Saturday, June 18, 2011

IQ by religion

In the six years I've been digging around in the GSS, and the countless times I've converted group wordsum averages into IQ estimates, I've never applied the method to get an IQ figure for Jewish respondents. The question of Jewish identity (is it religious, ethnic, ancestral, or something else?) inevitably causes some amount of measurement dissatisfaction when a broad survey like the GSS is used. Also, Jews tend to do especially well on the verbal aspects of IQ testing (which is all the wordsum test captures), while giving a more mediocre performance on visuo-spatial reasoning. But if I made the perfect an enemy of the good, this blog wouldn't exist.

The following table shows IQ estimates for the eight religious classifications that had a sample size of at least 40. The IQ scores are derived by setting the white mean wordsum score to correspond to an IQ of 100 with a standard deviation of 15. To avoid language fluency issues, only respondents born in the US are included:

Christian (non-denominational)

Not quite the one standard deviation advantage that Ashkenazi Jews are elsewhere found to have over white gentiles, but some of these Jews are Sephardic and other ancestrally Jewish but irreligious respondents presumably identified themselves as having no religion.

The high Buddhist score is not simply the result of well-off Asian practitioners. It is, as Christian Lander has identified, a favorite for "spiritual" SWPLs who recoil at the idea of adopting an occidental belief system. More than half of the self-described Buddhists are white.

Like we see in the case of conservatives and liberals versus moderates, non-denominational Christians score lower than Protestants or Catholics. Those who are more intellectually committed tend to be more intelligent than those who opt for the undefined, uncontroversial label.

* Interdenominationalism is a Christian/Jewish hybrid, similar to (although not necessarily synonymous with) messianic Judaism.

GSS variables used: RELIG, BORN(1), WORDSUM


Roberto Autran Nunes said...

I am a Christian. My IQ is 190.

Audacious Epigone said...

And while he isn't reading blogs, there is a Jew out there with an IQ of 60, of course.

gcochran said...

My horseback estimate of Ashkenazi IQ was 112. Note that about 90% of American Jews are Ashkenazi.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if there's a ceiling effect that leads to an underestimation of the Wordsum IQ of Jews (and others)? What does the distribution of Jewish scores in the data look like?

Audacious Epigone said...

Professor Cochran,

If Sephardic Jewish IQ estimates scores are comparable to surrounding Arab scores, then 110 would be almost exactly what we'd expect to find via the GSS.


Yeah, there is that problem with using wordsum conversions for IQ, since the maximum possible score is a bit under 130. For group averages, though, that's not too big of an issue. In the case of Jews, the mode is 9, so the curve is getting cut off more on the right end than on the left end.

Anonymous said...

A few weeks ago on a certain forum I posited that the US Ashkenazi mean IQ was 111, and this post has done nothing to dissuade me. I've also seen a page that indicated that before recentering Jews scored an average 1030 on the SATs, which converts to 110.91 on the scale.


Douglas said...

How irrelevant. IQ is always subjective (in my opinion). I speak of IQ as a tested trait, of course, not inherent intelligence. IQ tests are designed. That means that someone must decide what intelligence is and how it must be measured. I have always tested well. That was the result of good cognitive abilities (a grasp of logic and a smattering of intuition) along with a very good memory. My IQ measures in the 135 range. That number is not, in my opinion, a true representation of my actual intelligence, just a representation of my ability to understand and excel at certain kinds of tests. At times, I have been quite stupid. At others, very clever.

Audacious Epigone said...


IQ correlates with an enormous number of other things, like income, criminality, health, voter participation rates, and quality of life (just to name a few off the top of my head that I've posted about previously). It is clearly relevant.

Anonymous said...

The catholic number is deliciously scandalous. Smarter people need moar elaborate rituals to be entranced.

efrique said...

I note that you mention that those group sizes could be as low as 40. This suggests that the standard error of the mean for some groups could be several IQ points. Given that a couple of points could move several groups up or down the list a long way, standard errors for each mean would help.

Indeed, perhaps some kind of display with the uncertainty indicated would be even more helpful.

