This year marks the 20th anniversary of the “publishing event of the decade.” The Bell Curve was a phenomenon selling over 400,000 copies. A remarkable achievement for 840 pages of social science, filled with numerical tables, statistical charts, data analysis, and a thousand footnoted references. Not the sort of thing that sends the hearts of publishers, or the public, a flutter.
But controversy does. The Bell Curve claimed to provide scientific evidence of significant intellectual differences among the human races. Blacks, for example, were said to be intellectually inferior to Whites. Advanced statistical tools, such as factor analysis and multiple regression, linked these significant differences in intelligence to lower levels of educational, social, and economic achievement. It was social and political dynamite and it didn’t hurt sales.