The Growing Racial Gap in SAT Scores

collegeboard-thumbThe College Board has released its annual report on the SAT scores of graduating high school seniors in the Class of 2015. The data shows that the average score for Blacks on the reading section of the test was 431. This was significantly below the average score for Whites which stood at 529. The SAT is scored on a scale of 200 to 800 points.

On the mathematics portion of the test, a slightly larger racial gap exists. Blacks had an average score of 428, compared to an average score for Whites of 534.

On the writing section of the test, Blacks had an average score of 418. Whites scored an average of 513.

The average combined score for Blacks of 1277 is 299 points below the average combined score for Whites. Since 2006 when the SAT test was revised, the racial scoring gap on the combined SAT has increased by eight points.

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  1. The College Board has provided SAT average score reports based, it says, on the race of its test takers for many, many decades. But to what end or purpose? During my tenure as provost at three different institutions, I have raised this question at College Board conferences going back at least 20 years. Many readers will no doubt recall my questions as the kinds that a scientist poses instinctively when probing the whole truth underlying data reports. The SAT racial scoring gap has not changed. Predictably it only gets worse. As long as educators and institutions are not also provided the MEANING otherwise hidden in the data, there can be no basis on which to make cogent change.

    It would help to know who the College Board is classifying as Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, and whatever else and on what basis. If, for example, we focus solely on SAT scores for the Black test-taking category, it would be ever so enlightening if the College Board DISAGGREGATED the data at least by region (zip code), family income, college attendance of parents, and key socioeconomic indicators, the nation’s social “reality landscape” would light up in a beyond-surreal display of powerful revelation. But I also fear that such a revelation would be more than most of us could stomach in one sitting. The College Board may still insist that it is bound by federally established racial categories. And that the assignment of a test taker’s race is self-reported. But what is “race” as it is now (quite unscientifically) applied, except as a politically-inspired illusion integral to the most effective system of social control ever devised?

    • Grant D. Venerable II says: But what is “race” as it is now (quite unscientifically) applied, except as a politically-inspired illusion integral to the most effective system of social control ever devised?

      It won’t be long until we can be scientific and look at the realationship between a person’s SAT score and that person’s DNA, as for example the association between SAT score and percentage Sub-Saharan ancestry estimated from DNA. I suspect you won’t like the results.

      Every once in a while data gets out on average SAT scores broken down by both race and parental income, and broken down by race and parental education. As far as I can tell, such data is usually not released, and my guess is that it’s because the results are so politically incorrect. The average SAT score for the richest blacks turns out to be about the same as the average SAT score for very poor whites, as you probably know very well. On those rare occasions when I’ve seen such data, it has usually been right here at the JBHE.

      • T Coddington Van Voorhees VII,

        I agree with you that expected politically correct SAT data on scoring between race and parental income is not so politically correct compare to raw data that show just exactly the opposite. Americans have have a tendency to go by certain conventional patterns of expectancies when numbers prove the contrary. However, I don’t know on which direction to side with you on in your statement that blacks from the upper-echelon of the income-bracket score on average, the same as poor whites.Studies have shown that upper-income Blacks score the same on the SAT scores and performance in school as whites with similar income.

        Also, parental income (new money vs. old money) is not always related to parental education. Parental income may mean more resources poured on to that child. Any child can be raised poor, but still be raised in an environment that nurtures their intellectual curiosity by parents who are conscious and instills nothing but greatness in their child.

        • Nick Wilks says:Studies have shown that upper-income Blacks score the same on the SAT scores and performance in school as whites with similar income.

          Our friends here at JBHE in 2009 provided a table showing average SAT score for different income levels for blacks and for whites. See here:

          QUOTE: “But income differences explain only part of the racial gap in SAT scores. For black and white students from families with incomes of more than $200,000 in 2008, there still remains a huge 149-point gap in SAT scores. Even more startling is the fact that in 2008 black students from families with incomes of more than $200,000 scored lower on the SAT test than did students from white families with incomes between $20,000 and $40,000.”

          The mean score for black students with familiy incomes above $200K was 981.
          The mean score for white students with familiy incomes below $20K was was 978.

          Like it says, the data is from 2008. I have not seen more recent data.

          One factor in the comparison between rich black kids and poor whites is that probably just about all rich black kids take the SAT, no matter how dopey they are, while many, maybe most, dopey poor whites don’t take the SAT. My guess is that, if all high school seniors, no matter how dopey, took the SAT, the really rich black kids would average higher than poor whites.

          The blogger Education Realist says that on the tests that all school kids have to take, the whites eligible for free lunch do about as well as the blacks who are not eligible.

