March 23, 2002

"IQ and the Wealth of Nations" reviewed by Rushton

Fascinating review by J.P. Rushton of Richard Lynn's IQ and the Wealth of Nations in VDARE. Lynn's book lists average IQs for scores of nations, from Equatorial Guinea on the bottom to Hong Kong on the top.

I take a somewhat more optimistic view of the data than Rushton. The correlation Lynn found between IQ and per capita income is extraordinary, around 0.75 - maybe the highest correlation ever seen in the social sciences for a world-historic issue like this. As a former marketing researcher, I have some doubts about how demographically representative the samples from each country were (I haven't seen the book yet), because t's extremely expensive to get a perfectly nationally representative sample. But keep this crucial point in mind: better data would almost certainly raise Lynn's correlation!

But which way does the arrow of causation run? It probably runs both ways. Higher IQs lead to higher average incomes (for obvious reasons), but higher incomes probably also lead to higher IQs. If the latter wasn't true, it would be very hard to understand why African-Americans outscore Africans by 15 points (an entire standard deviation).

The good news is that it should be possible to set off a virtuous cycle of higher IQs leading to a wealthier, more civilized society that in turn leads to even higher IQs, and so forth. In fact, this has probably been happening in a lot of the world. But how could we fully ignite this process in the low IQ portions of the 3rd World? There's probably no way short of 22nd Century genetic engineering to make Equatorial Guinea into Hong Kong, but it ought to be possible to do something to raise the next generations' IQs.

But we don't really know yet. Education probably helps. But there may be other, cheaper ways that focus on alleviating biological problems that prevent people from reaching their genetic potential in intelligence. Perhaps some IQ-cognizant philanthropic computer zillionaire should fund intense research into how to raise IQ's in 3rd World countries. (Hey, Larry Ellison - this is how you could trump Bill Gates at saving the world!) A rise of just a few points could mean a big improvement in the workings of these countries. Lynn and the New Zealand scholar James Flynn, working separately, have shown that raw IQs scores have been rising in many countries - the Lynn-Flynn effect - but we know very little about what causes this or how significant it is. Lynn himself has demonstrated that malnutrition hurts IQ, but we need to know more the precise mechanisms. Perhaps getting enough of certain nutrients early in life can make a modest but significant difference. Arthur Jensen thinks that is likely.

Further, I strongly suspect, based on twins raised apart data, that infections sap IQ. Tropical countries are more germ-ridden than temperate countries. Unfortunately, we really don't know much about which germs knock a few points off IQ. This is something that ought to be studied in depth. But practically nobody is doing it because IQ researchers are considered the devil's spawn these days.

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