September 21, 2010

SAT scores in California

With all the interest (264 comments and counting) generated by the huge number of Chinese and Korean names among the national merit semifinalists (top 0.5%) on the PSAT in California, here are the latest SAT scores from California. Interestingly, in California, whites average slightly higher than Asians / Pacific Islanders, both on the traditional M+V and the new three part total including Writing: whites 1641 to Asians 1614. (Nationally, however, Asians outscore whites 1636 to 1580.)

However, Asians / Pacific Islanders have higher standard deviations. (To view this tiny type more easily, you can hit "CTRL +")

California 2010 SAT

Total Crit Read
College Bound seniors # Share Mean Mean SD Mean SD Mean SD
Total 210,926 100% 1517 501 113 516 119 500 113
White 69,969 33% 1641 546 100 553 102 542 100
Asian, As-Am, or Pac Isl 44,932 21% 1614 518 116 571 121 525 122
Black or Af Am 14,476 7% 1320 444 101 436 102 440 97
Mex or MA 42,380 20% 1355 449 95 458 96 448 90
Other Hispanic 20,735 10% 1325 440 102 444 102 441 95
Puerto Rican 699 0% 1489 501 101 495 105 493 100
American Indian 1,256 1% 1488 499 102 504 101 485 98
Other 8,498 4% 1561 517 113 525 118 519 115
No Response 7,981 4% 1566 523 121 526 123 517 121

Commenter Mitch, a Bay Area testing tutor, has argued that because the PSAT is a low stakes test, which whites tend to treat as the beginning of thinking about studying for the SAT, while Asian parents tend to treat it as an important milestone in the years-long process of boning up for the SAT, the high number of Asian semifinalists in California on the PSAT is exaggerated relative to the high stakes SAT.

Being lazy, I'll leave it up to interested readers to do the work to evaluate this hypothesis and post their findings in the comments.

For example, questions to consider are: What exactly are the racial percentages of National Merit semifinalists in California? Do a higher percentage of Asian 17-year-olds take the SAT in California than do white 17-year-olds? (One thing not to worry about much in California is the SAT v. ACT divide that confuses things when thinking about SAT scores in, say, Iowa: California is traditionally an SAT state.) What is the nationality makeup of Asian / Pacific Islander 17-year-olds in California? What about taking the SAT multiple times -- how does that affect the numbers? (Okay, I found the answer to this last question: "Students are counted only once, no matter how often they tested, and only their latest scores and most recent SAT Questionnaire responses are summarized.) And so forth and so on.

Good luck!

By the way, this is the first bit of quantitative evidence I can recall to support the common-sense notion that California has smarter than the national average white people. Considering how damnably expensive it is and all the high end industries and all the Nobel Prizes, you would think it would have smart white people. But on the NAEP, California non-Hispanic whites always lag badly behind, say, Texan whites. And that was true way back on the big 1960 federal Project Talent test of 15-year-olds, where Texans beat Californians. So, numbers like that got me assuming that most white Californians are less Hewletts and Packards and more Bodines and Spicolis. But, maybe, white people in California just can't be bothered with trying on low stakes tests?


Anonymous said...

There's a large plurality of Filipinos that make up California's Asian population. And while they've got lovely cuisine and some devastatingly beautiful women, the Phillipines is essentially a latin American country off the coast of Asia, with a Spanish instead of Confucian culture.

Anonymous said...

Possible conflicts with the PSAT results, but probably not. The SAT results also showed that people who took the PSAT consistently scored higher on the SAT than those who did not.

The Asian over-representation on the PSAT, under performance on the SAT, and high standard deviation pretty much leads to one simple conclusion. That some Asian/Pacific Islanders scored well and took the PSAT's while other Asian/Pacific Islanders did not.

Anthony said...

Your first two anonymous commenters get a lot of it. A significant part of California's "A/PI" population is Filipino, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Hmong, and there's even a noticeable Samoan and Tongan population here and there. With the possible exception of the Vietnamese, none of those groups has an average IQ as high as whites.

I suspect that another possibility is that lots of white kids of about average smarts decide they're going to go to a junior college first, then, if a 4-year-degree still seems necessary, go on to a 4-year school without needing to take the SAT. Fewer Asian parents would be willing to let their kids choose that path unless the direct to 4-year college path is closed to them.

Anonymous said...

