Tag Archives: sex differences

Liberals v. Science

Science is unpopular. Many, especially among the uneducated branches of the religious right, reject evolution.

It is equally unpopular among many liberals, who reject what science says about sex differences.

As educated liberals have much more influence over the formation of national policy than uneducated religionists, I’m more concerned about liberals.

For instance, yet another study came out showing, once again, that males have a much greater variance in math achievement than females. That is, female scores tend to bunch together near the mean, while male scales are more likely to be way up or way down. While this leaves the average unchanged, it implies both more math PhDs and more special education students will be males. More of the typical ‘good students’ (but not overachievers) that teachers like are females.


Unsurprisingly, the New York Times reports the study as finding no sex differences. Other liberal publications, such as the Los Angeles Times, Scientific American, and The Chronicle of Higher Education toe the party line. This would be like a Jack Chick pamphlet describing modern biology as reporting no evidence for evolution.

Fortunately, the Wall Street Journal (owned by Rupert Murdoch, who supports science) gets it right.

Thanks to gnxp, Marginal Revolution, and Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science for helping to uncover this story.

Leftism, Feminism, and Cash

Agnostic. 2007. New GRE cancelled – the cost of attempted gap-reduction? Gene Expression. April 4, 2007. Available online: http://www.gnxp.com/blog/2007/04/new-gre-cancelled-cost-of-attempted-gap.php.

First, an excerpt from the excellent blog piece. Then a short discussion by me:

The NYT reports that a completely revised GRE has been deep sixed, not merely delayed (read the ETS press release here). The official story is that there is some insurmountable problem with providing access to all test-takers, an issue apparently too complicated for ETS to bother trying to explain it to us. You figure, since this was such a huge project that was suddenly halted, they’d want to clearly spell out why they dumped it — unless that’s the point. Although I’m no mind-reader, the true reason is pretty obvious: the made-over test was designed to narrow the male-female gap at the elite score level, but this diluted its g-loadedness such that it couldn’t reliably distinguish between someone with, say, a 125 IQ and a 145+ IQ, which is what graduate departments who rely on super-smart students worry about. Rather than admit that this psychometric magic trick went awry and lopped off a few limbs of g-loadedness, they spun a yarn about access to the te


We now ask why ETS intentionally stripped the SAT of some of its g-loadedness? Certainly not because they discovered IQ had little value in predicting academic performance, or that some items tap g more directly than others — so why re-invent the wheel? Since scores on various verbal tasks highly correlate, this change cannot have affected much the mean of any group of test-takers. But if getting a perfect score required scoring correctly on, say, 10 easy questions, 5 medium, and 5 difficult (across 3 sections), a greater number of above-average students can come within striking distance of a perfect score if the new requirement were 10 easy, 9 medium, and 1 hard. I don’t know exactly how they screwed around with the numbers, but that’s what they pay their psychometricians big bucks to do. Now, reducing the difficulty of attaining elite scores, without also raising mean scores (as with the 1994 recentering), can only have had the goal of reducing a gap that exists at the level of variance, not a gap between means. This, then, cannot be a racial gap but the male-female gap, since here the difference in means is probably 0-2 IQ points, although male variance is consistently greater.

In other words..

  • Some time ago, the SAT released a new test that kept the pre-existing group means (so that jews still scored higher than scotch-irish, and that asians still scored higher than blacks) but made it easy for pretty-good students to score the same as very-good students
  • The GRE seriously considered, openly planned on, announced, and then suddenly rejected a similar plan.

Ultimately, this is a tale of political correctness and money. Especially since fired Harvard President Larry Summers publicly asked if there was a genetic component to sexual differences, but since the birth of feminism in the early 20th century, the “polite” opinion is that males and females are genetically identical and apart from a few organs the sexes are in no way different. Thus intelligence testing, which consistently reveal that the highest-scoring males have higher intelligence than the highest-scoring females, is embarrassing. While the SAT and the GRE are technically aptitude tests, they are also rough measures of intelligence so the same issues that impact IQ testing impact the SAT and GRE.

The easy way to remove this shame is to ignore it, so the SAT lowered the bar for the highest-scoring students. Thus the highest-scoring females would score exactly the same as the highest scoring males – with a perfect 2400R.

For undergraduate schools this is just fine. Anything that increases the student body size while avoiding public embarrassment puts money into the hands of the Universities,. Likewise, compared to graduate schools undergrad institutions tend to be non-competitive (excluding quotized areas sex as race, where it is hard to change race from penalized categories such as oriental or white to preferred categories such as black or indian). Thus, the SAT combined easy leftism with easy commercialism: the change stands!

For graduate schools this is not fine. Graduate students are investments in ways that undergrads just aren’t. Grad students take up more of professors’ face time, often have the responsibility of assisting in research or teaching undergraduates, and are actually paid. Thus a non-productive grad student can more easily become a cash dog than can a non-productive undergrad. There, within grad schools capitalism defeated easy leftism: the change is rejected!

Update: Darth Quixote at gnxp examines the results of the latest SAT.

The Counterrevolution?

Women Lack ‘Natural Ability’ In Some Fields, Harvard President Says: Comments Came At Economic Conference,” Associated Press, http://www.local6.com/education/4090001/detail.html, 17 January 2005 (from Drudge Report).

Without comment…

CAMBRIDGE, Mass — The president of Harvard University prompted criticism for suggesting that innate differences between the sexes could help explain why fewer women succeed in science and math careers.

Lawrence H. Summers, speaking Friday at an economic conference, also questioned how great a role discrimination plays in keeping female scientists and engineers from advancing at elite universities.

“It’s possible I made some reference to innate differences,” he said. He said people “would prefer to believe” that the differences in performance between the sexes are due to social factors, “but these are things that need to be studied.”

He also cited as an example one of his daughters, who as a child was given two trucks in an effort at gender-neutral upbringing. Yet he said she named them “daddy truck” and “baby truck,” as if they were dolls.

Here was this economist lecturing pompously (to) this room full of the country’s most accomplished scholars on women’s issues in science and engineering, and he kept saying things we had refuted in the first half of the day,” said Denton, the outgoing dean of the College of Engineering at the University of Washington.

Summers already faced criticism because the number of senior job offers to women has dropped each year of his three-year presidency.

He has promised to work on the problem.

Lawrence Summers, nephew of two nobel laureates, was President Bill Clinton’s last Secretary of the Treasury.