I’ve now finished Charles Murray’s “Facing Reality.” It’s not a long book — 125 pages pre-footnotes. There are extensive references to online data archives and scholarly articles that you can review if you are so inclined; but as far as text goes, that’s it.
The core of the book is a summary of readily-available statistical data as to differences between and among racial groups in the U.S. The two areas of statistics on which Murray focuses are those relating to “cognitive ability” and “violent crime.” The racial categories that he uses are the ones generally used by government statisticians, including the Census, although he has adopted somewhat different nomenclature — European, African, Latin and Asian.
The group differences found in the statistics are not small. The largest differences are between Africans on the one hand and Europeans and Asians on the other. Many readers may be familiar with some of these statistics in a general way, but not with many of the details; so let me give a few examples.
With regard to “cognitive ability,” Murray notes that results of tests designed to asses this metric — such as IQ tests or SATs — are characterized by what are called “normal” probability distributions, familiar to most as the iconic bell curves. Normal distributions can be described by two key measurements: the mean (half of people score above, and half below); and the “standard deviation.,” which is a measure of how many people score how much above or below the mean. As to standard deviations, roughly two-thirds of people score within one standard deviation of the mean, 95% within two standard deviations, and 99.7% within three standard deviations.
For an IQ test, the mean is set at 100, and the standard deviation at 15. But each racial group has a different mean. There are substantial differences between the means for the different racial groups. A chart on page 40 shows that the mean for Europeans is slightly above the 100, for Africans is about 87, and for Asians is about 110. The same chart shows that there are very substantial overlaps between the distribution curves for the various groups. From page 39:
[This figure] shows how much overlap exists in the distributions. It is not a threatening picture. Yes, differences exist, but it is also true that millions of Africans and Latins have higher cognitive ability than millions of Europeans and Asians.
But the crux of the matter concerns not the overlapping centers of the distributions, but rather the tails, and particularly the high-end tails where are found candidates for elite jobs like corporate CEOs, investment bankers, college professors, and high-end doctors and lawyers. This is the place where attention is regularly focused to see what racial progress is being made. On page 82 Murray looks at the pool of potential candidates for an employer in one of these categories who is seeking to hire an “exceptionally intelligent” young adult (aged 25-29), with “exceptionally intelligent” defined as IQ of 135 or above (that is, more than 2 standard deviations above the mean, but well less than three):
Employers [in 2019] seeking these exceptionally intelligent young adults were choosing from a pool that contained only about 2,800 Africans and 9,500 Latins compared to 50,700 Asians and 160,100 Europeans.
In other words, Africans constituted only about 1.3% of this potential hiring pool, and Latins 4.3%. This is an issue that no amount of “affirmative action” can change. Two hundred major law firms can all announce that they are going to hire simultaneously 13% Africans among their classes of new associates, but there aren’t nearly that many qualified candidates to go around.
Murray’s book contains some substantial information on the history of attempting to move these statistics by government policies. At the time the statistical differences were identified, Africans had been subject to many decades of inferior schooling, and there was great optimism that better-funded schools would quickly reduce and even eliminate the gap. From the 1970s to 90s, the gap actually shrank somewhat, but since then, not much if any at all. The government funding that has gone into trying to move the needle is measured in the hundreds of billions of dollars. Murray particularly focuses on No Child Left Behind, from the early 2000s.
I won’t go into Murray’s violent crime statistics in any detail, but they are quite stark. Only a few cities publish granular data as to race of perpetrators as it relates to arrests or victim or witness identifications; but the handful that do include the largest cities of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Washington. According to a chart on page 51, an African is 11.6 times as likely to get arrested for a violent crime in New York as a European, 9.0 times in Los Angeles, 14.5 times in Chicago, and 19.9 times in Washington. For Latins, the ratios are 4.1 times in New York, 2.4 in Los Angeles, 2.8 in Chicago, and 6.4 in Washington. If you think that those statistics might be driven by police racism, Murray points out that the ratios for victim and witness identifications of perpetrators are even higher than those for arrests.
Murray’s conclusion (from page 7)::
[M]ean differences between groups are a reality and will be with us indefinitely.
As for a prescription going forward, here is Murray from page 122:
Eliminate all forms of government-sponsored preferential treatment by race. It is not within any government’s power to force racial harmony on its citizens, but it is within the government’s power to strip away the legal and administrative incentives and requirements for preferential treatment according to race.
For myself, I’m not quite as ready as Murray to give up on changes in K-12 education as a way of reducing racial differences in test scores. So far, almost all of the government billions have gone to failed unionized government schools to keep doing exactly what they were doing before and get paid more for the effort. Expansion of school competition could well help minority children achieve more of their potential. But there’s no getting around that even this is not a “solution,” but rather a slow and at best partial amelioration.