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The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life
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The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life

3.56  ·  Rating details ·  2,892 ratings  ·  287 reviews
The controversial book linking intelligence to class and race in modern society, and what public policy can do to mitigate socioeconomic differences in IQ, birth rate, crime, fertility, welfare, and poverty.
Paperback, 912 pages
Published January 10th 1996 by Free Press (first published September 1st 1994)
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Dallas Kfreed: going forward, it may help you to read a book before commenting on it. If you do so, more people who can help you through your life may choose…moreKfreed: going forward, it may help you to read a book before commenting on it. If you do so, more people who can help you through your life may choose to do so. If you have real interest in the book and not just stirring up things, you may be interested to listen to Sam Harris' recent interview with one of the authors. The podcast is called Waking Up. Find episode 73. I recommend it. Good luck! (less)

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Dec 28, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: politics-history
At this writing, the United States has been *officially* free of segregation, slavery, and anti-miscegenation laws for 52 of its 234 years. (Though didn't Bob Jones University only just integrate in 2000?) Apparently this is long enough to convince many that any argument bordering on racism is a radical, persecuted concept. While all political ideas - no matter how old and tired and simplistic - should indeed be entertained, challenged and debated, there is something particularly perverse about ...more
What can be said about this hateful tract disguised as "science" that hasn't already been said? Herrnstein was once a respected animal psychologist who obviously went off the deep end before he died and Murray is a long-time political hack whose main qualification is being able to hold sinecures at well-funded think tanks.

The book is already based on two massive theoretical flaws, the first being that there is such a thing as general intelligence (the "g factor") which can be measured by IQ test
Aug 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book was scorned when I attended college. It took ten years after I attended to read the book. First, there is one chapter on black and white differences in I.Q. It is not very controversial basically says the average white person has a higher IQ than the average black person. Of course what makes a person black or white? I could relate this to the 100m sprint, all sprinters except one that have run under 10 seconds are of West African descent. This of course is not controversial. There are ...more
Dec 28, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: current-affairs
minor editing 3/10/10

One would hope that decisions are made based on solid evidence and a modicum of rational thought. Often that is not the case, however Sometimes rehashed data and superficial analysis, particularly in the area of social policy, appeal to society because they reflect changes in society's perceptions of reality To some extent that explains the popularity of The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray. There seems to be an unconscious desire to locate society's ills
Jun 22, 2011 rated it did not like it
Nutshell: epsilons are not trainable, so no need to spend moneys on them.

Authors contend that giving IQ tests of questionable merit to impoverished persons who are lacking medical care and nutrition, are limited in access to education, and are resident in tenements contaminated with lead and whatnot--and then comparing their results with those from people who, yaknow, aren't, is a good measure of genetic ability.

The basic thesis--that class (however improperly defined & deployed) correlates wit
Andrew Charles
Aug 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A controversial and misunderstood book. It has been accused, unfairly, of supporting racism, yet the authors take pains to stress that the intelligence of an individual, not the average intelligence of an ethnic group is what effects personal ability and achievement. After all, even if you agree with the authors that individual intelligence is most strongly an inherited trait, the average intelligence of any group is highly effected by socio-economic factors, including culture, religion, opportu ...more
Jun 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Racist. This book is racist. You don’t need to contemplate or evaluate its content because it is racist. Avoid exposure to the ideas because they are racist. Let’s not disturb our safe slumber with racist ruminations. Carry on.

What’s that? The term “racist” has been so overused and misused that it is now meaningless to you? And what’s that!? You prefer painful truths to comforting misapprehensions? Oh dear. Then proceed with caution, troublemaker, if you must. But you’ve been warned.

Given the i
Sep 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This book created a controversy (that endures today) when it was published in the mid '90s. Many people condemned it without having read it because it presented a thesis, backed with evidence, that blatantly violated the strictures of the nascent politically correct culture that now reigns in our society. Those who find this book's ideas convincing will often be branded with the scarlet "R" (racist), by people who are offended enough by the book's very existence that they fear to pick it up, muc ...more
Jonnie Enloe
Aug 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
It is totally politically incorrect to even read this book anymore much less give it any praise. But it is one of my favorite books. Statistics do not lie. And this book sheds light on unmentionable subjects about race that just infuriate people. I am not a racist but I still want to know the problems. If I don't know the problems to be corrected, how can I correct them or add my voice to those trying to correct them. Some people would simply rather bury this information and stick their heads in ...more
Russell Hayes
Mar 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is another solidly researched book by Charles Murray on an interesting and pertinent social issue in America. The idea is basically that intelligence is one of the most important factors in the stratification of society.