The wider SD for Asians reflects that they are a mix of several bell curves with different IQ

I really wish they would break it down by national origin

Does Arthur Hu, have newer results ?

The Truth Squad said...

This is from the 2000 census data for California:


One race 32,264,002 95.3

White 20,170,059 59.5

Black 2,263,882 6.7

American Indian 333,346 1.0

Asian 3,697,513 10.9 (breakdown below)

Asian Indian 314,819 0.9
Chinese 980,642 2.9
Filipino 918,678 2.7
Japanese 288,854 0.9
Korean 345,882 1.0
Vietnamese 447,032 1.3
Other Asian 401,606 1.2

Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander 116,961 0.3 (breakdown below)

Native Hawaiian 20,571 0.1
Guamanian/Chamorro20,918 0.1
Samoan 37,498 0.1
Other Pacific Islander 37,974 0.1

Some other race 5,682,241 16.8

Two or more races 1,607,646 4.7

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately Steve the college board does not break down data into more detailed results.

Fortunately for us though, the state of California does.

Newly released 2010 California standardized testing results for children grades 2 to 12 easily sorted by county, district, school as well as socio-economic status, gender, and race.

They were even kind enough to brake down the usual Asian Pacific Islander blob into disparate groups like Filipinos, Cambodians, Chinese, Indians, etc.

You want to know how well the 12 Tahitian seniors in California did on their Chemistry tests? Well now you can find out.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately Steve the college board does not break down data into more detailed results.

Fortunately for us though, the state of California does.

Newly released 2010 California standardized testing results for children grades 2 to 12 easily sorted by county, district, school as well as socio-economic status, gender, and race.

They were even kind enough to brake down the usual Asian Pacific Islander blob into disparate groups like Filipinos, Cambodians, Chinese, Indians, etc.

You want to know how well the 12 Tahitian seniors in California did on their Chemistry tests? Well now you can find out.

Bob said...

I took the PSAT completely cold in my lower-middle-class public school.

My HS math teacher just said, hey, you want to take the PSAT? The school will pay for it if you fill out this form.

Anonymous said...

"Do a higher percentage of Asian 17-year-olds take the SAT in California than do white 17-year-olds?"

Are you confusing PSAT ^ SAT here? The claim is that Asians take the PSAT more seriously, not that they take the SAT more seriously (though as a side note they might do, but that's irrelevant to the National Merit thingy).

Anyway, as a white person who grew up in California, I can personally testify to being a data point in favor of the hypothesis. I distinctly recall that when taking the "PSAT", I had no idea whatsoever that it counted for anything. I literally thought it meant something like "Practice SAT". And I felt quite jipped when I learned later on that it was used to decide who was a National Merit mucky-muck. Because had I known that I'm quite sure I would have taken it more seriously, and been one.

But, one can always claim this is just the sour grapes of a white person who couldn't be bothered to try harder...which is essentially correct :)

Bob said...

The question of the mainland China mean IQ is an interesting one. I don't believe it is 105/106 based on the fact that our high-quality Chinese immigrants score that well.

It also depends in part on how you weight the various types of questions. Having more math and spatial reasoning questions would obviously result in relatively higher scores.

In the other thread someone claimed that Chinese IQ tests showed large regions of China averaging better than 110, getting up to the central european jewish average.

I'd trust results of scores that high in China about as much as I'd trust Chinese toothpaste or a Chinese-made airplane.

Anonymous said...

However, Asians / Pacific Islanders have higher standard deviations.

Standard deviation is a dual-edged sword.

All of those Laotians and Cambodians and Hmong and [non-Chinese] Filipinos and Hawaiians and Samoans are gonna give you a big fat tail on the left side of the curve.

And if the Muslims are being classified as "Asians", then, well, fuhgeddaboudit.

Mitch said...

Filipinos and Pacific Islanders skew the results.

Thanks for the mention. Just to be clear, I am only saying that the effort that Korean/Chinese/Indian kids are *forced* to put into
their SATs and PSATs is considerable, and has nothing comparable in white culture. It goes on for years. Thus, while I think the high scores are deserved, and only achievable by high IQ kids, I think that whites are underrepresented because they aren't spending as much time focusing purely on test score improvement.

Thus, it wouldn't surprise me at all if the same Asian population was overrepresented (albeit not as much) in SATs as PSATs. But Asians spend unimaginable hours finetuning their scores from missing 3 on the math test to missing 2 or 1, and so on.

