Are Multiracial People More Apt to Be Successful?

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It's a question I've occasionally pondered when watching Derek Jeter smack a homer or while laughing hysterically at one of Maya Rudolph's jokes: Are mixed-race people more inclined to be successful?

2006 data shows that mixed-race people make up only two percent of the population of the United States, yet it often seems that they are over-proportionately represented in the upper echelon of sports and arts. Tiger Woods, Blake Griffin, Jessica Alba, Bob Marley, Halle Berry, Alicia Keys, and Lenny Kravitz are but a few of the individuals in this talented group. This trend may possibly even extend to the realms of politics and business. Think of influential people like Booker T. Washington, Frederick Douglass, Steve Jobs, and President Barack Obama.

But it appears that evidence for mixed-race success extends beyond the anecdotal. In 1955, B.L. Penrose of London University College published a paper citing evidence of "exceptional fertility" in mixed-race individuals of combined European and Native American ancestry. At the most basic level of biological success-- reproduction -- multiracial people excelled.

In 2010, psychology professor, Dr. Michael Lewis of Cardiff University conducted a study on the perceived attractiveness of mixed-race people. Attractiveness has been linked to many different forms of success.

1205 male and female faces were collected by two research assistants naive to the hypothesis regarding attractiveness. Twenty white psychology students rated each face on its attractiveness on a 9-point scale (5 being of average attractiveness). The averaged results were that the mixed-race faces were perceived as being significantly more attractive than either the white or black faces.
In his discussion, Lewis noted that of the photos in the top 5% of attractiveness, 74% were of mixed-race people. If the study's distributions were extrapolated to the general population of the United Kingdom, it would have been expected that mixed-race people would comprise no more than 9% of the top 1% most attractive.

Something is clearly going on here, and it may have something to do with heterosis, or hybrid vigor. This is the idea that offspring of genetically-different parents will have improved or increased function of certain biological qualities. The breeding of genetically distinct organisms has been tremendously successful with cattle, corn, rice, onion, spinach sunflowers, broccoli, and marijuana.

However, humans are definitely not corn or cattle, so the theory of hybrid vigor as it pertains to mixed-race success will be difficult to study in a controlled fashion. For now, we'll have to rely almost entirely on anecdotal evidence.

Thus, I would like to present Blake Griffin's recent "monster dunk" as "Exhibit A."

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