October 21, 2013

Destination 8 Months and 29 Days Before Birth

Breaking news in the New York Times:
Language-Gap Study Bolsters a Push for Pre-K 
By MOTOKO RICH 
Nearly two decades ago, a landmark study [Hart-Risley] found that by age 3, the children of wealthier professionals have heard words millions more times than those of less educated parents, giving them a distinct advantage in school and suggesting the need for increased investment in prekindergarten programs. 
Now a follow-up study has found a language gap as early as 18 months, heightening the policy debate. 
The new research by Anne Fernald, a psychologist at Stanford University, which was published in Developmental Science this year, showed that at 18 months children from wealthier homes could identify pictures of simple words they knew — “dog” or “ball” — much faster than children from low-income families. By age 2, the study found, affluent children had learned 30 percent more words in the intervening months than the children from low-income homes. 
The new findings, although based on a small sample, reinforced the earlier research showing that because professional parents speak so much more to their children, the children hear 30 million more words by age 3 than children from low-income households, early literacy experts, preschool directors and pediatricians said. In the new study, the children of affluent households came from communities where the median income was $69,000; the low-income children came from communities with a median income of $23,900.

The next study will find that rich children and poor children are on average different at birth. And eventually a study will find that rich children and poor children are different at 8 months and 29 days before birth.

But not a day sooner!

51 comments:

countenance said...

If only all those two digit IQ black babies could have been raised in Bill Buckley's household, where all those deep-in-the-dictionary words were used often, they'd have that achievement gap closed by now.

Anonymous said...

OK... so how many more words do dumb parents have to say to their average natural born child before his/her vocabulary is better than the average natural child of smart parents? Zero? Just one? A million? Or maybe...

Van said...

So they are (almost) coming right out and saying lower income and minority children should be taken from their parents as early as possible.

Steve Sailer said...

It worked great when Progressives tried it in Australia!

Oh, wait ... never mind. Those were racist Progressives. We're so much better now.

Anonymous said...

So they are (almost) coming right out and saying lower income and minority children should be taken from their parents as early as possible.

Put 'em all in public school as early as possible! That should make them smarter. Why cares if most of them kill themselves in their teens?

Anonymous said...

Boarding schools students are very eloquent. The study does make sense to me. Pronunciation, like accent, seems to have a window of opportunity. I am amazed sometimes how much better some bright people of lower class origin are in emails than in speech. Flannery O'Conner, when being interviewed for college admission, was asked to write down her answers because the guy asking the questions couldn't understand a word she was saying.

Anonymous said...

I once took my four year old daughter into NYC on the LIRR for a Saturday afternoon of cultural enrichment at the Metrolpolitan Museum of Art. A ghetto hoochie got on the train soon after us, took out her cell phone, and conducted a obscenity laced conversation that lasted the duration of the trip. Not wanting to provoke this woman, I made the best of the situation by asking my daughter to work on her math skills by counting separately the number of times the woman said shit and fuck. Final tally:

Shit 98
Fuck 62

And my daughter learned two new word, besides.

Anonymous said...

Black gentlemen often use highfalutin vocabulary in some movies; it will make an interesting experiment to see how many such words remain in black consciousness.

Foreign Expert said...

Maybe we need a program like Head Start...

Anonymous said...

Do the math on how many words a child would have to hear to hear 30,000,00 words by the age of 3. The parents would have to talk to the kid non-stop for hours and hours every day.

And we all know that African Americans are rarely heard to talk at all. When you walk thru an American ghetto, all you hear are the muffled cries of hunger from the malnourished children.

Chicago said...

So what sort of people will staff the pre-k programs? Will they be the talkative well-to-do professionals that seem to impart so much or will they be of the $8 p/hr variety of worker?

Anonymous said...

That darned gap again?!

Harry Baldwin said...

It gets confusing when the media says "low income" when they just mean "black." It inaccurately represents the data when middle income blacks are under-performing low income whites.

Similarly, "single-parent households" is also often used when we are really just talking about blacks.

Anonymous said...

Every child should receive Montaigne's education - minus the first three years being raised by peasants. Those first three years are important. Imagine how smart he could have been.

