June 9, 2008

More college grads = dumber college grads

The annual General Social Survey of a representative sample of Americans includes a 10 question vocabulary test, which correlates with IQ tests at the 0.7 level. Inductivist finds that recent college graduates had lousier vocabularies than previous college graduates, as scored on an IQ like scale where 100 is the average and 15 is the standard deviation.

Mean IQ--white college grads

1960s 113.7
1970s 110.6
1980s 108.0
1990s 104.4
2000s 105.1

In case you're wondering, this isn't an effect of people getting better vocabularies as they get older. Inductivist explains:

Except for this decade, all of the other estimates are based on data from Americans who were college age the decade before, so any mean increase due to age should be the same across decades.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

These stats should not be a surprise to informed readers of this blog. The "mass education" of the masses has been going on for decades now. But just because anyone can get into college does not mean most people belong there.

Paul Fussell in his 1980 book "Class" discussed the then burgeoning "college" phenomenon in America. He said he didnt care how many new "universities" were being created out of thin air at that time: the appropriate amount of people in American society who actually belonged at a college "will always be around 13%."

It's always occurred to me that every "class" has its own particular "racket" that it is vulnerable to. The high proletarians are suckers for the Lottery. Meanwhile, the middle class, ( and many proles as well) see "college" as a ticket to social ascendency, becoming a "millionaire," etc. They'll pay anything to get an "education." And, judging by the outrageous increases in tuition over the last 20 years, all these colleges know they have their very own "suckers" desperate to get in.

How many people later regret putting themselves $100,000 in debt for a college degree? There is nothing shameful with practicing a "trade." Indeed, I've seen stats where certain blue collar small business trades wind up making more money than college graduates.

"College" : yet another egalitarian fantasy that has gone up in smoke.

Anonymous said...

We're LOSING OUR PERSPICACITY!!!

Grumpy Old Man said...

Steve, your vocabulary score would go up if you used a word other than "lousier."

R J said...

Is there no-one left who reads, or has read, the Reader's Digest's "It pays to enrich your word power" feature? Whatever I now know about any words above the level of daily elementary school playground use, I owe to reading that feature over the years.

TGGP said...

Gene Expression already covered it.

Glaivester said...

One question:
is the IQ score comparable between different years? That is, does a score of 100 in 1960 mean the same as one in 2000?

If scores are also centered for that particular year, then more college graduates will mean scores closer to 100 even if everyone is getting smarter, because the increase in smarts will be filtered out by the "normalization" of the data.

MensaRefugee said...

Thing is...
If the mean is 105, and those are graduate...

And many college students drop out without getting a degree...

And these drop outs have an average lower iq....

The actual IQ of wite people at colleges is close to 100.

Couple this with the fact that: Higher IQ people are more likely to go to college (but are a smaller percentage of the population)...

Conclusion: Colleges are top-heavy with students with an IQ of 95(?)-105

Thats pretty scary.

MensaRefugee said...

Anon wrote:
There is nothing shameful with practicing a "trade." Indeed, I've seen stats where certain blue collar small business trades wind up making more money than college graduates.
------------------------------------

Agreed, partially. The thing about the trades making more than the college degree grads has a large measure of truth. However, it is mostly because of supply and demand.

Ergo, if the middle/lower classes wised up and went into trades instead of college - the salary premium in the trades would drop.

Not necessarily a bad thing, they would still be better off and so would everyone else. As the economists say : Its trading at marginal cost for human resources

Henry Canaday said...

I keep trying to explain to the 20-something larva I meet that one of the under-appreciated strokes of genius we early 60s boomers had was to so wreck the colleges we attended that no later generation could possibly compete with us, at least in verbal footwork, which is extremely useful in life, especially for evading responsibility.

By the way, are there any retired Weatherman bombers who AREN'T tenured professors at some university?

Anonymous said...

From the article: "While the gay and lesbian couples had about the same rate of conflict as the heterosexual ones, they appeared to have more relationship satisfaction, suggesting that the inequality of opposite-sex relationships can take a toll."

Except it doesn't suggest that. The norm for same-sex couples is breaking up quickly, so finding a 'random' sample of long-lived ones implies that you've already cherry-picked the more satisfying relationships.

Also, I have to laugh a little at the affiliations of the psychologists cited in this article. University of Vermont? San Diego State? They didn't quite cite the University of Colorado at Boulder, but it wouldn't be a far cry.

Jim O'Sullivan said...

As Glaivester indicates, we have more college grads now, and it's easier to get into college and get it paid for than it used to be. I'd be surprised if the mean college grad's IQ wasn't dropping by the decade, Flynn effect or no Flynn effect.

Lucius Vorenus said...

anonymous: Paul Fussell in his 1980 book "Class" discussed the then burgeoning "college" phenomenon in America. He said he didnt care how many new "universities" were being created out of thin air at that time: the appropriate amount of people in American society who actually belonged at a college "will always be around 13%."

That's 13% if the bell curve is centered around 100.

If it's centered down around 85 [or lower], then all hope is lost:

Of U.S. Children Under 5, Nearly Half Are Minorities
washingtonpost.com



R J: Is there no-one left who reads, or has read, the Reader's Digest's "It pays to enrich your word power" feature? Whatever I now know about any words above the level of daily elementary school playground use, I owe to reading that feature over the years.