In no way do I mean to imply that Asians are just hardworking swots with average brains.

Dong Wang Koon said...

As an "Asian" I really don't care if either caucasians or orientals are smater than the other. I think the overlap is too great for it to be really meaningful.

I do want to point out though this topic has overwhelmingly abidingly (a-biting) have been of concern to the SteveSailer-world.

Why do you suppose that is?

Anonymous said...

I took the PSAT completely cold in my lower-middle-class public school.

My HS math teacher just said, hey, you want to take the PSAT? The school will pay for it if you fill out this form.

Me, too. Then they came back a few months later with a pin and some certificate or letter or something.

Then I got a higher score on the SAT. Then I studied a bit, took it again, and my score went up another 100 points (old scale). So much for no improvements (I was a delinquent so I got good results from studying; YMMV)

Anonymous said...

The age cohort of Asians that takes the SAT in California can be broken down roughly:

Filipinos + Vietnamese: 39.5%
PIs, Cambods, Lao, Hmong: 15.5%
Other Asians: 55%

In general, studies have known that Vietnamese students do about as well as whites on standardized tests. Filipinos, surprisingly, also tend to do about the white mean. This might be because about half of Filipino-Americans are actually ethnic Chinese Filipinios (about 1/3-1/2 of Vietnamese are also ethnic Chinese). Some of the Lao and Cambodian are ethnic Chinese too, as are the majority of the other southeast Asian ethnics.

Anonymous said...

I should probably start using an actual name as this is my third comment in this thread so far.

There is a 22 point spread between Asians in California and Asian national average. There is a 61 point spread between Whites in California and the White national average.

The question is not Asian under performance on the SAT's, the question is what distinguishes white Californian test takers from those in other states.

The answer is not simply that Californian students only put in an effort when it counts. That is not so much an answer as it is spurious bullshit in the same vein as blacks ending up in prison because of whitey.

Anonymous said...

The surprise for me is that Puerto Ricans and American Indians did better than expected, holding their own against the Mexicans and Blacks. Insofar as some people would like to differentiate amongst the various Asian groups then so should the category of white also be broken down. We're all different too, in case anyone's forgotten.

Anonymous said...

Why all this passionate interest in the SAT/iQ's of Asians here?

Do Asians make you feel uncomfortable?

anony-mouse said...

'Bodines and Spicolis'

Both Max Baer, Jr. and Sean Penn are half Ashkenazi Jewish.

Anonymous said...

7th Grade, CST Scores, Santa Clara County

English / Math scores

Black = 345 / 333
Hispanic = 337 / 331
Filipino = 372 / 365
Vietnames = 389 / 401
Laotian = 374 / 381
Hawaiian / PI = 362 / 353
Japanese = 393 / 414
Cambodia = 362 / 360
White = 399 / 394
Korean = 405 / 420
Chinese = 429 / 442
Indian = 428 / 438

RKU said...

Truth Squad's Census numbers are on the right track, but there's actually a huge age-skew between the different ethnic groups in California, and it's very important to take that into account. Fortunately, ethnic demographics is something of a hobby of mine, and I happened to have a spreadsheet around with all the ethnic age distributions based on the 2005 Federal ACS report (which is probably a little more accurate anyway than the 2000 Census given the fairly rapid time change in ethnicity).

The numbers show that although CA whites outnumber CA almost 6-to-1 overall, in the relevant 15-17 age cohort, the ratio is about 3.5-to-1. But by contast, the ratio of SAT takers is only about 1.5-to-1. So Asian students are more than twice as likely to take the SAT than whites, meaning that the SAT scores reach much, much deeper into the dumber and less studious fraction of the Asian population, which almost certainly explains why the white SAT scores are about the same or even a bit higher than the Asian ones.

Incidentally, a similar effect may explain why white commenters sometimes sincerely claim that the Asians they've known at e.g. UCLA or Berkeley don't seem especially smart, but just much harder-working. Asian over-representation at those sorts of universities is absolutely enormous, and clearly due to some mixture of higher intelligence and stronger work-habits. Therefore, it's pretty likely that the average Asian student is probably a bit dumber than the average white student, and probably the white students sometimes notice this. However, Asians are over-represented by maybe 700%, so the student body is drawing from a much lower portion of the Asian intelligence distribution than the white one (because the Asians also study more). But if Asians were only over-represented by (say) 300%, then their students would probably average much smarter than whites as well as harder-working.

