December 21, 2010

A semi-exception to the Fundamental Constant of Sociology

You always come across smug dismissals of The Bell Curve as being discredited, but you never hear explanations from them of why the U.S. military has put such emphasis on cognitive testing for several generations now. In fact, I once interviewed the retired head pscyhometrician of one of the major branches of the military, who had provided the military's AFQT testing data to Charles Murray. He said Murray and Herrnstein had done a bang up job with it.

In general, the military tries to keep a very low profile about their addiction to IQ-like testing, mostly releasing data to projects like Rand Corporation studies that nobody in the press ever reads, but now the Army has cooperated with The Education Trust, a Nice White Lady organization.

From the Associated Press:
Nearly one-fourth of the students who try to join the military fail its entrance exam, painting a grim picture of an education system that produces graduates who can't answer basic math, science and reading questions.

The report by The Education Trust found that 23 percent of recent high school graduates don't get the minimum score needed on the enlistment test to join any branch of the military. 

That's 23% of high school graduates who want to join the Army and the Army wants them because they don't have other black marks against them like obesity or a bad criminal record, who can't get in because they score too low. Add in high school dropouts, and, overall, the Army sets the minimum score for the heavily g-loaded AFQT (the very IQ-like test featured in The Bell Curve) for enlistment at the 31st percentile.
The study, released exclusively to The Associated Press on Tuesday, comes on top of Pentagon data that shows 75 percent of those aged 17 to 24 don't qualify for the military because they are physically unfit, have a criminal record or didn't graduate high school.

Perhaps this is right, but I suspect that to get to 75% unfit to serve before cognitive testing, they are simply summing the percent disqualified for each of those reasons and ignoring the overlaps: e.g., kids who are fat, dumb, and crooked get counted three times, not once. Hopefully, I'm right that the Youth of Today aren't quite that bad, but, maybe I'm just a cockeyed optimist ...
"Too many of our high school students are not graduating ready to begin college or a career — and many are not eligible to serve in our armed forces," U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan told the AP. "I am deeply troubled by the national security burden created by America's underperforming education system."
... This is the first time ever that the U.S. Army has released this test data publicly, said Amy Wilkins with The Education Trust, a Washington, D.C.-based children's advocacy group. She said the organization worked with the U.S. Army to get raw data on test takers from the past five years.

... The Education Trust study shows wide disparities in scores among white and minority students. Nearly 40 percent of black students and 30 percent of Hispanics don't pass, compared to 16 percent of whites.

The funny thing is that this particular white-black racial gap isn't quite as large as the normal one standard deviation gap seen in La Griffe du Lion's Fundamental Constant of Sociology. Probably due to self-selection and range restriction, the black-white gap is less than one standard deviation here. But, the authors of the report and the AP don't notice that the Army represents a below-average sized problem because we aren't supposed to know about the Fundamental Constant.
Even those passing muster on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, or ASVAB, usually aren't getting scores high enough to snag the best jobs.

The AP article is a little confused about a tricky aspect of the military's admission test. The AFQT is, last I checked, a highly g-loaded four-test subset of the the ten test ASVAB, which includes less g-loaded tests of specific skills, such as vehicle repair. The AFQT is not exactly an IQ test -- it includes questions on trigonometry, for example, which almost nobody learns outside of school. So, yes, if schools did a better job of teaching trig, then more of their graduates would pass the AFQT.

But, results on the AFQT correlate closely with leading IQ tests, so it's close enough for government  work. You must score at the 31st percentile or above on the AFQT (roughly a 92 IQ) to be allowed to join the Army. Once you clear that hurdle, they look at your ASVAB scores, which includes tests of things like auto repair, for help in determining vocational specialties. If you are already a first rate shade tree auto mechanic, then you might be able to skip truck repair school.
"A lot of times, schools have failed to step up and challenge these young people, thinking it didn't really matter — they'll straighten up when they get into the military," said Kati Haycock, president of the Washington-based Education Trust. "The military doesn't think that way."

