Admissions Games

So, Donald Trump wants the Justice Department’s civil rights division to investigate and sue universities over affirmative action admissions policies deemed to discriminate against white applicants.

There are about a hundred ways to take apart Trump’s assumptions about college admission practices. I have exactly twenty minutes before Ian gets home, needs lunch, and then a drive to the community college for computer class. Let’s see how far I can get…

If you want to talk about one group pushing out another group from one of the finite positions in higher education, then the group to attack isn’t African-Americans. They make up a very small faction of all students at elite colleges in this country.  A 2015 article at the Atlantic points out that at ” all top-tier universities, black undergraduate populations average 6 percent, a statistic that has remained largely flat for 20 years.” Not a big number.

So, if you want to target one group that is taking an increasing number of spots at elite institutions, you really want to look at international students. There are way more of them than there are African American students. Colleges are increasingly seeking them out, because they can pay full freight of tuition. Some rushed numbers that I pulled up from collegedata.com:

African-Americans International
Rutgers 8% 7.2
NYU 5.9 15.2
Columbia 6.4 17.9
Princeton 8.6 11.1
Harvard 7.3 11.4
UCLA 3.4 12.7
Univ. of IL 6.4 15.4

Secondly, all the research shows that the biggest problem is that excellent poor/minority students do not apply to elite schools when they have great GPAs/SATS and would be admitted. They are intimidated by the whole process and are fearful of leaving their communities. So, they end up at less selective local schools, where they sometimes end up paying more — a phenomenon known as “under-matching.” And elite colleges want to make it even more difficult for those kids by creating a new application process.

Thirdly, admissions offices have quotas for all groups. It’s way easier to get into college if you’re a dude. It’s easier to get into college if you aren’t from the Northeast. Asian girls from New Jersey have a much tougher time getting into elite schools than white dudes from North Dakota.

So, if Donald Trump really wants a completely unbiased system, then schools wouldn’t take into account gender, state, race/ethnicity, legacy, athletic prowess, and ability to pay full ticket cost for the school. Good luck with that.

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96 thoughts on “Admissions Games

  1. And legacy and development and faculty preferences.

    I would note that Columbia, Princeton, and Harvard are not seeking out international students for full tuition — All three offer aid to international students.

    Holistic admissions does mean that many factors will be taken into account in admissions, and some of these will have discriminatory effects (i.e. selecting based on grandparents having attended a school, for example). Ultimately, there might be a directive that race itself can’t be used as a selection factor — which will require creativity by the schools that want to maintain diversity (select based on geographic area — Compton or the South Side of Chicago, for example, or whether your great-great grandparent was an American slave). Presumably the current administration is not going to switch to a standard of discriminatory effect, rather than discrimination based on protected class as a standard. That would open up very many floodgates (as in “Why is the FBI So White?).

    1. Most international students do not qualify for need based aid; the vast majority come from China and are from wealthy families. Those schools do not offer merit aid.

      1. And they have nice cars but drive like shit. Young Asian man in a BMW is a bigger warning flag than New Jersey plates and about as dangerous to pedestrians as Old White Guy in Giant Pickup.

      2. The biggest warning flag for me is the feared Middle-Aged Man in a Minivan. They drive as if they have something to prove.

      3. I feel like they can be replied upon to be worse than usual at yielding to pedestrians, not blocking the box, avoiding killing cyclists and other skills you develop driving in more urban areas.

      4. My beef is suburban moms in minivans yapping on their phones. They’re everywhere – driving cars, in the grocery stores, in waiting rooms. I was waiting to have my car serviced yesterday morning, and there was a woman there taking calls from I don’t know who, but I am pretty sure it wasn’t important. The only benefit of her conversations is that they were drowning out the sound of Kelly and Ryan on the waiting room tv.

    2. Harvard says that international students at Harvard receive the same financial aid as Americans. So although the bias you describe — rich students are more likely to be admitted to Harvard — I do not think that international students are a money maker for Harvard.

  2. I’m pretty sure the reasoning behind attacking African Americans is just because people who are racist for Trump. It doesn’t have to be at all correct to work if you define “work” as gets people who vote Republican to focus on something besides how awful elected Republicans are at helping them.

  3. “…admissions offices have quotas for all groups. It’s way easier to get into college if you’re a dude. It’s easier to get into college if you aren’t from the Northeast. Asian girls from New Jersey have a much tougher time getting into elite schools than white dudes from North Dakota..” And this is a defense the current system because why? I haven’t seen in the news articles about this possible action any statement that is aimed against black people, maybe I missed something? I myself oppose discrimination against Asian girls from New Jersey.

    1. The Times article says ‘white’ but their quote from the actual document is “investigations and possible litigation related to intentional race-based discrimination in college and university admissions.” which would certainly cover discrimination against Asian Jersey girls.

