Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New Study Casts Doubt On Controversial 'Bell Curve' Theories

Date:
November 4, 1997
Source:
University Of Wisconsin-Madison
Summary:
A new study examining verbal ability and socioeconomic success casts doubt on theories advanced in the controversial 1994 book The Bell Curve.

A new study examining verbal ability and socioeconomic success casts doubt on theories advanced in the controversial 1994 book The Bell Curve.

Related Articles


The study, published in the September 1997 issue of Social Science Research, found that cognitive ability - or a person's academic ability - has not created growing differences among socioeconomic classes in the United States, as argued by The Bell Curve authors, Charles Murray and the late Richard Herrnstein.

Murray and Herrnstein contend in The Bell Curve that a person's IQ largely determines their socioeconomic status, that IQ differences in race are partly genetic and that African-Americans generally have lower IQs than whites or Asians. A growing number of scholars are disputing their findings.

"We would not for a moment deny cognitive ability an important place in the stratification process, but that place appears to be limited mainly to its role in determining how far people go in school, and that role appears to have been pretty much the same throughout this century," write the study's authors, Robert M. Hauser and Min-Hsiung Huang of the Center for Demography and Ecology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

"Our findings suggest that, if there is a key variable in the American class system, it is educational attainment, not cognitive ability," add Hauser, a professor of sociology at UW-Madison, and Huang, of the Institute for European and American Studies, Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan. The authors say the distribution of schooling has become more equal throughout this century.

Hauser and Huang examined the claims made in The Bell Curve along with data from a short verbal test administered to about 12,500 adults nearly every year between 1974 and 1994 as part of the General Social Survey of the National Opinion Research Center.

Using the verbal test data, they analyzed how social background and educational attainment affect verbal ability and how verbal ability affects occupational status and income. In all cases, they found little or no evidence that the effects of verbal ability on socioeconomic outcomes have increased in the past two decades.

"Herrnstein and Murray have offered precious little evidence to support their story line, and we find equally little support in the trend data from the General Social Survey," Hauser and Huang write.

The authors discovered that there has been almost no change in how social background influences verbal ability, except for a declining negative effect on those born in the South or on farms. And they found few differences in verbal ability between high school graduates and college graduates born since the Great Depression, which they say reflects a combination of larger postsecondary enrollments and more relaxed college admission standards.

Hauser and Huang also determined that there were no changes in the effects of verbal ability on occupational status between the 1970s and the 1990s, except for small decreases among African-American men, white men younger than 45 and middle-aged white women. Effects of ability on occupational status did increase some for older white women, they found.

There were no changes in the effects of verbal ability on earnings as well, according to the study. Hauser and Huang say their analyses show that verbal ability affects a person's income primarily through their level of education.

The authors admit that data from the General Social Survey does have weaknesses, including the narrow content of the verbal test, that it has no measure of childhood ability and that it doesn't represent either very wealthy or very poor sections of the American population in substantial numbers.

But they emphasize that the survey's verbal test offers consistent data because it was administered regularly over a 20-year period. And they add that the survey obtained standardized, measurable information on social background and socioeconomic outcomes.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of Wisconsin-Madison. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of Wisconsin-Madison. "New Study Casts Doubt On Controversial 'Bell Curve' Theories." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 November 1997. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1997/11/971104062234.htm>.
University Of Wisconsin-Madison. (1997, November 4). New Study Casts Doubt On Controversial 'Bell Curve' Theories. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1997/11/971104062234.htm
University Of Wisconsin-Madison. "New Study Casts Doubt On Controversial 'Bell Curve' Theories." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1997/11/971104062234.htm (accessed November 28, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Friday, November 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Are Female Bosses More Likely To Be Depressed?

Are Female Bosses More Likely To Be Depressed?

Newsy (Nov. 24, 2014) — A new study links greater authority with increased depressive symptoms among women in the workplace. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Winter Can Cause Depression — Here's How To Combat It

Winter Can Cause Depression — Here's How To Combat It

Newsy (Nov. 23, 2014) — Millions of American suffer from seasonal depression every year. It can lead to adverse health effects, but there are ways to ease symptoms. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) — Researchers in Beijing discovered a gene called 5-HTA1, and carriers are reportedly 20 percent more likely to be single. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) — Researchers find that as people approach new decades in their lives they make bigger life decisions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins