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Inequality by Design: Cracking the Bell Curve Myth 1st Edition

3.3 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0691028989
ISBN-10: 0691028982
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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Following in the footsteps of the critical The Bell Curve Wars (LJ 4/15/94) and Measured Lies (LJ 6/1/96), Fischer and his fellow members of the Sociology Department at the University of California, Berkeley, have collaborated to produce a clear and persuasive counter argument to the conclusions of Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein in The Bell Curve (Free Pr., 1994) that racially related I.Q. scores are the determining factors for explaining the differing economic, social, and intellectual success levels of Americans. Fischer et al. first question the validity of Murray and Herrnstein's statistical results. Then "using history, geography, and economics, [they] show" that such inequalities are rooted in environmental background and circumstances, not the obverse, and that these are shaped by social policy and structure. The authors urge that Americans not scapegoat race but look critically at policy and at a design for society to narrow the gaps between the least and most encouraged in our country. Recommended for academic and lay readers.?Suzanne W. Wood, SUNY Coll. of Technology, Alfred
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

Named an Outstanding Book by the Gustavus Meyers Center for the Study of Human Rights in North America for 1998

"Inequality by Design's most important findings describe an America deeply stratified by class, an America in which equal opportunity remains only and idle dream...[It] may well after the public discussion...with a shot across the bow of the nation's policymakers."--Lingua Franca

". . . calmly but devastatingly refutes the view that IQ is the inexorable force behind growing inequality in American society. [This] message deserves wide airing, lest voters and policy makers believe the fatalistic--and false--message that our destiny lies in our genes. . . . The fact that IQ isn't destiny means Americans can't wash their hands of poverty and related social problems by imagining them to be timeless and unchangeable."--Jonathan Marshall, San Francisco Chronicle

"A clear and persuasive counter argument to the conclusions of Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein in The Bell Curve. . . . The authors urge that Americans not scapegoat race but look critically at policy and at a design for society to narrow the gaps between the least and most encouraged in our country."--Library Journal
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 324 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; 1st edition (July 8, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691028982
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691028989
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.7 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #818,755 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Steven H Propp TOP 100 REVIEWER on March 25, 2013
Format: Paperback
The authors wrote in the Preface to this 1996 book, "We were impelled to write this book by the publication in late 1994 of The Bell Curve. That immensely well publicized book was then the latest statement of a philosophy that gained extensive credence in the 1990s: The widening inequalities among Americans that developed in the last quarter-century are inevitable... In late 1994, we---all members of Berkeley's Department of Sociology---came together to discuss The Bell Curve phenomenon and soon agreed that a response from sociologists was in order... the ideology The Bell Curve represents is too pervasive; the book's shock waves are too great to ignore..[it] has unsettled our students... So we set aside much of our ongoing work to write this book."

They observe, "The more institutions sort people by test scores, the better the test scores predict scoring. This predictive validity is then taken as a sign that the tests must be measuring intelligence and legitimates further refinements in the tests..." (Pg. 44) They summarize, "the explanation for inequality lies in the design of society, not in the minds or genes of individuals." (Pg. 158)

They point out that "what is perhaps more remarkable than the persisting gap between the academic performance of blacks and whites is that the gap in test scores is narrowing. It is a point Herrnstein and Murray admit grudgingly but must admit nevertheless. Over the last twenty years or so, the white advantage over blacks in various standardized tests has narrowed by the equivalent of several IQ points. That alone should cast doubt on the idea that the group differences are inherent and unchangeable." (Pg.
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Format: Hardcover
The numerous authors of this tome do a fine job in their criticism of Herrnstein and Murray. They discuss where those authors were correct, where they twisted stastics to meet their own goals, where they made false assumptions and where they committed bad science. This book doesn't get much into the genetic end of things, but rather discusses other causes of inequality and the flaws in the research of The Bell Curve. Recommended for anyone who wants a serious, scholarly, critique of pop science.
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Format: Paperback
One conservative author, while praising certain aspects of The Bell Curve, nevertheless points out several weaknesses, including The Bell Curve's naive use of statistical correlations. Even some conservatives thus agree with some criticisms raised in this book:

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"Perhaps the most troubling aspect of The Bell Curve from an intellectual standpoint is its authors' uncritical approach to statistical correlations. One of the first things taught in introductory statistics is that correlation is not causation. It is also one fo the first things forgotten and one of the most widely ignored facts in public policy research. The statistical term "multicollinearity," dealing with spurious correlation, appears only once in this massive book.

Multicollinearity refers to the fact that many variables are highly correlated with one another, so that it is very easy to believe that a certain result comes from variable A, when in fact it is due to variable Z, with which A happens to be correlated. In real life, innumerable factors go together."

--Sowell, Thomas. "Ethnicity and IQ" pp70-79 IN: The Bell Curve Wars: Race, Intelligence, and the Future of America. 1996. ed Steven Fraser
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Format: Paperback
Fischer et al. launch a reasoned yet devastating critique on
methodological grounds of Herrnstein & Murray's infamous
_The Bell Curve._ The first half of the book details technical
errors and ommissions from TBC, offering three distinct
arguments against Herrnstein & Murray's basic claims, all
using the same data they used in _The Bell Curve._ Then
the second half of the book offers a substantive proposal
for understanding income and wealth inequality in the United
States, rooted in the same data Herrnstein & Murray used.
Highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback
Not quite. At the time of publication, "The Bell Curve" represented the best research and science on the topic of Intelligence. Subsequent genetic research and group testing have largely confirmed the general validity of the authors' important work. Intelligence is measurable. Intelligence is largely genetic, not environmental. Certain groups have higher Intelligence than others. These are now, once again, obvious facts.

Understandably, The Bell Curve caused a political storm and unleashed a torrent of emotional responses. Inequality By Design is one of them.

Bell Curve Wars, and to a lesser extent, Bell Curve Debate, contained the best and most complete refutation of the research and scientific conclusions contained in "The Bell Curve." As such, they are welcome additions to scholarship in this area. Inequality By Design is a mediocre tag-long. Based on the weak arguments made in these books, we may readily dismiss most of the major claims contained therein, and we can get a few things out of the way quickly. Bell Curve Wars , Bell Curve Debate, and Inequality By Design do not scientifically refute conclusions contained in "The Bell Curve." These books are a blend of politics, ideology and what I term, semi-science. The writers demonstrate obvious bias, by applying the strictest scientific and logical scrutiny to the research and arguments made in "The Bell Curve," but exercising extreme credulity in positing highly speculative possible, but undocumented, alternative explanations for the un-rebutted evidence presented in "The Bell Curve." This modus operandi is common Praxis among ideologically-drive semi-scientists.

The worst flaw of this book is that Fischer repeatedly confuses correlation with causation.
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