Average IQ by State: Honest Numbers at Last
One of the most
popular Web postings of November 2004 was a
table purporting to show that
John Kerry had swept the 16 states with the highest
average IQs (such as Connecticut with its 113 mean).
George W. Bush, in contrast, had carried the 26
dumbest states (such as
Utah at only 87).
The first person to
post these data after the election
exulted: “Wow, what can I say, in the first 24
hours over 540,000+ people viewed this page!”
I would guesstimate
that total viewership of the IQ table ultimately
approached ten million
fellow Democrats —all consoling themselves with the
thought that what they lacked in
voters, they more than made up for in
quality of brainpower.
Still, the question of
average state IQ scores is one that millions find
fascinating, so I`m glad that the scientific journal
Intelligence has in press an article entitled
Estimating state IQ: Measurement challenges and
preliminary correlates [PDF file] by
Michael A. McDaniel, a
widely published professor at the Virginia
Commonwealth University school of business. (Thanks to
Dienekes`s blog for the tip. We publish this new
state IQ table here.
The earlier hoax data is in the right hand column.)
How did McDaniel come
up with these estimates? He used the federal
National Assessment of Educational Progress math and
reading test scores. That`s a technique that
I introduced in 2004 at the suggestion of Ken
In the second column
of the new table are Dr. McDaniel`s reasonable-sounding
estimates of IQ, setting the national average on the
NAEP tests at 100 and the
standard deviation at 15.
McDaniel has added a
refinement to my approach. There was this problem: NAEP
scores for 4th and 8th graders are just from public
school students. But in states with
large black or Hispanic populations, there is
white flight from the
public schools , lowering NAEP scores. For example,
13.7% of South Carolina`s white students and 10.6% of
not in public schools. McDaniel adjusts for this,
raising slightly the IQ estimates of states with heavy
white flight. (State IQ was defined as “the average
mean reading and mean math scores.”)
between state average IQ and partisanship turns out to
be quite mixed. (In the new table, I`ve marked states
that voted Republican in 2004 as
red, while Democratic states are blue.) Comparing
McDaniel`s estimated IQ scores to Bush`s share of the
vote in 2004, I see virtually no correlation: just
In other words, if you
were told the state IQs, you`d be only a little more
than one percent (-0.12 squared) of the way toward fully
predicting the state-by-state results of the 2004
election. (In contrast, the correlation coefficient for
the hoax IQ data with Bush`s percentages by state was
-0.85, or 72% toward a wholly accurate prediction.)
How do McDaniel`s
results compare to other good faith state-by-state IQ
representative national IQ test last happened in 1960,
Sputnik scared the federal government into giving an
IQ test to 366,000 high school students as part of
Project Talent. Four decades later, McDaniel`s NAEP-based
IQ estimate still correlated at the high 0.63 level with
Project Talent`s old results.
In a mid-1980s study
Vietnam veterans, 4,321 took an
IQ test, with results tabulated by their state of
birth. The findings correlate 0.59 with McDaniel`s.
(Data from Project Talent and the Vietnam veterans can
Finally, for whatever
it`s worth, the free Internet-based
Tickle IQ test has published its averages by state.
Tickle correlates 0.53 with McDaniel`s numbers.
data, you should first notice that even the largest
difference between states` mean IQ—the 10.2 points
between Massachusetts and Mississippi—is actually not at
all enormous. And that`s especially true compared to the
differences among countries. There, gaps of
30 points or more are not uncommon (e.g.
Massachusetts student would score at the 61%
percentile nationwide, and the median
Mississippi student at the 35% percentile. This
isn`t a tremendous difference—but it would be noticeable
if you moved from one state to another.
“States with higher
estimated state IQ have greater gross state product
[per capita], citizens with better health, more effective state
governments, and less violent crime.”
You`ll also observe
map below (where the brighter states are indicated
by the brighter colors) that the highest IQ states are
extremely, shall we say, Northern. Six of the top
eight (marked in yellow) border on
Canada . Overall, there`s a clear correlation
between latitude and NAEP scores.
Why is that? As George
coyly hinted in his obituary for Daniel Patrick
Sisyphus, Moynihan was forever pushing uphill a boulder
of inconvenient data. A social scientist trained to
distinguish correlation from causation
, and a wit, Moynihan puckishly said that a crucial
determinant of the quality of American schools is
proximity to the Canadian border. The barb in his jest
was this: High cognitive outputs correlate not with high
per-pupil expenditures but with a high percentage of
two-parent families. For that, there was the rough
geographical correlation that caused Moynihan to suggest
that states trying to improve their students` test
scores should move closer to Canada.”
