Chapter 11

The Architecture of Inequality: Race and Ethnicity

Micro-Macro Connection


IQ Tests and Ethnic Bias

Here is a typical question from an IQ test:

Tennis is to racquet as golf is to:

a. club
b. strike
c. bat
d. swing

This question does not just measure mental skills like insight or creativity; instead, it measures a specific piece of knowledge that must be learned from the environment.

To the extent that a child's environment does not include such knowledgeóthat is, he or she has never been exposed to tennis or golfóthat child will not be able to answer this question, and the IQ score will suffer.1 Such a child is not necessarily less intelligent, only lacking in the social experiences necessary to answer the question correctly.

Imagine taking an IQ test consisting of questions that reflect a culture about which you know very little. People from that culture will probably score significantly higher than you.

One researcher developed an intelligence test based on knowledge found within Chicano culture.2 Among the questions included were the following:

That part of the southwestern United States from which it is believed the Aztecs migrated before they settled in Mexico City is:

a. San Diego
b. Aztlan
c. Colorado
d. Santa Barbara

Chicano term for the police:

a. la migra
b. la chota
c. el gabacho
d. el pachuco

When this test was administered to white and Chicano college students, Chicanos scored significantly higher on average than whites: 93.3 out of a possible 140 points compared to 36.4 for the white students.

The correct answer to both questions, by the way, is"b." How did you do?

1Goleman, D. 1984. "Rethinking IQ tests and their value." New York Times, July 22.

2Ramirez, A. 1988. "Racism toward Hispanics: The culturally monolithic society." In P. A. Katz & D. A. Taylor (Eds.), Eliminating Racism. New York: Plenum.


David Newman and Rebecca Smith. (Created October 7, 1999). Copyright Pine Forge Press.