Wanted: Facts on Racial Differences in Academic Performance

I am gathering information for a research paper on racial differences in student performance. I have not yet decided on the format or age group(s) that will be the focus of the paper; there’s so much information available I am overwhelmed with my choices. I feel a need to cut the chaff.

I am primarily interested in seeing what consensus (if any) there may be in the factors that explain differences in academic achievement and test scores.

I am NOT interested in your personal opinions, assertions or testimonials on the accuracy of these differences. (OKAY? Got to be firm here.) It’s pretty much documented that differences exist; they may well be genetic, too. I am merely asking for links to a few reputable, nonbiased online references and (a few) recent books on the topic. Any help you can give me will be appreciated.

Oh, yeah. Paper’s due in 20 days, so let’s step on it. ;-D

If you don’t want our opinions on this topic, perhaps you should keep your thoughts out too. If you want to mention and defend your opinion, post it in GD. If you want objective answers and statistics, post it here.

I’d go to the educational research database called “ERIC.” I am pretty sure it is available online now. It covers articles, studies, etc. published on education (at all levels). Admittedly, some of it is gonna be pretty heavy-duty stuff. Is that what you’re looking for? Scholarly papers?

And by the way, are you interested in performance at any point in a student’s schooling? Or are you focusing on K-12? Higher education?

Easy, Lawmill. We all know that certain hypersensitive posters can’t talk about any race-related topic without reflexively calling the OP a bigot. Askia is just trying to make a preemptive strike by telling these people to stay the hell out of this thread.

I didn’t call him a bigot.

I was tactlessly pointing out that he should try to keep his opinion separate from his search for facts. At least, if he expects us to extend the same courtesy towards him.

Sigh… and I had such high hopes I could get some help on this topic without getting bumped into ‘Great Debates’.

Lawmill: Mindreading is so ill-executed. You must tell me how you manage someday.

CrankyAsAnOldMan: Hmm. My school’s library stupidly has rules about people accessing ERIC due to some plagarism fracas that occurred on campus last year. The age focus is something I will have to decide once I’ve read more articles and get a feel for a consensus of opinion. Right now I’m inclined to see any studies that have tracked a heterogenous group of students’ performance over a number of years. Primarily, I’m looking for some semi-mainstream articles to whet my brain before I delve into any intense scholarly publications/statistics/analyses. Education, Sociology and Psychology journals first before moving on to anything else.

Diceman: Yup, that’s what I was trying to do. See how well it worked?

Folks, please post book titles and authors or links to sites you think I might find helpful… or just let this post wither and die. Just asking for help, is all. Figured the teeming millions would be a faster search than me in the library on Superbowl Weekend.

People are not going to like this reply but may I suggest looking at the research articles cited in The Bell Curve. Regardless of what you think of the book, it does cite many reputable studies from several disciplines. You could use a few of those as a starting point to snake your way forward and backward through the literature. The Bell Curve was considered controversial because of the conclusions that it drew, but it did contain cites for some valid studies that you can pull together in your own way.

You might want to check out a book called Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America, by John McWhorter. IMHO, the author relies too much on anecdotal evidence, but his thesis is interesting and he seems to have done his research on test scores and such. Even if this book is too opinion-based for you, the bibliography and notes would probably suggest a few useful sources for your research.

I’ve heard that publishing studies on racial differences in academic achievement is a no-win situation unless your conclusion is that there are no differences. Political correctness and all.

I’d be interested to know what forum you’ll be presenting your results in, your basic conclusions, and the reactions they elicit.

I wasn’t calling you hypersensitive, Lawmill. I was thinking of people like Handy.

It seems as though Thomas Sowell has written on this subject, but I can’t think of anything immediately.

Ooops. I would also invite you to check out Stephen Jay Gould’s Mismeasure of Man in which he argues (among other things) that there is no such thing as “race,” or it’s at least an artificial construct. But if you do use it, get the later additions that have some rebuttals to Bell Curve. So at least you have both sides to weigh, and who does the more compelling job.

I wanted to once again thank Mjollnir, Fretful Porpentine, mavpace, City Gent, Diceman and others for their thoughts and suggestions so far.

Any other suggestions? I could really use a few more academic/magazine/online sources if anyone has any spare time to suggest things to check out.

::Educational research person enters the room::

While I can’t give you specifics as to reasons, I can give you my standard, in private, answer as to why there are racial differences in performance - minority children don’t answer as many questions correctly as their non-minority counterparts do.

Yes, there are racial differences. Yes, there are different races (Gould notwithstanding). Any educational group (school system) that receives federal funds MUST report to the federal government (usu. through the state gov’t) the effects of those funds. Most (all?) educational measurement is done with SEDCAR standards. Sedcar has 5 race categories:

  1. American Indian
  2. Asian/Pacific Islander
  3. African American (formerly Black)
  4. White
  5. Hispanic

For research, your best bet is, in fact, ERIC. Perhaps you can go to your public library for access - or professor/grad school friend’s office.

If ERIC doesn’t pan out, try looking an any of the education research journals (of which there are scads). They all have a pretty good index system.

I don’t know if this will help, but in my school district we are trying to bring the academic achievement of minority students up through a program known as “Raising the Bar and Closing the Gap”. Information on the program can be found here: http://www.mcps.k12.md.us/departments/publishingservices/PDF/CallAct.pdf

Race and Confusion:

There is more than a bit of confusion in this thread. I hope I can dispel it. Race has two meanings as used here, one implying “coherent biological population” and one simplying implying a rough-and-ready way of culturally grouping people with vaguely similar appearances.

