November 3, 2006

Average IQ of enlisted men

Following the latest John Kerry brouhaha, a reader asked what the average IQ of U.S. military personnel is. From table 2.8 of the is Department of Defense document, I estimate that the average for new enlisted men in 1998 was about 105.

This would be in the 60th to 65th percentile compared to all the young people in America when the Armed Forces Qualification Test was normalized in 1980 on the National Longitudinal Study of Youth's sample of 13,000 people ages 15-23. (This is the same enormous study that provides the data in Section 2 of The Bell Curve.)

Female enlistees would be similar.

The Air Force has the highest AFQT test score enlistees, with the Navy slightly ahead of the Army and Marines for second place.

This 105 estimate would be representative of the years 1992 through about 2004, from the downsizing of the military after victory in the Cold War, when it virtually stopped taking enlistees with IQs below the 30th percentile, until the war in Iraq made recruiting more difficult over the last couple of years. Some of the branches of the military have recently increased the percentage of "Category IV" recruits (between 11th and 30th percentiles), but I doubt if the overall average has changed all that much.

Officers, of course, average higher than enlisted men, although I suspect that the IQ gap between officers and men is a little narrower now than in the past. (Another thing that has improved relations between the ranks is that military men drink a lot less now than in days gone by, partly due to the spread of evangelical Christianity, partly due to modern health consciouness. Officers and men are not allowed to drink in the same bars, so they spend more time together now.)

So, what is the average IQ of officers? I don't know much about today, but a military psychometrician told me that in the 1975-1985 period, the average SAT score (under the old, tougher scoring system) was 1001 in the Army, 1018 Marines, 1051 Air Force, and 1103 Navy. Under the "recentered" scoring system adopted in 1995, those would be: 1098 Army, 1113 Marines, 1132 Air Force, and 1198 Navy.

Converting SAT scores to IQs is a shaky process, but that would suggest about, oh, 113 to 121 for the average officer in the various services back in 1975-1985. (Don't take that as the final word.)

If you want to read all about officers' IQs, you can see my 2004 article comparing the IQs of Bush and Kerry based on how they did on officer qualification tests. (Bottomline: quite similar, with Bush doing a little better. That fits with their GPA during their overlapping careers at Yale where both were C+ students, with Bush's GPA a tiny bit higher. You might think that a country of 300 million could come up with two Presidential candidates who were, you know, B+ students, but I guess not ...)

The average for enlistees (male and female) in 1998 across all services would be about 107 for white enlistees, 102 for blacks, and 103 for Hispanics. (That shows the impressive patriotism of minorities who possess more options in life than the average. A little known fact is that the average black enlistee comes from a home with an income above the national average for blacks.)

In comparison, according to data kindly provided to me by Charles Murray, when the military renormalized the AFQT on a new nationally representative sample in 1997, white males averaged 102.7 and black males 88.4. The race gap was 1.5 points smaller among women. This 14.3 point race gap is down from the anomalously large 18.6 point gap seen in the 1980 normalization, which was due in part to some problems with the 1980 AFQT test methodology. It's also likely that the underlying white-black IQ gap has narrowed in recent decades. Flynn and Dickens recently argued for a large narrowing, while Jensen and Rushton argued in response for about a 2 point narrowing.

Here's something you won't read elsewhere.

It's widely assumed that American minority soldiers are suffering a disproportionate number of deaths in the current war. Yet, according to iCasualites, 74% of all American fatal casualties in the Iraq war have been suffered by non-Hispanic whites. In 2004, non-Hispanic whites only made up 67% of the total population, and, more relevantly, only 61% of the 25-year-olds, which might be about the representative age of the fatalities.

So, young whites are dying in Iraq at a per capita rate more than 80% higher than young minorities. If you are wondering about how I calculated that, it's:

(74% / 61%) / (26% / 39%)

What you definitely won't see elsewhere is an explanation of the most likely reason for this racial imbalance: IQ. To be allowed to enlist, you have to score 92 or higher on the military's IQ test, the Armed Forces Qualification Test (the same one used throughout The Bell Curve.) Since 1992, only 1% of new military enlistees have had IQs below the 30th percentile nationally.

This requirement disqualifies about half of all Hispanics and over 60% of all blacks from joining up, versus less than a quarter of all whites.

People such as Harvard Professor Robert D. "Bowling Alone" Putnam like to talk about how the rest of society can attain the friendly racial relations found in the U.S. military:

“I think we can do a lot to push change along more rapidly. The US military is one example. There was a lot of racial tension around the time of the Vietnam war. Now, polls show that US military personnel have many more friendships across ethnic lines than civilians. And that was deliberate. If officers were told they wouldn’t make colonel if they were seen to discriminate, they changed.”

Okay, but even if we followed Dr. Putnam's implicit advice and imposed martial law on America, we still wouldn't be able to follow what is the secret to the military's success: artificially eliminate the majority of the racial IQ gap by using an IQ-based admissions test.

It's crucial to remember that, until very recently due to Iraq, three out of ten American youths, and a higher proportion of minority youths, were ineligible for service in the military due to low IQs. This means that the benefits of military acculturation are unavailable to those who presumably need them the most. Last year I proposed an alternative to military service for kids who think they could benefit from military discipline but aren't smart enough to pass the AFQT.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer


Anonymous said...

