April 22, 2006

More on black drownings

Why do young black males drown at rates 5 to 12 times greater than young white males: In response to my suggestion that, among other causes, greater body density of black males means they don't float as well, which makes them more vulnerable to drowning, a reader writes:

"Perhaps part of the explanation for the high rate of drowning about black children is less parental supervision. Compared to other groups, blacks do not watch their children as closely. Of course, much of that is due to father absence."

Another writes:

You may be right to suggest that blacks float less easily, therefore drown more readily.

But I can think of other plausible explanations. How about this: blacks drown more often because their lower IQ's (on the average, of course) make them less able to anticipate and judge the risks of swimming effectively. So the young ones venture into the deep- end too often, and the older ones too often leave the young ones alone in the pool.

As for a pattern of females drowning more frequently when they're young, well, that too may be due to factors other than leanness-helping-them-sink. Perhaps post-adolescent females stay out of the water because they don't wish to mess up their fancy hairdo's (on average blacks spend a greater proportion of their incomes on grooming than whites do). For that matter, even if older females are less lean, perhaps modesty keeps them out of the water (so they won't have to reveal pudgy figures) rather than blubber keeping them afloat.

Note that the IQ theory is *not* inconsistent with a low correlation between family income and child- drowning rate. Even though IQ is positively correlated with income, reversion to the mean suggests that high-income parents will have plenty of lower-IQ children at risk of drowning.

The lack of parental supervision suggestions seems upheld by some stats from an old Statistical Abstract I had at hand: the black accidental death rate is much higher, perhaps double, the white rate up through age 14, but after that (when parental supervision drops off and disappears), the black accidental rate is comparable to the white accidental death rate. So, the IQ theory might not be supported.

For all ages, the black male death rate for non-motor vehicle accidents was 29.3 versus 26.0 for white males, which is one of the smaller racial differences. For car crashes, the male death rates were almost identical between the races: 22.2 vs. 21.9. (However, blacks die more from other causes, especially homicide, so more don't live long enough to die accidentally, which means the black accidental death rate is somewhat understated.)

In summary, the black drowning rate seems high compared to other causes of accidental death, so the more-likely-to-sink theory remains plausible.

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

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