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Linda Gottfredson

Educational psychologist Linda Gottfredson has spent more than three decades fighting against the idea that social equality between black and white Americans is possible, or even desirable.

About Linda Gottfredson

Following a long tradition of scientific racism, Gottfredson argues that racial inequality, especially in employment, is the direct result of genetic racial differences in intelligence. Relying heavily on money obtained from the white nationalist Pioneer Fund, Gottfredson has worked tirelessly to oppose any and all efforts to reduce racial inequality in both in the workplace and in society as a whole.

In Her Own Words:

“The bell curve for whites is centered roughly around IQ 100; the bell curve for American blacks roughly around 85; and those for different subgroups of Hispanics roughly midway between those for whites and blacks. The evidence is less definitive for exactly where above IQ 100 the bell curves for Jews and Asians are centered.“

—“Mainstream Science on Intelligence,” The Wall Street Journal, 1994

“The IQs of different groups of African blacks range more around 70.”

—Interview with Stefan Molyneux, 2015

“The critics' [of Arthur Jensen’s claim that black people are less intelligent] most general fear has always seemed to be that widespread belief in a genetic basis for IQ differences would undermine support for egalitarian social programs, because such a belief might legitimate social inequality as ‘natural.’ Much social policy and many professional reputations today do indeed rest on the presumption that unequal outcomes result solely from the exercise of unjust social privilege. However, evidence that some inequality is natural taps real anxieties that are integral to the American national character. The truth about intelligence will never be popular because it points to a dilemma that most Americans would fervently wish away. The unwelcome truth is that human freedom will never produce equality of outcome because people differ in native ability… . [I]t is all the more disturbing to Americans to contemplate that some group differences in outcome may be natural under conditions of equal opportunity. However, the sociopolitical dilemmas owing to genetic differences among individuals and groups do not disappear when we wish it so, no matter how comforting our myths or ignorance may be.“

— “Jensen, Jensenism, and the Sociology of Intelligence,” Intelligence, 1998

“Affirmative action is not going to advance us any closer to its advocates’ egalitarian goal. The reason is that it is based on a false premise—or at least an unrealistic premise. The false premise, the assumption of the early civil rights movement, is that equal opportunity (color-blind treatment) would produce equal outcomes (color-blind results). Unfortunately, this is seldom the case. Although we all have the same rights under the constitution, we do not all have the same interests and capabilities. And what is true of individuals is true for groups. For instance, women the world over tend to be more interested in nurturing roles (say, the helping professions) and men more interested in dealing with things and machines (say, engineering and technical trades). And, as our educators keep telling us, some racial-ethnic groups (primarily blacks and Hispanics) leave school sooner and with fewer skills… . [B]lack seventeen year olds (excluding dropouts) perform more like white thirteen year olds, no matter what the subject. Similarly, black college graduates perform more like white high school graduates.”

— “From the Ashes of Affirmative Action,” The World & I, 1994


Richard Lynn, a psychologist who claims that “racial homogeneity” is necessary for the survival of “European civilization” and has called for “phasing out” the global black population, describes Linda Gottfredson as a brave scholar who has “broken ranks by recognizing the importance of intelligence in job performance and the significance of racial differences in intelligence.” Lynn’s praise for Gottfredson is not surprising—for over three decades, she has quietly worked to undermine efforts to achieve racial equality in the workplace and to rehabilitate the reputations of academic extremists like Lynn himself.

Gottfredson’s claims about the inherent intellectual inferiority of black populations—that the IQ gap between black and white Americans is 15 points, or one standard deviation, and double that between black Africans and white Americans or Europeans— provide the basis for her opposition to policies like affirmative action that attempt to overcome racial disparities in hiring through positive discrimination. She takes these arguments much further than most opponents of affirmative action are willing to. According to Gottfredson, diversity itself is a problematic goal, and even voluntary efforts on the part of businesses or organizations to have a racial composition that reflects that of broader society are dangerous, leading to ever-lowering standards and exacerbating white employees’ animosity towards their black colleagues.

Gottfredson refers to successful efforts to achieve such equality as “racial gerrymandering.” Beginning in 1990, the Nassau County, N.Y., Police Department introduced a new entrance examination intended to reduce discrimination in police hiring. Gottfredson opposed this new test in writing and in testimony before Congress, attacking not only its supposed methodological shortcomings, but also the fact that “[the Department of] Justice is trying to force state and local governments to adopt a new police entrance examination that allows nearly equal percentages of black and white applicants to pass.” The Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights at the time, Deval Patrick, described Gottfredson’s assessment as “inflammatory and faulty,” and correctly pointed out that she was suggesting that “a test must be flawed if black applicants can do as well as whites.”

Beyond her efforts to fight workforce equality, Gottfredson has devoted a great deal of time and energy to defending some of the most egregious figures in academic racism by writing articles celebrating their work. One such article was dedicated to Arthur Jensen, a psychologist at the forefront of modern scientific racism who used his authority to support segregation and sat on the editorial board of a German neo-Nazi “academic” journal, Neue Anthropologie. Gottfredson described Jensen as “a masterful scientist” who “deserves the gratitude of scientists and citizens alike.” Another was dedicated to J. Philippe Rushton, the late Canadian psychologist obsessed with the idea that black men have low IQs and large penises. Rushton, who headed the eugenicist Pioneer Fund for a decade until his death in 2012, was once investigated for allegedly violating Canadian hate-speech laws, and was a speaker and contributor at white supremacist conferences and publications. According to Gottfredson, Rushton “contributed important works to evolutionary psychology, intelligence, and personality psychology,” and his critics (who Gottfredson reluctantly admits included “the scientific establishment, his home institution, and the Canadian government”) were guilty of practicing “mob science” and “resolute ignorance.”

