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Closing the Black-White IQ Gap Debate, Part 2
The Seattle Experiment
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Biiftu Dureso graduates as valedictorian of a New York magnet high school where her father, an Ethiopian immigrant, works as a janitor!

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“African Americans have on average about 25 percent of European ancestry and this increases their IQs above that of Africans in Africa” – Richard Lynn, Race Differences in Intelligence.

Although it is virtually impossible to get official data that breaks down and compares black student scholastic performance in the US at the level of sub-ethnicity or even just nations of origin (which is why we went to the UK in the first place), there was one rare moment in 2011 when this disaggregation slightly happened with Seattle public schools. The Seattle area apparently has a large African refugee community, which makes it perfect for our social experiment.

Remember our goal. We only need to show that blacks in Africa would have a higher average IQ than native black Americans if they were moved from Africa to America since the African environment clearly depresses IQ, as both environmentalists and hereditarians agree in principle. This result would mean that whatever “problem” the black Americans have that result in such a large and intractable IQ gap with whites and other groups, has nothing whatsoever to do with the genetic evolution of races, especially since they even have more white genes than Africans. It is not their sub-Saharan African (black) genes that are responsible for their chronic academic under-achievement; it has to be a factor that is endemic to African American history.



The data from the Seattle Experiment shows that refugee children speaking different African languages at home in the US perform surprisingly well on the state tests, just like their fellow refugees who went to the UK, where they also start out with a large language barrier. Just like in the UK, they perform below whites (at least before sufficient linguistic assimilation), but still way above what is expected from their estimated national or racial (genotypic) IQs. Their performance above American blacks (labeled as “English-speaking” blacks) defies the common sociologist explanation that higher achieving black immigrants are simply the most driven members of their source populations (some were just in refugee camps), and it equally defies the modern hereditarian argument that they are just the most self-selected in intelligence relative to their source populations, unless we now start extending this cognitive self-selectivity and “assortative mating” quality to people who run to United Nations refugee camps for protection. (It is not necessarily all who were from these camps, but that doesn’t matter since even those who were from there are performing above native black Americans).

The story that reported these results disclosed the many shocked reactions of Americans in the Seattle area when they were exposed to this unexpected data, especially black American parents. The immigrants outperformed the native blacks despite their obvious background of steep poverty (and perhaps even some traumatic experiences from their countries, not to mention the culture shock of suddenly migrating to a first world country). “How is that possible?” one incredulous black American parent reacted when she was shown the results.

Many native black Americans usually attribute the well-known superior academic performance of black African students to the “wealthy families” they supposedly come from in Africa, where their parents allegedly own oil fields and diamond mines in their backyards. Seeing indigent African children outperform them was utterly disillusioning as it instantly shattered all their working rationalizations.

There were no Ghanaian or Nigerian immigrant children in this experiment, but we can logically expect that they would perform above these more disadvantaged refugee children, just as they do in the UK, if anything due to their higher exposure to the English language before migrating.

The source article is worth reading in full, even if just for the amusingly shocked reactions of the people named in the story. The included attempts to give explanations for these surprising results only make the article more enlightening, especially if one wants to see how much most people stick to their ideological positions even in the face of contrary evidence. For example, the conservative scholar who was asked to comment from the Fordham Institute, a “conservative education think tank in Washington, DC,” had no choice but to just stick to the trite “they must have come from wealthy and educated families,” without being bothered with the contradictions.

To his credit, the reporter of the story noticed that this “conservative” response was ridiculous in light of the data. Surely the Somalian refugees coming straight from refugee camps with a large number lacking high school educations were not also selected for their wealth and intelligence inherited through long lines of African elites? Then where on earth can you ever find average Africans?

The other more liberal “experts” consulted were no better, also offering textbook answers that were clearly contradicted by the same story they were commenting on, including the claim that society has just placed low expectations on black American students. And yet this same story shows that this community had even lower expectations for the African refugees since everyone was so shocked by their performance!



Now to the numbers. This research was instituted only for the city’s policy purposes and not for any particular academic purpose, so they did not publish anything in any journals, beyond their few press statements.

However, I found a simple presentation document they archived somewhere on the web that gives an idea of the numbers involved and a breakdown for the performance of other ethnicities, including Hispanics and Chinese in the city.

