The Bell Curve is a 1994 book by psychologist Richard J. Herrnstein (who died before the book was released) and political scientist Charles Murray. Its central argument is that humanintelligence is substantially influenced by both inherited and environmental factors and is a better predictor of many personal dynamics, including financial income, job performance, chance ofunwanted pregnancy, and involvement in crime than are an individual's parental socioeconomic status, or education level. The book also argues that those with high intelligence, the "cognitive elite", are becoming separated from those of average and below-average intelligence, and that this is a dangerous social trend with the United States moving toward a more divided society similar to that in Latin America.
The book was controversial, especially those parts in which the authors wrote about racial differences in intelligence and discussed the implications of those differences. The authors were reported throughout the popular press as arguing that these IQ differences are genetic. They wrote in chapter 13: "It seems highly likely to us that both genes and the environment have something to do with racial differences." The introduction to the chapter more cautiously states, "The debate about whether and how much genes and environment have to do with ethnic differences remains unresolved."
The book's title comes from the bell-shaped normal distribution of intelligence quotient (IQ) scores in a population.
Shortly after publication, many people rallied both in criticism and defense of the book. A number of critical texts were written in response to the book.
The Bell Curve, published in 1994, was written by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray as a work designed to explain, using empirical statistical analysis, the variations in intelligence in American society, raise some warnings regarding the consequences of this intelligence gap, and propose national social policy with the goal of mitigating the worst of the consequences attributed to this intelligence gap. Many of the assertions put forth and conclusions reached by the authors are very controversial, ranging from the relationships between low measured intelligence and anti-social behavior, to the observed relationship between low African-Americantest scores (compared to whites and East Asians) and genetic factors in intelligence abilities. The book was released and received with a large public response. In the first several months of its release, 400,000 copies of the book were sold around the world. Several thousand reviews and commentaries have been written in the short time since the book's publication. The Bell Curve argues that:
Their evidence comes from an analysis of data compiled in the National Longitudinal Study of Youth (NLSY), a study conducted by the United States Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics tracking thousands of Americans starting in the 1980s. All participants in the NLSY took the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), a battery of ten tests taken by all who apply for entry into the armed services. (Some had taken an IQ test in high school, and the median correlation of the AFQT and those tests was .81.) Participants were later evaluated for social and economic outcomes. In general, IQ/AFQT scores were a better predictor of life outcomes than social class background. Similarly, after statistically controlling for differences in IQ, many outcome differences between racial-ethnic groups disappeared
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