If there are 310 million people in the country, then about 100 million aren't smart enough to enlist in the Army. Over 140 million aren't smart enough to enlist in the Coast Guard.

Those are gigantic numbers that simply don't register on the pundit class. And when they are reminded of them, of course, the only thing they can say is "fix the schools."

But, tautologically, 30% of youth are going to be in the bottom 30% of youth. 

I knew a kid who was totally focused on enlisting in the Army. The recruiter thought he was great, but then he flunked the AFQT. So, the Army paid to send him to an AFQT boot camp for about six weeks, where the kids live in barracks and where uniforms while they bone up on the AFQT. He loved it. The sergeants picked him as Best Recruit in the program. Then he took the AFQT again. And still failed.

He was a good kid but he just wasn't smart enough to enlist in the Army. In the conventional wisdom, Americans like him don't exist.

In the real world, they do.

The average enlistee in the U.S. military is above the national average in intelligence.
Christina Theokas, the author of the study, said the test was updated in 2004 to reflect the current needs of the Army, and the Army didn't want to release data from before the realignment.

Recruits must score at least in the 31st percentile on the first stage of the three-hour test to get into the Army or the Marines. Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard recruits must have higher scores.

From the Education Trust's report, Shut Out of the Military:
Table 1: Enlistment Eligibility 2010
The minimum AFQT score required to qualify for entry into the
military varies by branch.
Service Branch Minimum Required AFQT Score
Army 31 [i.e., 31st percentile]
Navy 35
Marines 32
Air Force 40
Coast Guard 45
... For the Army, those who score at the AFQT level of 31 and higher—Category IIIB and above—qualify for enlistment. Those scoring at 50 and higher on the AFQT [i.e. 100 IQ], falling into Categories IIIA and above, are eligible for Army
incentive programs including enlistment bonuses, college repayment programs, and the Army College Fund (a monetary incentive that increases the value of G.I. Bill benefits).  ...
Recruits that rank at the highest AFQT levels are eligible for special opportunities. While most military jobs are tied to the kind of composite scores described above, certain elite categories are available only to those who also possess an especially high AFQT. For instance, jobs in technical fields require significantly higher AFQT scores than the minimum score needed for regular enlistment. These high level jobs, because they come with education, training, and skills development, open doors to high-level career paths, provide better active-duty experience and pay, and set up enlisted personnel for greater success following life in the service.

You can see the source at here.  The Education Trust report continues:
Our sample consists of the nearly 350,000 high school graduates aged 17-20 who applied for entry into the Army between 2004 and 2009 and took the ASVAB at a Military Entrance Processing Station. These young people are among the 25 percent of young Americans who do not have problems preventing them from applying for enlistment in the military. Approximately 50 percent of these applicants, a total of 172,776, joined the Army. The group is not representative of individuals across or within states and the nation, but is a self-selected sample of individuals aged 17-20, with a high school diploma,
and an interest in joining the Army. We chose only to examine the results of recent high school graduates to have a sample of individuals who had experienced similar high school requirements and standards. ... In the sample, 58 percent of the test-takers were white, 19 percent African-American, 12 percent Hispanic, 8 percent unknown, 1 percent each of Asian, American Indian/Alaskan Native, and Native Hawaiian/ Pacific Islander, while 76 percent were male and 24 percent female.

About 23 percent of the test-takers in our sample failed to achieve a 31 —the qualifying score—on the AFQT. Among white test-takers, 16 percent scored below the minimum score required by the Army. For Hispanic candidates, the rate of ineligibility was 29 percent. And for African-American youth, it was 39 percent.

That's the IQ ineligibility rate among non-obese, non-crooked, high school graduates who want to join the Army.

The AP story goes on:
The average score for blacks [in this self-selected sample of high school graduates wanting to join the Army] is 38[th percentile] and for Hispanics is 44, compared to whites' average score of 55. The scores reflect the similar racial gaps on other standardized exams.