  4. The highest profile case alleging discrimination at present is suing Harvard for alleged bias against Asians.

    The attempt to change Prop 209 failed in California, due to Asian American political action: http://www.scpr.org/blogs/multiamerican/2014/03/21/16152/sca-5-chinese-americans-immigrants-asian-americans/.

    Asian Americans are a growing segment of the US population: http://www.asiamattersforamerica.org/asia/data/population/states.

    A huge proportion of international students hail from Asian countries. I am not certain how colleges report their demographic makeup, whether the international students receive their own demographic breakdown, or if they’re just reported as “international.”

  5. Anyway, setting out with a stated intent of helping poor and middle class white voters but actually pushing a policy that hurts them is pretty much Trump’s SOP.

  6. It was considered noteworthy when the W administration filed a brief offering support (albeit tepid support) for diversity-based programs. Many expected the administration to oppose affirmative action entirely. That case was remanded, and by the time it came back up, Obama’s Justice Department was able to offer a full support of the program.

  7. I suspect the end result of weaponized white resentment in a pluralistic society, assuming it doesn’t destroy pluralistic society, is the emergence of a protected class that nobody will call “crackers” except in their head.

  8. And the case involved a complaint from Asian American associations: http://dailycaller.com/2017/08/02/justice-department-gets-attacked-for-trying-to-protect-asians-from-discrimination/

    Press reports regarding the personnel posting in the Civil Rights Division have been inaccurate. The posting sought volunteers to investigate one administrative complaint filed by a coalition of 64 Asian-American associations in May 2015 that the prior Administration left unresolved,” Flores wrote. “The complaint alleges racial discrimination against Asian Americans in a university’s admissions policy and practices.”

    The May 2015 complaint centered around Asian-Americans claiming they got passed over for worse students due to quotas at Ivy League schools.

    “This Department of Justice has not received or issued any directive, memorandum, initiative, or policy related to university admissions in general,” Flores continued. “The Department of Justice is committed to protecting all Americans from all forms of illegal race-based discrimination.”

    1. I think we can safely infer that this particular current move against affirmative action is directed at blocking affirmative action against white students. Trump is in the White House, Sessions runs Justice and they made me take down my Nation of Islam quotes about the origin of white people.

      1. I’m hostile to racial discrimination, so I am very glad to see this suit. I’m generally quite happy with what I see from DeVos and this administration in general in the education area. There’s a lot I’m not happy with, so I try to focus on the good….

      2. The problem with that argument is that (in my opinion), white American parents don’t care nearly as much as Asian American parents about elite college admissions. White American parents (forgive me) care much more about athletics, the cost of college, and whether their children will return home after college. There is a subset of parents laser-focused on the top colleges, but they tend to gather in upper-income towns, “millionaire ghettos,” as I call them. If you live in those towns, it seems that everyone cares about college admissions. Outside that bubble, they don’t.

        Many Asian parents come from countries where test scores determine everything, and there is a firm pecking order for colleges. It is a challenging experience to try to describe the American college system to parents who grew up in Asia. The irony is that Harvard is not a public institution. There is too much demand for seats in one small Northeastern college.

        The distribution of Asian Americans is interesting. Look at this map: http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2012/03/latest-census-2010-data-asian-american-population/#sthash.i0oyeq03.dpbs. It could be that the Trump team is looking to do better with Asian voters.

      3. The NYT has updated its story to include the link to the Asian-American complaint to the civil rights: https://nyti.ms/2hplBEd.

        I recently read an article (which I have now lost) that talked about admissions as competitions within different applicant pools (athletes, legacies, development, first generation, . . . .). Asian-Americans are (usually) competing in the academic admissions pool. In that pool, the separation among individuals is no longer based on SAT schools (because all applicants have great SAT scores). Furthermore, that pool contains a significant number of white applicants, who may also benefit from connections and non-recruited athlete status. There might be outright race-based decision making, privileging white students over asian-american students, but, the difference might also be the result of selection on other factors.

        This case, though, *is* being used as a wedge to prevent private schools from using race as a factor in determining the diversity of their school (brought by Blum’s organization, which is also supporting suits by white students at UT Austin and U North Carolina).

        If the courts do decide in Blum’s favor, I wonder what happens to the white fight and Trump’s “base” when all the elite universities are 40% Asian, <5% African-American, and 20% White, like Berkeley & Caltech.

      4. I do think that the perception of the definition of merit (based mostly on test scores, and further, on a simple ranking of test scores, without regard to the confidence intervals) plays a significant role in the belief that meritorious Asians are being discriminated against even if there is no quota system/race based differentiation between Asians and Whites.

