class whites. And it is AS a symbol that it must brought down. The left derive much of their power by using this kind of symbolic supremacy in a controlled media environment. (The Rodney King case was their ultimate triumph because it showcased their power to free a guilty black man and throw the police into prison. That one still resonates.)

It may be that through the medium of the Internet we have our greatest opportunity to undermine the left-wing media supremacy and thus begin the arduous process of destroying leftist symbols like affirmative action, sexual deviancy, and corrupt cultural icons like Madonna, Mailer and Brando.

LA replies:

Interesting. I never thought of AA policy per se as a symbol. But of course it is, especially insofar as its result is concerned. Its result is elite university campuses with lots of nonwhites. Modern whites simply and absolutely require the presence of minorities in order to demonstrate, represent, and symbolize their own moral legitimacy as human beings. Nathan Glazer, who had previously been considered a neoconservative, made this demand and expectation explicit some years ago in his little surrender-monkey book, We Are All Multiculturalists Now.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at November 15, 2007 01:55 AM | Send

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