Actually, these are pretty narrow for racial gaps. All the other filters reduce the variation. Moreover, there's now a multi-generation tradition of lower middle class blacks enlisting in the Army (as opposed to the other branches).

The Education Trust report goes on to complain that:
To qualify for specific occupational specialties, recruits must earn certain scores in nine different Army aptitude areas. For example, to qualify for any of the Special Forces positions, a recruit must earn a score of 110 on the General Technical composite score, which is a weighted average of Arithmetic and Verbal Expression. Approximately 66 percent of applicants did not meet this minimum score. However, nearly 86 percent of African-American applicants and 79 percent of Hispanic potential recruits did not meet the minimum for these specialties, as compared to 60 percent of white potential recruits.

But, once again, these are narrower racial gaps than are found in the overall population.

The Associated Press article suffers from one obvious mistake:
The study also found disparities across states, with Wyoming having the lowest passage rate, at 13 percent, and Hawaii having the highest, at 38.3 percent.

No, this sentence is a typo in the AP news story that gets the meaning 180 degrees wrong. Figure 2 in the Education Trust report is entitled "AFQT Ineligibility Rates by State." The worst failure rate is in Hawaii (followed by MS, DC, LA, SC, NM) and the least bad failure rate is in Wyoming (followed by IN, ID, NE, NH, MN).

More interesting numbers from the report's state tables:

Among white youths with high school diplomas applying to join the Army, the lowest failure rates were in Indiana (10.1%), Alaska, Wyoming, and Nebraska. Among whites, the highest failure rate was, by far, in Maryland (27%). Next was DC, then Kentucky. The high failure rates for whites in liberal MD/DC is probably due to the military being seen by MD/DC as a good place to dump the dud in the family.

Best performances by blacks were in Oregon, Arizona, Alaska, (all small sample sizes), Indiana and New York. Worst performances by blacks were in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Wisconsin.

Best performances by Hispanics were in small sample size states like Montana, Alaska and Indiana. Worst performances by Hispanics were in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Texas's Hispanics did slightly better than California's.


The Anti-Gnostic said...

"Too many of our high school students are not graduating ready to begin college or a career — and many are not eligible to serve in our armed forces," U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan told the AP. "I am deeply troubled by the national security burden created by America's underperforming education system."

No doubt, our ability to guard Iraqi and Afghan school buildings is seriously compromised.

F***ing social democratic twit.

Jim Bowery said...

Look on the bright side: Many of those disadvantaged minorities will be spared brain damage that might render them unable to sire the Youth of Tomorrow so desperately needed to pay the social security benefits of an aging population!!

Anonymous said...

Texas Hispanics seem to be doing a little better than their California coethnics in a lot of ways. I suppose that reflects something.

Anonymous said...

Looks like .57 and .83 SD B-W differences in the two results quoted.

Anonymous said...

I don't know about elsewhere, but most blacks in Alaska are in some way associated with the military- that's how they ended up there. It's because their fathers had to pass the same test....

Formerly.JP98 said...

You always come across smug dismissals of The Bell Curve as being discredited

And yet, as time passes, the more The Bell Curve is confirmed.

It's also interesting that Oxford U. Press's Intelligence: A Very Short Introduction, by psychologist Ian Deary (2001), recommends The Bell Curve several times. Nobody had a cow about that book AFAIK.

peter A said...

I assume the Maryland whites were from the not-so-liberal Appalachian or Chesapeake Bay parts of the State. Those are some seriously in-bred back-ass regions of the country most outsiders don't know about.

Shawn said...

Will the Obama administration be suing the United States Military for disparate impact? said...

On my forum we were talking about the growing gang problem in the different military branches, which was news to me but not to some of my forum members. Steve, this is your bailiwick but I don't know if you've ever covered that specific issue (obviously related to lowering standards). Apparently military brass is in denial, just as they are with radical muslims who are on a trajectory to shooting up Army bases. Seems like a couple of solid iSteve posts there.

