February 17, 2010

National Merit Qualifying Scores by State

From the Washington Post, here are the scores by state on the Preliminary SAT (PSAT) required to make the first cut in the National Merit Scholarship program. (To convert from the three part PSAT score to the traditional two-part SAT Math plus Verbal scores, divide by 3 and multiply by 20: e.g., Arizona requires a 210, which is like a 1400 on the SAT.) It's a good indication of the number of upper middle class residents by state.

For example, Washington D.C. always trails all 50 states on average National Assessment of Educational Progress scores for public school students, but it ties with Massachusetts (which leads NAEP scores more often than any other state), Maryland, and New Jersey for first on this measure with a 221 (the equivalent of a 1473 on the post-1995 SAT). Montana usually is close behind Massachusetts on the NAEP, but only requires a 204 because it lacks much of a native, childbearing upper middle class. In contrast, California, whose white students do relatively poorly on the NAEP on average, does well on this measure, requiring a 218. The lowest scoring state is Wyoming at 201. I would guess that's about 2/3rds of a standard deviation behind the top four states.

Alaska 211
Arizona 210
Arkansas 203
California 218
Colorado 213
Connecticut 218
Delaware 219
Washington D.C. 221
Florida 211
Georgia 214
Hawaii 214
Idaho 209
Illinois 214
Indiana 211
Iowa 209
Kansas 211
Kentucky 209
Louisiana 207
Maine 213
Maryland 221
Massachusetts 221
Michigan 209
Minnesota 215
Mississippi 203
Missouri 211
Montana 204
Nebraska 206
Nevada 202
New Hampshire 213
New Jersey 221
New Mexico 208
New York 218
North Carolina 214
North Dakota 202
Ohio 211
Oklahoma 207
Oregon 213
Pennsylvania 214
Rhode Island 217
South Carolina 211
South Dakota 205
Tennessee 213
Texas 216
Utah 206
Vermont 213
Virginia 218
Washington 217
West Virginia 203
Wisconsin 207
Wyoming 201

I haven't quantified this, but I would assume that Blue States average higher scores than Red States on this measure, although Texas does well at 216.

In general, Texas does fairly well on most tests of educational competence, and it's encouraging that such a huge state seems to perform relatively well both for the average and for the elite. It would be interesting to know how far back this goes in time, since Texas does not have a historical reputation for educational attainment the way Massachusetts does.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

53 comments:

Anonymous said...

Texas has always been the Land Of Commodities with its huge cattle herds, cotten, natural gas and oil etc, and therefore it was an attractive destination for ambitious, crafty and cagey business types.

OTOH Wyoming apparently really is full of cowboys who don't really give a damn about schoolin'.

PS Dick "I'm So Powerful I Shoot Judges In The Face" Cheney must be a Wyoming outlier.

jody said...

i thought the PSAT selection format was dumb, because it was easier than the SAT, and i scored my best math performance ever on the PSAT. got a 740 or something like that. i first took the SAT when i was 13, and another 5 times after that by the time i was 18. i never got a 740 math on the SAT after 6 attempts.

texas is filled with germans. it's also filled with oil people. they're smart. they aren't millionaires because they are dumb.

there's not much talk on this blog about the people who run the energy industry, or much engineering and manufacturing talk in general. all the talk about smart people here focuses almost strictly on science and medicine, completely ignoring the huge, simply vast area of engineering, where white gentiles do a massive amount of work. without them, the world of 2010 does not look like such a technological, industrialized place. i've posted before about this, about how essential a nation like germany is to the entire planet.

i also discovered last month that philo farnsworth was a mormon. i didn't know that. the guy who was most directly responsible for developing television was a latter day saint.

John Mansfield said...

Well, as a Nevadan (second from the bottom at 202), the prestige of my National Merit Scholarship just went down a notch.

Anonymous said...

I think Texans have always been smart and motivated (and I think the state attracts those who are a bit more independent and dynamic), but education wasn't always necessary to get ahead. Now it is, and so now there is a focus on it. Perhaps the Texas view is a bit more utilitarian than MA's view: I'll focus on what I need to get ahead, whereas in MA they've always been interested in formal learning for learning's sake. Neither view is necessarily better, I don't think.

Kitty said...

I was a National Merit Finalist in 1981. I was the only one from my high school class, but there were several Commended Students that year as well. Our rural school was nobody's idea of upper middle class, either. My score was 191 back then. Make of this what you will.

Mr. Anon said...

When did Alabama secede? Can I stop paying my federal income taxes now?

Anonymous said...

Texas does well because it spends far less money on education.

Jon Claerbout said...

Large states should do better because you are looking at the tail of a distribution.

Commodore said...

Did Alabama refuse to take the test?

rightsaidfred said...

Interesting, especially Wyoming's ranking. I glanced at one page of the NAEP, and Wyoming was right behind Massachusetts and its suburbs of New Hampshire and Vermont, who were behind some states close to Canada.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Utah at 206, spends $4,890 per student
Texas at 216, spends $6,746 and
Mass at 221, spends $9,856.

Diminishing returns?
Texas spends an extra $1900 to get 10 points, but the extra $3,100 above that Mass. kicks in only yields another 5 points.

The really fun data to look at is how the rural kids do.

Anonymous said...

The list would be more useful if it were sorted by score.

Glossy said...

"In general, Texas does fairly well on most tests of educational competence, and it's encouraging that such a huge state seems to perform relatively well both for the average and for the elite."

Isn't Austin known for swippledom? I've never been there myself, so this is hearsay.

Florida resident said...

Where are Alabama's scores ?
I have not found them in original publication eithr.

Paul said...

Does anyone know when Bush implemented Texas' version of No Child Left Behind?

Felix said...

Ugh, this topic opens up old wounds. Back in 2006 I was a Semifinalist thanks to the PSAT, and the offers of full rides started flooding in from different colleges, contingent on my moving on to become a Finalist.

Now, only 16,000 out of 1.2 million become Semifinalists, but 15,000 out of those 16,000 go on to become Finalists. Your odds of becoming a Semifinalist are by definition half a percent, while your odds of moving on to Finalist are 94%. So it's cruelly ironic to get to Semifinalist and then not get to Finalist, as happened to me. lol

JeremiahJohnbalaya said...

Is the per state number absolute or relative to US population?

I don't actually care, but it would seem to be an important requirement for vigorous analysis.

In fact, I don't care enough to spell-check "vigorous".

Anonymous said...

I assume that you are not including the scores of the Minority students who are also rewarded under the National Merit program. I was a National Merit Scholar in 1993 and scored a 194, although my score was obviously acquired before the SAT scoring system was re-centered in the mid-1990s. There was a black National Merit semifinalist at my high school who wouldn't have been a semifinalist under the standards used for White and Asian kids.

SFG said...

"there's not much talk on this blog about the people who run the energy industry, or much engineering and manufacturing talk in general. all the talk about smart people here focuses almost strictly on science and medicine,"

Good point. Steve survived lymphoma (after being successfully diagnosed by an unlikably brainy physician and treated with experimental medications), so I can imagine having bright doctors and medical researchers is important to him.

"completely ignoring the huge, simply vast area of engineering, where white gentiles do a massive amount of work. without them, the world of 2010 does not look like such a technological, industrialized place. i've posted before about this, about how essential a nation like germany is to the entire planet."

You'd expect Jews to be relatively weak in engineering relative to science, it's more spatial. I also suspect the practical bent of white midwestern culture is good for engineering and bad for science.

Oh yeah, the Germans are the only ones still hiring engineers...and they survived the recession pretty well. I'm sure Steve respects a white nation like Germany. I guess if he starts looking too pro-German, after all the stuff he's said about the Jews, he might really start to scare the MSM ;)

Modern Germany has a lot of things I like, and not just bratwurst and beer. They protect their environment and don't let businessmen cut back-door deals to poop on it. I particularly like the German institution of Kurzarbeit, cutting everyone's hours instead of letting a few people go.

Curvaceous Carbon-based Life Form said...

"OTOH Wyoming apparently really is full of cowboys who don't really give a damn about schoolin'."

I counter that assertion with the fact that, enabled by its recent billion-dollar budget surpluses from the commodities boom of 2000-2008, our state has created the Hathaway Scholarship, which pays the tuition for all recent Wyoming high school graduates who meet the qualifications to obtain a bachelor's at UW.
The Hathaway Scholarship is a program unmatched by any other state.

No. Our problem is brain drain. We do well on NAEP, as Montana does.

Our problem is, due to our state being sparsely populated, we are unable to offer all possible majors. We are the only state in the country with only ONE university. Therefore, our smart kids who want a major not offered at UW go to another state under the Western Undergraduate Exchange program -- and tend to stay there.

Anonymous said...

I got a 212 in 1974 which was a 71 verbal and a 70 math and they doubled the verbal (to help girls I guess). I don't know how that converts to today's scores.

Veritas said...

I live in Austin, Texas. It is Swipple kingdom and I actually kind of like it. I only made commended back in the day :(.

I am wondering what the formula for determining state level NSM qualifying scores is.

From what I've read, I think that it is determined by the number and scores of high scorers in each state. Human Biodiversity doesn't come into play at the NSF level because there are so few NAMs that reach this level. Thank God there is no AA for NSF.

It probably isn't due to the "excellent public education" in Texas that we have such a high cut off score. A large percentage of the high scorers are coming from well off suburbs. A good number of the NSF students are coming from... (drumroll, Human Biodiversity) the Asian infested suburbs of Sugarland and Plano! A lot of NSF students also come from elite private schools or elite public schools, where the students tend to be smart. We have lots of smart kids in Texas, a lot more than most states.

Anonymous said...

From the NLSY 97, IQ of non-hispanic whites:

Northeast: 104.5
Mid-Atlantic: 103.8
West: 103.9
South: 101.9

I would say the difference in range is not very large. One sixth of a standard deviation between the South and Northeast.

Anonymous said...

You know, it's been a few years, but I got a 222 as a junior from Maine in 1976, and I became a Finalist. Despite SATs and Achievements higher than my PSAT, as well as Valedictorian-level grades, Class Presidency, and lots of other activities, I didn't get a full-ride offer from any school.

The listed results correlate with both population and population density, but the Northeast and the Northwest still overperform and the Deep South and the Rocky Mountain states still underperform.

- JHB

Dan Kurt said...

re: PSAT
processing
I took the test circa 1957. At the time I was at a so called Honors High School--IQ test and Grade School recommendation to get in and was Boys only. Later on I did really well on the SATs ( resulted in a merit based scholarship ), GREs ( top 1% ), NAVY Pilot aptitude tests, spent 8+ years in the Ivy League ending with a Doctorate, qualified for original Mensa, Triple 9, and Prometheus Society.

But on the damn PSAT I got a zero, nada, nothing. My exam was LOST in processing some how. When eventually months and months later it was discovered that my exam was actually lost the authorities decided that nothing could be done to rectify the situation. The principal at my High School said to me: "You would never have gotten a high enough score anyway."

Dan Kurt

Rebelyell said...

It's good to see I'm not the only one to look for the Alabama scores and assume they might have seceded again. You know, if we had left Montgomery the capital, we might have won.

Kitty said...

What's a "swipple?"

Anonymous said...

wyoming is a political entity with no natural geographic borders. they drew four straight lines on a map to create wyoming because there was reason to draw squiggly lines. it's is just a big boxed area of rugged land with no way to the keep natives from doing the "brain drain" thing as the other poster commented.

probably eastern politicians were behind the limitation on the physical sizes of the western states. looking at the map there really is no reason for several western and midwestern states to be separate states.

Anonymous said...

Veritas, as I recall, at least in 1993 the standard for determining the Semifinalist cut-off score was that only the people within the top 1/2 of 1% of the text index were made Semifinalists. So that score does vary from state-to-state.

Anonymous said...

