Term Paper: IQ Test Scores Cultural Differences

Pages: 7 (2525 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Race  ·  Buy This Paper


[. . .] Income & Education. A review of the SAT scores of a single year (2001) indicates that there is a strong co-relation between the family income and the SAT scores. For example, the total (Math + Verbal) SAT score of all test takers with family income below $10,000/year (the lowest category) is 864. The test score rises in close relation to family income and is the highest (1126) for the test takers in the highest income bracket of $100,000/year. (Houghton 2002)

SAT scores by Ethnic groups for the same year (2001) indicate that African-Americans have the lowest total score (859), while the whites have a total score of 1060. Asian-Americans have the highest total (1067) among ethnic groups. (Ibid.) The test scores of the ethnic groups strongly co-relate with the incomes of the ethnic groups since the median income for 1999 of Asian-Americans ($51,205) compares with $44,316 for whites and $27,910 for blacks. (Ibid) It may be noted that co-relation of family incomes with test scores is indicative of the socio-economic condition or the environmental effect on IQ; it is not the same as the effect of IQ on incomes that Bell Curves propagates.

Cultural Bias of IQ Tests

IQ tests in the U.S. have always been accused of a pronounced "Cultural bias" against the minority groups. Christopher Jencks in his research has identified five possible varieties of racial bias in testing and concluded that two of the five constitute serious problems, while the remaining three are of minor importance. (Jencks and Phillips 1998, p. 12)

The "content bias" and the "selection system bias" have been identified as more serious. 'Content bias' in tests refer to their tendency to draw upon language, terms, expressions, and values familiar to white, middle-class America, but relatively unfamiliar to black and other minority cultural groups such as the Hispanics. An appropriate example is the use of analogies, whose content, values or meanings embedded in a socio-cultural context that is more familiar to one group but may be unfamiliar to another. As a result, test scores may not always reflect actual ability of test takers. The "selection" bias crops up when selections for employment and admission are based solely on the basis of test scores. This is because the blacks perform much better on the non-cognitive determinants of job or academic performance than on the cognitive ones; hence a selection system based on test scores for employment or admission invariably works against the blacks and other cultural minority groups who traditionally score low on such tests. (Ibid, p. 15)

Other cultural bias that Jencks has identified but considered less important are termed "labeling bias," "prediction bias" and "methodological bias." Labeling bias arises when a test claims to measure one thing but really measures something else, e.g., tests labeled as "intelligence" or "aptitude" tests that purport to test innate ability while such abilities are in reality, at least partially "developed" traits. "Prediction bias" refers to the inaccurate prediction of future performance by a test, while "Methodological bias" is the assessment of information in a way that underestimates the competence of one group relative to another. (Ibid pp 12-16)


The gap in the IQ test scores of African-Americans and European-Americans has aroused heated debate ever since it was discovered in the early part of the twentieth century. Various theories have been forwarded by social scientists for the phenomenon that can be broadly classified as "hereditary" and "environmental." Most studies and scientific observation point to a strong co-relation between the environment and IQ score rather than being an innate racial trait. As we saw in this essay, a certain amount of cultural bias in tests may also be responsible for the IQ gap between various racial groups.


Dorfman, Donald D. (1995). "Soft Science with a Neoconservative Agenda." A Review of the Bell Curves. 40: 5. Contemporary Psychology, APA's journal of book reviews. Retrieved on June 20, 2004 at http://www.apa.org/journals/bell.html

Haughton, Noela A. (2002). "Biased Content, Context, and Values: An Examination of the SAT." Retrieved on June 20, 2004 at http://www.sq.4mg.com/IQincome.htm

Jencks, Christopher and Phillips, Meredith. (1998). "The Black- White Test Score Ga: An Introduction." (pp. 2-22) The Black-White Test Score Gap. Christopher Jencks and Meredith Phillips - eds. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press.

Keita, L. (1999). "Why Race Matters: Race Differences and What They Mean." The Western Journal of Black Studies. 23: 1, p. 65.

Nisbett, Richard E. (1998). "Race, Genetics, and IQ." (pp. 89-102). "The Black- White Test Score Ga: An Introduction." The Black-White Test Score Gap. Christopher Jencks and Meredith Phillips - eds. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press.

Often termed simply as "g"

The average IQ scores of blacks was one standard deviation below that of whites until the 1970s. Recent studies indicate that it has narrowed down to about

The hereditary vs. environmental debate has heated up ever since the publication of the popular book The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray in 1994

The Nazi's were of course the most notorious proponents of the theory of inherent intelligence and believed that the Jews, Blacks and the Gypsies were "feeble minded" and only the White Aryan race had the capability of making positive contribution to the human civilization.

Herrnstein was a professor of psychology at Harvard who died just before the publication of The Bell Curve

The critics of the Bell Curve were particularly incensed at the inferences drawn by the authors from selected research that call for cutting welfare spending and putting severe restriction on immigration since "Latino and black immigrants are...putting some downward pressure on the distribution of intelligence."

Such a correlation could be due to environmental reasons since blacks with lighter skins and more 'Caucasian features' could have social and economic advantages in the American society that would lead to higher IQs

When skin color and socio-economic factors are… [END OF PREVIEW]

Strengths and Weaknesses of IQ Tests Essay

Is There Cultural Bias in IQ Tests? Thesis

Race, IQ and Intelligence in Debunking Term Paper

Standardized Tests Truly Reflective of All Students Term Paper

Learning Environment of Schools at Present Are Heavily Biased Toward Uniformity Over Diversity Thesis

View 60 other related papers  >>

Cite This Term Paper:

APA Format

IQ Test Scores Cultural Differences.  (2004, June 24).  Retrieved August 23, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/iq-test-scores-cultural-differences/1926160

MLA Format

"IQ Test Scores Cultural Differences."  24 June 2004.  Web.  23 August 2019. <https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/iq-test-scores-cultural-differences/1926160>.

Chicago Format

"IQ Test Scores Cultural Differences."  Essaytown.com.  June 24, 2004.  Accessed August 23, 2019.