Sunday, October 9, 2011
Girls Versus Boys: The Final Battle
SAT data provide an exciting reservoir of information thanks to extremely large sample sizes with detailed demographic data over a number of years. I previously graphed SAT scores by race and showed that the score gap between White people and African Americans greatly narrowed until the early 1990’s and that Asian Americans have been improving their SAT scores, unlike other groups. Now, I shall present how men and women compare for each racial group.
In 1966, William Petersen coined the phrase “model minority” to recognize the accomplishments of Japanese Americans. Liberals revised the label to “model minority myth,” which imparts elements of bitter sneering and jealousy, but the original compliment has never been truer for the SAT results of Asian Americans. Asian-American women appear to be advancing even faster than their male counterparts. Recent years have brought declines in the standard deviation gaps between Asian-American men and women on the math and critical reading (formerly “verbal”) sub-tests.
May all the trees that died for treatises on the eroticization of Asian women and the emasculation of Asian men rest in peace. With that said, I shall add my Asian Female Fit Hypothesis: Asian women are able to progress faster than other demographic categories because they transcend gender roles and expectations, in contrast with White women.
Though White women did slightly improve last year on the math SAT sub-test relative to White men, that was mostly due to a slight drop in the male score. Numerous factors could be discouraging academic progress for White women, particularly in math and the hard sciences. White women, as a group, might not place as high a priority on accomplishment in mathematics. Perhaps they see math as leading to career tracks that are less enjoyable or that would earn an income that would intimidate male suitors. Perhaps they associate math with demanding but financially rewarding careers, and some of them feel that only men should have to fill such a demanding provider role. Advanced math coursework and preparation could have a culture that is unappealing to White women. Also, a common view argues that women feel displaying intelligence makes them less attractive to men. For both young men and women, distractions can hurt academic performance, but perhaps White women are more preoccupied by them than White men.
I suggest that Asian-American women are able to transcend such barriers better than White women. Asians, in general, have a higher average IQ and tend to perform especially well on the SAT math sub-test. This advantage could give Asian women a confidence with mathematics above some threshold that makes further study more enjoyable and less intimidating. Another commonly held view is that Asian women are more amenable, perhaps owing to Confucian values, to relationships with studious men with whom they would come more in contact. I think that men actually do appreciate intelligent women, and the cultures of professions steeped in mathematics, like engineering, are so lacking in female representation that Asian women on such professional paths might be finding a comfortable niche. I also propose that Asian women have the advantage of simple beauty.
At first, one might think that physical attractiveness has nothing to do with mathematics skill, but beauty and fashion have a profound effect on the self-esteem of young women and can become a demanding preoccupation. Many Asian women have a simple beauty that does not really require makeup or hair treatments in modern American culture. Most Asian women whom I have known also seem to be naturally thin without exercising. A recent large meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies found three important loci for body fat percentage. According to the HapMap database, two of the alleles associated with increased body fat are far more common in White and Black people than in Chinese and Japanese people. The third allele is somewhat more common in Japanese and Chinese people, but the study found that this allele was associated with body fat percentage in Europeans, not in people from Northern India.
Allele Frequencies of loci that increase body fat percentage:
White – 46.0%
Chinese – 13.9%
Japanese – 18.6%
African-American – 46.5%
Nigerian Yoruban – 45.2%
Mexican-American – 20.7%
Gujarati Indian – 25.2%
White – 41.8%
Chinese – 10.0%
Japanese – 6.8%
Nigerian Yoruban – 64.3%
SPRY2 (increased body fat percentage in Europeans, not Northern Indians):
White – 27.7%
Chinese – 48.1%
Japanese – 45.0%
African-American – 14.0%
Nigerian Yoruban – 18.4%
Mexican-American – 35.3%
Gujarati Indian – 48.5%
African-American women also are closing their gap with African-American men on the SAT math sub-test, but scores for Black people, as a whole, are declining, and the gap with White people seems to be slightly widening, as I previously discussed. Still, African-American women are the only demographic to consistently outperform their male counterparts on the SAT critical reading sub-test. On the newer writing sub-test, all demographics have a female advantage, but African Americans have the largest gender gap, and it is growing. Ever since the writing sub-test began in 2006, African-American women have had a consistent total raw score advantage over African-American men, and they are the only group of women to ever do so. Although it might be declining, the Hispanic male advantage over Hispanic women lies at the other end of the spectrum.
In conclusion, whether you are a dumb blonde, a dragon lady who is good at math, a troubled Black man, or a macho Mexican, the SAT reinforces the offensive stereotype that is right for you.
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