Well, I thought it was only the top 1/2 of 1%, but according to Felix's stats, that must be incorrect, because 16,000 Semifinalists out of 1.2 million test-takers is 1.33% of the test-takers. Maybe they changed the rules over the past 20 years.

Felix said...

Nah, top half of one percent is still how they define it. The 1.2 million figure I quoted was just my rough estimate.

Anonymous said...

Off-topic, but in re: Is the NBA rigged?, the league-leading Cleveland Cavaliers, in gearing up to make a run for LeBron James's first NBA championship, are about to make a trade for the Baltimore Bullets' [-er- Washington Wizards'] best player, Antawn Jamison [who averages very nearly 20 & 10], and, in return, the Cavaliers will give up...


drum roll please...



ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.


David Stern's NBA has all the integrity of roller derby.

stari_momak said...

Your odds of becoming a Semifinalist are by definition half a percent, while your odds of moving on to Finalist are 94%.

No, your probability of becoming a Semifinalist is .5, your probability of becoming a finalist, given that you made semifinalist (do watch that conditional) is 94%. Your odds of those things are 199 to 1 against you and 15&2/3 to 1 in your favor, respectively.

Obviously your not quite NMS material -- I keeed, I keeed.

stari_momak said...

What's a "swipple?"

Well, here it means someone that conforms to the Stuff White People Like profile -- upper middle class, bobo types. Strangely enough, its an actual word

swipple: the freely swinging part of a flail, which falls upon the grain in threshing; swingle

I doubt many SWPLs have used a swipple, though many of them are swingle.

Jack said...

This seems to me to be a rural urban thing to some extent. White cold rural states with high average white IQ's apparently don't have the smart fraction at the top to do well here (Iowa, Wisconsin, Montana, Wyoming).

California has low average NAEP scores but has a top fraction enabling them to beat out all states but the Northeast in this measure.

Massachusetts (Boston suburbs), New Jersey (New York suburbs), Maryland (DC suburbs) make sense for the smartest of the smart that get to be finalists in the national merit system. It's prep school kids and Asian/Jewish suburbanites that seem to predominate.

Truth said...

Kudzu Bob, Svigor, Jody, Whiskey;

Uh-oh, WV and Kentucky down at the bottom are just teeming with Scots-Irish!

Anonymous said...

“I am wondering what the formula for determining state level NSM qualifying scores is.”

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Merit_Scholarship_Competition :

[Early the next September (beginning of the senior year, almost a year after the PSAT/NMSQT was taken), NMSC determines Selection Index qualifying scores for further recognition by state (including three other areas: DC, US Territories and Commonwealths, and students enrolled in schools outside the US) and US boarding schools (by geographic region). About 16,000 of the 50,000 [commended students] are recognized as National Merit Semifinalists in this process. The Selection Index qualifying scores for Semifinalist standing vary from state to state and from year to year. Each state is allocated a percentage of Semifinalists based on the percentage of that state's graduating seniors out of the nation's total.]

“I assume that you are not including the scores of the Minority students who are also rewarded under the National Merit program.”

The National Merit Scholarship Corporation has a different program for black students called the National Achievement Scholarship Program (see link above). Obviously, the standards are much lower. (Separate but equal I guess).

“I got a 212 in 1974 which was a 71 verbal and a 70 math and they doubled the verbal (to help girls I guess). I don't know how that converts to today's scores.”

Up until 1995 the scores are pretty comparable from year to year. Post 1995 recentering, your scores would be roughly 78 verbal and 69 math. In the recentering, generally verbal scores went up a lot, math a little bit except for those in the 680 to 700 range, which went down slightly.

If people on this forum remember, it would be interesting to hear about the type of school they went to and the demographics of the NMSC semi-finalists/finalists. I graduated from a private school in 1995 (PSAT for my class taken Fall 1993). Out of a class of 93 people, we had 8 NMSC finalists: 2 Episcopalians (I was one of them), 1 Mennonite, 1 Irish Catholic, 1 half Polish/half East Asian Catholic, and 3 Ashkenazi Jews. We also had one National Achievement finalist. The demographics of the school generally were slightly over 1/3 white Catholic, 1/3 Jewish, and 1/3 other (WASPs, Asians, blacks, Latinos, etc.). The pervious year we actually had a black NM finalist, sort of (he had a white father and a mother about as black as Mariah Carey – he had a light yellow tan complexion, blue-gray eyes and white facial features).

