Mulatto advantage in the NLSF

I was unable to find the “parent’s race” variable in the NLSF public use data and so determine by exactly how much the mixed race Blacks outperformed their “multigenerational” peers. Apparently, this is restricted information. But I did find the following:

Black Like Who? Exploring the Racial, Ethnic, and Class Diversity of Black Students at Selective Colleges and Universities

“The National Longitudinal Study of Freshmen, was developed by Douglas Massey and Camille Charles to track the academic and social experiences of approximately 4,000 white, Asian, Latino, and black undergraduates at 28 selective colleges and universities across the country…. Included in our profile are 654 monoracial multigenerational African Americans, 197 immigrant or first-generation blacks, and 160 multiracial black students while 854 native-born white students serve as the reference group……Compared to immigrant and mixed race blacks, we find that multigenerational African Americans have the weakest academic preparation, perceive significantly more racism on campus, and are most vulnerable to underperformance because of stereotype threat. Mixed race blacks have the highest achievement rates relative to other blacks, typically remain on the fringes of the black student community, and perceive themselves to be categorically different than their same-race peers because of their mixed parentage.

So, as we would predict based on the color-SAT/ACT correlation, more mixed Blacks, adjudged from genealogy, outperform less mixed Blacks. This is in agreement with the ADD health, GSS, and NLY 97′ data.

The results remind me of a paper called “The superiority of the Mulatto” by E. B Reuter. Reuter lucidly discussed the Mulatto advantage phenomena circa 1919 and proposed cross-assortative mating as a partial explanation. That sounds like a much more plausible explanation than does one involving a stereotype threat that happens to affect Blacks in proportion to their African heritage, indexed either by color or genealogy. Mind you, the index of “vulnerable to underperformance because of stereotype threat” was the following question: “Next, For Each Group I Want To Know Whether You Think They Tend To Be Unintelligent Or Tend To Be Intelligent.” So the data implies that while less admixed Blacks are less intelligent — for whatever reason, of course — they have a good deal more common sense than their peers.

I would be interested in Charles et al.’s explanation for the color difference, which persists after factoring out mixed race individuals (at least in the other data sets). Perhaps Blacks of mixed parentage live a different life than their “multi-generational” peers and don’t see themselves as Black in the same way. So perhaps, they feel proportionately less threatened by stereotypes. But, for the rest, there is that “Skin color paradox”:

Dark-skinned blacks in the United States have lower socioeconomic status, more punitive relationships with the criminal justice system, diminished prestige, and less likelihood of holding elective office compared with their lighter counterparts. This phenomenon of “colorism” both occurs within the African American community and is expressed by outsiders, and most blacks are aware of it. Nevertheless, blacks’ perceptions of discrimination, belief that their fates are linked, or attachment to their race almost never vary by skin color. We identify this disparity between treatment and political attitudes as “the skin color paradox.” (Hochschild and Weaver, 2008. The Skin Color Paradox and the American Racial Order)

Since, in the Black population, one standard deviation of color is equivalent to approximately 1 point on a five point scale – refer to my previous discussion of the NLSF data — and IQ and color correlate at 0.15 in that population, the upper and lower end of the population (1s and 5s on a 5 point scale) differ by 0.6 SD, even though, according to Hochschild and Weaver (2008) they identify equivalently as Blacks. So, why do darker multi-generational Blacks perform less well than lighter multi-generational Blacks? (Presumably, it’s not because they have been reading my colorist commentary while reflecting on their reflectance.)

The Black intra-race difference is interesting because it resists environmental explanations even more than the Black-White inter race one does. While no one knows the heritability of IQ between racial populations, and therefore how much variance environmental factors explain, we do know the within race heritability. It’s high. If genes explain the lion’s share of cognitive variance within the Black population, it’s difficult to see how they don’t explain the lion’s share of variance between subpopulations defined by color or geology. The only way out is to argue that color is not correlated with IQ between kin (and therefore that heritability estimates can not be generalized across the Black color continuum). In the ADD health data, this explanation fails. None of this is a problem from environmentally inclined sociologists, of course, since they routinely fail to take into account the findings of behavioral genetics and psychometrics.

Whatever the case, I’ve identified yet another large sample that conforms to the predictions of a genetic hypothesis, both in terms of mixed race and color differences. (

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