SAT/ACT Scores by Detailed Race/Ethnicity From Applicants on Common App (2021)

We recently published the IQ scores for major ethnic groups, based on the broadly representative Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development sample. These ethnic averages correlated very strongly (r = .90 to .94) with scholastic aptitude scores (SAT or ACT scores) based on nationally representative samples of American-born college students between the years 2012 and 2020.  The aptitude scores came from the NPSAS surveys, which, unfortunately, have a limited number of ethnic classifications.

As Dalliard noted, understanding racial/ethnic differences in aptitude tests is important since it is a guide to the composition of the USA’s future cognitive elite.  Since different ethnic groups have different political interests, which, in turn, shape policy, understanding the cognitive capital of ethnic groups is essential to predicting the trajectory of the USA in the coming century.

While no open-source national surveys provide data on SAT/ACT scores decomposed by detailed ethnic groups, Common Application provides some data for USA citizens and residents.  Common App is an undergraduate college admission application service that allows one to apply to over one thousand member colleges in the USA. While the data sample is large, with over 1 million applicants each year, several issues have been reported by Freeman et al. (2021):

  • The percentage of applicants reporting a test score fell from 70 and 73% in 2018-19 and 2019-20 to 40% in 2020-21. This is likely due to 89%  of Common App’s members (900+ colleges) no longer requiring SAT/ACT for admission in 2020-21.
  • Nearly 60% of applicants applied from ZIP Codes in the top 20% of the median household income distribution. The decline in reporting rates between 2019-20 and 2020-21 was greater in lower-income communities.
  • Underrepresented minorities (not including Asians) report test scores at lower rates than non-underrepresented minorities (71% vs 77%). The drop in reporting rates between 2019-20 and 2020-21 was larger for underrepresented minorities (31% vs 47%).
  • In 2019-20, 78% of non-first-generation students reported test scores versus 69% of first-generation students while in 2020-2021 the rates were 48% and 30%.
  • Applications to private, more selective institutions were the most likely to include test scores (83% in 2019–20 and 44% in 2020–21), while applications to private, less selective institutions were the least likely to include test scores (67% and 28%).

The high rates of missing test scores, especially for low-achieving groups,  may mean that certain group averages are biased. Moreover, many ethnic groups suffer from ethnic attrition (Emeka, 2019), in which case group identification is correlated with aptitude. To illustrate, in the case of Nigerian-Americans, Emeka (2019) noticed that Nigerians residing in poor families with parents who have not completed high school or college degrees are much more likely to drop out of the Nigerian group in favor of the African American or Black group. This is because for them, “it is not Nigerian not to go to college”.

Those caveats noted, with respect to test scores, which are reported by Kim et al. (2022), the numbers are more or less as expected. Scores for the average Asian group, average White, average Black, and Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander are 1382, 1278, 1108, and 1181, respectively. Applicants who did not report racial/ethnic information score (1378) higher than the non-underrepresented minorities (1297). Among Asian ethnicities, Asians from India, China, Korea, Japan, Malaysia, and “None provided” scored substantially higher (around 1400 vs 1300 or less) than Asians from Cambodia, Philippines, Vietnam, Pakistan, Other Southeast, or Other South Asia (Figure 2a).

The following table reports the SAT/ACT means by race/ethnicity, including mixed races, as well as Hispanic groups by both region and race. The columns display the N (unadjusted), % of reports, average SAT/ACT, GPA, N (adjusted for % of reports), SAT/ACT in IQ metrics. The IQ metric SAT/ACT scores were computed using the NPSAS20 total SAT/ACT standard deviations.