Glaivester said...

I got a 240 on the PSAT. Twice. (The first time I believe was before the re-centering) And a 1600 on the SAT once (after the re-centering).

ExtraMedium said...

"High Schools to Offer Plan to Graduate 2 Years Early"

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/18/education/18educ.html?em

Steve, I recall a Marginal Revolution comment thread where you suggested this sometime last year. Congratulations! Bill Gates is donating $1.5M for the plan!

Henry Canaday said...

In honor of Lent, see

http://www.archive.org/stream/victorhugosworks037674mbp/victorhugosworks037674mbp_djvu.txt

(scroll down to)


1838.
TALLEYRAND.

Hay 19.

In the Rue Saint-Florentin there are a palace and a sewer…

Anonymous said...

It's kindof cool that so many of steve's readers are National Merit Semifinalists or finalists. I feel in good company.

I too was one. I went to a large, urban private Catholic school where there were 43 semifinalists in 1993. By definition, almost all were catholic.

I attended my cousin's high school graduation from a public school in Katie texas, an upscale suburb of Houston. Lots of oil industry people live there. At this public high school, the entire top 10 of the class were NMFs or commended scholars. Awesome for a public school.

I wonder, when the tests were "recentered" in the 90s, how did this affect the difficulty of becoming a NMF? What exactly was the purpose of the recentering?

Big bill said...

It seems to me, Steve, that the patterns exhibited by New York and Washington--having a massive stupid population AND a large number of elite Merit Scholars--can only be caused by massive educational segrgation, much like our Dear Leader encourages by sending his darling daughters to White (and Mulatto) Flight schools like Sidwell Friends.

What can we do to address this? Do like Berkeley and force Sidwell to give up any math higher than Algebra I until DC catches up? Or do you suppose all our hi-yalla affirmative action compatriots like Dear Leader will simply hightail it for some new school?

The reason I mention hi-yalla escapees like our Dear Leader is due to the incredible need for our high-toned brethren to keep their kids in black schools and serve as a living example of the kind of achievement black children are capable of.

As we can plainly see by the NAEP scores, it isn't enough to force schools to hire black teachers as an example to our dusky brethren, we must also insure that all black children from good homes and with good grades stay right there in the ghetto schools to be an inspiration to their lesser privileged brethren who have had their fathers taken away from them by The White Man.

jody said...

OT: the woman from the duke rape hoax, crystal gail mangum, was arrested wednesday in north carolina, and charged with attempted murder.

NY post
http://tinyurl.com/y9ovcxo
fox news
http://tinyurl.com/yhl3sxv
ABC
http://tinyurl.com/ye5qs2p

how interested will the US news media be in this story?

Anonymous said...

Texas has a very high drop-out rate
due to high population of NAMs.
There are now less than 50% of the
populaztion that is white. Locally
much of Texas is Democratic. Statewide, we are red because NAMs
don't vote as heavily as whites in statewide elections.
Our drop-out rate is about 47% at
the high school level. Does that
help explain Texas' result?

josh said...

I was in the service when I first heard that famous slogan about Texas,which I paraphrase here:"Texas is the land of cattle and gay men." Doesnt quite have the same feel...

Vernunft said...

"Well, as a Nevadan (second from the bottom at 202), the prestige of my National Merit Scholarship just went down a notch."

I like the grammar error here. It really explains a lot.

Eric Rasmusen said...

Very interesting. If you have time, try correlating this with percentage of the state population earning over $150,000/year. I bet they line up pretty well.

The PSAT cutoff might be used to try to explain some variables such as literary output or number of bookstores, using a regression so as to condition on income.

notusuallyanonymous said...

