A Few Thoughts on IQ and the Wealth of Nations

I want to contribute some
observations about the landmark book

IQ and the Wealth of Nations

Richard Lynn
of the U. of Ulster and Tatu
Vanhanen of the U. of Helsinki. It was the subject of an
extremely informative Feb. 27th

VDARE.COM review

J. Philippe Rushton,
which this is intended to

The book`s content is irresistible
– at its heart is a table of the average IQ scores of 81
different countries, most drawn from studies published
in peer-reviewed scientific journals. The national
average IQs range from 107 for Hong Kong to 59 for
Equatorial Guinea.

Lynn and Vanhanen benchmarked their IQ results so
that Britain is 100. America scores 98 on this scale,
and the world average is 90. IQ`s are assumed to form a
normal probability distribution ("bell
") with the standard deviation set at 15. Here
are a few examples:

      Percentile of    GDP Per Cap
  National   Avg. Person    Purchasing
Nation Avg. IQ   Relative to UK    Power Parity
Eq. Guinea 59   0.3%    $          1,817
Nigeria 67   1%    $            795
Barbados 78   7%    $        12,001
Guatemala 79   8%    $          3,505
India 81   10%    $          2,077
Iraq 87   19%    $          3,197
Mexico 87   19%    $          7,704
Argentina 96   39%    $        12,013
US 98   45%    $        29,605
China 100   50%    $          3,105
UK 100   50%    $        20,336
Italy 102   55%    $        20,585
Japan 105   63%    $        23,257
Hong Kong 107   68%    $        20,763

Admit it, you want to know what the rest of the table
says! Beyond satisfying sheer curiosity, though, the
strong correlation between IQ and the wealth of nations
is of world-historical importance. From now on, no
public intellectual can seriously claim to be attempting
to understand how the world works unless he takes IQ
into account.

How much can we trust these IQ results?

As soon as I received the book, I turned to Appendix
1, where Lynn and Vanhanen describe all 168 national IQ
studies they`ve found – an average of just over two per

Are the results internally consistent? In other
words, when there are multiple studies for a single
country, do they tend to give roughly the same answer?

I expected a sizable amount of internal divergence. I
spent 18 years in the marketing research industry, so I
know how expensive it is to come up with a nationally
representative sample. Further, Lynn and Vanhanen use
results from

quite different IQ tests
. They rely most on the
non-verbal Raven`s Progressive Matrices, which were
designed to be used across cultures, even by
illiterates. Yet, they also have a lot of results from

exams, which are more culture dependent –
the Wechsler include a vocabulary subtest, for example.
And they report results from other IQ tests, including a
few from the oddball Goodenough-Harris Draw-A-Man test.
Also, sample sizes vary dramatically, from a few dozen
in some obscure countries to 64,000 for one American
study. Finally, some studies were of children, others of

This doesn`t sound promising. Nevertheless, the
results show a high degree of internal consistency. Here
are the first eight countries for which they have
multiple scores:

Argentina: 93 and 98
Australia: 97, 98, and 99
Austria: 101, 103
Belgium: 99, 103, 98
Brazil: 88, 84, 90, and 85
Bulgaria: 94, 91
China: 100, 92.5, 103.4
Democratic Republic of Congo: 73, 72

That`s not bad at all. In fact, leaving aside China,
the results are remarkably consistent. There are, of
course, a few countries for which different studies came
up with quite divergent results, especially Poland,
where the two scores Lynn and Vanhanen found were 92 and
106. Still, the correlation among results when there are
two or more studies for a country is a striking 0.94.

You shouldn`t take every score on faith. The reported
IQ for Israel (only 94????!!!) has elicited much
criticism. Lynn has replied that he wanted to publish
the data as he found it, even if some of it looked
implausible. His hope is to encourage further research
to resolve seeming anomalies.

The IQ structures of the two giga-countries, China
and India, demand more intense study, in part because
the future history of the world will hinge in no small
part on their endowments of human capital. The
demography of India is especially complex due to its
caste system, which resembles Jim Crow on steroids and
acid. By discouraging intermarriage, caste has
subdivided the Indian people into an incredible number
of micro-races. In India, according to the dean of
population genetics,

L.L. Cavalli-Sforza
, "The total number of endogamous
communities today is around 43,000…" We know that some
of those communities – such as the Zoroastrian

Parsees of Bombay
– are exceptionally intelligent.

