March 27, 2013

Light-skinned blacks smarter than dark-skinned blacks

The General Social Survey data from 2012 are up online. A new question has the interviewer rate the respondent's facial skin color from lightest to darkest on a 10-point scale. To get decent sample sizes, I lumped the lighter together (1-5) and the darker together (6-10). The GSS also has a 10-word vocab test which serves to measure IQ.

The blacks who have lighter skin tones average 5.7 words correct, while the darker ones average 4.6 words. This difference works out to 0.54 standard deviations, or about 8 points of IQ. Those who scored 8 words or more out of 10 made up 15% of light-skinned but only 6% of dark-skinned blacks.

Whites average 6.3 words, so light-skinned blacks are closer to whites than they are to dark-skinned blacks in intelligence. Hence why those with light skin suffer such constant teasing, hounding, and ostracizing from the dark majority of blacks.

We can extrapolate these results to see a future where light-skinned blacks form their own ethnic group and culture, although that may be centuries away. Yet the fundamental split is already visible, as it were.

GSS variables used: wordsum, ratetone, race


  1. The Human Varieties blog has been doing a lot of great technical analysis on colorism.


  2. Last year I noted that looking at color differences within families could test the genetic hypothesis of skin color-IQ differences.

    John Fuerst and my cobloggers have been crunching the numbers for the last few months. There are little to no color-IQ differences within families (unless the siblings are differently related), which a genetic hypothesis would predict, but a visual discrimination hypothesis would not.

    Color-IQ differences already contradict the most fundamental rejoinders to hereditarianism (e.g. Lewontin's famous "two pots of soil" example to explain away the high heritability of both black and white IQ, requires that the all-powerful Mystery Disadvantage is experienced uniformly by all blacks. Something which can't be true if there is a full color spectrum difference instead of a binary racial difference). So now there are additional reasons why color-IQ differences in the black population imply a genetic etiology.

  3. Lawful Neutral3/28/13, 1:14 AM

    JM, it's easy enough to revise the "Mystery Disadvantage" theory so that the disadvantage scales with pigmentation. I don't know, maybe whites oppress light-skinned blacks less because they look more caucasian so we feel more empathy toward them.

  4. Lawful, no, the "Mystery Disadvantage" is necessarily uniform among blacks, so it can't differ among lighter skinned and darker skinned blacks. Otherwise it would contradict the heritability data.

    It's possible that either the color-IQ data or the heritability data are flawed, but it's almost logically impossible to create a non-genetic theory that can otherwise reconcile them.


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