Another semi-finalist here (and sibling of a semi-finalist and son of a finalist). Surprised to learn how many of the semi-finalists become finalists, given that my sister did not.

Let's see, it's been a long time, but I think my class of 50 had three semi or finalists. For the guy who wanted demographic data on them, they were all Scottish and English and at least one was part German. We had one Japanese student who might have qualified if he could have taken the verbal section in Japanese. No Jewish qualifiers. I hadn't thought about it before, but my class was unusual in that we had much lower quality Jewish students than in the years before and after.

Anonymous said...

“I wonder, when the tests were "recentered" in the 90s, how did this affect the difficulty of becoming a NMF? What exactly was the purpose of the recentering?”

Not really. They’re just taking the top 16,000 as semi-finalists, so it’s the raw score relative to other test takers that is important, not the indexed score. They didn’t change the SAT much (except for dumping the antonyms in the early 90s) until they added writing section and eliminated the (highly g-loaded) analogies. However, the SAT has probably been quite highly g-loaded in all its various formats.

Basically, the SAT was recentered to cover up a decline in the test taking population. From Wikipedia [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SAT ]:

“The test scoring was initially scaled to make 500 the mean score on each section with a standard deviation of 100.[26] As the test grew more popular and more students from less rigorous schools began taking the test, the average dropped to about 428 Verbal and 478 Math. [i.e., read: changing national demographics (more test-takers from poor performing ethnic groups) and an expansion in the test taking population (dipping deeper down into the nation’s talent distribution) caused raw scores to drop.] The SAT was "recentered" in 1995, and the average "new" score became again close to 500…Old scores may be recentered to compare to 1995 to present scores by using official College Board tables,[27] which in the middle ranges add about 70 points to Verbal and 20 or 30 points to Math. In other words, current students have a 100 (70 plus 30) point advantage over their parents.”

You can see the exact recentered equivalents for old scores here: http://professionals.collegeboard.com/data-reports-research/sat/equivalence-tables/sat-score

This doesn’t really affect the validity of the scores except for failing to differentiate as much at the extremes of talent, especially for the verbal. For instance, any score of 730 or higher on the old verbal is now an 800. For the math, 780 or higher on the old scale is now 800. As a result, after the 1995 recentering, about 700 per million test takers got a perfect 1600 (99.93 percentile), but prior to 1995, in any given year, only seven per million test-takers scored above 1580. A score above 1580 was equivalent to the 99.9993 percentile. This more restricted measurement range is irrelevant even for most elite students, as the test still measures differences into the top 1/10th of one percent of test takers (which are a brighter than average subset of all Americans).

“I too was one. I went to a large, urban private Catholic school where there were 43 semifinalists in 1993.”

Are you sure you don’t mean 43 semi-finalists and commended? I’m not saying it isn’t so, but 43 sounds like an awful lot for one school given that there are only 16,000 semifinalists in the entire US in a given year.

liamascorcaigh said...

"Panis Angelicus fit panis hominum" translates as "Angelic bread becomes the bread of men"

Sarfaraz said...

"Washington D.C. always trails all 50 states on average National Assessment of Educational Progress scores for public school students, but it ties with Massachusetts (which leads NAEP scores more often than any other state), Maryland, and New Jersey for first on this measure with a 221 (the equivalent of a 1473 on the post-1995 SAT). Montana usually is close behind Massachusetts on the NAEP, but only requires a 204.....The lowest scoring state is Wyoming at 201."

Washington D.C. is majority black while Montana and Wyoming are overwhelmingly white. So why isn't anybody pointing out that this is affirmative action in favor of whites?

Anonymous said...

"
The Hathaway Scholarship is a program unmatched by any other state."

I know this is old, and will probably never be read, but the Florida Bright Futures program pays for 100% of a Florida High School student who meets the reqs. tuition to any in-state college for four years, regardless of the degree.

Well, they've cut that down now, but up until last year it was 100%.

Juanna said...

What percentage of qualifying scores comes from private vs public. I know DC does well on this test because they have a number of elite, very expensive private schools. It would be nice to see the average scores of each state (and DC).