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Values and the Racial Achievement Gap

March 29, 2012

The standard view about racial achievement gaps in education is that under-performing groups (blacks and Hispanics) under-perform because they don’t adequately value education (they don’t have enough books at home, their parents aren’t involved, etc.), while over-performing groups (Asians) are successful because they value it highly.

This explanation is typically seen as an alternative to the view that racial achievement gaps are a consequence of differing IQ levels between racial groups. But the two aren’t really alternatives.In general, of course, the contrast between culture and biology is easy to overplay. But the more direct point is that people like, and work hard at, and value, things that they understand and are good at. And they don’t like or value or work hard at things that they don’t understand or aren’t good at.

This is as true of groups as it is of individuals. If the Chinese value education, this is just evidence that the Chinese are smart.

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