Some chief points the authors make:

-Intelligence is substantially heritable (between 40-80%)
-An IQ score is a much better predictor of job productivity than an interview, resume, references, or college transcript. The push for universal higher education is thus ill-founded
Tressie Mcphd
Jan 06, 2013 rated it did not like it
So my review is likely going to shock some.

I don't think Hernstein and Murray are racists. I think they're lost structuralists looking for a model to justify their functionalist understanding of the world. See, that's a world where functionalism is positivist and progressive and inequality is a natural function of unequal gifts, talents, abilities, and rewards. This book is phrenology 5.0 in that sense: it generates some dangerous policy smoke, makes a few people rich, and we'll do it again wit
Dec 21, 2008 rated it did not like it
Gosh this book still makes me mad - appallingly bad science, manipulation of statistics, reaching conclusions that aren't warranted by the data, all in the name of "proving" that people are poor b/c they lack intelligence.
Full disclosure - I haven't read the entire book, only a few chapters that we read in a psych class senior year of college. However, out of the chapters we read, every single claim they made was flawed. Reading bullshit science pisses me off in general, but it is even worse whe
Jul 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: policy
This is one of the most interesting books I've ever read. Unfortunately, many won't read it for fear of being branded a racist. Too many have allowed their negative opinion of the book's authors to objectively judge the merit of the authors' ideas. You could read the first few parts of the book, avoiding the infamous discussion of race and IQ, and gain incredible insights into the nature of IQ in society. Dive into the controversial section and you'll find that Herrnstein & Murray, despite what ...more
Private Account
Nov 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I read this book five years ago and gave it two stars because I was still brainwashed by academia. Having real world experience behind me this time (as an employer noting patterns in hiring and why some employees turn out to be so much more valuable than others) I read this book with a more open mind, and I realized something:

IQ is such a good predictor of an employee's value to a company that colleges had to fight it. Back in the 1960's IQ tests were making college obsolete. The era of educatio
It's the most famous book by Murray, and most likely also his worst.
It must be noted that a lot of people attacked and still attack TBC without having really read it - the book is deeply flawed, but it's not a racial eugenics manifesto, and doesn't even focus on race.

The book was published only 4 years after the Human Genome Project started, but presented as definitive, established facts things that were not, and still aren't. The authors, who are not genetists, misrepresented the state of genet
Dec 25, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I feel guilty even giving this book two stars, but I must admit that there are a few nuggets of ore buried in the excrement that is this book:

1. Yes, giften children are being dumbed-down by our school system, despite the Talented and Gifted programs in many states: those programs simply do not give the brightest kids the leeway and encouragement to learn as much as they can as fast as they can in as many interesting areas as they can, partly due to lack of resources, and partly due to a need to
A Young Philosopher
This book is loaded with statistics and footnotes. It is immaculately sourced and researched. Its authors are extremely civil about their findings and try their hardest to not push any buttons. Even the book's policy prescriptions are moderated from the findings which come beforehand. It is the road which passes between the (enforced) consensus and intellectual heresy.

In short: The Bell Curve is an essential read to understand modern America. Intelligence is dividing our society and cognitive li
Larry Taylor
Jan 29, 2008 rated it did not like it
i try to keep an open mind and read varying points of view other than my own, but this book is a scientific nightmare. based on raw data, the author tries to build a case for asians being smarter than whites who are smarter than hispanics, and everybody is smarter than black people. tell that to MLK, Ben Carson, etc. the problem with the argument is that it leaves out social, economic, and educational factors. the book is not worth reading and is dangerous in that it may provide an excuse for ra ...more
Jan 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
The Bell Curve is actually two books in one: the first one deals with research, while the second one deals with policy. Splitting these from the start would probably have contributed to a more levelheaded and meaningful discussion of its controversial contents. Then again, that might be wishful thinking: how many of us can truly take out politics from science?