Difference Maker said...

Learning proper pronunciation won't fix the cognitive gap

Advanced words are learned through reading, not hearing

Gringo said...

Which reminds me of one reason that Head Start was not an effective long-term raiser of childhood achievement. From what I have read, the "teachers" in Head Start tended to be parents of children enrolled in Head Start.

It became a "jobs for the gals" program.

Vocabulary deficient adults are not the best teachers for vocabulary deficient children, at least when you are trying to overcome vocabulary deficiencies.

Anonymous said...

Learning proper pronunciation won't fix the cognitive gap.
But it can spare you a lifetime of embarrassment and inferiority. I don't think you can put a price on that. Everyday life is not lived on paper but in spoken words - or else Stephen Hawking would have abandoned that Speak-and-Spell ages ago.

eah said...

It worked great when Progressives tried it in Australia!

I thought of that as well. Aren't they still apologizing? Maybe the answer is to give the kid back in the evening.

Oh God. That's all I can say. It's so depressing to read this kind of story. The infantile willful ignorance.

Maybe they should give each 'poor' kid a tablet device crammed with audio books. So they can listen to eg 'War and Peace' all day. Put it under their pillows at night.

Anonymous said...

Do the math on how many words a child would have to hear to hear 30,000,00 words by the age of 3

300,000

Anonymous said...

Every child should receive Montaigne's education - minus the first three years being raised by peasants. Those first three years are important. Imagine how smart he could have been.

Montaigne was a Renaissance man, who lived in an era where school (as it exists now) was unknown. He was raised by private tutors and mentors - not teachers, schoolmarms, coaches, peers, and other thugs.

Anonymous said...

We should keep in mind Rushton's finding that the environment does have an impact, particularly DURING YOUNGER YEARS, but also a related finding that the environmental impact tends to decrease as children reach adulthood (meaning, genes start to exert a stronger influence as children mature).

JN

The Anti-Gnostic said...

Learning proper pronunciation won't fix the cognitive gap.

But it can spare you a lifetime of embarrassment and inferiority.


Yes, because the other problem with blacks in addition to their not talking enough is their low self-esteem.

Anonymous said...

"Learning proper pronunciation won't fix the cognitive gap. But it can spare you a lifetime of embarrassment and inferiority."

Maybe I'm in the wrong social circles, but I sometimes mispronounce a word because I've read it, but I've never in my life heard anyone, including people on radio and TV, say it.

Anonymous said...

Yes, because the other problem with blacks in addition to their not talking enough is their low self-esteem.

I was thinking of poor whites who might be part of the study, if you can believe that the use of "low-income" wasn't 100% cynical. Having your pronunciation corrected, as an adult, really stings.

Silver said...

Maybe I'm in the wrong social circles, but I sometimes mispronounce a word because I've read it, but I've never in my life heard anyone, including people on radio and TV, say it.

I remember an instance of this when was I was maybe nine and pronounced "mystic" as "my stick." An older cousin mockingly corrected me while the adults chuckled. I was very embarrassed. It left an impression on me. Later in life I came across "maitre d'" in some novel and I knew immediately I would not even try. (I was even more upset when I learned what it meant: as if an easier English equivalent couldn't be found. Sheesh.)

Anonymous said...

So, hidebound social scientists still cling to the nurturist dogma, genetic differences be damned. Their studies look at correlations and interpret them as indicating causality.

The right way to study these things is a longitudinal behavior genetic design. Tucker-Drob and Harden have published one such study. They had a sample of 650 MZ and DZ twin pairs for whom measures of cognitive ability and parental cognitive stimulation were available for ages 2 and 4.

They found that parental cognitive stimulation explained a substantial amount of children's cognitive ability differences at age 2 and 4, and that controlling for age-2 cognitive ability, differences in parental cognitive stimulation at age 2 explained a substantial amount of cognitive ability differences at age 4. So, parenting indeed appeared to boost intelligence.
However, they also found that age-2 cognitive ability predicted the quality of parental cognitive stimulation provided at age 4, AND that this association was entirely mediated by genetic effects that affected both age-2 cognitive ability and age-4 cognitive stimulation. As they put it, this "suggests that parents adjust the level of cognitive stimulation that they provide in response to their children’s genetic predispositions for
cognitive ability. In other words, genetic differences in early cognitive ability evoke differential levels of stimulation
from parents."