Anonymous said...

Why all this passionate interest in the SAT/iQ's of Asians here?

Do Asians make you feel uncomfortable?

Anonymous said...

Can you post the data disaggregated by sex?

Anonymous said...

OT, a moderately Steve-ish discussion of demographics in the Weekly Standard, that even mentions Steve without booing or hissing:

Anonymous said...

2007 US Census Estimates for CA

Asians are 12.8% of the state and Pacific Islanders are .4%.

Filipino: 3.27%
Chinese: 3.29%
Vietnamese: 1.55%
Indian: 1.35%
Korean: 1.2%
Japanese: .82%
Other Asian: 1.29%

This is probably the closest we can get to figuring out the 17 year old population in 2010.

Anonymous said...

Just realized that the 2008 numbers from the US Census are out.

Oh well someone else can make the calculations.

Jehu said...

The PSAT is frankly the highest stakes single test I ever took (the stakes for the SAT and GRE were far lower). A National Merit Scholarship basically meant a full ride to a state university in your own state, or a significant chunk of your tuition elsewhere (many universities would match it).
However nobody told us that it was a high stakes test and it received orders of magnitude less attention than did the SAT. I bet there are even people from my high school that could plausibly have been NMS that didn't even take it. Clearly the white middle class needs some serious lessons in how to game systems.

Anonymous said...

White = 399 / 394
Indian = 428 / 438

Perhaps Indians also have a lower verbal IQ.

Anonymous said...

Steve, I believe you're a few years older than me, and your father was an aerospace engineer all his career. My father was an aerospace scientist for some years, and in the town we lived in we were surrounded by the families of other scientists and engineers. Then he went into computer programming, and we moved to a town south of Los Angeles that at the time was blue collar. California then was cheap and a very hospitable place for uneducated whites. I thought all those people would have moved to the Inland Empire (the dreaded 909) or the inland West by now, but maybe there are significant numbers left.

Mitch said...

7th grade CST math scores for Santa Clara County aren't all that much. Better is how many 7th graders are taking algebra in Santa Clara County (score in parenthesis):

Chinese: 499 (509)
White: 587 (454)
Korean: 75 (513)
Indian: 291 (520)
Vietnm: 289 (462)
Fil: 84 (431)
Japanese: 50 (474)

The Korean number strikes me as shockingly low--there seem to be gazillions of them in Cupertino.

Incidentally, a cursory check reveals that seventh grade Chinese and Koreans are outscoring whites on the CST English test. As someone who works extensively with both whites and Asians on composition and reading in this county, I consider that near-dispositive evidence that test effort is playing at least some part in the difference. White kids simply aren't trying. Asian kids' parents know that CST scores matter heavily in terms of placement in honors classes, is my guess.

I can't believe the number of white parents who insist on their kids repeating algebra in 9th grade, even though they passed the class and got an Advanced or Proficient on the STAR test. "I don't want them to move too quickly. I want them to learn it well."

Whiskey said...

Yeah ditto for National Merit Scholarships. I was a semi-finalist. I had no clue when I took it how serious it was -- I could have scored significantly higher (my grades were middling because most of HS bored me to tears, I fought constantly, and ditched three times a week min for the library). The PSAT was "here, take this test." No explanation of the stakes.

White middle class people need to act like Dortmunder. What's in it for me?

PERHAPS, the performance gap between California Whites and non-California Whites is explained by the exodus of the White middle class around 1991-2 from CA? I don't know how you'd test this hypothesis, maybe look at scores from the 1980's (existent White Middle Class in CA) vs. say 1995, 1999, 2005 maybe?

That's certainly one thing I notice -- Whites in California are either Flatbiller Bros out in Temecula or rich guys in Malibu. Not many engineer types left.

Saint Louis said...

It's interesting to see I'm not the only one from a white middle class school who had zero preparation for the PSAT. As with other commenters, I was just at school one day and they brought us to the auditorium and had us take a test. I think I got a 1250, but I surely could have done much better had I prepared, or even cared, about it. Even scoring the same percentile as I did on the SAT and LSAT would have made me a National Merit Scholar, and I definitely had more competition on those.

Anonymous said...

Both Max Baer, Jr. and Sean Penn are half Ashkenazi Jewish.

