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May 29, 2003

Spelling Bee Kids

Hey, this brown kid won the National Spelling Bee. Another brown kid won last year, so I did a quick survey of the ethnicities of the contestants to look for patterns. This is what I found (I clicked to see every image and read up a bit to get clues for the ambiguous):

White, 167
Brown, 24
Arab, 4
Latino, 14
Black, 4
Asian, 29
Mixed, 5
Pacific Islander, 2

I put Southeast Asians with the East Asians under the "Asian" category-including Filipinos with Latin last names. Most of the mixed seemed Eurasian. A lot of Asian adoptees (European names) were in among the contestants.

Go see the contestants here.

Update from Jason M: Hey kids, get out your calipers - the New York Times muses on the Geography Bee gender gap:

With students left to their own devices, a geography gender gap has become evident, so wide that with five million students participating in the bee, about 77 percent of the school winners are boys...

...Why the geography gap endures, some researchers say, has something to do with the fact that most schools are still not teaching the subject, and something to do with the toys geared toward boys and other social influences.

But mostly, they say, the gap stems from cognitive differences that give boys better spatial skills than girls. The same advantages that help boys in the geography bee make them, in general, better at navigation and finding their way.

[via Chris Brand]

Posted by razib at 10:14 PM

How is it that so many Indians are good at so much, yet India is a cesspool? Does there exist a group of high IQ Indians similar to Jews among whites? I wonder how many of them there are and how smart they are? It is impressive. Could do without some of their backwards cultural practices like walking the wife five paces behind, but otherwise no complaints.


Posted by: Jason at May 30, 2003 01:04 AM

I think razib has commented before on the multimodality of the population. the brahmin (priestly caste) are a mix of caucasian and mongoloid from what I understand and the shatriya(sp) just below are strongly caucasoid. the indigenes are 'beachcombers'?

Posted by: Jason Soon at May 30, 2003 01:14 AM

oh, btw the 2nd possible answer to your question is one word - Gandhi. He may have been a saint but he wasn't much of an economist. Unfortunately because he was a saint people thought he had sensible things to say about how to run a modern economy

Posted by: Jason Soon at May 30, 2003 03:00 AM

" I put Southeast Asians with the East Asians under the "Asian" category-including Filipinos with Latin last names"

I suppose by Latin, you mean "Spanish". The Philippine Islands were a spanish colony until we lost it to the.. U.S.A. ;-) Hence the Catholic religion, the spanish surnames and the many spanish loan-words in Filipino languages.

BTW, "latin-american" is a Gallicism. The French started using the idiom at the time they had imperial views on Mexico (mid- XiXTh century). In Spain we still say: "Hispanoamérica" or "Iberoamérica". And so did "latin-americans" until 40 years ago. I have no idea how it came to be the common expression.

In Europe, "latin" still means "romance-speaking southern European"; i.e.: Portuguese, Spanish, French, Italian.
Remember the days when French crooner François Chevalier was the Latin-Lover "par excellence"? ;-)

Posted by: eufrenio at May 30, 2003 06:05 AM

Or was it "Maurice Chevalier"? ;-)

Posted by: eufrenio at May 30, 2003 06:14 AM

Maurice, bien sur.

Posted by: MaryClaire at May 30, 2003 07:53 AM

How about a count of the number of Jewish kids?

Posted by: Sen at May 30, 2003 08:09 AM

jewish kids are easy to recognize by last name-and there were many, but it would be undercount, because i couldn't pick out all those who had mom's tha were jewish....

but you guyz can look at the list-lots of jewish names.

will comment on the rest later.

Posted by: razib at May 30, 2003 12:15 PM

indians are the true master nerds! one time i was at some academic challenge for high schools, and this indian freshman got every single geography question. never even let anybody else buzz in. completely obscure stuff too, places nobody had heard of.

speaking strictly of jewish last names, the only ones i could find that were almost certainly jewish:


that's 6. definitely not "lots". not even a cohen or a levy on this list.

the following could be jewish, but lots of gentiles have these names too:


so at most there were 24, but probably less.

wait a minute. what about my man yisrael witty? with the whole blond hair, blue eyes thing, he's got the nazis fooled! add 1 to the count. 7 jews for sure.

Posted by: jody at May 30, 2003 03:26 PM

Just went through some of the pics of some random Spelling Bee kids. They all look like a bunch of geeks!

I'm not trying to be to hard on them. I think that at 12-14yo a lot of kids just have that geek look that they later outgrow.

Posted by: R at May 30, 2003 05:59 PM

here is the link to the stuff about racial differences between castes:

Posted by: Jason Soon at May 30, 2003 06:54 PM

From the above link:
"Maternally inherited DNA was overall found to be more similar to Asians than to Europeans..."

When they use the term "Asians" do they mean East Asians, South East Asians or Asians native to India?

Posted by: the alpha male at May 30, 2003 08:17 PM

Perhaps you should have measured their heads with calipers

Posted by: fredrik at May 31, 2003 04:14 AM

"Maurice, bien sur."

Merci bien!

Posted by: eufrenio at May 31, 2003 08:12 AM


Don't tempt Razib with calipers, I still think he has one.

Posted by: scott at May 31, 2003 11:31 AM

one reason brown kids do well @ spelling & geo bees is that they require intelligence + hard work. as the sons of professionals many brown kids have intelligence, but where they really excel is working their ass off-so you see them doing well @ bees at bizarro high proportions (south asians are less than 1% of the american population, but seem to form about 10% of the contestants at these bees).

Posted by: razib at May 31, 2003 03:01 PM

For information on difference between the Castes:


Both mtDNA but particuarly Y-chromosonal genetic analysis shows the Upper Castes closer to the European Gene pool, and particuarly Eastern Europeans. Autosomal biallelic polymorphisms results place the Upper Castes as less than half the genetic distance from Europeans as lower Castes.

Posted by: Dan at June 1, 2003 05:46 AM

Girls not into geography!? If this be true, it cannot be slander, but this female writer has always loved geography. The globe was a sectioned ball that accompanied the chronological line of history. Bat and ball. With little ethnic dolls engaged in curious practices all over the place. Now, I loved geometry but I never learned any other maths soon enough to get $5 for a good report card. Maybe there is a correlatiion between geometry and maps. However, this person does not take to road maps of her local area.

Posted by: MaryClaire at June 2, 2003 07:56 AM