"The racial gap in
academic achievement is an education crisis, but it is
also the main source of ongoing racial inequality. And
racial inequality is America`s great unfinished
Fortunately, the problem is not discrimination. As the
"Students who have
equal skills and knowledge will have roughly equal
Unfortunately, however, the average black or Hispanic
high school senior knows only as much as the average
white or Asian grade school student.
And, as Amy Chua pointed our in her important book
World on Fire (click
here for my review), there is a global pattern that
substantial inequalities in earning power between ethnic
groups lead to crime and turmoil.
large helping of public attention, going back to the
Coleman Report of 1965, has been devoted to the
notoriously sizable white-black disparity on various
measures of aptitude and achievement.
But, even though Latinos now outnumber
African-Americans—thanks to post-1965 immigration
policy—remarkably little regard has been paid to the
This is particularly irrational since the magnitude of
the overall problem the Thernstroms have identified can
be stated like this:
inequality = the size of the lagging ethnic group
x the size of its average achievement gap.
Our political institutions have only the most indirect
influence over the future size of the African-American
population. (Absent immigration, it`s stabilizing.)
But we can, democratically, choose—via federal
immigration policy—whether the Latino population will be
So how big is the white-Hispanic achievement? The
"Hispanics do only a
little better than African-Americans. In reading and
U.S. history, their NAEP
of Educational Progress] scores in their senior year
of high school are a few points above those of whites in
eighth grade. In math and geography, they are a few
Obviously, as long as the government winks at massive
illegal immigration, this gap will remain huge, because
of the constant inflow of the illiterate and unskilled.
But won`t their English-speaking descendents blend
seamlessly into the mainstream—as so many commentators
In their book, the Thernstroms seemed to imply that we
don`t have all that much to worry about:
"Thus, the average
NAEP scores for Hispanics are about as low as those for
blacks, but only because the presence of so many
low-scoring immigrant children pulls them down."
Okay, but that raises the question: what were the NAEP
scores for American-born Hispanics? The Thernstroms
I didn`t have access to the NAEP data for 1992, which
was the last time a question about birth country was
asked, but I guesstimated that the white vs.
American-born Hispanic gap "would be equal to two-thirds
of the notorious white-black gap."
Recently, while browsing Tom Wood`s new "Right
on Race" blog, I had a chance to ask Stefan
Thernstrom what the NAEP data actually showed. He
graciously provided the following
raw data, to which I`ve added some straightforward
calculations. (Number fans click
here for table).
Conclusion: overall, the white-immigrant Hispanic
achievement gap is actually 14% worse than the
notorious white-black disparity.
But for American-born Hispanic children (not just second
generation, as many might assume, but the second up
through the seventh generation), the gap is 67% as
large as the white-black variance.
Exactly as I predicted!
(It`s interesting that the gaps between whites and
blacks and native-born and foreign Hispanics are widest
among 8th graders and narrowest among 12th graders.
Presumably this narrowing is partly caused by differing
high school dropout rates, which remove more of the
lowest-scoring minorities from the ranks of the
The good news: if we cut off all immigration from Latin
America tomorrow, the total white-Hispanic achievement
chasm would narrow over the next, say, 30 years, from
more than 90% of the white-black difference down to 67%.
That would represent valuable social progress toward
The bad news: even with no immigration, the
white-Hispanic gap in 2034 would still be about
two-thirds as big as the disastrous white-black gap.
In other words, the Establishment attitude of blithely
tolerating illegal immigration on the assumption that,
in the very long run, Hispanics will rise up to the
white level of achievement is based on a fatal fallacy.
The really bad news: if the American elites want
to keep the illegal immigration floodgates open forever,
the overall white-Hispanic gap is likely to remain
almost as large as the white-black gap.
Either way, the implication is
inescapable: federal immigration policy is importing a
[Steve Sailer [email
him] is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and