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For a long time now, intelligence and achievement tests have been cast as the bearers of bad news. In The Bell Curve, for example, Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray argued that there are sharp limits on the intelligence of most of the population; they also noted that the test scores of several minority groups have been chronically low. But the trends documented here, in The Rising Curve, tell a very different story. The fact is intelligence test scores are going up everywhere in the world; what's more, the Black–White gap in the school achievement of American children has closed substantially in recent years. These encouraging trends have been established beyond any doubt; this book is about what they mean.

In The Rising Curve, leading experts in psychology, sociology, psychometrics, and nutrition present and defend different interpretations of these findings. Do the IQ gains reflect genuine gains in intelligence? Are they due to cultural changes, better schools, increased test sophistication, or improved diet and health? Were the government programs established during the "War on Poverty" partly responsible for the school gains of minority children in the 1970s? A final section addresses another much-debated issue: Will the different birth rates of different social classes inevitably produce a "dysgenic trend," as Herrnstein and Murray have claimed? This book is a must read for all those interested in questions of intelligence, schooling, and social policy.

Table of Contents

List of Contributors


  1. Introduction: Rising Test Scores and What They Mean
    —Ulric Neisser

I. Gains on Intelligence Tests

  1. IQ Gains Over Time: Toward Finding the Causes
    —James R. Flynn
  2. Environmental Complexity and the Flynn Effect
    —Carmi Schooler
  3. The Cultural Evolution of IQ
    —Patricia M. Greenfield
  4. Are We Raising Smarter Children Today? School- and Home-Related Influences on IQ
    —Wendy M. Williams
  5. The Role of Nutrition in the Development of Intelligence
    —Marian Sigman and Shannon E. Whaley
  6. Nutrition and the Worldwide Rise in IQ Scores
    —Reynaldo Martorell
  7. In Support of the Nutrition Theory
    —Richard Lynn

II. A Narrowing Gap in School Achievement

  1. Trends in Black–White Test Score Differentials: I. Uses and Misuses of NAEP/SAT Data
    —Robert M. Hauser
  2. Exploring the Rapid Rise in Black Achievement Scores in the United States (1970–1990)
    —David W. Grissmer, Stephanie Williamson, Sheila Nataraj Kirby, and Mark Berends
  3. The Shrinking Gap Between High- and Low-Scoring Groups: Current Trends and Possible Causes
    —Stephen J. Ceci, Tina B. Rosenblum, and Matthew Kumpf
  4. Trends in Black–White Test Score Differentials: II. The WORDSUM Vocabulary Test
    —Min-Hsiung Huang and Robert M. Hauser

III. The Hypothesis of Dysgenic Trends

  1. The Decline of Genotypic Intelligence
    —Richard Lynn
  2. Problems in Inferring Dysgenic Trends for Intelligence
    —Irwin D. Waldman
  3. Differential Fertility by IQ and the IQ Distribution of a Population
    —Samuel H. Preston
  4. Whither Dysgenics? Comments on Lynn and Preston
    —John C. Loehlin

Author Index

Subject Index

About the Editor

Reviews & Awards

With powerful data and persuasive arguments, the contributors to The Rising Curve undermine the principal arguments of The Bell Curve. We end up with a far more optimistic view of human potential.
—Howard Gardner, Professor, Graduate School of Education, Harvard University

Scores on tests of intelligence are increasing in all technologically advanced societies. This book contains several essays that provide different explanations for this phenomenon. If you want to understand the Flynn effect, you should read this book.
—Nathan Brody, Professor, Department of Psychology, Wesleyan University

Blacks today have the same average IQ as Whites 50 years ago. The difference must be entirely environmental, so it makes sense to look to the environment for an explanation of current Black–White differences. This superb book is the first full-scale discussion of the background of the important argument. Anyone who is interested in the relation among genes, IQ, and race should read it.
—Ned Black, Professor, Departments of Philosophy and Psychology an the Center of Neural Science, New York University