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.
|Other East Asia||2800||0.59||1411||95||1652||110.0|
|Other South Asia||5620||0.45||1309||92||2529||102.3|
|Other Southeast Asia||4130||0.44||1261||92||1817||98.7|
|Other (Excl. Philippines)||570||0.30||1204||86||171||94.5|
|OK Citizen Potawatomi||20||0.29||1338||90||6||104.5|
|OK Muscogee (Creek) Nation||50||0.59||1241||91||30||97.2|
|MI Sault Ste. Marie||40||0.57||1192||88||23||93.5|
|NY Saint Regis||50||0.16||1170||86||8||91.9|
|SD Oglala Sioux||20||0.18||1123||90||4||88.3|
|NC Eastern Cherokee||40||0.41||1079||87||16||85.1|
|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 or Latinx Only||60870||0.27||1146||88||16435||90.1|
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.
- Freeman, M., Magouirk, P., & Kajikawa, T. (2020). Applying to college in a test‐optional admissions landscape: Trends from Common App data.
- 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.