        But, Asian-Americans searching for elite spots are becoming more and more sophisticated and start producing youngsters who can compete against white applicants on multiple definitions of merit. I guess the legacy connections will still bias admissions in favor of whites (especially if it is multi-generational).

      5. bj,

        UT Austin (and Texas generally) has different issues than a lot of other US colleges because of Texas’s top 10% rule.

        http://www.wfaa.com/news/local/dallas-county/texas-top-10-percent-rule-for-university-admissions-turns-20/442064417

        Because of a 1997 Texas law, the top 10% of students in each public school are automatically guaranteed admission to Texas state schools.

        Because of this, a lot of freshman slots automatically go to fulfill that requirement. UT Austin was allowed to back it down to 7% in order to limit the automatic admissions to 75% of their freshman class (!!!!).

        https://www.marketplace.org/2016/05/18/wealth-poverty/top-10-rule-faces-new-challenge-texas

        I’ve read that the effect of the 10% rule is to benefit rural students and Hispanics (who may be the same people in TX), but it’s hard on anybody who goes to a more competitive suburban school. (And, I’ve belatedly realized, it’s a problem for private school students, as they’re not even eligible for the 10% game–oops.)

        Any non top 10% student or private school student who wants to go to UT Austin has an uphill battle on their hands, even though (theoretically) UT Austin’s acceptance rate is 39%.

        There have been some talks about changing the rules. 75% is a heck of a lot of seats to be locked down automatically.

      6. bj said,

        “But, Asian-Americans searching for elite spots are becoming more and more sophisticated and start producing youngsters who can compete against white applicants on multiple definitions of merit.”

        Yes.

        C’s Korean-American chum did a lot of piano in elementary school and her brother does cello, but I see that she’s lately been doing more well-rounded, all-American type stuff. She was just at a 3-week non-stereotypically Asian academic camp. (I’d say what it was, but it’s a little bit too unusual.) She’s also rather sporty and I believe has been doing tennis (like an Amy Chua daughter, come to think of it). As C says, “G is good at EVERYTHING.”

      7. I’m familiar with the 10% Texas plan — in fact, I remember coming up with the idea when the first anti-affirmative action cases started entering the courts (of course, Texas came up with the plan without my assistance). I believe making admission harder for the kids in suburban/private schools was a feature not a bug, a method of addressing inequities at the level of the high schools and public education systems.

        UT has also been successful at addressing some of the differences in preparation with support from students coming from some of those less academically rigorous models.

        Yes it is tough for those of us who don’t benefit from such institutional support, but fortunately we have lots of other resources to draw on.

      8. bj said,

        “I’m familiar with the 10% Texas plan — in fact, I remember coming up with the idea when the first anti-affirmative action cases started entering the courts (of course, Texas came up with the plan without my assistance). I believe making admission harder for the kids in suburban/private schools was a feature not a bug, a method of addressing inequities at the level of the high schools and public education systems.”

        I have heard through the grapevine that one or two college families have their kids at a truly terrible city high school in order to cash in on the top 10% program–in a really bad school, it’s not that hard to wind up in the top 10% with good home support.

        That’s not a choice I’d be comfortable making with my kid, though, especially not just in order to save money on college.

        (Fun fact, my old high school in WA is now scoring 1 out of 10 on Great Schools. That’s really…special.)

  9. International students don’t have a leg up for undergraduate admissions, but they do for our master’s programs, which require international students to pay full tuition. I’m working for our master’s program next year, and 40% of the students are international, mainly from China and India. (I was told I was hired because I speak Mandarin). The university’s been building luxury apartments for these students too. I live across the street from one that has a Target on the ground floor, and every time I shop there I’d guess 30-40% of the customers are Mainland Chinese.*

    *There’s a Whole Foods too, and I’d say there about 50-60% of customers are black, about 25-30% are Chinese, and the remainder are white. It’s kind of amazing. One day I was eating lunch and eavesdropping on two Chinese men. The one man said to the other that he ate lunch at WF every day because he felt it was the most American place he’d ever been. I sort of had to agree.

    1. “..eavesdropping on two Chinese men..” A friend of mine is a Finn, and he told me they tend to regard their language as a sort of secret code, with which they can communicate in no fear of being understood by others. Once in a while, though, the person next to you on the railroad platform can get offended by the assumed-private communications!

      1. An easy mistake to make when it’s hard to communicate with the people you are trying to talk to…

  10. We have a lot of Chinese PhD students as well, but since they’re fully funded it’s not a cash cow either. Most Chinese PhDs are from professional class Chinese families, meaning they’re well off enough but not in the Maserati-buying class like the master’s students and undergrads. A lot of the students seem to be taking advantage of living abroad to skirt the one child (now two children) policy, so I see lots of young Chinese women with one or two little kids and another on the way. They often bring over a grandparent for childcare purposes, so the parks are filled with old Chinese people watching their grandkids during the day. We have enough Chinese old people to have morning tai chi and dancing in almost all of the parks. It helped lessen the culture shock of moving back to America after two years in China.