Anonymous said...

Of course, over 50% of births are now to 'minorities', and this percentage is only set to increase in the future.

peter A said...

Ideally the lower ranks of the army should be filled with the stupid people. I suppose the current casualty rates aren't high enough to create a disgenic effect, but a real war where mostly smart kids die and the lower quartile is just sitting around at home would be a disgenic disaster.

Chuck said...


What evidence do you have that the Gap is still 1SD? It sounds like something that we should look into.

Anonymous said...

Disparate Impact!

When is the EEOC going to go after the racist military?

jody said...

fascinating stuff. wish i had time this week to write about how the US military is not an equal opportunity employer, and is free to discriminate based on almost anything, except when liberal politicians want to ram certain people into the military who have no business there.

the politics this week made me re-evaluate my interest in the US military, and whether i really want to continue to contribute to defense research, buy defense company stocks, and so forth.

Anonymous said...

In 1977 when I worked as a school psychologis in a school system that served the school attendance centers of a major US Army base, it came to my attention via some discussions with parents who were also sergeants, that the Black/White gap in AFGQT scores was very large. It showed up in actual duty performance. Accordingly, sergeants were drawn to seek the actual scores of recruits and found large correspondence between what the scores showed for particular individuals and what the sergeants saw in those individuals hour by hour on duty in training, etc. Clifford Alexander, then a Black Sec. of the Army, was thus inspired to require that all such specific score information be withdrawn from the personnel files accessible to sergeants. It was my impression at the time that scores had been calibrated on racial norms--hence Black scores were drawn merely from what characterized Black recruits (?) At any rate, when scores and test validation became pigmentation blind and the chips were left to fall when they may--the gap impact was melted down and the relationships between Black and White recruits improved both on duty and in elective social interaction, "g" being a very central ingredient in both domains. Truth works wonders everywhere but in MSM and on campus.

Anonymous said...

The vocational parts of the ASVAB are probably more g-loaded than they should be.

I scored something like a 92% on the auto mechanics part based solely on reading the questions carefully and eliminating answer choices. My actual mechanics knowledge is minimal and my mechanical aptitude is even less.

Anonymous said...

Instead of big, massive educational programs designed to remedy obesity and low intelligence, why not simply offer $5000 per recruit to the recruit's high school? That's much more targeted.

Anonymous said...

I've had the impression that the recruiting pool has a lot of people who don't have other options: poor people without family connections, dumb people who can't make it at college, unmotivated people who can't think of anything else to do, etc. So the scores are coming from that pool. I haven't been overly impressed with some of the folks who did enlist.

Anonymous said...

I had a GT score of 133 back in 1974. Does anyone know what percentage that represents?

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure GT score = IQ score.

My GT score jibed with my IQ as tested by a childhood IQ test and by the SAT, plus the way GT is used as a baseline for several MOSs indicates it is the Army's g-loaded psychometric score of choice.

Anonymous said...

"Best performances by Hispanics were in small sample size states like Montana, "

Probably a 1/8 Mexican carrying his great grandfather's surname.

Anonymous said...

As far as "percentage," if you mean percentile, a 133 GT score (just over 2 SD above the mean) would put you somewhere between the 95th and 99th percentiles. FWIW, my 139 was considered 99th percentile by the Army.

In the early 70s, according to my dad and also Craig Venter's autobiography, the military used to just outright call your ASVAB score your IQ score, but I imagine the Griggs decision made them change their labeling in order to continue administering IQ tests without controversy.

Anonymous said...

peter A:

I'm a lifelong Marylander who's been around the country, and you're a fool if you think the rural regions here are worse than those in the rest of the country. Maryland has the highest household income of any state and one of the lowest rates of unemployment. There's no need to go into the military here unless you have some other shortcomings.

Speaking of which, you don't come across as particularly intelligent yourself. Please leave the commentary on these touchy topics to people such as Steve who don't give racial realism a bad name.

Anonymous said...

