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The Sciences

Not all brown people take stats

Gene ExpressionBy Razib KhanMarch 16, 2009 1:06 PM


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Dumb article, Nobody's Model Minority, in response to Jason Richwine's Indian Americans: The New Model Minority (H/T Steve), makes a pretty obvious error:

He presses on anyway, attributing Indian Americans' overall "success" in the U.S. to three factors: culture, education (that is, an "obsessive emphasis on academic achievement") and most significantly, IQ. This success is defined by the number of Indian Americans with college degrees (69 percent), their median head of household annual salary ($83,000), and their representation in high-paying fields like medicine and information technology. In other words, being a "model minority" boils down to one thing--money. But even this characterization is deeply problematic.

Figures like median income are skewed by a few individuals at the top earning extremely high salaries.

In fact, Indian Americans aren't just IT workers, engineers and doctors--they are activists, journalists, taxi drivers, sales clerks and more.

The author is confusing the mean with the median. The median is the 50th percentile, and less sensitive to extreme values. This the reason that income figures are often in median and not mean. In 2004 the mean household income in the United States was $60,000, but the median one was $43,000. I'm sure the latter sounds more familiar to you than the former, mostly because it's probably a better picture of the distribution for something like income that is skewed to the right. This little gem about diversity and skewness is one I recall being floated around Asian American activist circles to refute the Model Minority, but it is likely that most didn't really understand what skewness was but just used it as a clever rhetorical trick (kind of like how Creationists talk about the Second Law of Thermodynamics). The rest of the article is moronic pablum, and could have been produced by a haphazard Perl script. Then again these sorts of arguments are extremely persuasive to the set who are extremely focused on dismissing generalizations which they don't find congenial (e.g., there is variation in educational & income outcome by ethnic minority group) as opposed to those which fit their narratives (e.g., white racism is ubiquitous and the reason minorities suffer disadvantage & deprivation). Note: I find it rather strange that one would have to mention that Indians work as sales clerks and cab drivers. Apu Nahasapeemapetilon is arguably the most famous Indian American....

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