"Over the past 15 years, educational aspirations have consistently had a greater impact on ACT performance than self-reported race or ethnicity. This suggests that by increasing students' aspirations, regardless of their demographics, their academic performance can be improved."

It seems to me that people who do better on tests would raise their educational aspirations, rather than the other way around? Obviously I can't exclude some benefit from positive thinking, but I would expect students to have a reasonably accurate assessment of their own academic ability by the time they take a test like this.

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That’s a very interesting point.

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Many sources state “race is not a biological reality”. That’s a commonplace view on the left, but is not actually true. A good parallel might be the Sun orbiting the Earth. Everyone “knew” that this was true, but of course it wasn’t. The biological reality of race has been demonstrated many times. However, since it is not a PC idea, the science just gets ignored. A few useful data points. 

See “Genetic Structure, Self-Identified Race/Ethnicity, and Confounding in Case-Control Association Studies” (NCBI/PMC). Risch was able identify race with 99.86% accuracy. Not bad for something that doesn’t exist. Note that Risch did not look skin color genes at all. Quote 

“We have analyzed genetic data for 326 microsatellite markers that were typed uniformly in a large multiethnic population-based sample of individuals as part of a study of the genetics of hypertension (Family Blood Pressure Program). Subjects identified themselves as belonging to one of four major racial/ethnic groups (white, African American, East Asian, and Hispanic) and were recruited from 15 different geographic locales within the United States and Taiwan. Genetic cluster analysis of the microsatellite markers produced four major clusters, which showed near-perfect correspondence with the four self-reported race/ethnicity categories. Of 3,636 subjects of varying race/ethnicity, only 5 (0.14%) showed genetic cluster membership different from their self-identified race/ethnicity. On the other hand, we detected only modest genetic differentiation between different current geographic locales within each race/ethnicity group. Thus, ancient geographic ancestry, which is highly correlated with self-identified race/ethnicity—as opposed to current residence—is the major determinant of genetic structure in the U.S. population. Implications of this genetic structure for case-control association studies are discussed.” 

Take a look at “The Inconvenient Science of Racial DNA Profiling”. A scientist by the name of Tony Frudakis was able to identify the race of a serial killer in a police investigation in Louisiana. The police in Louisiana were looking for a white male killer based on (mis)information received early in the case. They were wrong. Frudakis examined DNA samples collected in the investigation and told the police that the killer was probably 85% Black and 15% Native American. Based on this new information the police starting examining new suspects and found the actual killer (who matched Frudakis’s description rather well). Tony Frudakis found that race could be determined from genes with 100% accuracy. Not bad for something that doesn’t exist. 

Take a look at “How Genetics Is Changing Our Understanding of 'Race'” by David Reich in the NYT. If race didn’t exist it would not be trivial to identify race from genes. But it is. Quotes 

“Groundbreaking advances in DNA sequencing technology have been made over the last two decades. These advances enable us to measure with exquisite accuracy what fraction of an individual’s genetic ancestry traces back to, say, West Africa 500 years ago — before the mixing in the Americas of the West African and European gene pools that were almost completely isolated for the last 70,000 years. With the help of these tools, we are learning that while race may be a social construct, differences in genetic ancestry that happen to correlate to many of today’s racial constructs are real.” 


“Recent research on the human genome challenges the basic assumption that human races have no biological basis. In this article, we provide a theoretical synthesis that accepts the existence of genetic clusters consistent with certain racial classifications as well as the validity of the genomic research that has identified the clusters, without diminishing the social character of their context, meaning, production, or consequences.” 

It turns of the Razib Kahn has commented on this. See “To classify humanity is not that hard”. Quote 

“The idea that human phylogeny is impossible is in the air, I have heard it from many intelligent people. I have no idea why people would be skeptical of it, the way it is presented by many scholars makes the implication clear that phylogeny is impossible, that differences are trivial. Both these are false impressions. I do not believe that the fact that mixed-race people’s real problems obtaining organs with the appropriate tissue match is a trivial affair. Human genetic differences have plenty of concrete impacts which are not socially constructed.” 