"if you mean percentile, a 133 GT score"

Thanks for the info, but to be honest my original army papers had a GT score of 123 that was crossed off and written next to that was 133. I always wonderered about that. The day of induction the army folks said that there openings in the medical field and wheel and track mechanics. I choose mechanics because I was always interested in cars. Anyways I contacted the National Personnel Records Center to find out what they had on me and the same 123 crossed off with 133 was next to that. The GT score of 123/133 qualified me for all army jobs back then but I was in a hurry to leave town and so I had to choose something. As a reference point I happened upon the other mechanics scores in my outfit and all the scores were in the GT 80/90 range.

Anonymous said...

Arne Duncan is "deeply troubled by the national security burden" created by all these military rejects? I thought he was supposed to be concerned with the education of youth for their own benefit, not in creating a conveyor belt from the school system to the military. Is that his job, shaping up and supplying cannon fodder for our endless wars?

Anonymous said...

That's pretty funny your GT score was 133 with 123 crossed out.

The GT score is calculated from several of the other subset scores; it's not a direct score. I guess you must have taken the test back when the GT wasn't automatically calculated and printed on the test result sheet but somehow manually imputed onto the test result sheet by someone using a spreadsheet or calculator.

No big deal in your case, since in the Army anything over GT 115 is pretty much gravy, but I wonder if anyone was ever negatively affected by such administrative errors.

Anonymous said...

"Texas Hispanics seem to be doing a little better than their California coethnics in a lot of ways. I suppose that reflects something."

A lot of Texas Hispanics classify themselves as White. See Wikipedia:

According to the 2006–2008 American Community Survey, the racial composition of El Paso was as follows:

* White: 77.8% (Non-Hispanic Whites: 15.0%)
* Black or African American: 3.1%
* Native American: 0.5%
* Asian: 1.2%
* Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander: 0.1%
* Some other race: 15.1%
* Two or more races: 2.2%
* Hispanic or Latino (of any race): 80.0% (Mexican: 75.0%)

Black Sea said...

Arnie Duncan said, "Too many of our high school students are not graduating ready to begin college or a career — and many are not eligible to serve in our armed forces."

This does raise the question as to whether they should be graduating at all. It is only recently that society even expected everyone to aspire to a high school diploma. People who lack the aptitude and know it would be better served by some sort of proficiency certificate after the 9th or 10th grade followed by vocational training and an internship.

Anonymous said...

In New England, Hispanic almost always means some sort of Afro-caribean mix and I think it is not surprising that Mass. hispanics perform lower than hispanics in the west.

neil craig said...

Mt guess would be that blacks in Missippi would be much more likely to have 8 black grandparents than those in Oregon.

Anonymous said...

Wear uniforms, not where uniforms.

Anonymous said...

I'm a college-educated female who decided to join the Army last year for several reasons. My ASVAB score was in the 95th percentile and my GT score was 128. Being in the Army has completely demolished the remaining biases of my liberal-indoctrinated public education. Even within my MOS, which required a certain minimum GT score and security clearance, white males who'd never attended college outperformed college-educated black and latino males.

none of the above said...


Or an educated Mexican who came here to practice medicine or work as an engineer or something, rather than some hungry uneducated guy looking for work mowing lawns. Importing a huge bunch of unskilled laborers is a poor way of getting the high iq part of the source population.

Truth said...

" Importing a huge bunch of unskilled laborers is a poor way of getting the high iq part of the source population."

Maybe, but it ain't a bad way of getting food to the table!

Anonymous said...

>Disparate Impact!

When is the EEOC going to go after the racist military?<

Careful. You want a Rangel-style draft?

Anonymous said...

>Maybe, but it ain't a bad way of getting food to the table!<

You want stupid people handling your food?

Truth said...

"You want stupid people handling your food?"

Well, it does sort of people.

Anonymous said...

>Well, it does sort of people.<

How did Americans not starve to death before the 1986 amnesty?

After all, there were no people handling food then.