    1. B.I.

      “A lot of the students seem to be taking advantage of living abroad to skirt the one child (now two children) policy, so I see lots of young Chinese women with one or two little kids and another on the way.”

      Yeah, I also see a lot of young Asian (probably Chinese) graduate families with 2+ children. There’s a grad mom I bump into at the Children’s museum who has 4 (I believe the last set was twins).

      Having an American citizen child has a certain amount of appeal, as well.

      1. I’m pretty sure that average family size among overseas Asian grad families greatly exceeds their countries of origin.

        (I believe there’s a similar pattern with Mexican immigrants to the US–the Mexican national TFR is only 2.21 as of 2015.)

  11. In terms of recruiting wealthy students, my university now offers “US college admissions camp” to promote “college readiness” for elite Chinese and Indian students. They’re held in Bengaluru, HK, and Beijing, last about 10 days and cost $10,000 USD, IIRC. They keep trying to recruit us to teach for them.

    1. I’m not sure it’s really a pipeline to our school, I think it’s more a way to milk $$$ from wealthy students before they end up going somewhere else.

  12. @bj, But, Asian-Americans searching for elite spots are becoming more and more sophisticated and start producing youngsters who can compete against white applicants on multiple definitions of merit.

    I’d say the “successful” Asian students in my children’s peer groups would fall into the “sophisticated” categories. Expressing athletic and artistic talents, rather than an obsessive focus on test scores and a limited list of interest, can have a huge return. This sort of sophistication usually only starts in later generations in this country, though, as each generation adopts the values of the wider culture.

    1. Not entirely limited to later generations because of the proliferation of paid advisors and access to the information on the internet. People raised in the test score system have to make a real break with their past experience in their original countries, but they sometimes learn what they need to do (or successfully find a sufficiently knowledgeable and capable advisor).

      A parallel naivete I see among native born families of my generation (and this can include successful elite college applicants who are not white) is to imagine that the scores/grades/achievements that got them into Harvard/Northwestern/U Chicago/NYU have not changed dramatically.

      1. bj said:

        “A parallel naivete I see among native born families of my generation (and this can include successful elite college applicants who are not white) is to imagine that the scores/grades/achievements that got them into Harvard/Northwestern/U Chicago/NYU have not changed dramatically.”

        One of Laura’s poster a while back mentioned bumping into old-timers in NJ who wondered why the young folk don’t just go to Princeton like they did. (Current acceptance rate–6.5%.)

        I’ve told the story about how when my husband was interviewing for a job at USC, he mentioned to an interviewer that his wife was an alumna. The interviewer said, “Our standards are a lot higher now.”

      2. (shrugs)

        You know, I am now more relaxed, at my old age, having gone through the modern process as a parent twice. As far as I can tell, kids end up with colleges that are good fits, as long as their parents allow them to drive the process. (And as long as they aren’t hung up on a handful of names.)

        Due to the use of holistic admissions, and the fact that the entire world is applying to attend college in the USA, there are many more colleges than there used that enroll critical masses of bright students. Many public universities offer honors colleges within the larger university. If you look at SAT scores by institution, there are many more colleges than there used to be with enough smart kids for students to “find their people.” And the use of means-based financial aid means that the middle class tends to shop around for good bargains.

        So, the scores/grades/achievements that got them into Harvard/Northwestern/U Chicago/NYU will still get their children into colleges that offer a superb education. It’s just that the list of colleges that are very good has expanded, and the family may have to balance perceived quality against distance from home.

        It pays to focus on the child that’s applying, not a list of colleges ranked by “metrics.” It’s a good thing if kids know what they want to do after graduation, as some of the best deals in terms of return on tuition are pre-professional programs. It’s a great thing if they’re realistic about their chances of getting into the hyper-hot colleges. Even better if they focus on graduating with little debt.

      3. Agree whole-heartedly that there are lots of choices in the US and also that one of the effects of the competition for colleges is to spread the great kids into more schools. If Harvard* can fill its class 10X over, the other kids have to go somewhere.

        That’s actually one of the reasons to have these conversations, so that parents know that their kids will find spots. Also why I am entirely unsympathetic to these lawsuits, which I believe are being used to fight diversity and not to fight racism.

        I think the ideologically motivated conservatives (and libertarians) might know the consequences — that fighting Harvard’s diversities efforts might change the character of Harvard, and not by making it more white. And, the working class Trump supporters might not be thinking of Harvard at all. Ultimately though, testing based meritocracies would benefit cultural values that value testing and ranking with fairly enormous ripple effects, including increased segregation along a number of dimensions.