A number of companies (23andMe, Ancestry.com, etc.) can easily identify the ancestors of anyone using a tiny DNA sample. If race had no biological basis, this would be impossible. But, of course, it is very possible. 

It turns out that Stephen Hsu has commented on this. See “Metric on the space of genomes and the scientific basis for race”. Quote 

“Now plot the genome of each human as a point on our lattice. Not surprisingly, there are readily identifiable clusters of points, corresponding to traditional continental ethnic groups: Europeans, Africans, Asians, Native Americans, etc. (See, for example, Risch et al., Am. J. Hum. Genet. 76:268–275, 2005.) Of course, we can get into endless arguments about how we define European or Asian, and of course there is substructure within the clusters, but it is rather obvious that there are identifiable groupings, and as the Risch study shows, they correspond very well to self-identified notions of race.” 

Well over two hundred years ago, Blumenbach found that he could classify skulls by race. It is sad but true, that our understanding of our own species has declined (in some respects), since then. 

There is actually a funny version of this. Quote 

“Forensic anthropology and the concept of race: if races don't exist, why are forensic anthropologists so good at identifying them?” 

Why indeed? If race had no biological significance, then it would be impossible to determine race from skeletons. But, of course, it is.

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Thank you for writing this.

Your epilogue made me think about the consequences of good intentions. I could imagine a particularly open-minded school administrator reading this, and thinking that they could close certain gaps by encouraging students to have greater post-secondary aspirations. I could see that morphing into some kind of educator professional development, which would morph into teachers either inferring or being outright told that the expectation is that their students have greater post-secondary aspirations. The result will inevitably be that nearly 100% of students will bubble in "Graduate Study." For some that will obviously not be true, for others who have been convinced it it true is nonetheless not what's best for them individually, but either way, it will render the survey question useless.

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Nicely put. As you intimate, White and Black are nonsense categories. Descendants of American slaves, Afro-Caribbeans and recent African immigrants are three very distinct groups. Euro-Americans are also highly diverse. Melanin content of skin is not a useful sorting category except for things such as vitamin D deficiency risks. Which is why systems that attempt to actively racially segregate ended up having serious boundary-enforcement problems and continually generate various absurdities.

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One thing I feel might blow up the whole race and Postsecondary Educational Aspiration(PEA) categories is considering the learning environment the student came from. I think considering the learning environment would dramatically change those numbers.

My student was homeschooled, took the test after 2006, could check a race box other than white and did exceedingly well. He didn’t check the race box because he wanted to “be considered a person, not a race taking the test”, his words. He didn’t check the PEA box because he wasn’t sure at the time if he would do graduate work or not. How many others had/have the similar/same sort of profile? Do they ever look at the learning environment the student came from? I bet that would yield some interesting results.

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Dec 31, 2022Liked by Frederick R Prete

I think it's not really fair to compare low educational aspiration students of one race to high educational aspirations students of another. How do students of different races with the same aspirations compare? My guess would be they are pretty similar and none of the races significantly outperform another.

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Dec 31, 2022·edited Dec 31, 2022Liked by Frederick R Prete

"One of the reasons is that there is much more genetic (biological) variability within human racial categories than between them".

A 'truth' that hails from Lewontin in 1972. Debunked by, among others, Edwards. It's true when you look at a single gen at a time, but hereditary traits are mostly polygenetic. Also, Lewontin ignored the quantitive aspect.

You might find a thai, who's 2 m tall, but chances are much better in finding a xhosa (Nelson Mandelas tribe) of that hight.

Lewontin was an activist.

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Dec 30, 2022Liked by Frederick R Prete

Is "aspiration" just picking up individual intelligence differences? Smart kids early on get the idea that they will go far?

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That data is eye-opening. Thank you for the article.

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