From a science perspective, and despite the firestorm that ensued the book’s publication, most of the book's base premises were not dispu
Jun 11, 2010 rated it really liked it
4.0 stars. This is a very controversial book that holds as one of its major premises that intelligence, at least in part, is determined by genetics. Thus, according to the book, Asian people are, on average, more intelligent than caucasians and caucasians are, on average, more intelligent than African Americans. Very radical and very explosive, this certainly caused a firestorm of debate when it first came out.

Without getting into any of the merits (or lack thereof) of the above premise which I
Nov 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is one of the most uncomfortable books I have ever read, and I mean physical, gut-level discomfort.

I will go against the grain and say that I do not believe that the authors are racists, eugenicists or whatever other epithets have been thrown at them over the years. Yet, I was left with a sense of their profound single-mindedness and erasure of nuances, including being closed to the potentially huge area of early childhood influences, about which we (still) know very little.

If it was up to
Sep 06, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: stricken
Junk science with lots of numbers to defend the age-old assertion that our society is totally fair and people who are poor have only themselves to blame. Classic eugenics attempt to confuse correlation with causation.
Bob Nichols
Aug 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
For many, I suppose, this book is for burning. Despite its controversial subject matter, I thought the authors made a reasonable case for a point of view that is out there, though largely unstated. Its main argument is that humans differ in intelligence and it is this, not poor environmental circumstance, that results in the various social ills – broken families, unemployment, poverty, welfare, crime, etc. The social initiatives that address them, the authors say, are doomed to fail because of t ...more
The Wanderer
Sep 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
The more I read this book, the more I realize I am dumb...Apparently I have the lowest IQ and am considered "Mentally Retarded". Folks with low IQ include (but are not limited to) alcoholism (check), low income/long bouts of unemployment (check), and laziness (check). I have them all! The triple package!

I don't think this should be a point of pride...

If you are low IQ'd and have the attention span of a squirrel like myself, you can simply read the tables and graphs which appear every 5 pages or
James Morrison
Feb 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing

James Morrison

Nov 13, 2018
James Morrison
I thoroughly enjoyed Psychology 101 as a freshman in college and went on to study the subject beyond that. Some of the most fundamental concepts regarding individual differences, methods used by psychologists and how data is interpretative are covered in this book. This book touches on the current thinking regarding the distribution of intelligence and the Nature-Nurture problem and that is exciting. However it is much more than that because it gives
Vagabond of Letters, DLitt
Jan 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Re-rated 5 on second reading.

This is THE MOST IMPORTANT SOCIAL-SCIENCE BOOK OF THE 20TH CENTURY, BAR NONE. (That's the first time I've written an all-caps sentence in a review.)

This book is brilliance above brilliance. It is dry, academic writing (and only one section out of four deals with race and IQ, and only a small part of that section -- so much for all of the one-star reviews deriding it as if it were nothing else, and, even if it were, as if the truth must not be admitted, must not be s
Aug 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, wrongthink
This is one of the most important, most wrongly maligned books I've ever encountered. Essentially it is a summary of mainstream science on intelligence (IQ, "g", etc.) and some very straightforward statistical correlations of social trends and behaviors with IQ. I'm amazed that it was so hated by the left, since most of the arguments it makes actually inherently support redistributive policies and programs.

Part of why it was hated was ostensibly racial, but 90% of the book is specifically about
Michael Dow
Jul 26, 2013 rated it did not like it
As others have pointed out, this book is racist nonsense, and a sterling example of white privilege. 'Hmmm, people of color are disproportionately poor and criminalized. Instead of accepting that our ancestors created, and that we perpetuate, a racist society that disenfranchises "blacks" and over-enfranchises "whites", let's find a way to blame it all on the inherent inferiority of "blacks".' (Stephen J. Gould's Mismeasure Of A Man elegantly explains why the underlying science is without merit. ...more
Christopher Maricle
Jul 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
Yep, I actually read the whole thing. It can be technical at times, but the findings were very illuminating. Be careful about who you talk to about this book - some found it highly offensive. The authors conclusions and recommendations are sound: we need to find a place for everyone by creating public policy that addresses the varying abilities of all people.
Nov 13, 2007 rated it liked it
Everyone knows the controversy this book caused.

Few will want to delve into the analysis of the numerous IQ studies. So, I suggest you skip to the last few chapters where some profound questions are asked.

Namely, is our society becoming increasingly stratified based on intelligence and education? If so, are society's policy makers creating systems, rules, and regulations which are so complicated that they become incomprehensible or seemingly inconsistent and unfair to those without the education
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