Although she prefers to stay further away from the spotlight than her more flamboyantly racist colleagues, Gottfredson gained some degree of notoriety at the national level with the publication of her 1994 Wall Street Journal op-ed, “Mainstream Science on Intelligence,” which was co-signed by 52 other scientists. “Mainstream Science” was Gottfredson’s contribution to the heated debate over the then-recent publication of Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein’s The Bell Curve, which used arguments recycled from eugenicists, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis to claim that social inequality is caused by black genetic inferiority, especially in intelligence.

Gottfredson used “Mainstream Science” to make a variety of claims about the state of intelligence research and its relationship to racial policy. Among other things, Gottfredson stated that the intelligence of the average black adult in the United States was 85, one standard deviation below that of the average white adult. Two standard deviations, or IQ 70, is the general standard for mental retardation, which Gottfredson elsewhere ascribed to black Africans. According to Gottfredson, the difference between black Americans and black Africans would, presumably, be because “almost all Americans who identify themselves as black have white ancestors – the white admixture is about 20%.”

But even in the United States, where she believes that the intelligence of black Americans has been raised by intermarriage with whites, the IQ gap means that “black 17-year-olds perform, on the average, more like white 13-year-olds.” According to Gottfredson, IQ is more important “than any other single measurable human trait to many important educational, occupational, economic, and social outcomes.” She concludes “Mainstream Science” by claiming that her ideas “neither dictate nor preclude any social policy.” But much of her career has been dedicated to the idea that because IQ determines social outcomes, and racial disparities in IQ are innate and immutable, policies intended to reduce racial inequality are doomed to fail, and may even exacerbate the problems they’re intended to remedy.

From the publication of her letter in 1994 through the present day, Gottfredson has used the fact that it was signed by so many of her friends and colleagues as a defense of the idea that her beliefs represented, as the title of the letter suggested, a mainstream consensus. That claim is, of course, far from accurate. One hundred and thirty-one scientists were sent copies of the statement and asked to append their signatures. Of those, 31 ignored the letter, and another 48 responded with a refusal to sign. Donald T. Campbell, a prominent psychologist and philosopher who was part of the latter group, has said that of the 52 scientists who did agree to sign Gottfredson’s statement, only 10 were actual experts in the field of intelligence measurement. Not only were the majority of the 52 signatories not experts in IQ measurement, but some had no relevant qualifications at all. Garret Hardin, for example, was an ecologist and anti-immigration activist, while Vincent Sarich was an anthropologist who gained notoriety for making racist and homophobic claims in his undergraduate courses (he later admitted to The New York Times that these assertions were not based on established scientific facts).

The only thing linking many of Gottfredson’s co-signers to the field of IQ research at all was a commitment to the idea of innate racial differences in intelligence. While only 10 of these scientists were actual experts in the field, at least 20 were recipients of money from the Pioneer Fund, including one director of the Fund, R. Travis Osborne, and two future presidents, J. Philippe Rushton and Richard Lynn. The Pioneer Fund was founded in 1937 to promote “race betterment.” Although the fund claims that this was intended to refer to the human race rather than the white race, this is belied by the fact that its original charter stated its goal as the eugenic improvement of those ”deemed to be descended predominantly from white persons who settled in the original thirteen states prior to the adoption of the Constitution." Since its founding, the Pioneer Fund has gone on to become the largest (and last) major funder of eugenic research and propaganda in post-war America, as well as the leading supporter of research purporting to demonstrate the inherent biological inferiority of black people. Gottfredson herself has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the fund, and has been a vocal defender of it and its grantees.

One Pioneer grantee who signed Gottfredson’s letter, John C. Loehlin, was also a former director of the American Eugenics Society, and another, Raymond Cattell, even attempted to establish a new religion based on eugenic principles. In fact, at least 10 signatories have openly promoted eugenics, and others have expressed views that suggest sympathy towards the idea. But despite the fact that the views expressed in her letter were endorsed by more fringe extremists than actual experts, Gottfredson insists that the only reason that her racist claims are not more widely known and accepted is that she and her colleagues are the victims of a sinister plot.

Gottfredson, like many so-called “race realists,” believes that there is a global conspiracy that dominates the media, the academy, and nearly all public discourse. The identity of those behind this vast left-wing conspiracy varies depending on who one asks, but the common thread is the belief that this malevolent entity is dedicated to hiding the truth about race differences. For Gottfredson, the villains are duplicitous social scientists whose control over racial arguments mirrors the suppression of dissent under the Soviet regime. In a remarkable article accusing American social scientists of collective fraud, she suggested that IQ researchers were coerced into “living a lie” like peasants under Communist rule who were “complicit in their own tyranny.”

Gottfredson’s conviction that the rest of the scientific establishment is out to get her and her like-minded compatriots comes across as self-serving paranoia, but there is a kernel of truth to it—just not in the way she’d have her audience think. Her ideas have, in fact, made her a marginal figure and invited strong criticism from many quarters. Even Gottfredson’s home institution has expressed concern over her work. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education reported that “in 1989 the education department at the University of Delaware accused Gottfredson of fudging data on her work on intelligence and race. As a result of Gottfredson's research, the sociology department at the university refused to permit its students to take a course by Gottfredson for credit. Administrators at the university examined Gottfredson's student papers to see if she was teaching racist propaganda.”