  2. Re: T Coddington Van Voorhees VII;

    Wow. We’re in the 21st century and so-called educated (ok, degree holding) people still are staunch supporters of the White racist ideology called Eugenics(i.e., Margaret Sanger, Darwin, Hegel, Margaret Mead, and William Shockley, the Turner Diary, or Joseph Goebbels etc.). That said, I certainly hope that you’re no any type of decision making position within higher education because it will have catastrophic impact on those who you perceive to be ‘Black’.

    • It seems to have escaped your notice that I was respondind to Grant D. Venerable II.

      Grant D. Venerable II complains that “race” is now “quite unscientifically applied”, presumably because “race” is self-reported. Do you share his objection? Would you prefer a “scientific” analysis of how a person’s DNA relates to things like SAT scores?

      And Grant D. Venerable II says he wishes that “the College Board DISAGGREGATED the data at least by region (zip code), family income, college attendance of parents, and key socioeconomic indicators”. I point out that, to the very limited extent such data is released, blacks find the results extremely disturbing. Do you favor the release of more detailed data every year?

      Just in case you don’t know about how race and parental income relate to SAT score, the latest data I’m aware of is in a table here:

      Please let us know if you know of more recent data like this.

    • I’ve been toying with this for awhile but I think if the state offers money to women that can’t reliably care for kids to tie their tubes what’s the harm? No one is being forced and the money saved on supporting her kids from childhood & most likely beyond would be worth it.

  3. Re: T Coddington Van Voorhees VII;

    Regardless of how the data is disaggregated, if the researcher have an underlining racist and nefarious intent, the data will be inclined to support this notion that Blacks are less intelligent. What also should be asked is why is there a continued insistence by scores of so-called scholars that Black are lacking intellectually as compared to other groups. In my view, nothing could be further from the truth. In other words, when one who continues to profess their ‘superiority’ over another person or group is merely admitting their own ‘inferiority’.

    • It matters because other researchers insist that the myriad of reasons for various gaps between the races is due to racism. Data is data, sure it can be interpreted to mean different things by different people but you’re reaching attacking folks personally.

  4. Michael says: “Regardless of how the data is disaggregated, if the researcher have an underlining racist and nefarious intent, the data will be inclined to support this notion that Blacks are less intelligent. ”

    So what do you think is the right way to look at the data on racial disparities in education? And should whites even be allowed to express their opinions about such racial disparities? I’m getting the impression that you think whites should just STFU.

  5. Re: T Coddington Van Voorhees VII;

    It appears that your British, German and Dutch lineage is coming to the forefront in your flustered comment. Until Whites within the US context began to examine themselves and their continued destructive intellectual heritage, they’re in no position to pontificate about any disparities until they admit they own intellectual criminality within the American education. What is quite obvious, is when a true Black African centered perspective is articulated within White Academia, then it becomes a problem.

      • It appears that you have an attachment with the acronym “STFU”. I would suggest that you recognize that people will challenge your inherently flawed assumptions about race within a US context. I certainly hope that recognize that Europeans do not have a monopoly on intelligence nor scholarship.

  6. Michael,
    You are obviously a very brilliant man, but one who loves to play Devil’s advocate. You refuse to accept analysis that has been revealed even by a website geared towards African-Americans. Might you know another of calculating the data that yields different results? This is coming from a fellow AA, FYI.

    • Re: Jacob;

      I don’t subscribe to this Eurocentric concept and moniker called “playing the Devil’s advocate”. In other words, my intellectually honest analysis on a given topic listed via the JBHE website is not to win any sort of popularity contest, but, to intellectually challenge the neoliberal, conservative, and status quo ideologies that has become the ‘accepted norm’. By the way, simply because you identify yourself as an “African-American” does not imply your perspective is more valid.

      In fact, whenever I hear native born Blacks proudly referring to themselves as ‘African-American’, a few thoughts immediately cross my mind: 1) neoliberal, 2) status-quo, 3) eagerly participates in American holiday’s, 4) probably boast amongst their ‘African-American’ friends or family’ how they’re the only one who live in their neighborhood, or 5) they blindly support the corporatist, globalist, and war criminal, and disrespectful[towards the Black community] Pres. Obama.

  7. It’s also important to note that ‘Asian’, (usually ignored here for just 2 groups) even tho well above others, is not broken down into the higher IQ “NE Asians” and the lower IQ SE Asians/Pacific Islanders.
    And that the addition of 200 on each part of the test (600 overall), moderates the percentage difference on the scores. A black 430 out of 800, is more respectable than the actual score of 230 out of 600.
    800 also misleadingly caps the difference, ie, on Math, where a high percent of Asians score (750-800), who might score 900+ otherwise.

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