But we can`t say with any confidence what is the long
run IQ potential of Indians overall. Their current IQ
score (81) is low, especially compared to China (100),
the other country with hundreds of millions of poor
peasants. Yet, keep in mind just how narrow life in
rural India was for so long. In 1952, on the fifth
anniversary of independence, the Indian government
commissioned a survey to find out if the average Indian
villager had heard yet that the British had gone. The
study was quietly cancelled when early results showed
that the average villager had never heard that the
British had ever arrived!

It appears likely that some combination of
malnutrition, disease, inbreeding, lack of education,
lack of mental stimulation, lack of familiarity with
abstract reasoning and so forth can keep people from
reaching their genetic potential for IQ. Lynn himself
did early studies demonstrating that malnutrition drives
down IQ. The co-authors conclude their book by
recommending that

"The rich countries`
economic aid programs for the poor countries should be
continued and some of these should be directed at
attempting to increase the intelligence levels of the
populations of the poorer countries by improvements in
nutrition and the like."

A clear example of how a bad environment can hurt IQ
can be seen in the IQ scores for sub-Saharan African
countries. They average only around 70. In contrast,
African-Americans average about 85. It appears unlikely
that African-Americans` white admixture can account for
most of this 15-point gap because they are only around
17%-18% white on average, according to the latest
genetic research. (Thus African-Americans white genes
probably couldn`t account for more than 3 points of the
gap between African-Americans and African-Africans.)
This suggests that the harshness of life in Africa might
be cutting ten points or more off African IQ scores.

Similarly, West Africans are significantly shorter in
height than their distant cousins in America, most
likely due to malnutrition and infections. The two
African-born NBA superstars,

Hakeem Olajuwon

Dikembe Mutombo
, are both from the

[people of the (Mercedes ) Benz]upper class.
Only the elite in Africa gets enough food and health
care to grow up to be NBA centers.

This also implies that African-Americans might be
able to achieve higher IQs too, although the
environmental gap between white Americans and black
Americans appears to be much smaller than between black
Americans and black Africans. As

I pointed out in VDARE in 2000
, the most promising
avenue for improving African-Americans` IQs is by
promoting breastfeeding among blacks mothers, who nurse
their babies at much lower rates than whites.

In fact, we know that IQ is not completely fixed over
time because raw test scores have been rising for
decades, about 2 to 3 points per decade. To counteract
this, the IQ test-making firms periodically make it
harder – in absolute terms – to achieve a score of 100.
Lynn was possibly the first scientist to make this
phenomenon widely known, although New Zealand political
scientist James Flynn has gotten more

for this recently. And, indeed, Lynn and
Vanhanen scrupulously adjust the test results in their
book to account for when each test was taken.

While the causes of the Lynn-Flynn Effect remain
rather mysterious, it does resemble several other
ongoing phenomena. For example, human beings are getting
taller, living longer, and having fewer of their babies
die during infancy.

One might expect IQ scores to converge as the richest
nations experience diminishing marginal returns on
improvements in nutrition, health, and education. By way
of analogy, consider how, after 1950, average height has
not grown as fast in already well-fed America as it has
in rapidly developing East Asia.

It`s unlikely the Japanese will ever be as tall on
average as, say, Lithuanians or Croatians or
African-Americans. But the gap has closed. This partial
convergence in height is why you now see 6`-2" East
Asian baseball pitchers like

Hideo Nomo

Chan Ho Park
starring in the American big leagues.
Last year

Wang Zhizhi
, 7`-1″ became the first Asian ever
to join the NBA.

Perhaps that kind of convergence will happen with IQ
scores someday. But the evidence that it is happening
now isn`t terribly strong. The odd thing about the
Lynn-Flynn Effect is that it doesn`t seem to have had
much impact on comparative rankings of IQ over time. The
smart seem to keep on getting smarter.

For instance, one of the best-documented examples of
a country with rising raw IQ scores is the Netherlands
(current IQ: 102). But even as far back as the
17th Century
, the general opinion of mankind was
that the Dutch had a lot on the ball.

One potential explanation for why IQ gaps don`t seem
to be narrowing (for example, the white-black IQ gap in
America has been about 15 points for 80 years or so) was

offered by Flynn recently
He argued that smart people, because they find cognitive
challenges pleasurable, seek out more mentally
stimulating environments, which in turn exercise their
brains more, making them even smarter. This suggests,
for example, that the Dutch will tend to become,

, Internet addicts demanding constant fixes of
new information and argument, and thus continue to grow
in mental firepower. 

While unproven, Flynn`s suggestion seems possible. In
absolute terms, it`s a

virtuous circle
. But it seems unlikely to lead to
the closing of the relative gap.