Race as a biological construct is not valid, that, and it is more than adequately reflected in the genetics literature, which I have provided ad nauseum in Great Debates. This is non-controversial among people familiar with genetics. Thus, when Gould refers to race not existing, he is refering to the well-established biological fact. Politics, PC or whatever absurdness you may want to raise have nothing at all to do with this.

Race as a cultural concept is quite another matter.

Should you wish to make biological (genetically) based arguments, you would be well-advised to make yourself familiar with the literature. As noted, I have provided copious citations to the scientific literature in the several currently open GD threads.

As for the data and studies in Bell Curve: they are largely not well-respected, despite contentions here otherwise. The Bell Curve relied on very poor, often dodgy pseudo-science. There are a number of substantive scientific works debunking the Bell Curve: I believe DDG has posted in a unfortunate discussion about race in the pit:

Now that this has been cleared up, back to a general questions format.

Got to get the fundamentals right, dude, or anything that follows is baloney.

Substitute ‘race’ with “ethnic/social group”, throw in a couple of paragraphs as to why (showing also that you’re on the ball) and get into the substance - errr, subject.
IMHO, any differences in performance between these ethnic /social groups is the product of, primarily, opportunity but also expectations within that group (family pressure, peer pressure, group precedence, etc).

I think I’d look at opportunity (and the inequality thereof) i.e. quality of teaching abilities, resources and teacher commitment in inner cities compared with country plus how funding influences those factors and then move onto expectation (ibid).

Skin colour is a kind of convenient way to divide people up but it is a false basis and smacks of Victorian misapprehension.

I’m sure Mr Bush would be very impressed. Hmmm.

You might want to check out the book “The Bell Curve Wars”, edited by Steven Fraser (1995).

Check out the article by Stephen Nesbitt - “Race, IQ, and Scientism”. He provides citations that might be useful to you.

Here’s one citation - comments are mine from Nesbitt’s:

Scarr, S., S. Pakstis, H. Katz, and W. B. Barker (1977). “Absence of a relationship between degree of white ancestry and intellectual skills within a black population.” Human Genetics, 39, 73-77 and 82-83.

Rationale of study - 1) The “black” population of the United States consists of from 20-30 European genes and 2) Africans and Europeans differ in blood group genes sufficiently to be able to obtain a measure of the degree of “Europeanness” of an individual’s heritage. Under a genetic hypothesis, the more the European genes, the higher the IQ should be.

Findings - correlation between estimated European heritage and IQ for a sample of 288 young blacks in Philadelphia was a trivial and nonsignificant .05.


While I get mighty twitchy when someone starts throwing around racist comments, it’s very clear from your O.P. that you truly are looking for hard research here, and have no ax to grind. Right on :slight_smile:

Now, my kids are both full-blooded Korean. They came as infants, and so are being raised in a pretty lily-white town by an athiest and a Jew. How do you figure out of their academic successes/failures are due to genetics or environment?

This might sound like a minor hijack, but I feel truly that it might be at the heart of your O.P. Call the NAACP. Call the US Dept. of Education. ( Or, use your handy-dandy search engines). Try to find research that is HIGHLY biased, as well as “very even handed”. Why? Just because someone’s got an agenda doesn’t always mean that they’ve skewed their results so heavily. You might find meaningful data in a great variety of places.

Back to my early statement here. How can one account for what my kids do? Their home life, or their DNA??? When you find out, and write your paper?- let us all know please. :smiley:


::Educational Researcher still in room::

I can’t go with Collounsbury here. The OP is asking a question about education and gap measurement. Therefore, all discussion must pertain to educational definitions of race, not scientific definitions or social ones.

However one feels about categorizing individuals into races, it’s done. Why? Because it’s always been done that way and will be done that way for a long time to come – “correct” or not. Get over it. Gobs of federal money is given to Local Education Authorities (LEAs) every year. The feds want to see that the money is used wisely so they require reports. They require disaggregations by race and sex.

The National Center for Educational Statistics, a branch of the United States Department of Education has produced its Standards for Education Data Collection And Reporting (SEDCAR) to define all data elements. Because LEAs use SEDCAR the standards, I will reproduce them here for race. Sure I just posted the categories above, but it is important that everyone involved in this discussion is aware of the requirements in reporting and the constraints of data in education reporting.

American Indian or Alaskan Native – A person having origins in any of the peoples of North America, and who maintains cultural identification through tribal affiliation or community recognition.

Asian or Pacific Islander – A person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent, or the Pacific Islands. This area includes, for example, China, India, Japan, Korea, the Phillippine Islands, and Samoa.

*Black (not Hispanic) * – A person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa.

*White (not Hispanic) * – A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, North Africa or the Middle East.

Hispanic – A person of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central or South American or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race.

The point here? Education research and reporting (as well as most reporting) does make specific distinctions between racial categories. Education research uses the definitions above.

I apologize for not addressing the OP in this post, but I feel that earlier “clarification” detracted from the intent of the OP and had the potential of confusing him/her and future posters. This could eventually lead to misinformation posted, which would not help the OP to “fight ignorance”.