Has Obama closed the racial intelligence gap?

Obama’s election may not have made the oceans recede (at least not yet), but it has accomplished something even more miraculous: it has raised black test-taking ability to the point where it is equal to that of whites. Sam Dillon in the New York Times reports on a study which has found that “a performance gap between African-Americans and whites on a 20-question test administered before Mr. Obama’s nomination all but disappeared when the exam was administered after his acceptance speech and again after the presidential election.” I haven’t yet read the whole article, but let’s remember the Times story by Tamar Lewin last summer that triumphantly declared that females perform as well as males in tests of math skills. The article was a total lie, as Heather Mac Donald showed at City Journal.

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I’ve now read the article and its claim is not so much a lie as b.s. The article admits that the test sample was very small, that the study has not yet been peer-reviewed, and that the study has not been replicated. Yet the Times published the sensational claim anyway .Also, no descriptions of the questions are provided.

I would add that the theoretical explanation of the study’s findings is instantly dismissible. It is that enhanced racial confidence resulting from Obama’s ascension has overcome the “testing anxiety” (a.k.a. “cultural anxiety”) that supposedly lowers blacks’ performance. But if the anxiety thesis is correct, why do blacks, as Arthur Jenson has pointed out, do virtually as well as whites when asked to repeat a sequence of numbers that has been read to them, but do significantly worse than whites when asked to repeat the same sequence backwards? Are blacks immune to cultural anxiety during the forward sequence test, but suddenly beset with cultural anxiety during the backward sequence test? It sounds as though cultural anxiety is simply a proxy for lower black g, meaning general intelligence, the basic ability to process information, which is the core of IQ.

Also, in the test given before Obama’s nomination, whites got 12 out of 20 answers correct and blacks 8.5 out of 20 correct, while in the test given after Obama’s election blacks did virtually as well as whites. Let’s consider what this means. An average difference of 3.5 out of 20 for two population groups is very large. It roughly matches the 15 point black-white IQ difference, and the four-grade black-white difference in reading abilities among high school seniors. If the study and what it is implying were correct, it would mean that since July 2008 there has been a 15 point rise in the average black IQ, and a four year leap in the reading ability of black high school seniors. Let’s find some studies that show that!

Liberalism produces lies the way birds sing. We live under a leftist ideological regime that lives on lies. There are two ways the regime can come to an end: if it destroys itself, or if a new spiritual and political movement arises that rejects it root and branch, the way Solzhenitsyn rejected the Soviet system root and branch.

Here is the Times article:

January 23, 2009
Study Sees an Obama Effect as Lifting Black Test-Takers

Educators and policy makers, including Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, have said in recent days that they hope President Obama’s example as a model student could inspire millions of American students, especially blacks, to higher academic performance.

Now researchers have documented what they call an Obama effect, showing that a performance gap between African-Americans and whites on a 20-question test administered before Mr. Obama’s nomination all but disappeared when the exam was administered after his acceptance speech and again after the presidential election.

The inspiring role model that Mr. Obama projected helped blacks overcome anxieties about racial stereotypes that had been shown, in earlier research, to lower the test-taking proficiency of African-Americans, the researchers conclude in a report summarizing their results.

“Obama is obviously inspirational, but we wondered whether he would contribute to an improvement in something as important as black test-taking,” said Ray Friedman, a management professor at Vanderbilt University, one of the study’s three authors. “We were skeptical that we would find any effect, but our results surprised us.”

The study has not yet undergone peer review, and two academics who read it on Thursday said they would be interested to see if other researchers would be able to replicate its results.

Dr. Friedman and his fellow researchers, David M. Marx, a professor of social psychology at San Diego State University, and Sei Jin Ko, a visiting professor in management and organizations at Northwestern, have submitted their study for review to The Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Dr. Friedman said.

“It’s a very small sample, but certainly a provocative study,” said Ronald F. Ferguson, a Harvard professor who studies the factors that have affected the achievement gap between white and nonwhite students, which shows up on nearly every standardized test. “There is a certainly a theoretical foundation and some empirical support for the proposition that Obama’s election could increase the sense of competence among African-Americans, and it could reduce the anxiety associated with taking difficult test questions.”

Researchers in the last decade assembled university students with identical SAT scores and administered tests to them, discovering that blacks performed significantly poorer when asked at the start to fill out a form identifying themselves by race. The researchers attributed those results to anxiety that caused them to tighten up during exams in which they risked confirming a racial stereotype.

In the study made public on Thursday, Dr. Friedman and his colleagues compiled a brief test, drawing 20 questions from the verbal sections of the Graduate Record Exam, and administering it four times to about 120 white and black test-takers during last year’s presidential campaign.

In total, 472 Americans—84 blacks and 388 whites—took the exam. Both white and black test-takers ranged in age from 18 to 63, and their educational attainment ranged from high school dropout to Ph.D.

On the initial test last summer, whites on average correctly answered about 12 of 20 questions, compared with about 8.5 correct answers for blacks, Dr. Friedman said. But on the tests administered immediately after Mr. Obama’s nomination acceptance speech, and just after his election victory, black performance improved, rendering the white-black gap “statistically nonsignificant,” he said.

“It’s a nice piece of work,” said G. Gage Kingsbury, a testing expert who is a director at the Northwest Evaluation Association, who read the study on Thursday.

But Dr. Kingsbury wondered whether the Obama effect would extend beyond the election, or prove transitory. “I’d want to see another study replicating their results before I get too excited about it,” he said.

- end of initial entry -

Terry Morris writes:

Wow! Another couple of months, with Obama now in office, and there will be a complete reversal in the black-white intelligence gap. ;-)

January 26

Laura W. writes:

This article raised several thoughts and questions:

  • Why didn’t the white scores decrease? If the mental abilities of racial groups are affected by who is president, the white scores should show a corresponding decline. I guess the answer is that whites have so much inbred self-confidence—and proof of their competence is everywhere—that they don’t need a white president. White leadership is—and will be for some time—wrong.

  • If Obama is criticized or is widely perceived to fail, will black scores plummet? Scores may vary wildly from day to day until experts can identify that specific atmospheric high that creates black self-confidence.

  • Many of the programs initiated at public expense to boost black performance are pointless. We can scratch them. What matters is the trickle-down influence of ongoing public celebration of a black leader.

  • What about an Oprah effect? Her influence on black performance shouldn’t be overlooked, particularly following one of her dieting triumphs. More studies are necessary.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at January 25, 2009 05:33 PM | Send

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