        In researching the testing, I found a statistic that surprised me (in a Brookings institute report): 15%! of Asian (I think Americans) test over 750 on the math SAT, that is, in the 98%. Comparable figures for whites, not surprisingly is what you would expect on a normalized test (2%). Sixty percent of the students who score above 750 are Asian. One could argue the distribution that would result from relying on such testing, but, also, one could argue that there is a mistaken allocation of resources in the Asian community to reaching a standard that isn’t the one used for judging students at the elite level.

        *Harvard to me means the elite, selective, name-brand colleges in general, which is a shifting set but always includes Harvard.

      4. bj said:

        “In researching the testing, I found a statistic that surprised me (in a Brookings institute report): 15%! of Asian (I think Americans) test over 750 on the math SAT, that is, in the 98%. Comparable figures for whites, not surprisingly is what you would expect on a normalized test (2%). Sixty percent of the students who score above 750 are Asian.”

        !!!

        Here’s a related data point:

        At least at the graduate level in the one field I am familiar with, overseas Asian applicants are not as good as US-educated applicants with the same paper credentials. So, in this one particular case, it’s actually reasonable to not admit overseas Asian applicants on the same footing as US-educated applicants, because the overseas Asian applicants are often disappointing. (There are exceptions, of course.)

        Also related:

        https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/03/how-sophisticated-test-scams-from-china-are-making-their-way-into-the-us/474474/

      5. bj said,

        “In researching the testing, I found a statistic that surprised me (in a Brookings institute report): 15%! of Asian (I think Americans) test over 750 on the math SAT, that is, in the 98%. Comparable figures for whites, not surprisingly is what you would expect on a normalized test (2%). Sixty percent of the students who score above 750 are Asian.”

        Here’s another thought on this–the SAT probably is a poor test for differentiating between top test scorers because the “ceiling” for the SAT is just much too low.

        However, there are other standardized tests (maybe the AP tests?) that might do a better job at differentiating between of top 2% applicants, because they have a much higher ceiling.

      6. Yes, I agree that the tests can be bad at separating people at the tails. But, the distributions of math SAT test scores is a fairly normal distribution for whites, while the upper tail is cut off for asians (that is, not differentiating high performers).

        (BTW, I consider this no more likely to be a race-based difference than I do any scoring difference between the other subgroups, i.e. not at all).

      7. I am also aware of the phenomenon you describe — that test takers in China, for example, sometimes have test scores that don’t seem to be reflective of their performance (we used to see scorers with high 700’s on the verbal SAT who could neither speak nor write english well enough to imagine such a score possible). But, that has nothing to do with being Asian.

      8. bj said:

        “I am also aware of the phenomenon you describe — that test takers in China, for example, sometimes have test scores that don’t seem to be reflective of their performance (we used to see scorers with high 700’s on the verbal SAT who could neither speak nor write english well enough to imagine such a score possible). But, that has nothing to do with being Asian.”

        I’m a little lost in the threading, so I hope this is the right place.

        I was using it as an example of how the same test score might genuinely mean different things in different groups.

  13. “Any non top 10% student or private school student who wants to go to UT Austin has an uphill battle on their hands, even though (theoretically) UT Austin’s acceptance rate is 39%.

    There have been some talks about changing the rules. 75% is a heck of a lot of seats to be locked down automatically.”

    These are interesting stats from the experiment, and not something I’d thought through when I came up with “my plan”. 75% of slots is a huge number to lock down and if the athlete/other preferences play into the remaining 25%, one can imagine that the competition for other kids is very severe.

    And, in the scenario where it is very difficult to go to UT Austin unless one is in the 10%, you can imagine corrosive competition that changes the high school experience significantly. In the podcast about Singapore’s merit system, effects of that corrosion on students and families and society was a significant worry.

    I hope that one solution is for people to improve and support the other UT’s and not focus on a single flagship.

    1. bj said:

      “These are interesting stats from the experiment, and not something I’d thought through when I came up with “my plan”. 75% of slots is a huge number to lock down and if the athlete/other preferences play into the remaining 25%, one can imagine that the competition for other kids is very severe.”

      Not to mention out-of-staters and full-pay international students.

      I first heard that it had gotten really hard to get into UT Austin a few years back and I didn’t take it seriously at the time, because I think I’d looked up the acceptance stats and they didn’t look too bad–but it starts making a lot more sense with the 75% stat. Apparently, the locked-down number hit 81% back in 2008, which is why they backed it down from top 10% for UT Austin to top 7%.

      “And, in the scenario where it is very difficult to go to UT Austin unless one is in the 10%, you can imagine corrosive competition that changes the high school experience significantly. In the podcast about Singapore’s merit system, effects of that corrosion on students and families and society was a significant worry.”

