If, as he begins this essay, the reader finds himself unacquainted with the fundamental law of sociology, he should not be reproached, for the law is first about to be articulated. It is a difficult task that we undertake, though in fact it is undemanding and straightforward. It is difficult because those who will welcome our results eagerly are among the most perfidious of our species, while those who reject them will do so out of antipathy not discernment. Sandwiched between the devil and the fuzzy-minded are the learned and sagacious readers of La Griffe du Lion, to whom we address our remarks.
The fundamental law of sociology is a summary of hundreds of observations. It asserts that:
On large-scale tests of reasoning ability, the observed mean difference between non-Hispanic whites and African Americans is 1.1 + 0.2 standard deviation.
The observation is so unerringly reproducible, it justly earns the appellation, law. Appropriately, we call 1.1 SD the fundamental constant of sociology. Table 1 illustrates.
The Fundamental Law of Sociology Illustrated
0.99Math SAT, U.S. average 19981.11NY bar exam first attempts 1985 – 19881.13National bar exam first attempts of every U.S. law student first enrolled in fall 19911.191986, 1987, 1988 results of National Board of Medical Examiners Exam Part I (required of all U.S. medical students)1.21Armed Forces Qualifications Test (from National Longitudinal Survey of Youth)
There being no more reliable indicator of racial cognitive differences than the standardized math exam, we were surprised recently by a puzzling anomaly — an apparent violation of the fundamental law. Anomalies are sometimes swept aside because, after all, they are just anomalies. Sometimes, however, they fit into another design not immediately apparent, in which they are not aberrations, but rather the norm. So it was with this exception. The irregularity turned up on Maryland’s usually reliable standardized 8th grade math test, part of the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program (MSPAP).
Like many standardized-exam programs, MSPAP is a huge repository of cognitive information waiting to be extracted. Each May, all Maryland public school 3rd, 5th and 8th graders take these tests. Results are reported in exceptional detail, fully disaggregated by race and ethnicity, and reported down to the level of individual school.
While browsing MSPAP pass rates looking for patterns, we happened upon something extraordinary — a black-white math gap of 0.55 SD, half that predicted by the fundamental law. The anomaly showed up in data from Baltimore, Maryland’s largest city. Almost seven-thousand Baltimore 8th graders contributed to this result, a sample too big to write off as a statistical aberration. There was, of course, the chance that pass rates were erroneously reported, so we went back and looked at results from each of the last nine administrations of this test (1993 to 2001). Over nine years we found an average gap of 0.61 + 0.07 SD. The anomaly was confirmed! We had found a reproducible violation of the fundamental law.
The irregularity was confined to Baltimore. Statewide, the gap on the same test over nine years was a remarkably constant 1.11 + 0.05 SD, in perfect accord with the fundamental law. What had Baltimore done to so reduce the racial gap? It was not education reform or inspired pedagogy that cut the gap. It was demography….[ ]