Wednesday, September 15, 2010

IQ and the best countries in the world

I'm late on this, but the relationship highlighted is hardly time sensitive. A month ago, Newsweek compiled an international list of 100 countries deemed by the magazine as "a study health, education, economy, and politics" to "rank the globe's true national champions". Newsweek looked at statistics falling into one of five different headings; education, health, quality of life, economic dynamism, and political environment. The criteria used to come up with the rankings are good--this is a solid objective measure of which countries are the best (and worst) places in the world to live in. The only significant shortcoming in the rankings is the absence of some of the most authoritarian nations (North Korea, Zimbabwe, Burma), presumbly due to the insufficiency of available data in those countries.

The following table shows best countries index scores on the y-axis and aggregate IQ scores from Lynn and Vanhanen's IQ and Global Inequality.


The correlation between the two is a vigorous .85 (p=0). That is, 73% of a country's Newsweek best countries score is 'explainable' by its average IQ. Nothing new for HBD-realists to see here. Communism has a deleterious effect on a country's attractiveness. Removing Russia, China (the conspicuous outlier at 105 IQ but an index score of only 62.1), and the seven former Soviet states included from the list bumps the correlation up even higher to .88.

How do the editors and staff at Newsweek, being the left-leaning, Establishment publication that it is, justify constructing such a list? Well, for one it gets attention. But, as Steve Sailer has explained, it's not particularly exciting because it's so predictable. Western Europe is at the top, followed closely by East Asia. Eastern Europe comes next, with Central Asia, South America, and the Middle East vying for spots in the middle. Sub-Saharan Africa is at the bottom.

Maybe those at Newsweek and their like-minded SWPL readers enjoy seeing a list of best places in the world that keeps the US and even Canada out of the top ten. That begs for a retort about how the US has much more of the bottom countries in it than Finland or Sweden do. It probably wouldn't be a bad bet to make that if Minnesota were included in the rankings as the 101st entrant, Minnesotans would give the Finns a run for their money.


18 comments:

Alleged Wisdom said...

It is important to remember that measured IQ is based not just on genetics but on environmental factors like pollution, disease, and parasites. I'd guess that the average IQ of the American South went up about 5 points after hookworm eradication.

While low IQ will clearly cause poverty, it is also true that poverty causes low IQ. At least in worldwide comparisons, I tend to view IQ as a symptom, not a cause.

Anonymous said...

Hmm. I'm not sure we'll be able to continue boosting IQ in the U.S. by improving nutrition and environmental factors. Our underclass does seem to eat an astonishingly bad diet, based mostly on prepackaged snacks of carbs and hydrogenated fats, but prole kids sure don't appear undernourished.

That said, the HBD crowd goes way too far in dismissing the potential of educational improvement. Even your own analysis shows that at least a quarter of the differences are not explained by IQ, so there is definitely substantial room for improvement.

Actually, I'd guess there's far more room for improvement than your correlation estimates because all analysis on this topic tends to assume that you cannot improve upon the educational practices of top countries. In fact, I'd guess that the educational practices at such countries can easily be bested. They have no real reason to strive because the high IQs (and high cultural capital) of their students allows them to retain at the top of the world tables without working too hard.

American students don't have the luxury of aggregate high IQ, so American teachers will have to work better, and there's certainly room for that. Yes, low IQ will prevent us from ever reaching BC calculus for everyone, but bad school districts still abound with teachers who show movies in class while they read a book and teachers who spend entire classes trying to maintain order because the system will not let them do so. There's a lot of room for improvement, even if our national IQ will prevent us from ever topping world tables.

Underachiever said...

Anon,

In a few years, personal genome sequencing will be common, then high IQ genes will be found, then gene therapy will make adults smarter.

Anonymous said...

"Even your own analysis shows that at least a quarter of the differences are not explained by IQ, so there is definitely substantial room for improvement."

Much of it is explained by having a tiny population with gigantic natural resources that you can sell. 40% of our oil comes from Canada. Norway is also a big oil exporter. So even if no one in their entire nation put in a day's work, no one would starve.

B Lode said...

See, there you go again, trying to insinuate that higher IQ people are smarter. And then you top it off by subtly hinting (dog-whistle politics!) that smart people are better at managing education, health, quality of life, the economy, and the political environment!

You psychometrics types are so nerdy.

But seriously:
Our underclass does seem to eat an astonishingly bad diet, based mostly on prepackaged snacks of carbs and hydrogenated fats, but prole kids sure don't appear undernourished.

