The first report on the intelligence of NYC Puerto Ricans became something of a target for local and subnational hostility. In 1935 the New York State Chamber of Commerce’s Special Committee on Immigration and Naturalization commissioned a study on the intelligence of Puerto Rican schoolchildren in East Harlem. The average IQ of 240 9-14 year-olds on the Army Individual Performance Test was 86.8; a comparison group of 400 white children scored 103.3 (Armstrong et al, 1935). This relatively low IQ score—and, probably more so, the report’s consequent recommendations against Puerto Rican citizenship and statehood—incited a backlash among local community educators and activists. The popular Commie Congressman Vito Marcantonio even ranted against the study before the House of Representatives (Thomas, 2010, p. 86).
Academics, journalists, and government leaders in Puerto Rico also condemned the report—many offering parentheticals on the inferior intelligence of Americans. The New York Times reported in 1936:
A recent suggestion by a committee of the New York State Chamber of Commerce that statehood for Puerto Rico be held “in abeyance” because of the low intelligence indicated by a group of children … has angered political leaders and newspapers here …
[Commissioner of Agriculture] Mr. Menendez Ramos cites parts of a survey by… Columbia University… That … praised the intelligence of the island’s children, and said the level was higher than that of [American children] …
It is unfair and unscientific, Mr. Menendez Ramos asserts, to assume that the New York colony, composed of a working class faced with the difficulties of a new language and a new environment, represents the average of Puerto Rican mentality.
… The newspaper Mundo criticizes the report satirically … [suggesting] that the Chamber of Commerce study the excellent records of Puerto Rican students in American universities … the island’s college debaters have been uniformly victorious against American debaters (NYT Special Cable, 1936).
Harlem educator Leonard Covello organized a “Racial Committee” to critically evaluate the study. The group “argued that the Puerto Rican children’s poor performance was attributable entirely to their lack of familiarity with English” (Thomas, 2010, p. 86). Meanwhile, criticisms of the study from Puerto Rico’s white elite took on a slightly more insulted and chauvinistic tone (as already seen in the New York Times report). PR Assistant Commissioner of Education, Pedro Cebollero—apparently not convinced that the problem was “attributable entirely” to language differences—fumed that the children in the report were described as 76% colored, while the U.S. census described Puerto Rico as only 26% colored: “This fact is an evidence of [the report’s] absolute disregard of the principle of “representativeness”… Pinter points out that ‘all results show the negro decidedly inferior to the white on standard intelligence tests.’” (Cebollero, 1936, p. 5)
Since then, of course, we've seen how wrong the 1936 psychometricians were, as Puerto Ricans have risen high in the ranks of accomplishment in America, such as composing, writing, and choreographing West Side Story.
Oh, wait, you're telling me West Side Story is by gay Jews? Why wasn't I informed?
Actually, it turns out that this video clip sums up how much has changed over the last 78 years.
This is not to say that Puerto Ricans in America haven't made any progress over the many generations. Malloy looks at 45 cognitive studies of Puerto Ricans in America, tosses 15 for methodological problems, and concludes:
The median of 30 studies gives us an IQ of 84.7 for Puerto Rican Americans.
The current average appears to be somewhat higher. The median IQ of 19 samples from the 1930s-1970s is 83.7. The median IQ of 14 samples from the 1980s-2000s is 87.4.