The fact that these are only group pass rates (on mathematics and reading) does not matter for purposes of ethnic IQ comparison since the pass rate positions correlate perfectly with expected mean IQ score ranks of the groups before disaggregation (that’s the same logic we were using for GCSE pass rate comparisons, especially when mathematics is included).Seattle-ELL-1

What was more shocking is that even before they learned to read as “well” as black Americans, most of these African groups beat the black American children in math (Table above). The black American children only managed to beat the Somali kids before they could learn to read, but as soon as they learned some reading, even they too beat the black American children on math (Table below).Seattle-NonELL

To remove any doubt about the authenticity of their performance, these refugee children were actually competing with Hispanics more than with the American blacks.

The Amharic speaking children had a math pass rate of 62 percent, which was not only higher than the math pass rate of their Spanish-speaking-at-home Hispanic peers, but even higher than the pass rate of the assimilated Hispanic kids (those who speak mostly or only English at home)!

Hispanic English speakers versus Spanish speakers at home.

Hispanic English speakers versus Spanish speakers at home.

These results also had some other interesting points that are outside the scope of this research,but may be of interest to others in the IQ research community. For example, Hispanic kids who speak English at home do not gain any advantage at all in reading over those who still speak Spanish at home, but they apparently get some advantage in math, which sounds quite counter-intuitive. If this observation is generalizable, then perhaps Hispanic assimilation, as far as it goes, does lead to some elevation in real (g-loaded) intelligence? (If it was the other way around – more intelligent Hispanics assimilating more – their reading pass rate would have probably been higher too.)



The fact that this experiment was done in the top economic city of Washington State (Seattle) makes the results even more emphatic.

Many IQ scholars, including Lynn, have said that blacks in the northern states have an IQ advantage over those in the southern states and they have estimated their average IQs at around 90 and above.

In 2006, HBD blogger “Audacious Epigone” found a way of estimating the black IQs of different states using Lynn’s methods (on NAEP test scores) and he found Washington State on top with an estimated black children IQ of 94.5 (it was just a little lower when he repeated the calculations in 2013 with some slight changes). They were actually number one in the country in those first 2006 estimates:

Black IQs by State, derived from NAEP Scores. Source: Audacious Epigone blog.

Black IQs by State, derived from NAEP Scores. Source: Audacious Epigone blog.

On the other hand, Ethiopians test scores are quite at the bottom in Africa, as reported by Lynn (Zambia was always reported as the top scoring sub-Saharan African nation, which is the only reason this author does not actually dislike Richard Lynn).

Source: IQ and the Wealth of Nations, Lynn and Vanhanen, page 62.

Source: IQ and the Wealth of Nations, Lynn and Vanhanen, page 62.

The low IQ scores of Ethiopia, using data that is relied on by hereditarians to make their comparative IQ calculations, shows that even if the Ethiopian refugees in Seattle were a slightly cognitively select group from their nation, these would still just be average IQ by African standards. Thus, a full 15 points selection would just bring them to IQ 78 (one IQ point above Zambia), which means the super-selection argument is void from the start.

So, how does one of the lowest IQ scoring groups in Africa, emigrating with the lowest evidence of any selection whatsoever (economically or academically), have their children score above black Americans in one of the highest scoring states for native black Americans, (some) even outscoring Hispanics who are assimilated, before they are even assimilated themselves? How do even the Somalian refugees brought in from a total failed state catastrophe outscore black Americans as soon as they just learn to read some English?

It can certainly not be explained by any of the recent HBD answers, individually or in combination:

  1. a 12 to 15 point increase in IQ from parents to children due to better nutrition and lower parasite load? Like the UK case, these achievements are true for those children who were already born and living in Africa, as these children were; and they come from countries that were among the most malnourished in Africa.
  2. Extremely high parental immigrant selection? Refugees from truly troubled countries are not known to be selected for intelligence. Besides, some of these particular groups have the highest number of parents with no high school diplomas.
  3. Presence of (non-white) Caucasoid genes? They do not outscore other black immigrants in the UK who have no such Caucasoid genes. Also, they are not the ones who have the “smarter” European Caucasian genes – that would be the black Americans.
  4. High presence of Igbos in their population? No.


[In Part 3 we revisit the UK to close the case there].

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Chanda Chisala, originally from Zambia, has been a John S. Knight Visiting Fellow at Stanford University, a Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution, and a Reagan-Fascell Fellowship at the National Endowment for Democracy.

• Category: Race/Ethnicity, Science • Tags: Africans, Blacks, Race/IQ 
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