Re-analyzing Porteus and Babcock’s “Temperament and Race”: Evidence for Socio-cultural Polarization rather than Racial Hierarchy in 1920s Hawai`i

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Race and Ethnicity | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Sociology


In this study, Porteus and Babcock’s 1926 book, “Temperament and Race”, on racial differences in Hawai`i is critiqued, and the tabular data presented within it is reanalyzed using unidimensional unfolding techniques. Porteus and Babcock attempt to show that racial differences are genetic, temperament (as measured by the Porteus Maze) is independent of standard Binet I.Q. tests, and that race is an explanation for social maladjustment differences. A meta-analysis of several tables in the text demonstrates that a single template (J-scale arrangement) of races using unidimensional unfolding techniques scales virtually all the data. Thus, it can be concluded that temperament, I.Q., and social inequalities are collinear. Given the particular arrangement of races on the template, a socio-cultural polarization interpretation trumps a racial hierarchy thesis. On one end of the template, are the groups allied with the Hawaiian kingdom’s culture (Native Hawaiians and the Chinese), and on the other extreme are the other larger, non-indigenous cultures in 1920s Hawai`i (i.e., Caucasians, Japanese, and Portuguese). The center of the template has groups that did not have large influences in the development of local culture at the time (i.e., Puerto Ricans and Philipinos).