Richard Lynn's Race Differences in Intelligence: Above is a graph showing the average IQ from 23 studies of Japanese people in Japan (red), 17 studies of Hispanics in the U.S. (green), and 17 studies of Aborigines in Australia (blue). The horizontal axis is the estimated average year born of the sample studied. The virtually horizontal colored lines are the best fit lines. While there is a lot of noise in the data, the stability over the generations is striking.
Ever since the publication of Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen's IQ and the Wealth of Nations more than four years ago, I've been beating the drums about how hugely important is their finding of a high correlation (r = 0.73) between average national per capita GDP and average national IQ.
Yet this fascinating research has been almost completely spiked in the press. For example, you might think that The Economist would owe its $129-per-year subscribers some coverage of this research that has so many implications for international business and investing.
Yet the only time The Economist has mentioned the book was in citing it as the source when the magazine fell for that bogus blue-states-have-higher-IQ-hoax!
Now, Lynn has a new book out, Race Differences in Intelligence, which tabulates 620 separate studies of average IQ from 100 different countries with a total sample size of 813,778. That's nearly four times the number of studies summarized in his book with Vanhanen. (Here is J.P. Rushton's review on VDARE.com, and here is Jason Malloy's review on GNXP.com.)
This profusion of data allows us to do analyses of important issues that haven't been feasible before.
How do high IQ people rationalize to themselves suppressing mention of national differences in average IQ—especially when they spend so much time thinking about how they, personally, are smarter than other people?
A common stratagem, I've found, is to assume that IQ differences matter only if they are genetic in origin. Since no decent, civilized, right-thinking person could possibly believe that racial differences in IQ have any genetic basis, then racial and national differences in average IQ can't possibly exist.
Except—they do exist.
And, as I will show that—no matter what their origin, whether in nature or nurture or both—these IQ gaps will continue to exist for many decades.
So we need to think about differences in thinking.
Here's an above-average quality example of the usual kind of wishful thinking from James C. Bennett, author of The Anglosphere Challenge: Why the English-Speaking Nations Will Lead the Way in the Twenty-First Century, on his interesting Albion's Seedlings blog...
Bennett's replies, in part:
“The whole question of trying to make conclusions about ‘national IQs’ from these tests is problematic. Differential national IQ rates could mean that there are inherent differences in IQ, but they could just as easily mean that the socio-cultural-economic differences between nations produce differential IQ scores for environmental reasons… In a few years further genomic studies and fMRI imaging of the brain will tell us far more about heredity and intelligence (and the nature of intelligence) than we can infer today from the wide and rather problematic assortment of statistical studies available today. I think speculation about it is a waste of time right now.”
But (as I responded) it makes no sense to assume that existing IQ gaps have no real-world impact just because they might prove not to be genetic. The overwhelming fact is that—whatever the causes of the disparities may turn out to be—the gaps exist.
And the crucial point is that China appears to have a lead on India of at least one standard deviation (by Lynn's estimate, 1.5 standard deviations or 23 points). From all we know about national IQ trends over time, the possibility of that gap disappearing before, say, 2050, is very small.
Relative differences in average national IQs change even more slowly than, say, relative differences in average national height, which take a couple of generations to fully work through the system.
Since IQs are quite stable from childhood through adulthood, a trailing population's main hope for closing the gap with a higher IQ group rests on its future children.
Let's look at a stylized example. Assume that the IQ gap between two populations, such as China and India, is currently 15 points. And, assume that the babies being born tomorrow in India are suddenly as smart as the babies being born in China.
The red line reflects the growth in the trailing country's workforce's average IQ if the gap disappeared among all babies born in 2006.
The subsequent narrowing of the workforce disparity wouldn't even begin until the 2006 babies started their careers at age 18 in 2024.
If the retirement age is 65 and the population remains stable, then the gap would only be half-closed by 2047, and wouldn't disappear until 2071 (red line in graph below). If it took 2 generations for the average IQs of newborns to catch up, convergence in the workforce wouldn't happen until the 22nd Century (blue line):
So, these gaps will remain crucially important for generations to come. [More]
A reader writes:
Average IQ is not the only relevant factor, and not even clearly the most important relevant factor in assessing, let's put it this way, the relative baseline value of China's and India's human capital. The variance also matters a great deal, as does the specific distribution of talents beyond the raw IQ score.
I would assume Brazil has a significantly lower average IQ than Argentina. But Brazil has a substantial enough population at the high end of the IQ spectrum which, combined with a more creative and entrepreneurial culture, has made Brazil a far more dynamic and important country than Argentina is. (Argentina's dreadful economic policies obviously hurt that country as well, but Brazil's economic policies haven't been exactly world class for much of its history either.)
Indeed, Brazil is one of only four places in the world to compete in the commercial jetliner market. On the other hand, the latest per capita GDP for Argentina is $13,700 versus $8,400 for Brazil. As the saying goes, "Brazil is the country of the future and always will be."
Amy Chua in her book, World on Fire, describes the dangerous downside of having market-dominant minorities. But the upside, for countries from Malaysia to Russia to South Africa to Brazil, has been substantially greater economic development than would have been possible otherwise.
So assume for the sake of argument that India has a very substantial minority of the population (say, the top quintile or decile) that is at least as smart as the comparable segment of the Chinese population. This could certainly be the case if the standard deviation of Indian IQ is substantially higher than for Chinese IQ, and/or if a big reason for the IQ gap between the two countries is relative malnutrition of the huge rural Indian population. Assume further that India has certain cultural advantages, some of which may be related to the natural endowments of the population and others of which are pure accidents of history (like the British colonial inheritance). Assume further that the caste system in India actually serves to bind the market-dominant minority of Indians to the rest of the population (the Hindus, anyway). If all of these assumptions are true (which is a big if, admittedly), I think you could make a strong case for betting on India in spite of the gap in average IQ.
One interesting sidelight is that both countries' educational policies appear to be rationally taking into account the apparent difference in IQ variances between them. India has invested a lot in elite higher education, while China has done a better job of getting the masses up to a minimum level of education, while skimping so far on world class higher education.