September 5, 2005

Is there a relationship between IQ, race, and judgment?

Michelle Malkin and Instapundit are now tsk-tsking over my statement that

"What you won’t hear, except from me, is that 'Let the good times roll' is an especially risky message for African-Americans. The plain fact is that they tend to possess poorer native judgment than members of better-educated groups. Thus they need stricter moral guidance from society."

As I noted later in my article, as shown this month in Commentary (the same article by Charles Murray, "The Inequality Taboo" that InstaPundit linked to), there has long been a sizable gap in average IQ between African-Americans and non-Hispanic white Americans (and an even bigger gap between blacks and Northeast Asians). This is normally described as a one standard deviation difference, or 15 points, although there is some new evidence suggesting it may have narrowed to about 14 points recently.

So, first, is IQ related to judgment? And second, is it currently related to race?

IQ and Judgment: Here's an excerpt from a short essay by Linda Gottfredson, professor of education at the U. of Delaware:

5. IQ predicts on-the-job performance better overall than any other single predictor (SES [Social-Economic Status] isn't even in the running), it predicts better when performance is objectively rather than subjectively measured, and when the tasks/occupations are more complex in what they require workers to do. At the same cognitive complexity level, IQ predicts job performance equally well in manual and non-manual jobs (e.g., trades vs. clerical). The exact same complexity pattern is found with functional literacy--the hardest items are the most complex (require more inference, are abstract rather than concrete, contain more distracting irrelevant information, etc.)

6. A large follow-up of Australian [military] veterans found that IQ was the best predictor of death by age 40 (had 50+ predictors). Vehicle fatalities were the biggest cause (as is typical), and, compared to men with IQs of 100+, men of IQ85-100 had twice the rate and men IQ 80-85 had three times the rate. (Remember, SES could not explain this.) The US (and apparently Australia) forbid induction of persons below IQ 80 because they are not sufficiently trainable--found out the hard way.

Almost nobody in the media is aware of the vast investment the U.S. military has made over the last 88 years in IQ testing of potential recruits, and the huge number of correlation studies they have done comparing IQs for millions of soldiers to their actual performance. I was only barely aware of it myself until I spent hours last fall interviewing military psychometricians for my article showing that John F. Kerry had scored a bit lower on his military officer application IQ test than George W. Bush did. (This was the report that Tom Brokaw asked Kerry about on the NBC Nightly News.)

Because the U.S. military knows that bad things tend to happen to low IQ soldiers and to their comrades who have the misfortune to be standing nearby, the Armed Forces have since FY 1991 inducted almost no applicants whatsoever with IQs falling down in Category V and Category IV on the military's Armed Forces Qualification Test. In Fiscal Year 1998, for example, 0.0% of new enlisted personnel were Category Vs and 1.1% of males and 0.2% of females were Category IVs. (See Table 2.8 in this Defense Department report.)

According to this DOD report:

"The percentage of recruits in Categories I and II was slightly higher than for their civilian counterparts (males - 40 versus 39 percent; females - 36 versus 33 percent).

Category I is roughly an IQ of 113 or above, while Category II is about 104 through 112.

Category III accessions greatly exceeded civilian proportions (males - 59 versus 30 percent; females - 64 versus 37 percent)

Category III is roughly IQ 92 through 103.

While the percentage of recruits in Category IV was much lower than in the civilian population (males - 1 percent versus 20 percent; females - less than 1 percent versus 22 percent). The low percentage of Category IV recruits is, in part, a result of DoD limits of 4 percent Category IV recruits, with even lower Service limits.

Category IV is about 81 through 91.

Ten percent of civilian males and 9 percent of civilian females scored in Category V; DoD allows no Category V recruits.

In the early 1950s, at the request of the Pentagon, Congress outlawed the accession of recruits with IQs of 80 or below (the bottom tenth). During the Vietnam War, that military genius, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, started a program to draft men who scored in the 70s, but it proved a disaster.

The DOD reports:

"Most dramatic has been the decrease in accessions who score in Category IV [IQ 81 through 91] -- from 33 percent in FY 1979 to one percent or less since FY 1991."

Ever since the end of the Cold War and the liberation of Kuwait, the military has taken only a tiny number of recruits from this populous group. In all the controversy you hear these days about how will the military meet its recruitment targets, you never hear about one obvious step: accept more recruits from the bottom 30 percent of the IQ bell curve. The Pentagon hates the idea because dim soldiers are so hard to train and they make so many mistakes, some of them deadly.

Okay, so serious people (i.e., the U.S. military) know there is a sizable correlation between IQ and competence of judgment. Now, what about IQ and race?

The first thing to point out is that all the arguments about whether the IQ gap is solely from environmental differences or have a genetic component as well aren't terribly relevant here. As Thomas Sowell has pointed out, IQ is fairly stable throughout one's lifetime, so environmental interventions in the hope of raising black IQ would take at least one generation to work, which, in the case of the current disaster, is a slightly longer time frame than is relevant at the moment.

Anyway, my argument is specifically about culture -- that New Orleans's famously lax morals are worse for African-Americans than, say, Atlanta's.

Now, let's look at race and IQ from the U.S. military's perspective. Back in 2003, I wrote in

Much of what the Army does is well worth studying, as I pointed out in my 1995 article "Where the Races Relate," which explained to university administrations what they could copy from the Army to improve race relations on campus. (Amazingly, they didn't listen.) The fine 1997 book All That We Can Be: Black Leadership and Racial Integration the Army Way by sociologists Charles C. Moskos and John Sibley Butler gives a detailed view.

It would be wonderful if racial gaps could be made to disappear with just a little discipline. But the Army has a secret weapon: it carefully selects which applicants it accepts. Black and white recruits are quite equal even before they join up.

Even in the 1970s when the quality of white recruits was low, respectable black families were proud to send their children into the Army. Back then, according to Moskos and Sibley, 90 percent of black enlistees were high school graduates, compared to only 40 percent of whites.

After President Reagan raised soldiers' pay and helped make patriotism fashionable again, the capabilities of white enlistees rose sharply. Now, virtually all recruits have high school diplomas.

White and black enlistees come from families with similar incomes. A 1999 Defense Department study found that among American households as a whole, the average income for whites was $44,400 and for blacks $27,900. Among enlistees, however, the racial gap was almost non-existent. White recruits came from households averaging $33,500 per year versus $32,000 for blacks - i.e. a figure well above the black national average.

Perhaps most importantly, the Army is a heavy user of aptitude tests. A surprisingly high fraction of young Americans are ineligible to join the Army because of lack of intelligence – extrapolating from Moskos and Sibley’s figures, about a fifth of all whites and three-fifths of all blacks wouldn’t make the cut.

The brain power of those accepted is impressive. Moskos and Sibley found that in 1994

"83 percent of white recruits scored in the upper half of the mental aptitude test (compared with 61 percent of white youths in the national population), while 59 percent of black recruits scored in the upper half (compared with 14 percent of the black youths nationwide)."

In other words, the Army's black enlisted personnel score just as well on the general aptitude test as the average white American. (African-American officers average even better, of course.)

There are still differences, so whites tend to predominate in the most intellectually-challenging military jobs. Still, by drawing just from blacks with relatively high IQs, the Army has managed to sidestep a huge number of problems.

So the magic race relations bullet that the military has found turns out to be - IQ tests.

And keeping out the lower-scorers.

This will be hard to apply in America at large.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

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