Note that while genetic differences explain only a small proportion (about 18%) of age-2 cognitive ability, they explain entirely the effect that age-2 cognitive ability has on later parental stimulation. Parents change the way they treat their children based on the children's cognitive ability, but it appears that only "genetic intelligence" rather than "environmentally induced intelligence" changes parenting -- even though the tests we have indicate that most variance in intelligence in early childhood is environmentally caused!

So, cognitively stimulating parenting appears to boost young children's intelligence, but such parenting is, in part, caused by the children's genetic propensities. In behavioral genetic terminology, this is a case of evocative (or reactive) gene-environment correlation. This complicates any theory that presupposes that a one-way, parent->child interaction explains cognitive ability differences in young children.

Of course, even in this study we cannot be sure that the relation between parental stimulation and child outcomes is entirely causal. For example, some of the stimulation may be caused by the parents' genetic propensities for such things, and have no real effect on children who would have turned out the same anyway.

You could argue that all children would benefit if they were provided better stimulation regardless of their genes, but, firstly, it's not clear that the same stimulation is beneficial regardless of genes, and, secondly, there's the well-known fadeout effect which indicates that whatever effects such stimulation has are probably ephemeral.

Steve Sailer said...

When I was 13 I watched William F. Buckley's "Firing Line" on TV and learn how to pronounce "inimitable."

Jill said...

How could this be? "Wealthier professionals" are never home. They are always working.

Could it be that the children of "wealthier professionals" over hear their nannies talking on their iphones all day or maybe they pick up their language skills at the local park by listening to their nannies tell stories of what it is like to live in the homes of "wealtheir professionals"?

Beliavsky said...

The NYT published several of Steve's comments to the article. I write similar things as Beliavsky. I encourage Steve's readers to comment on such articles and to favorably rate comments by Steve and others that recognize the reality about IQ.

Harold said...

A propensity for talking to your kids is no doubt partly genetic.

Herb Flurpkin said...

Those verbose and chatty Asians, with their unshakeable confidence and relentless eye contact, how could they Not succeed?

Josh Yellowfever said...

The design of the study sounds more like a post-infant IQ test for English speaking family. I doubt that it has much to do with parent education or income. Those words are simple. The measurement is verbal reaction time, not whether the 18 months old understands the words. This kind of test has a huge genetic component. Children education probably has minimal impact. The study would be more convincing if the authors can prove the test results independent from other IQ tests such as Stanford-Binet or Weschler test for children. Otherwise, she is mixing up IQ with family education.

Anonymous said...

Anon @ &:34 said "Do the math on how many words a child would have to hear to hear 30,000,00 words by the age of 3. The parents would have to talk to the kid non-stop for hours and hours every day. "

Okay. 30,000,000 divided by (3 x 365) = 27,397 words per day. Assume the parent talks non stop to the child for 12 hours = 2283 words per hour = 38 words per minute = .63 words per second or one word every 1.57 second.

The $64,000 question is this. If the parent is babeling merrily along at a clip of a word every second and a half or so, how much time does this leave for the child to speak? I mean, presumably for the child to benefit, he/she must practice his or her use of the language as well. Isn't this what the researchers are measuring? One would hope that this is some sort of dialogue going on and not merely a one-way street, wouldn't one? Else why not just turn on the TV, chain the child to the radiator and leave the house?

Anonymous said...

Shouldn't transracial adoption studies have debunked this idea already?

Is real life like the internet, where people just ignore studies and facts that they don't like?

Oh wait, it is, isn't it?

Sideways said...

A 3 year old has been awake for about 40 million seconds. Assume white parents speak 4 times more than blacks and they'd have to speak a constant 1 word a second every waking second

it's obviously a bogus stat

Beliavsky said...

On the NYT site Steve in his comments said poor people should be encouraged to use public libraries.