As are most of the people in the world. That's what happens when the children of a non-Jew and a half Ashkenazi Jewish person are always Jewish.

Bantam said...

Some Hispanics may underperform on the PSAT or SAT, but catch up later and earn decent salaries.

Anonymous said...

ACT in Illinois

A good way to compare whites and more elite East Asians is to take a look at Illinois results on the ACT.

Illinois works well for several reasons:

1.) 100% of Illinois juniors are forced to take the ACT
2.) Whites and Asians have very similar graduation rates, so we can assume that about identical proportions take the ACT. Especially in junior year. No sample bias.
3.) Only about 5% of Asians in Illinois are from the low-performing groups. The rest are from the higher performance groups. (In Illinois, Filipinos tend to be a very elite group in terms of education and income - and likely don't hold Asians down. Many of them may be ethnic Chinese-Filipinos. Vietnamese do well too. ) This is consistent with NAEP scores that show Asian-Illinoisians above the Asian-American national NAEP average.
4.) Whites in Illinois are average for white NAEP test takers. So we can compare the elite Asian ethnic groups (Chinese, Indian, Korean, etc.) against regular whites.

Essentially, the Illinois ACT results offer us a way to compare regular white and selected East Asians (from the elite Asian ethnicities) high school students on a test that matters (ACT gets you into college in Illinois), without sample bias or much distortion by the less elite Asians (Cambodians, Laotians, PIs, lower performing Filipinos, etc.).

When scores are broken down, it appears that the white-Asian gap is merely about 1/8th of a SD. If we add in the expected effect of the 5% of Illinois Asians from the lower performing groups, then it's likely that the high performing Asians (Chinese, etc.) outdo whites by 1/5th of a SD.

Now compare this 1/5th of a SD to the situation in California. In California, East Asians are 3.5 times more likely, on a per capita basis, to make it in the top 0.5% of the PSAT test takers. Since almost all the Asian high achievers are from the higher performing Asian ethnicities, we calculate that those elite California Asians are probably in the range of 6-7 times more likely to do well than whites.

Doing the math (assuming IQ is the only factor that determines the race gap on the PSAT), it seems that elite Asians are 0.5 to 1 SD above whites in California (the range depends on the minimum threshold IQ needed to be among the top test takers).

Based on the Illinois and California data, it does seem entirely plausible to me that when a test actually counts (and when they study), whites can close quite a bit of the gap with Asians.

One Explaination said...

I suspect this is a recent development due to selective migration in and out of California.

As middle-to-lower class whites leave California a larger number of lower class Chinese and other foreign immigrants replace them.

What American-born whites find an increasingly diminished quality of life in California is still a huge step up for even poorer immigrants from China and Mexico. These immigrants can qualify for a number of welfare benefits, are happy to hold several low-paying jobs and cram several extended families into a single home using the front lawn as a parking lot if necessary.

Severn said...

Some Hispanics may underperform on the PSAT or SAT, but catch up later and earn decent salaries.

Ain't affirmative action great?

Severn said...

I should probably start using an actual name as this is my third comment in this thread so far.

Not to mention all your comments on the previous thread.

Anonymous said...

Steve, as many of your readers have astutely noted, the higher SD for the Asian scores reflects the fact that the Asian category lumps together Southeast Asians and Pacific Islanders along with East Asians. The first two groups perform significantly worse than do East Asians, and therefore in all likelihood drag down the California East Asian average by quite a bit. What we need are statistics which are broken down by nationality.

Anonymous said...


Notice the significantly higher SD for the Asian numbers. This suggests(accurately) that the Asian score lumps together groups with different average IQs. In this case, there are a significant number of Southeast Asians and Pacific Islanders(these two groups I believe are similar to Hispanics in terms of IQ) who have dragged the East Asian average down significantly.

Anonymous said...

Steve, is there a way you can get a breakdown of the Asian/Pacific Islander scores? That huge SD clearly suggests that you have two very differently performing groups being lumped together here. It seems like without specific data about how East Asians do on the SAT in California, your entire post is somewhat moot.

Anonymous said...

Add me to the list of people who took the test with no explanation of what it really even was. Were it known to me at the time that the verbal was doubled or that there was money on the other side, I would have taken my time instead of racing through.

They did not match my SATs.

Anonymous said...