Lexus Liberal said...

Where's Islam? Also could you separate Buddhism into Shinto and other sects? Those religions vastly differ by local due to culture.

PeaceByJesus said...

I don't have a comparison of Religions and States as per IQ, but I did put together this (by God's grace) for what it is worth:

Anonymous said...

Not quite the one standard deviation advantage that Ashkenazi Jews are elsewhere found to have over white gentiles

The link you give says only that: "Some studies have found IQ scores amongst Ashkenazi Jews to be a fifth to one full standard deviation above average in mathematical and verbal tests". You're taking the high end of that range as the norm.

You could have written with equal accuracy, "Not quite the one fifth of a standard deviation advantage that Ashkenazi Jews are elsewhere found to have over white gentiles".

Anonymous said...

This survey means nothing. What you have to measure, which may not be practically applicable, is those that have chosen their religion through objective intellectual reasoning with full knowledge of the teachings and origins of the various religions. This iq reflects the ethnic background of most of its adherents, those that were born into it. For me, my iq is 144 and after studying theology and philosophy for years, my choice is Catholicism. There will be other intelligent people who make other choices, but the important question is how they arrived at their decision more then just raw intelligence. There seems to be more evidence for it being true then any other religion by far. Only atheism and deism are plausible alternatives in my opinion. Within Christianity, Eastern and Oriental Orthodoxy have some certitude in their claims to be the true version, but it is mostly based on historical and political reasons and a misunderstanding of the interplay between papal authority and conciliarism. Judaism is completely rational, if the time was before Christ.

Plausible alternatives in terms of worldview would be deism or atheism, not any other religion.

abviolin3 said...

I have an IQ of 132, and I'm an atheist. I believe that a similar study done ranked atheists at the top, with an average IQ of around 119.

But of the theists, I would probably have to say Ashkenazi Jews.

Anonymous said...

Not quite the one standard deviation advantage that Ashkenazi Jews are elsewhere found to have over white gentiles

I'm not sure where this oft-repeated claim comes from. It does not come from the link provided, which mentions many different studies offering a wide range of estimates of Jewish IQ. The 115 figure is taken from the extreme high end of estimates.

Lynn did a survey of all the data available on Jewish-American IQ a few years ago, and arrived at the conclusion that their verbal IQ was 107.5. He said that a full IQ figure could not be calculated with the information available. Still, the Jewish verbal IQ is generally though to be greater then their math IQ, so the overall average is probably less than 107.

I believe the paper was called "The IQ of American Jews" or something along those lines.

Anonymous said...

Roberto Autran Nunes,

No its not

Anonymous said...

Roberto Autran Nunes said...
I am a Christian. My IQ is 190.

If you really had an IQ of 190, you would not have made such an obviously ignorant comment.

Elliot Lee said...

Albert Einstein's was 170, lieing ass

Elliot Lee said...

Albert Einstein's IQ was 160. Clearly you are lieing

Anonymous said...

Intuitively, I think atheists may have the highest IQ. It takes a very high level of intelligence to reject something as universally respected and accepted as the omnipotent. Most people a notch below the highest intellect would probably play safe and 'believe' in god rather than risk social ostracism.

I would welcome any counter example. i.e. if you know someone you consider not too bright and atheist, please mention that.

Anonymous said...

There are plenty of atheist people who aren't bright, especially now that religion is losing its popularity hence more average people are embracing atheism rather than the brave 'intellectual elite' that you speak of.

Rev Alan son of Thor said...

The dumb Jews were killed by hitlery the smart ones got away... Bad joke... But. I bet escaping persecution and murder probably raises IQ.

Rev Alan son of Thor said...

The Jews were the ones who got away the dumb ones were killed by scum

Anonymous said...

I figured that the atheists would come out now and say how smart they are for rejecting a popular notion of an omnipotent being. I am not that impressed by IQ-if you can do analogies well, good for you. If you can read well and remember what you read, fine. But, if that translates into wisdom, that's a whole different ball game that I suspect isn't easily measured objectively.