Ultimately, though, it is hard to avoid concluding
that intellectual and income differences between nations
stem to some extent from genetic differences. The
results simply cluster too much by race. All the
countries populated by Northeast Asians score between
100 and 107. The European-populated lands score between
90 and 102. Southeast Asian nations cluster in the low
90s. The Caucasian countries in North Africa and western
Asia score mostly in the 80s. And so forth.

The correlation between national IQ and national
income is very high. For the 81 countries, the r is .73
for GDP measured in purchasing power parity terms (which
makes poor nations with lots of subsistence farmers look
better off than they do in standard measures of just the
cash economy). In the social sciences, correlations of
0.2 are said to be "low," 0.4 are "moderate," and 0.6
are "high." So 0.73 is most impressive.

This doesn`t mean that a high IQ alone is the cause
of a high income. Causation probably runs in both
directions, in another virtuous circle. Rich countries
tend to produce enough food to stave off malnutrition,
for instance, which probably leads to higher IQs, which
leads to even higher food production due to more
sophisticated farming techniques.

Interestingly, per capita income correlates almost as
strongly with a nation`s level of economic freedom as it
does with its level of intelligence. But that`s in large
part because economic freedom and IQ correlate with each
other – at the high level of 0.63.

Freedom and brains probably contribute to each other.
Although there are obvious exceptions, countries with
smart workers (and smart leaders) tended to find that
the capitalist system generated wealth. So there was
less impetus to experiment with command economies than
in places where free enterprise wasn`t getting the job

But it could also be that freedom exercises the brain
– West Germans averaged 103 while East Germans scored
only 95. My pet theory is that having to make

all the choices b
etween products available in a
successful capitalist economy stimulates mental
development. (I believe this because, as I get older and
stupider, I increasingly find shopping to be
intellectually exhausting.) But evidence for this is not

Culture can play a role as well – at the extreme,
contrast two countries with almost identical per capita
GDPs: Barbados and Argentina (at least before
Argentina`s recent economic collapse).

Don`t cry for Argentina
because it is blessed with ample IQ (96). But it`s
dragged down by a notorious lack of economic and
political self-discipline. In contrast,

, despite an average IQ of 78, is one of the
most pleasant countries in the 3rd World due to its
commitment to maintaining a veddy, veddy English

Still, these two countries are close to being the
exceptions that prove the rule. The explanatory power of
the "cultural realist" models like Thomas Sowell`s are
necessarily more limited than those of "biocultural
realist" like Richard Lynn. In general, cultures that
emphasize, say, foresight are generally found in
countries where people have enough IQ to be foresighted.
Maybe people in northern countries tend to have higher
IQs because people too unintelligent to effectively
prepare for winter tended to get removed from the gene

The IQ-income correlation is not perfect either. But
even where it breaks down – most notably with China – IQ
helps explain otherwise puzzling developments like the
recent headline in the New York Times announcing "Globalization
Proves Disappointing.

Globalization, or the fast-paced growth of trade and
cross-border investment, has done far less to raise the
incomes of the world`s poorest people than the leaders
had hoped, many officials here say. The vast majority of
people living in Africa, Latin America, Central Asia and
the Middle East are no better off today than they were
in 1989…"

On the other hand, hundreds of billions in private
investment have poured into China, which, despite its
parasitical ruling caste, has enjoyed strong economic

So what`s the story behind this story? Apparently,
capital flows to where wages are low but IQs are high –
pre-eminently China, where the average IQ is two points
higher than the U.S. already and likely to go higher as
economic development continues.

In contrast, these other regions (with the exception
of Argentina) average IQs of 90 or less, sometimes
considerably less.

This is not to disparage free markets – there`s no
alternative. The point is simply that humans differ
greatly in productive capacity, so not everyone benefits
from economic competition to the same extent.

The implications for immigration policy are clear.

First, any conceivable level of immigration to
America is insufficient to make any difference in the
welfare of the billions of foreigners living in poverty.

Second, in a world where the average IQ is 90,
America`s nepotism-driven immigration system (legal and
illegal) will continue to import primarily foreigners
with two-digit IQs. These immigrants` skills are
typically insufficient to compete with our native IQ
elite, but are ample for driving down the wages of our
fellow American citizens who were not blessed in the IQ

The morality of such a system I leave to the reader
to decide.

[Steve Sailer [email
him] is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and

movie critic

The American Conservative
His website

features his daily

April 14, 2002