Are Black Women Smarter Than Black Men? Results From PIAAC And AFQT
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In response to a reader’s question about differences in average cognitive test scores between blacks and whites, commenter Maven points us toward the PIAAC test of adults. PIAAC is done by the OECD who also do the famous international PISA test of 15-year-olds.

PIAAC in 2017 found that men average very slightly better than females overall in the various ethnicities, with men having an advantage in math, while literacy results are mixed. The standard deviation within each race/sex/subject group is somewhere around 50 points, so the differences between the sexes are small.

    Total Male Female M-F
Race/ethnicity Subject Average Average Average  
Hispanic Both 238 240 236 4.0
White Both 273 276 271 5.0
Black Both 226 227 226 1.5
Other race Both 261 264 259 5.0
Hispanic Math 226 230 222 8.0
White Math 267 271 262 9.0
Black Math 214 217 210 7.0
Other race Math 257 263 251 12.0
Hispanic Literacy 249 249 249 0.0
White Literacy 280 280 279 1.0
Black Literacy 239 237 241 -4.0
Other race Literacy 265 264 266 -2.0

So men of each race average a little bit higher than their womenfolk on this fairly recent test, but the male-female gap is smaller for blacks than for others.

Another commenter points me toward a December 7, 2005 blog post I wrote which came out with slightly different results:

Do black women have higher IQs than black men?

Thomas Sowell has been arguing for a number of years that black women score higher on IQ tests than black men…

So, to test this, I asked Charles Murray to take a look at the most recent renorming of the U.S. military’s IQ test that all applicants for enlistment must take, the Armed Forces Qualification Test or AFQT, and he graciously obliged, sending me some new and important data that I have not seen reported before. …

As Murray noted in his recent Commentary article (see Footnote 41), the previous renorming of the AFQT in 1980 now appears to have underestimated average black IQ, reporting an improbably large 18.6 point gap between the races, due to low-scoring blacks, especially black males, being more inclined to give up partway through the daunting 105 page pencil-and-paper test and not even trying to answer the remainder of the questions. To make up a fictitious illustration, a black guy who could have scored 75 if he’d toughed it out and tried to answer all the questions might get depressed by looking at so many questions he couldn’t answer and give up on p. 57 and get a 65 instead.

To get around this, in the 1997 renorming of the AFQT, the test was given on a computer and if you missed a lot of the early questions, the computer would feed you easier questions to keep you from giving up. This also helps make the test more discerning by fine-tuning the questions more appropriate for your general level of intelligence.

This points out two sides to the old question of how much does the type of IQ test matter. In some ways, it doesn’t matter that much. There’s an old saying among psychometricians that “Life is an IQ test.” La Griffe du Lion has shown that the roughly one standard deviation difference in IQ between blacks and whites shows up over and over again in the real world—for example, in Florida in the famous Presidential balloting in 2000, blacks tended to botch up their ballots (e.g., by voting for two different candidates for President) and thus make them uncountable at a rate about a standard deviation higher than whites did, costing poor Al Gore the White House.

On the other hand, when attempting to make subtle comparisons such as between the sexes or to see if the racial gap is closing over time, then the fine points of the different tests matter. I only have one test to report here, but it’s a big one, the AFQT, which the U.S. military has invested millions of dollars in validating over the last half century.

So, here is the data from the U.S. military’s 1997 renorming of the AFQT on computers, as provided to me by Charles Murray, “using the 1997 cohort AFQT converted to an IQ metric, and employing population weights to reach nationally representative results.” The renorming was done on the 1997 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, a long term tracking study of 8,984 people aged 12-17, I believe. “White” means “non-Hispanic white.”

AFQT IQ Black White Diff.
Male 88.4 102.7 14.3
Female 90.8 103.6 12.8
Diff (2.4) (0.8)  
St. Dev.      
Male 13.30 14.75  
Female 13.58 13.30  

So, at least on the AFQT, Sowell appears to be right: black women score 2.4 points higher than black men, while white women score only 0.8 points higher that white men.

So, we still can’t say for sure.

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