      Yeah. It could make high school very unpleasant in the more competitive suburbs. So, it’s not entirely a bad thing that my kids’ private school refuses to rank graduating seniors for college application purposes.

      This was funny!

      https://www.texastribune.org/2017/05/22/ut-denied-her-so-she-got-them-change-their-admissions-rules/

      (For non-clickers, a young woman graduate as valedictorian of a class of 10 and UT Austin denied her admission because she wasn’t top 7%, a mathematical impossibility. She fought it and won.)

      “I hope that one solution is for people to improve and support the other UT’s and not focus on a single flagship.”

      Thank goodness for Texas A & M!

    2. “… I consider this no more likely to be a race-based difference than I do any scoring difference between the other subgroups, i.e. not at all…”
      Bee Jay, why do you think this? I mean, we would all like it not to be true, but do you have some specific reason for this view? It doesn’t seem to me to be excluded by the evidence we see, some differences seem to be pretty durable, and it’s not obvious that test scores don’t reflect some trait which was differently selected for in our ancestry. Height, relative length of limbs relative to the body, ability to metabolize lactose as an adult – all of these things are hereditary group differences (lactose is more of a yes/no than a distribution of values).

      1. Especially as used in America, where it doesn’t correlate very well with people’s actual ancestors. Black people were deliberately disadvantaged and then had the results of that disadvantage used to justify the inferior treatment.

      2. They said the same shit about the Irish until the Irish either made it politically untenable (in America) or too likely to get you shot (in Ireland).

      3. MH said:

        “Especially as used in America, where it doesn’t correlate very well with people’s actual ancestors. Black people were deliberately disadvantaged and then had the results of that disadvantage used to justify the inferior treatment.”

        http://www.theroot.com/exactly-how-black-is-black-america-1790895185

        “* According to Ancestry.com, the average African American is 65 percent sub-Saharan African, 29 percent European and 2 percent Native American.

        “* According to 23andme.com, the average African American is 75 percent sub-Saharan African, 22 percent European and only 0.6 percent Native American.

        “* According to Family Tree DNA.com, the average African American is 72.95 percent sub-Saharan African, 22.83 percent European and 1.7 percent Native American.

        “* According to National Geographic’s Genographic Project, the average African American is 80 percent sub-Saharan African, 19 percent European and 1 percent Native American.

        “* According to AfricanDNA, in which I am a partner with Family Tree DNA, the average African American is 79 percent sub-Saharan African, 19 percent European and 2 percent Native American.”

        While it would have been quite defensible to say race “doesn’t correlate very well with people’s actual ancestors” back in the days when the term “quadroon” or “octoroon” were in common use (because those terms refer to people who were 75% and 87% genetically white but socially and legally deemed black), it’s much less defensible now with the numbers that the DNA companies are coming up with.

        Plus, if one really wanted to, one could use the DNA results (rather than social race) in one’s intelligence research.

      4. 20 percent is practically one grandparent.

        And that ignores the fact that the usual definition of “white” includes religion (not Muslim, not Jewish or Catholic in living memory) and language (not Spanish speaking).

        It’s all self-justification and bullshit.

      5. Genetic genealogy on 11D! Very exciting!

        Blaine Bettinger, a genetic genealogist I’ve seen speak, once said that one’s genetic family tree is not the same as one’s genealogical family tree. This is actually a crucial point lost on the many people who use autosomal DNA tests to determine their “true” ethnicity. The very nature of chromosomes means that you do not have DNA from all your ancestors. You have only a 90% chance of even sharing DNA with a 3rd cousin.

        Furthermore, the way ethnicity is measured is still very speculative.

        Overall, the Ancestry info you linked is probably in the ballpark, but think in generalities, not specific numbers.

  14. Amy, yes, the replies have gotten tangled. But if cheating on standardized tests more prevalent in China (and, I think it is), it doesn’t mean anything about the scores of asians. I do think we have to worry about the utility of the tests when evidence suggests that cheating is prevalent enough that the test is broken. The testing services are not being sufficiently forthright about addressing cheating, reducing the validity of the tests in general.

  15. Just pointing out that continents are a meaningless category when it comes to genetics. There can be geographic genetic clusters, but intra and inter-group genetic difference is in no way reflected in in geographical boundaries, or even modern ethnicity. Ethnic groups are arbitrary* social constructs, and race is even more so. As an example, Sub-Saharan Africa has the most genetic diversity on earth (which is expected if it’s the origin of modern homo sapiens). There are African groups that are more closely related to European groups than they are to other African groups or than the European groups are related to other European groups. Saying someone has “European” or “African” DNA is really meaningless. (There are a ton more issues, including but not limited to the infancy of population genetics as a science, the probabilistic nature of genetic markers, the problem with mapping modern labels onto ancient migrations, etc.)