1960s 113.7
1970s 110.6
1980s 108.0
1990s 104.4
2000s 105.1


Usually I come down pretty hard on the side of nature in the nature -v- nurture debate, but there's no question that nurture can help a lot at the margins.

In addition to increased access to education [and the necessary dumbing-down of the student body that that entails], what you might also be seeing here is the effect of technology - the college students of the 1960s grew up mostly on radio & books [in the 1940s & 1950s], whereas college students in the 1970s & 1980s grew up on TV [e.g. Gilligan's Island/Andy Griffifth/Bewitched/I Dream of Jeannie in the 1960s and Good Times/Sanford & Son in the 1970s], so the surge in TV viewing alone could plausibly account for a drop of four or five points in apparent IQ.

Then video games start to kick in in the 1980s, and IQ goes straight to hell soon thereafter.

Interesting that you see a slight uptick after the 1990s - I wonder if that's statistically insignificant, or if maybe the soccer Moms lugging their kids around to all those Montessori/Suzuki/Kaplan/Princeton Review classes might have actually done some good?

Half Sigma said...

The credential of a college degree is required for entry into all good career tracks. This doesn't mean that people are learning anything economically useful in college relative to what they would have learned outside of college, but nevertheless, those attending college are making rational decisions.

Bill said...

Just as I thought.

US armed forces recruits and college grads have the same IQ.

But which is predominately male, and which female?

Emphasis on high school grades over test scores in colleges and the opposite in the armed forces has put more women in college and men in uniform.

Has anyone ever thought about how unfair it is to judge boys' fitness for higher learning on their ability to behave as well as girls in high school?

JeremiahJohnbalaya said...

1960s 113.7
1970s 110.6
1980s 108.0
1990s 104.4
2000s 105.1

Isn't there also supposed to be a Flynn affect which, supposedly, artificially lowers the older IQ scores. That would make things even worse than these numbers appear.

blode said...

jeremiahjohnbalaya, whether the Flynn Effect represents are real increase in cognitive ability or a hollow increase in test-taking ability is debated. So I would qualify that the "artificially" in your language needs a "perhaps" as well.

Me, I can't figure these data out until I get a clearer idea of the fractions of the population in college in the various decades. IQs aren't decreasing secularly; they may be increasing. So are tons of smart folks skipping college Bill Gates fashion? Maybe. Are colleges getting less selective? Definitely.

The whole thing points to a trend Richard Herrnstein pointed out: a college degree is no longer worth much - it's not a membership card in the Smart Club.

And the Supreme Court has banned IQ tests in hiring. And people with winning personalities may do great in job interviews even if they can't handle the job intellectually. And businesses laden with people who can't do the work lose money. And the economy is crashing....

It's all circumstantial evidence, I know.

Tom said...

Declining average IQ as admission is broadened is not surprising, but the fact that the average is 105 does startle me. What percentage of the US college age population does actually graduate from college? Sounds like quite a few.

Apart from that, it sounds like "degree/IQ arbitrage" will be coming to an end.

Bill said...

Here is a site that helps to build your vocabulary: http://freerice.com/index.php

Some of the words would have William F Buckley searching for an unabridged dictionary.

Anonymous said...

"Has anyone ever thought about how unfair it is to judge boys' fitness for higher learning on their ability to behave as well as girls in high school?

It's commonly thought that schools accommodate girls' modes of learning better, and most teachers are women. Girls do sit still more efficiently, but that's partly because they just mature a little earlier. A boy just turned six is the equilvent of 6 3/4 years old girl, or something like that. However, I've always wondered about this truism...the schools of the past were far more into sitting still (for far longer hours), corporal punishment, rote memory, regurgitating what the teacher teaches. Discipline and general misery were imposed on the students so relentlessly in ancient schools, that St. Augustine famously asked [paraphrased here], "who would not choose death rather than repeat their childhood school days."
So I don't know. Prior to the 19th century, sitting in school for any length of time, or any time at all, was an exception. Most children worked. But the schoolroom routine to which we still largely adhere was not really invented by women. Teachers and schools were pretty much a male affair in those places where they first appeared: the Meditteranean basin, the far east, Arab countries, Persia. And they all involved an intense and prolonged amount of sitting still and memorizing. Still do in Muslim religous schools.

Anonymous said...

"A boy just turned six is the equilvent of 6 3/4 years old girl, or something like that."

correction. Opposite: boy 6 3/4 is the equivalent of a girl just turned 6, as far as typical level of maturity.

Lucius Vorenus said...

Anonymous: correction. Opposite: boy 6 3/4 is the equivalent of a girl just turned 6, as far as typical level of maturity.

The gap only widens as they head into puberty - a 15 year old girl is the sexual & emotional equivalent of at least a 30 year old guy.

[For any FBI agents reading this thread: No, I am not advocating that anyone go out and violate the laws against statutory rape, nor am I advocating that anyone stay at home and look at pictures of same which they downloaded from the internet.]

Truth said...

"a 15 year old girl is the sexual & emotional equivalent of at least a 30 year old guy."

Uh oh, Lucius has had a couple of lunchtime cocktails again.

Lucius Vorenus said...

Truth: Uh oh, Lucius has had a couple of lunchtime cocktails again.

Sadly, I was stone-cold sober when I made that observation.

Unlike now.