The Architecture of Inequality: Race and Ethnicity
IQ Tests and Ethnic Bias
Here is a
typical question from an IQ test:
Tennis is to racquet as
golf is to:
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
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
d. Santa Barbara
Chicano term for the
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
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.