An interesting study of how the middle class and poor use public libraries is

http://www.aft.org/newspubs/periodicals/ae/fall2012/index.cfm
Worlds Apart
One City, Two Libraries, and Ten Years of Watching Inequality Grow
By Susan B. Neuman and Donna C. Celano
Studies of two Philadelphia libraries show that equal resources alone do not create equal opportunities. To close the growing achievement gaps between students from affluent and low-income families, we must invest more in families, neighborhoods, libraries, preschools, and schools in high-poverty areas, 
and also create more avenues to eliminate socioeconomic segregation.

C. Van Carter said...

Remember, reality has a liberal bias.

C. Van Carter said...

Every negro household should be assigned a white liberal live-in servant.

Anonymous said...

Every negro household should be assigned a white liberal live-in servant.

What an excellent (and karmic) way of reparating 200 years of slavery!

Anonymous said...

According to the NYT article, the newest new educational thang is the "Race to the Top Program" for which the "administration is also offering state grants".

Race to the Top? What happened to "No Child Left Behind?" Did it get cancelled? And if not, are both programs going on simultaneously? What kind of race is it where no child is left behind? One where they all hold hands and cross the finish line together? The liberal's vision of Utopia?

In the immortal words of the great Hoss Cartwright, "Dadgummit Pa!" I just don't get this new-fangled lingo.

gloria said...

"Learning proper pronunciation won't fix the cognitive gap

Advanced words are learned through reading, not hearing"

It does help in conversation though, to have heard the words used frequently. Mispronouncing words you have used correctly as far as meaning, is embarrasing.

Anonymous said...

Universal pre-(natal) kindergarten.

Anonymous said...

My wife and I once hosted for dinner a couple from work and their son, who was almost three years old then. The husband is Swiss and his wife is Italian. I noticed that the boy conversed with his father in Swiss German, and with his mother in Italian. But he spoke to us in English, with an American accent, since he interacted with other kids here. Of course, both his parents have PhD degrees. I am sure that little Shawniqua would do just as well with similar exposure, because we all have equal abilities, right? Sure...

Slow Burn said...

I remember an instance of this when was I was maybe nine and pronounced "mystic" as "my stick." An older cousin mockingly corrected me while the adults chuckled. I was very embarrassed. It left an impression on me.

Same for me, but in my case the word was "stifle" which I pronounced "stiff-le". My upper class friends made fun of me at the time and I recall feeling ashamed. I picked up that word from reading it since the people in my family never once used the word "stifle" in any conversation -- how was I supposed to know how to pronounce it? Mispronouncing words is a pretty good class indicator.

Anonymous said...

Same for me, but in my case the word was "stifle" which I pronounced "stiff-le". My upper class friends made fun of me at the time and I recall feeling ashamed.

Were you adopted by any chance?

ben tillman said...

Nearly two decades ago, a landmark study [Hart-Risley] found that by age 3, the children of wealthier professionals have heard words millions more times than those of less educated parents....

In other words, each day, squeezed into the 12 or 13 waking hours, or 700 to 800 waking minutes, there are more than 2000 more episodes or events in which the children of wealthier professionals hear words. Three-plus episodes or events every minute?

This is impossible, and once again we find that the NY Times no longer uses editors.

Slow Burn said...

No. I'm curious -- why do you ask?

Anonymous said...

We need to cut to the chase and have pre-conception social interventions. (ie, have smart people impregnate minorities.)

Hey, it might actually do something about closing the gap.

Anonymous said...

At the risk of violating good taste and posting rules, I make the following submission.

The ill-effects (malodorous) of combining beans with chili, don't really bear thinking about.

Or as many a blue comedian has quipped 'no wonder Gandhi wore a diaper'.
A 'ring-piece' like the Japanese flag.
'Ring of Fire' by Johnny Cash.

Sideways said...

@ben Tillman as I mentioned above, it's MUCH more ridiculous than that. But it's not a problem with the editors, this state has been brought up all the time. It's not a typo, it's a lie.

roy said...

I was...& I've had the same problems with mispronunciations my whole life.