What else could it be?
lays out what Moynihan and Will only dared joke about:
“IQ at the
individual level has strong correlates with race. There
large and intractable mean racial differences in IQ
at the person level. The differences are termed
intractable because they have been
relatively constant across decades
and have not been
appreciably affected by environmental interventions (
2005).Because racial composition of the state is a
large magnitude correlate of state IQ, one cannot expect
meaningful changes in estimated state IQ as long as
state racial composition is relatively stable. While
increased education expenditures and smaller class sizes
are to be encouraged, the stability of the rank order of
NAEP test data suggests that states are not going to
alter their standing on estimated state IQ dramatically
through such efforts.”
McDaniel uses NAEP
data from 1990 through 2005, a period of
widely-trumpeted educational “reforms”. Yet he
found little change over time in which states scored
well and which poorly.
More subtle than the
racial differences among states, but still highly
visible in the map above, are very old disparities in
the intellectual orientation of the descendents of the
white settlers who arrived mostly before 1776, as
described in David Hackett Fischer`s Albionâ€™s Seed
English Puritans, who
were literate and middle class, primarily settled
New England. Their descendents spread west along the
northernmost tier of states. They established the
most prestigious colleges , which continue to
attract smart young people from the rest of the country.
The English Quakers of
invited in Germans of similarly
peaceful and productive dispositions . They settled
along the mid-northern tier. They also tended to be
above average in their emphasis on education, although
not quite as scholarly as the Puritans.
Farther south, from
West Virginia and Tennessee, through the Ozarks,
into Oklahoma and out to the Central Valley of
California, the feisty
Scots-Irish found their homes. The
finest pioneers, they didn`t mind raising their kids
far from a schoolhouse.
The coastal South
attracted the southern English, who erected aquasi-aristocratic
society with a well-educated elite and a poorly schooled
OK, so what are the
problems with the Hirsch-Sailer-McDaniel method of
estimating state IQ scores?
- First, the NAEP
isn`t an IQ test; it`s a school achievement test.
As McDaniel points
out, numerous studies show that results on achievement
and aptitude tests are highly correlated. Nonetheless,
it is possible for public schools to improve (or, far
more easily, to deteriorate), so some of the variation
is no doubt related to school quality rather than the
underlying IQ of the students.
For example, the
often-denigrated state of Indiana outscores
neighboring, and more prestigious,
Illinois (as well as some other more fashionable
states such as Oregon and Colorado). This might indicate
that Indiana has been doing something right
educationally in recent decades.
Be wary, though, of
that popular and pernicious myth—that “all” we
have to do to solve the problems caused by diversity is
to fix education, and then every student will be an
Lake Wobegon child.
The unpalatable truth:
while we know how we could do a better job of keeping
low IQ foreigners, we really don`t have a clue how
to turn their children into high, or even medium, IQ
adults on average.
America has spent
enormous amounts of money since the Great Society trying
ethnic IQ and achievement gaps . We have only a
little to show for it.
It is simple,
however, to mess up education. California`s schools, for
instance, have been terribly stressed by massive
immigration, which is one reason California`s NAEP
scores are so miserable: 48th in IQ, ahead of only
traditional laggards Louisiana and Mississippi.
- A second
limitation in estimating IQ our way: the NAEP is
given in English, so
very recent immigrants score lower.
accounts—partly—for the catastrophic performance by
California, the nation`s most populous state and
high-technology leader. California was 49th in 2003 on
8th grade reading, while finishing “merely” 44th
mathematics , the universal language.
But sadly, the low
achievement levels of Hispanics don`t vanish even when
subsequent generations learn English. In 1992, the
last time the NAEP asked test-takers about country of
birth, American-born Latinos scored
0.72 standard deviations worse than non-Hispanic
whites. That`s two-thirds as bad as the notoriously
debilitating white-black gap.
- Third, the most
important limitation on our NAEP method: it provides
IQ estimates for children, not adults.
That has major
electoral implications. Marriage and fertility rates
among whites differ systematically between Republican
and Democratic states. So the ratio of smart children to
smart adults tends to be higher in GOP states. In 2004,
all 25 states in which white women are married the
most years between 18 and 45. He also won
25 of the 26 states with the highest white total
As I`ve pointed out,
Republicans thrive where
cheap housing prices and high wages relative to the
cost of living provide “affordable
family formation“. The GOP`s “family
values” platform doesn`t resonate much where many
voters can`t afford to form families.
Because the majority
of prestigious colleges and jobs are located in coastal
Democratic-voting states, there is an outflow of higher
IQ youths from Republican-voting inland states, offset
somewhat by a return flow of young couples looking for a
more affordable place to raise their kids.
IQ people in Democratic states don`t reproduce at the
replacement rate—in California, for example,
white women average only 1.65 babies, well below the
replacement rate of 2.05 to 2.10.
To overcome their
failure to reproduce, white Democrats, such as the
Ted Kennedy , campaign for more immigration.
Immigrants tend to vote Democratic. And, by
raising land prices and lowering wages, immigration
prevents native-born Americans from forming
families—which discourages them from voting for
Republican family-values candidates.