    In terms of intelligence, there’s really nothing genetics has to say. First off, defining intelligence is impossible, and if we arbitrarily limit it to something ability to score well on particular tests (SAT, IQ test), which is problematic for lots of documented reasons, there’s absolutely no evidence of any genetic “test taking” or intelligence marker, much less any evidence that it correlates with the genetically heterogeneous social categories that we take as race in the US. On the flip side, there’s pretty ample empirical evidence that social expectation can influence test taking ability. Knowing that one is a member of a group that is perceived as less capable can negatively affect ability to do well in the activity one is perceived as less capable in (stereotype threat).

    Here’s the paper:

    http://users.nber.org/~sewp/events/2005.01.14/Bios+Links/Good-rec2-Steele_&_Aronson_95.pdf:

    *arbitrary in the way language is arbitrary.

    1. I think what you are saying, B.I., is basically bafflegab, but, it works for you, clearly. Here is kerfuffle going on at Google right now – interesting question is, how is this guy remaining anonymous, and not the angry attempts to fire him.

      https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/aug/06/google-staffers-manifesto-against-affirmative-action-sparks-furious-backlash

      http://gizmodo.com/exclusive-heres-the-full-10-page-anti-diversity-screed-1797564320/amp

      1. Damore us not anonymous any more and has been fired: http://www.newsweek.com/who-james-damore-alt-right-furious-after-google-fires-engineer-over-anti-647716. Interesting that Wikileaks may hire him??? So will he recant? Eppur se muove? We are well into heresy prosecutions here. The trajectories of the (mostly) gents who have gone with hereditary explanations which offend prog sensibilities have been varied: Summers lost presidency of Harvard, but has done okay, Klitgaard moved into other areas of research, Murray still a public figure but draws opposition wherever he speaks. Herrnstein died right as the book came out. Jensen retired from Berkeley reasonably well respected in his department. Sarah Hrdy was on the edge of unacceptability, but did fine and taught at Davis and never attracted the kind of opprobrium which came to the others. Edward O Wilson shifted his research away from the Sociobiology towards endangered species and the opposition died down some.

      2. Damore’s screed wasn’t any sort of original contribution to knowledge and clearly wasn’t intended to be so. Rather, it was a combination resignation letter and application for a spot on the wingnut welfare gravy train. Don’t worry about him; he will land on his feet. He’ll slot in quite nicely in the next generation of Ann Coulters and Dinesh D’Souzas.

      3. People have always gotten fired for insulting vast portions of their coworkers. But, I’m glad to see Dave is up on the alt-Right. Confirms my theories.

      4. MH, if you think the list of evobio people and psychologists I discussed, and the word from Newsweek about possible other employment for this guy, constitutes ‘familiarity with alt-right’, you need to get out more.

    2. I’m not a social scientist, so I won’t comment on the social scientific issues surrounding a debate THAT REALLY SHOULD BE OVER NOW WHY ARE WE STILL TALKING ABOUT IT?

      My one point is that I was told when my son was tested at age 7 that IQ is a more meaningful measure for younger kids. A few years later we discussed maybe having my (older) daughter tested, and decided against it because the measure wouldn’t really mean much.

      1. “..REALLY SHOULD BE OVER NOW WHY ARE WE STILL TALKING ABOUT IT?” or, Shut Up, she explained. Wendy, I think you would do well to read the two National Review articles linked above – they are a discussion about whether this discussion should be taking place (McWhorter says no, the second article says yes, and I find it more persuasive). So, a debate about whether to debate, that’s meta…
        ‘meaningful measure for younger kids’ … this puzzles me. The research on people reared by adoptive parents shows that their IQs are closer to the IQs of their adoptive parents when younger and move closer to the IQs of their biological parents as they reach adulthood. This suggests to me that it’s measuring something which is pretty fundamental, and for which early training can make only relatively temporary changes.
        McWhorter’s view is that the whole thing is pretty fraught, and doesn’t take us anywhere useful. That’s a different position from ‘there’s nothing there’. I certainly agree that it’s fraught! The reaction to the Google piece shows that.

    3. Shouting “bafflegab” and changing the subject from actual facts to random screeds isn’t really using “science.” Genetics is hard, measuring abstract constructs is fraught, and if you actually want something that is comprehensible to those who aren’t well versed in the science, “The Mismeasure of Man” holds up well.

      1. It’s interesting to watch the language shift. “Screed” for example, useta mean ill-tempered, poorly reasoned, nasty. But now it means “Something MH doesn’t agree with”.

      2. MH, you are quite right. The whole Prog-O-Sphere is calling the Google piece a screed. Atlantic, SF Chronicle, it’s all over. Now, Webster’s says ” screed: a long and often angry piece of writing that usually accuses someone of something or complains about something ” and the Google piece is certainly a complaint, but does not seem to me to tick any of the other boxes. The remarkable re-casting of the meaning of the word makes me wonder if Journolist is back.