To the people here who sneeringly ask "why all the interest?" (implying white sour-grapes), the answer is: because these matters have public policy implications. Granted the white/black differentials have graver policy implications (disparate impact etc) but understanding the white/Asian differentials is also important because they: a) have policy implications in their own right, and b) understanding them clearly will contribute to a clearer HBD picture overall, which has big-picture policy implications. Or should, if we were honest with ourselves.

It isn't just a pissing contest, though I suspect that's how some are viewing it.

Anecdotal: I'm from working-class white gentile stock but managed to attend a superior high school (though not top-notch) full of bright working-class and middle-class kids, largely but not exclusively white and gentile.

I, too, thought the PSAT was just a "practice" test, took it one day when asked, never thought about it again. Can't remember my score, barely remember even doing it.

While studying enough to keep up my grades at a high level, I mostly spent my high-school energy in the Drama Club, the lit mag, being a cartoonist, building odd contraptions in my dad's basement workshop, making short comedy films with classmates, those sorts of things. Virtually no SAT prep study: I took one or two practice exams and a school counselor spent a few hours one day telling us what to expect, and some basic test-taking pointers. I got very high scores (near-perfect verbal, very high but not final-cut math) which was pretty common in my class in general. In other words, just adhering to the school curriculum and using our youthful energies productively was enough for brighter-than-average-but-not-genius-level white kids to score pretty impressively, but not in the super-duper double-secret top .5 percentile.

Bonus anecdote, don't know what it illustrates:
There were two popular after-school gaming clubs, the chess club and a club devoted to the Risk-like board game "Diplomacy".

Chess club: virtually all Asian.
"Diplomacy" club: virtually all Irish, Italian, Black, and Polish.

SAT scores of all these groups: roughly similar -- very high but not Einstein level.

Half Sigma said...

Asians did better on the SAT back when the total score was 50% math.

Reducing math to only 33% of the total score has hurt Asians.

Maybe it's a plot to keep Asians out of colleges?

Anonymous said...

I must say that Steve does appear to be shockingly dishonest. He knows that there are huge differences between East Asians and Southeast Asians/Pacific Islanders in terms of average IQ. Yet when comparing East Asians to whites, he routinely uses the aggregate Asian data, perhaps in the hopes that some of his readers won't make the crucial and important realization that aggregate Asian scores most likely significantly understate the true performance of East Asian Americans. However, judging by the comments for this particular post, it appears that his deception hasn't confounded his more astute readers.

Anonymous said...

I've often heard the rumor that it's not uncommon for recent Asian immigrants to lie about age, and are actually competing with younger students. I do know that several Vietnamese students in my high school were removed from classes for being over twenty years of age. I had several Vietnamese friends admit to being over twenty in high school. Is this an actual trend? If it is, how would it affect the IQ scores and test results?

BamaGirl said...

"It's interesting to see I'm not the only one from a white middle class school who had zero preparation for the PSAT."

I didn't even take it at all. I only took the ACT, and made high enough to qualify for free tuition at the university I wanted to go to (and am currently at).

Anonymous said...

Re: Illinois, are you sure the smart Asians are taking the ACT? I grew up in the midwest and ambitious kids took the SAT, not the ACT.

Anonymous said...

I don't think you can lump "Asians" into one particular group. California has a lot of Hmong, as does Minnesota, and those children likely suffer from poverty, low levels of literacy among parents and grandparents, and being first or second generation immigrants. There seem to be more Hmong in gangs or domestic violence reports in Minnesota and they marry and have children very young, which probably interferes with further education. I imagine there's a difference between how kids with that background and poor Filipinos or the child of an intact Chinese or Japanese family will do.

none of the above said...

Dong Wang:

No doubt for many different reasons, but one obvious one is that it's damned hard to have an adult conversation about this topic most places. In the MSM, it's hopeless--not just because it raises pc issues and has vast potential to offend widely, but also because journalists are mostly stunningly, shockingly innumerate.

For me, I want to understand the world as it is, not in terms of the consensus set of fairy tales the MSM peddles. I already work as a researcher in a field that's chock full of East and South Asians. It's not like it's some shock that there are some super smart folks coming here from China, India, Korea, etc. Nor is it a surprise that their kids benefit from both the genes and environment provided bynsuper smart parents.

Statistics are better than anecdote here--I'm sure my field isn't drawing a random sample from any population, and I'd like to understand things like whats likely to happen with the larger asian population, why east Asians are so heavily represented at top schools, etc.