Ethnic N Reports SAT¹ GPA N² IQ-metric
White
Average 570400 0.53 1278 92 302312 100.0
Two+ Provided 17640 0.52 1310 93 9173 102.4
Europe 464670 0.55 1287 93 255569 100.7
Middle East 22720 0.39 1236 90 8861 96.9
None Provided 39580 0.43 1206 91 17019 94.6
Other 25800 0.35 1159 88 9030 91.1
African American
Average 140010 0.36 1108 85 50404 87.2
Africa 13840 0.34 1185 87 4706 93.0
Two+ Provided 17740 0.39 1170 87 6919 91.9
None Provided 670 0.29 1141 85 194 89.7
Caribbean 10610 0.37 1116 85 3926 87.8
Other 680 0.27 1113 84 184 87.6
U.S. Af-Am 96470 0.35 1084 84 33765 85.4
Asian
Average 115490 0.61 1382 95 70449 107.8
None Provided 1600 0.65 1438 97 1040 112.0
Korea 10480 0.67 1421 96 7022 110.7
India 32750 0.72 1415 96 23580 110.3
China 24620 0.64 1414 97 15757 110.2
Other East Asia 2800 0.59 1411 95 1652 110.0
Malaysia 240 0.61 1380 95 146 107.6
Two+ Provided 8520 0.58 1376 96 4942 107.3
Japan 1330 0.57 1364 94 758 106.4
Other South Asia 5620 0.45 1309 92 2529 102.3
Pakistan 5500 0.50 1301 92 2750 101.7
Vietnam 9090 0.55 1284 94 5000 100.5
Philippines 8100 0.47 1262 94 3807 98.8
Other Southeast Asia 4130 0.44 1261 92 1817 98.7
Cambodia 700 0.36 1216 92 252 95.4
Pacific Islander
Group Average 1770 0.32 1181 88 566 92.7
None Provided 100 0.36 1246 91 36 97.6
Guam 220 0.34 1233 91 75 96.6
Other (Excl. Philippines) 570 0.30 1204 86 171 94.5
Two+ Provided 150 0.28 1187 87 42 93.2
Hawaii 420 0.35 1180 88 147 92.6
Samoa 320 0.33 1082 88 106 85.3
American Indian
Average 2760 0.36 1162 87 994 91.3
OK Citizen Potawatomi 20 0.29 1338 90 6 104.5
OK Choctaw 90 0.55 1267 93 50 99.2
OK Chickasaw 50 0.52 1252 90 26 98.1
OK Muscogee (Creek) Nation 50 0.59 1241 91 30 97.2
OK Cherokee 140 0.53 1218 95 74 95.5
MI Sault Ste. Marie 40 0.57 1192 88 23 93.5
NY Saint Regis 50 0.16 1170 86 8 91.9
None Provided 80 0.29 1153 87 23 90.7
Unenrolled 1370 0.34 1147 86 466 90.2
Other Enrolled 640 0.34 1146 87 218 90.1
SD Oglala Sioux 20 0.18 1123 90 4 88.3
AZ Navajo 160 0.29 1096 89 46 86.3
NC Eastern Cherokee 40 0.41 1079 87 16 85.1
Two/More Races
Group Average 56130 0.50 1289 92 28065 100.8
Asian & White 25400 0.60 1354 95 15240 105.7
Asian & Pacific Islander 1020 0.43 1278 93 439 100.0
Asian & American Indian 140 0.45 1266 88 63 99.1
White & Pacific Islander 1010 0.48 1265 92 485 99.0
White & Native American 4620 0.50 1248 91 2310 97.7
Three or More Races 3610 0.41 1241 90 1480 97.2
Asian & African Am. 2680 0.43 1224 90 1152 96.0
White & African Am. 15680 0.40 1192 88 6272 93.5
African Am. & Pacific Isl. 40 0.19 1118 83 8 88.0
Native Am. & Pacific Isl. 1540 0.31 1095 84 477 86.2
African Am. & Native Am. 380 0.34 1093 84 129 86.1
Hispanic (Region)
Group Average 194060 0.37 1195 89 71802 93.8
Spain 4950 0.48 1284 92 2376 100.4
South America 24800 0.46 1247 91 11408 97.7
Cuba 6860 0.61 1236 92 4185 96.9
Two+ Provided 28730 0.41 1211 90 11779 94.9
Mexico 70270 0.32 1170 89 22486 91.9
Central America 17400 0.32 1168 89 5568 91.8
Puerto Rico 22540 0.37 1168 87 8340 91.7
None Provided 1850 0.29 1161 87 537 91.2
Other 16670 0.30 1152 87 5001 90.5
Hispanic (Races)
Group Average 194060 0.37 1195 89 71802 93.8
Asian 3290 0.43 1277 92 1415 99.9
Two+ Provided 9750 0.43 1235 90 4193 96.7
White 96690 0.45 1219 90 43511 95.6
Hispanic or Latinx Only 60870 0.27 1146 88 16435 90.1
American Indian 4740 0.29 1133 87 1375 89.1
African American 17740 0.29 1116 85 5145 87.8
Pacific Islander 980 0.25 1097 85 245 86.4

¹SAT/ACT average
²Real N estimated by multiplying N column by % Reports

Despite issues with the data that were pointed out above, one clearly notices the strong similarity between these IQ-metric SAT/ACT scores by race/ethnicity, including various mixed-race categories, and the IQ-metric SAT/ACT estimates from the NPSAS reported in a previous post.

The full dataset made available by Common App can be found at the following link.  See also the following report. Additional data is included in the file such as AP scores, the number of academic honors reported, and household income.

 

References

  1. Freeman, M., Magouirk, P., & Kajikawa, T. (2020). Applying to college in a test‐optional admissions landscape: Trends from Common App data.
  2. Kim, B.H., Freeman, M., Kajikawa, T., Karimi, H., & Magouirk, P. (2022). Unpacking applicant race and ethnicity, part 2: disparities in key indicators of applicant readiness and resources across detailed backgrounds. Common Application.

2 Comments

  1. Arvind

    What’s the use of some groups doing better on SAT when colleges resort to race-based admission quotas and nerf scores of high performing groups like Asians?
    Americans are supposed to value meritocracy and not be racist, but colleges themselves don’t follow this basic American value.

    • Meng Hu

      I’m not sure what you mean by nerfing asian scores. I discussed the issue here. It’s one about admissions based on criteria: they give asians lower scores on a “personality” scale that is weirdly defined so that they admit less asians and/or more blacks. Race based AA doesn’t seem to affect scores but gives relatively less weight on SAT.

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