      3. White people have such sensitive feelings about words these days. And more and more of them appear to find being afraid of everything a virtue. It’s a question I mean to take up if I ever go back to social sciences.

    4. Evolutionary psychology and sociobiology are not accepted as reputable fields by mainstream evolutionary biologists and anthropologists. They are modern day phrenologists and Social Darwinists. Their science is laughably atrocious and their “findings” are unscientific attempts to “disprove” uncontroversial topics. For people unfamiliar with the discipline, they are the flat earthers or the anti-vaxxers of the human sciences.

  16. It would be far easier to believe white people were more different from other races if you figure that a directed breeding program conducted by an evil scientist, and not random evolution, created white people. Just saying.

    Teach the controversy.

  17. For people who are not experts, I will fill you in. 10 out of 10 anthropologists, sociologists, and biologists agree: Women are not biologically inferior to men. Blacks are not biologically inferior to whites. Jews are not biologically inferior to “Aryans”. If there’s anything else you have a question about, feel free to ask.

    1. You are setting up a straw man here. Ridiculous. There are certainly some nutballs out there who believe that kind of stuff, but it’s nothing like what any sizeable group now operating believes.

      1. It’s exactly what Charles Murray among others argue. It seems to be at least a plurality position in the Republican party.

      2. Neither. You can’t have Bannon in the White House as “strategy advisor” and still support the party without the stink sticking.

      3. I also think that trying to restrict voting in ways that are clearly related to race must either be informed by the idea that blacks are inferior to whites or that democracy and the Constitution are a crock of shit to be avoided in the quest to win at all costs. Which of those do you hold?

      4. You are inventing the idea that I am Republican or support them. You are at least not defending your lies about what Charles Murray wrote, which is progress, I guess.

      5. I’m confused as to why anyone who wasn’t a Republican would defend Trump. I figure most Republicans defend Trump only through gritted teeth, out of a sense of team loyalty. The only non-Republicans who like Trump appear to be actual white nationalists, the ones who are Team Breitbart, and refer to mainstream Republicans as “cuckservatives.”

      6. You should think about your claim that people are inferior to others if their IQs are lower. I think it’s – well, at least unattractive. I don’t remember Mr. Murray ever saying that, and it would be an unusual thing for a Quaker to think or say.

      7. You should think about your claim as to what people are offended by others saying about them, particularly in the context of an educational system that resisted racial integration to the point of violence against school children.

  18. And, explaining to lay people all the reasons why the science is horrible takes some work. I’ve had 13+ years of training in these fields. If people are genuinely curious, I am willing to put in the effort (within reason) to explain the problems with your standard ev psych paper, but not if the people asking the questions are not doing so in good faith. I’m not willing to put in effort for people who use ev psych as a crutch to provide a respectable veneer to racism or sexism or to score points against liberals, or whatever.

    1. You have given thorough, nuanced explanations in the previous thread, on Charles Murray and the Bell Curve. There are many excellent sites that debunk the myths. We revisit this topic over and over again is the reflection of a conversation centered on maintaining power-centered segregation, from slavery to the modern age. I am tired of repeating myself to people who don’t seem to incorporate the knowledge but repeat talking points that can be found in any cursory search of the internet.

      I once had a conversation with a friend who was very religious and didn’t quite want to accept, in his gut, that biological diversity, even humans, were “created” by evolutionary variability. He was a physicist, and thus, the discussion didn’t permeate his own field; he could read talking points and vaguely believe them possible, without significant research. Examples he would bring up included bats and molecular motors (or Francis Collins, who likes to bring up “love” as inexplicable by science). I could dispel those individual instances, but but it was fundamentally like arguing against birtherism, a multi-headed hydra designed to hold on to a cherished belief.

      1. Yeah, TBH I’m thinking of taking up banging my head against the wall as a more productive hobby.

      2. I’ve been arguing for quite a while now that political conservatism (as distinct from white nationalism) is effectively dead. Now I’m thinking that intellectual conservatism must be going the same way if it’s teaching people to split etymological hairs until the racism just vanishes like magic.

    2. BI, you have made a number of arguments from authority here. It’s not a way to convince me, nor would it work in any debate contest. I’ve read a decent amount of evolutionary psychology, find a lot of it interesting and convincing. Insulting me by identifying it as a ‘respectable veneer to racism’ does little for me or for you.
      Any reader of these pixels who wants to get a sense for evolutionary psychology could do worse than to read the academics in: http://quillette.com/2017/08/07/google-memo-four-scientists-respond/

      1. Maybe you can go back to trying to convince women and minorities to only feeling insulted when white men say they should be. That’s probably quality debating.

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