Anonymous said...

I was a National Merit Scholar, and did not study even one minute for the SAT. Too busy doing things like making Super 8 movies and thinking about science.

You can "get places" if you grind (Asians) or if you cheat (which is how Kaplan started his business).

But it isn't necessary to get to a place you're already at.

David Davenport said...

Should low IQ be a mitigating circumstance in a murder trial?

US supreme court upholds Virginia woman's planned execution

State governor refuses to accept that death penalty would be unconstitutional because Teresa Lewis ( white, overweight, judging by the photo - DD) has such low IQ

James Meikle and agencies, Wednesday 22 September 2010 11.09 BST

Iran has criticised US double standards over Teresa Lewis's execution. Photograph: Family handout

The US supreme court has refused to block the state of Virginia's first execution of a woman in nearly a century, clearing the way for Teresa Lewis's death by lethal injection tomorrow.

Lewis, 41, was convicted of arranging the deaths of her husband and stepson in October 2002 so she could collect a $250,000 (£159,365) insurance payout. The two men who carried out the murders – one of whom was her lover – received life sentences.

Lewis's lawyers had argued her execution would be unconstitutional because she has a low IQ. Last night two of the three women on the nine-member court, justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, voted to stop the execution but the court made no other comment on its order.

Prosecutors said Lewis deserved the death penalty because she planned the killings in cold blood. Robert McDonnell, the Virginia governor, had refused to stop the execution because, he said, no medical professional had concluded that she was mentally retarded. Lewis's lawyers said they had new evidence that her lover Matthew Shallenberger, who later committed suicide in prison, had manipulated her. ...

Anonymous said...

Reread my post. 100% of Illinois high school juniors take the ACT. Therefore, no sample bias.


-Asians and whites graduate at similar rates, so likely no sample bias for the high school juniors in Illinois.
-Only 5% of Asians in Illinois are from low performing groups. I calculate that, assuming they perform at the NAM level, they drag down the Asian performance by 1/15th of a SD. This is why Asians in Illinois outperform the Asian NAEP average.
-Whites in Illinois are average for whites in America, according to NAEP data.

By the way, the Vietnamese have good test scores.

Jehu said...

Consulted my wife, who's at about the +2 sigma level. She too took the PSAT, but nobody told her of the stakes, and it was just taken totally cold, with no advanced preparation whatsoever. At her level (I think she got about 1300 of 1600 on the pre-1995 recentering SAT) a good roll of the dice after SAT-level preparation on a given day might make the cut for National Merit. So the experience of the posters here isn't atypical at all (my wife went to a large public HS in Oregon, myself in Florida). Clearly we need to close the system-gaming gap!

bokko said...

I can't wait to live in a paradise like the kin of on-paper geniuses created in China and India.

Anonymous said...

It is funny observing all of the white people here collectively try to come up with ways to explain this gap.

Study? I didn't have time to study. I was to busy inventing things.

Steve Sailer said...

To figure out whether the PSAT scores are representative of the SAT scores, you don't need a subracial breakdown of Asian SAT test-takers, you just need the standard deviations on the SAT. The subracial differences are baked into the standard deviation numbers.

I'm not going to do the math because I don't care about this question enough to bother, but it's all right there for those of you who do care.

Anonymous said...

If it makes sense to do a breakdown of "Asian" scores into Chinese, Filipino, Hmong etc, then wouldn't it also make sense to do a breakdown of "white" scores into German, Sicilian, Jewish, WASP, Irish etc?

Granted that'd be very hard, given the level of ethnic mixing. But even granting this factor may be enlightening in itself.

liberal biorealist said...

Just a quick observation.

One thing that's said about the SAT is that it is very little coachable. And, from most points of view, that seems to be fair enough. In The Bell Curve, studies are quoted that show that 100 hours of preparation for the Verbal section (now called the Critical reading section) improves scores on average by 24 points and 100 hours for the Math section improves the average score by 39 points.

The standard deviation of each section is about 110 pts, give or take.

Assume, then, that taken together 100 hrs preparation for both tests results in an improvement of .3 standard deviations in the aggregate score, and that this result holds throughout the range of scores, including the right tail.

What does this imply for a group that studies those 200 hours compared to a group that doesn't, when it comes to the issue of becoming a National Merit Semifinalist?

