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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

3.55  ·  Rating details ·  2,171 ratings  ·  197 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 1994)
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Brian Pretty much everything which Herrnstein and Murray published in that book has been validated through follow-up research, no matter how unpopular it…morePretty much everything which Herrnstein and Murray published in that book has been validated through follow-up research, no matter how unpopular it might be to outraged progressives.

Identity politics is poisonous. Do yourself a favor and read before you speak next time. In particular, do not accept the opinions of others as a substitute for your own judgment.

By the way, kindly cite the page in his book where Murray promotes eugenics. You can't? What a shock!!(less)

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3.55  · 
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 ·  2,171 ratings  ·  197 reviews


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Seth
Jan 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I read the book fearful that it was politically incorrect to entertain alternative viewpoints regarding intellectual equality. I finished the book remaining skeptical of some of the more controversial conclusions about distribution of IQ among different ethnicities. Evidently, there are many skeptics that have raised some legitimate questions about the authors' research. That said, The Bell Curve has persuaded me that heredity has at least some role in intelligence and that IQ is not just a resu ...more
Eric_W
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
...more
E
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
Nebuchadnezzar
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
...more
Ian Pollock
Aug 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is the ultimate book that everybody knows is wrong, but nobody has read.

It's too bad. It's a fascinating collection of social science. We can split it up into (a) fact conclusions, (b) predictions, and (c) policy recommendations. The fact conclusions are separated from the other parts of the book and stand on their own. For me, they're the most interesting part.

The book is too expansive to summarize easily, but roughly:

(a) Fact conclusions: IQ is a neglected but extremely important variable
...more
Amador
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
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
Tom
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
sologdin
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
...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
...more
Hadrian
A book with a moderately interesting premise, horrible documentation and research practices, and terrifying conclusions.
Toe
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
...more
Ryan
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 w ...more
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
...more
Emily
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
...more
Romeu
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
...more
Stephen
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
...more
Thought_Criminal
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
...more
James Morrison
Feb 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I






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
...more
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
Roslyn
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
...more
Shira
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
...more
Sandra
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
...more
Vagabond of Letters
Jan 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Ryan Lackey
Aug 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wrongthink, favorites
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
...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.
Russell
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
...more
Michael
Aug 20, 2007 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: People that have trouble sleeping
Reads like a textbook. The basic idea being presented is that intelligence is hereditary, and its assertion has been supported with research.

This book seems to have generated a lot of fervent opposition which is why I also purchased The Mismeasure of Man, a direct rebuttal to Bell Curve by Stephen Jay Gould.

I haven't gotten far enough into this book to be decided on whether or not the book represents a fully valid argument, but based on what I have read so far criticisms that this book is racis
...more
Kaethe Douglas
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.
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“How good a predictor of job productivity is a cognitive test score compared to a job interview? Reference checks? College transcript? The answer, probably surprising to many, is that the test score is a better predictor of job performance than any other single measure. This is the conclusion to be drawn from a meta-analysis on the different predictors of job performance, as shown in the table below.” 1 likes
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