Good point. It's important to remember that a lot of the awful carbohydrate snacks that the proles like to eat are technically not that bad in at least one respect - vitamins. Even the most gut-killing, coma-inducing, Yellow Number Eleven kake is usually made with "enriched wheat flour" as required by Federal law. That may partly explain your last observation - prole kids aren't missing micronutrients, they're just building abdominal fat, sinking into carb comas in English class, and building binge-eating habits that will cause obesity in most of them sometime between age 15 and 50.

... Their IQs are still pretty high by African standards. (Low bacteria and parasite loads also help.)

Audacious Epigone said...

Regarding education effectiveness, the two measures used are both quantitative--one is the literacy rate, where higher is inarguably better than lower.

The other, average years of education, is not so obvious to me. Japan and South Korea come in substantially lower than Western Europe, but I wonder if those extra years are really giving the old continent an edge.

Alleged Wisdom,

I'm not making any claims on causation. Climate, nutrition, pathogen load, etc all factor in. It would be fascinating to see a reliable sample of average IQ in North Korea. Would there be a better real world test of whether or not poverty causes low IQ?

Anonymous said...

"Would there be a better real world test of whether or not poverty causes low IQ? "

Qatar. Oil tic welfare state with none of the "malnutrition, disease, lack of education" problems typically associated with sub-Saharan Africa.

According to Lynn, their mean IQ is 78. According to Rindermann, it's 77.

Sure, one might say, they're just a bunch of cousin f*ckers, and there is some truth to that. But that merely proves the significance of genetics in the debate.

ironrailsironweights said...

China's easy to identify, but what's the other outlier (IQ just over 70, quality score in the respectable mid-60's)?

Peter

Audacious Epigone said...

Peter,

Jamaica. I thought at first blush it would be Botswana, but it's not. Probably a solid example of how much good culture (and regular contact with 'better' parts of the world) can do.

Anonymous said...

> went up about 5 points after hookworm eradication.

Lol. Strikes me as more than a little too high. What are you gonna allot for whipworm, syphilis, gonorrhea, pellagra, urogenital chlamydia, malaria, lice,

ironrailsironweights said...

Jamaica. I thought at first blush it would be Botswana, but it's not.

Thanks. I had suspected it was one of the oil-rich Arab countries like Kuwait or Qatar.

Peter

Chris said...

I'd guess that the average IQ of the American South went up about 5 points after hookworm eradication.

A society's ability to eradicate infectious disease is undoubtedly itself a function of IQ.

Rusty Mason said...

It's more than just IQ. It is temperament and hard-wired proclivities which decide how individuals build their societies and how they behave in them.

China is like it is because it is filled with Chinese-type people. Sub-saharan africa is like it is because it is filled with blacks. Same reasons for Europe, the middle east, Russia, usw. Changing the culture from the outside is only temporary. Remove the artificial supports and the peoples of their respective countries will revert to form.

silly girl said...

Hey, AE, have you done or seen a correlation of standardized test performance and parent's marital status?

Anonymous said...

La Griffe's Smart Fraction theory II claimed the Asian lag was explained by accounting for a differential in verbal IQ.

Anonymous said...

"Remove the artificial supports and the peoples of their respective countries will revert to form."

Well, you mean if China were unplugged from the rest of the planet, they couldn't innovate their way out of a paper bag? I'm not sure that's the case anymore, although I'm sincerely in doubt which way it would go.

Audacious Epigone said...

Silly Girl,

No. Do we have a data set that includes the marital status of a test-takers parents?

Anonymous said...

La Griffe's Smart Fraction theory II claimed the Asian lag was explained by accounting for a differential in verbal IQ.

Which is pure idiocy, because the "verbal IQ" advantage white children had was in essentially pop culture and trivia. The more g-loaded "verbal" tests, East Asians excelled despite being of lower/lower middle class extraction from their home countries.

You can also increase GDP by having hordes of illegals picking oranges in your country because they are not counted in the "per capita" part of GDP per capita.

Not only that but apparently some people are too stupid to understand that wealth and GDP are not the same thing.

GDP is essentially income. Wealth is accumulated assets. Japan has an extremely high net worth even after decades of deflation; slashing costs by having illegals mow your lawn and outsourcing your entire manufacturing base might work in the short term but if you then go and spend 50% of your income on branding and image while your finances are bled dry you are not intelligent.

FYI...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_distribution_of_wealth

nation, %of world population, Net worth per capita (PPP)
China, Hong Kong, 0.11, 202,189
Luxembourg, 0.01, 182,567
Sweden, 0.15, 80,091