Well, quite a bit, in fact. If you go to your handy dandy table of normal distributions, the top .5% (the National Merit cutoff) corresponds to about 2.6 standard deviations out to the right. But suppose that you were to take a group and shift it over to the right by .3 standard deviations? Well, that would mean that anyone in that group who would otherwise be above only 2.3 standard deviations would now qualify. And how many such are there? Answer: 1.1%. That is, the numbers who would pass the cutoff would more than double.

Now I think that if an ethnic group is on average a very diligent one in academic studies throughout elementary and high school -- not to mention diligent in direct preparation for the SAT or PSAT -- then that might well be equivalent to a .3 standard deviation boost on the PSAT and SAT.

This could go some distance anyway to explaining some of what is seen in the numbers quoted by Steve here.

Anonymous said...

Steve, the problem is that combining 2 different normal distributions with different mean IQs may not necessarily produce another normally distributed curve. We need to know how the individual East Asian and Southeast Asian/Pacific Islander curves look like.

Dextrology said...

Ignore this if you want, but can we have more topics about broader political/cultural/social issues and less about silly standardized tests? Yes, SATs and such help explain why some of the social issues we have exist, but I'm becoming a bit worried about all the grown men on here who seem totally obsessed with which racial/ethnic/tribal group scored 10 points higher than another. I have a feeling that some folks on here are basing their fragile self-esteem on the 1400 SAT score they got in high school, perhaps because everything post-schooling hasn't turned out the way they liked.

Anonymous said...


I'm shocked that you would voice such an opinion. PSAT/SAT scores are more or less IQ tests and since Steve blogs about HBD issues, I'm not sure why group differences in IQ wouldn't be something of interest both to him and his readers.

Anonymous said...


Breaking down the white scores would be meaningless. According to IQ and Global Inequality and other works in the psychometric literature, basically all of the major white ethnic groups average an IQ of around 100. A few exceptions may be slightly lower. On the other hand the gap in IQ between East Asians and Southeast Asians/Pacific Islanders is more than 1 SD, which is fairly large. It would make as much sense to lump those groups together as it would to lump blacks and whites together into one aggregate category.

Steve Sailer said...

Having lost numerous high school debate tournaments in the 1970s to Beverly Hills H.S. and to Harvard-Westlake H.S., I can assure you that, at least back then, there was a very sizable white ethnic group in California with an average IQ above 100.

Already Saturated said...

Assume, then, that taken together 100 hrs preparation for both tests results in an improvement of .3 standard deviations in the aggregate score, and that this result holds throughout the range of scores, including the right tail.

Bad assumption. The Law of Diminishing Returns holds that 100hrs of preparation will have very different results across the range of scores.

In general, those already near the top will see far less improvement for the same preparation effort than those to the left on the curve.

Anonymous said...

Isn't studying for the SAT/PSAT/ACT missing the point?

What are these tests intended to test, if not the kids' g - their mental ability to pick up what the school is giving them? If some kids devote their attention to beating the test by grinding, they may memorize and learn a great deal (which is a positive good), but it defeats the purpose of the test. How do we know what their natural mental ability is, if they've been coached by Kaplan and crammed by Kumon?

Either all students must be forced to grind, or else all must be given the test "cold." The input must be equal so we can clearly see the difference in output.

The drive and willpower to grind may be valuable, just like IQ is, but tutors and "help" and pushy parents and other coaching "resources" will not always be there on the job in the real world. We need to measure raw mental ability, and separate this from the ability to "donkey one's way through." An employee who can grasp some new data in one minute is better than an employee who needs to work for nine hours to grasp that same data. Yeah, the nine-hour guy is tenacious and hard-working - good for him! Not so good for the business.

Because it blurs the line between the bright and the donkeys, test prep could be considered a form of cheating.

Ken Biz said...

I felt quite jipped when I learned later on that it was used to decide who was a National Merit mucky-muck.

Anonymous said...

@David, I must say that this is the first time I've heard someone argue that studying was a form of dishonesty. :) The conventional wisdom is that one maximizes his or her innate cognitive potential, through hard work. I've never seen any solid empirical evidence suggesting that SAT/PSAT scores could be significantly boosted on average through coaching. From what I hear, the SATs/PSATs are fairly g-loaded and are good measures of innate intelligence, and as I've stated before, relatively insusceptible to being coached. As Steve Sailer once said, when you outsmart an IQ test, that probably means you're a smart person.