Even though it’s widely acknowledged in the scientific community that all personality traits are heritable, studying racial differences in intelligence is still a controversial matter. Some people worry that unpalatable findings may be employed by racists to justify black inferiority, however, such concerns are misplaced. Though important, intelligence is not a measure of self-worth and racists are in the minority.
According to researchers, IQ is highly heritable and genetic, therefore if blacks and whites pass on traits to children, why would some think that genes fail to even partially explain the black-white IQ gap? In fact, there is overwhelming evidence to suggest that the black-white IQ gap is genetic and many of these studies are quite recent. Without an introduction to these findings, the public will be unable to form a logical opinion on the matter. Therefore, in this piece, readers will be invited to a synopsis of the latest findings in intelligence research.
The objective of this article is to disseminate obscure research to a discerning public with the expectation that readers will scrutinize these conclusions for themselves. Richard Lynn in his pioneering 2015 book Race Differences in Intelligence: An Evolutionary Analysis, points out that when tests measure the intelligence of black and white university students from similar backgrounds whites still record an IQ advantage. Similarly, comparisons of elite African students with European university students show an IQ advantage for whites.
Davide Piffer in a recent paper measuring gaps in intelligence between Africans and Europeans found that Europeans have higher polygenic scores for educational attainment than Africans. Due to significant differences between Africans and Europeans at the genetic loci linked to educational attainment, Piffer diminished environmental influences as a significant explanation for the black-white IQ gap. Furthermore, advances in admixture studies equally confirm the genetic basis of the black-white IQ gap.
Using, data from the Philadelphia Neurodevelopmental Cohort database, consisting of intelligence scores and the racial identity of participants, Lasker, and co-researchers examined the relationship between European ancestry and cognitive ability. That the researchers had access to the genotyped DNA samples of participants makes the findings particularly compelling. Intriguingly, the results reveal that European ancestry is a consistent predictor of cognitive ability and is significant in all regression models.
Additionally, a complementary study by Meng Hu analyzed the association between European ancestry and cognitive ability in an American sample and opined that European ancestry correlates with intelligence. The author also found that blacks with more European ancestry have superior cognitive abilities. Researchers often observe a positive link between European ancestry and intelligence, however, the association between African ancestry and cognitive ability is negative as we will demonstrate.
A companion paper by John G.R. Fuerst and co-workers, performed admixture regression analyses with data from the American Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Cohort and concluded that possessing African and Amerindian ancestry is negatively associated with intellectual ability. Even after controlling for socio-cultural factors, the authors still identify a negative link between non-European ancestry and cognitive ability. To explain these results, Fuerst and colleagues theorize that African, Amerindian, and other groups inherited alleles from their ancestors which make them susceptible to lower levels of cognitive ability.
Because these findings are so contentious, John G.R. Fuerst did another study to explore the possibility that earlier results were a consequence of mismeasurement, but instead of refuting previous findings, Fuerst confirmed a robust link between lower cognitive ability and African ancestry. Even critical discussions of intelligence studies posit support for the black-white IQ gap. Russel Warne’s review of five strands of evidence in The American Journal of Psychology validates genetic explanations for IQ gaps. Warne’s summation of the data is quite sober
The five types of circumstantial evidence here are not, individually, conclusive regarding the potential of genetic influences on mean differences among racial groups in the United States. Each has its own strength and weaknesses. For example, the GWAS evidence consists of just three studies, but these studies provide direct evidence of the influence of specific genes on intelligence in different racial groups.
Although most studies examining the black-white IQ gap measure the abilities of Americans, outside of America the conclusions are similar. Evaluating data on the intelligence of British workers on the Prolific Platform researchers aver that the black-white IQ gap is substantial and tests for measurement invariance found no bias or bias of an insignificant degree. Indeed, there is a genetic basis for the black-white IQ gap, but what are the implications of blacks having lower IQs on average?
Based on data from the UK, we can deduce that IQ gaps between blacks and whites explain racial income gaps. For example, one study argues that as job complexity increases, the share of White and Asian workers will increase, but the percentage of Black employees declines. Sophisticated jobs offer better compensation, therefore if on average blacks are less intelligent they will be employed in less lucrative professions and earn below whites.
Yet this does not spell doom for black Americans. Living standards vary across the United States, so blacks residing in cheaper states can enjoy a relatively high living standard. Further, market economies respond to demand, hence even nonsensical pursuits will yield profit if they are embraced by ordinary people. Considering that America is a rich country, blacks in America do better than people elsewhere. Moreover, living standards are rising for black Americans, so it should not matter that on average whites are better off because equalizing incomes would not ameliorate the conditions of blacks.
Disparities are the norm, rather than the exception and the black-white IQ gap is just one of several disparities. It’s evident that the black-white IQ gap has a genetic basis and stating otherwise will not alter this reality nor will it improve the status of black Americans. Our only option is to accept the science and desist from fixating on racial disparities.