I'm a "Hispanic Male" with an AFQT percentile at 84. My email is I was previously an enlisted E-4 as a paratrooper combat/signaler - trained killer. Where does that leave me? As an an anomally - i don't fit the "mold" but I am proof that anybody "trained and tutored" as a quasi white man will score the same as his anglo bretheren. I am living proof that if you raise someone in just the right envoronment - they will mentally perform as an Anglo.

Anonymous said...

lol @ mexican who thinks 1 success equals a new rule that applies to all minorities. are you sure that 50 points weren't added to your score for purposes of AA?

Anonymous said...

I am a white male enlisted ,I scored 142 on this test which should put me well above most officers , the brothers I served with of all nationalities were men first and foremost and the color of their skin never mattered in the least, the only thing that mattered was what was in their heart. Sign me MARINE RECON

Anonymous said...

Mexican Pecker has an IQ a full standard deviation above the mixed mean, and 2 standard deviatios above the hispanic (more properly, mestizo, or mixed euroindian) mean. Is somebody 2 standard deviations above his group mean an "anomaly"? Maybe, but 1 in 50 hispanics will then be anomalies within the hispanic group. I think I'd reserve the use of "anomaly" for 3 standard deviations off the mixed mean, which would be 1 in 1000 for an anglo, and 4 SDs, or 1 in 30,000, for an hispanic compared with other hispanics. That's anomaly territory. In any event, such anomalies are undetectable by the AFQT, which tops out at 2.3 standard deviations above the mixed mean (roughly IQ 135, SD 15).

Now I must comment not on a small matter of word usage, but on a pretty serious error of logic in Mexican Pecker's discussion. (One downside of having a high IQ, a standard deviation above the mixed mean, is people don't feel sorry for you when you get beat up over your argumentation mistakes).

To proceed: Mexican P, you say that you were "trained and tutored" as a quasi white man. But you were raised as an hispanic, in an hispanic household were you not? Therefore, you must be referring to your military training when you said "trained and tutored".

Here's the problem: if the training you're talking about was military training, exactly how did you imagine the training raised your IQ (AFQT percentile), when you took the AFQT before you joined the military? Reverse time travel?

Sorry to tell ya this, MP, but you were born with your marbles. You didn't get them in a honky classroom.

I don't doubt that being raised in the right environment is beneficial in some ways, but one thing we do know: it does not raise your IQ.


Anonymous said...

I read somewhere that the army has a maximum IQ, and if you score above this they will automatically refuse you?

I wondered about that because surely the officers in charge would have to be intelligent? To be able to work as a group and follow orders might rule out those with IQ's much above 120?

I was shocked that your article says officers only had IQ's around 113 to 121. My IQ was officially measured at 146, though I am sure the army would turn me down as worthless to them.

Dick said...

AFQT is no longer accepted as a measure of IQ anywhere as far as I know.

For reference, MENSA - the "high IQ society" whose members represent the top 2% of the population admits only the following military tests, administered before 10/80 (when the test formats changed), as evidence of IQ, :


As of October of 1980, there are no enlisted military qualification tests that directly represent IQ.

Bill Wayne said...

I was looking online for some cold steel fgx knives when I stumbled on this post. I think it is important for military men to have good IQ and EQ especially that they need to engage into military tactics and numerous deadly encounters.

Anonymous said...

In as simple vernacular as I can manage.

Hey Richard, environment not only can, in fact, it does change IQ levels. That is but one variable though. Who are you trying to kid? Some Euro trash try to come across as soooo smart. It shows what dumb asses many of you are. We are one Human Race in which many factors have stressed us to excel at different points. Think of it this way. Ethnic groups changing leads in a horse race. At one point or another a different group (horse) takes the lead. It comes down to what their particular society holds true at a certain time.

Everyday we keep redefining what is actually fact. Before you give me your interpretation of history. Realize that white mans history is limited. Anytime a fact arises that proves otherwise, you tend to ignore or dismiss the data. Your schools are weak. Do me a favor, take that huge gigantic lump that your call your head, out of your oversized anus. In short open your eyes. You don't need to be a genius, you just have to not be a bigot and see us as for what we are, one giant brotherhood.

When a certain group is treated in a certain way and those in charge fail to address those inequalities, who is at fault? It’s like planting crops indoors never watering them, weeks later over watering one time. Then taking the stance that the reason the crops failed was because of the poor seed quality. While, that could be the case. The fact that you’re a scrubby farmer was a bigger factor wouldn’t you say?

I do have to say this that all races are susceptible to stupidly. The fact that you’re in the military proves it. All military personnel are willing and unwilling pawns of governments. It’s easy to want to use primal force to accomplish your goals.

I too am a Mescan and damn proud of it. Super high IQ. I don’t give a d*#@ if you believe me, disagree with me, or criticize me. Do your self a favor save it. Nothing you say will change anything. Time is the only thing you and your kind (narrow minded people) will help you.

I’ll leave you with this. Have you ever noticed that the pure breeds have all the health problems mental and physical? Mutts - extended gene pool - are much healthier, and better able to withstand whatever is thrown their way?

YT, Mescan at Standford.

Anonymous said...

Hey, last 'Anonymous', no one believes you claims of 'super high IQ'; mostly because of the numerous punctuation and grammatical errors. Well, and the misspelling of 'Stanford' AND 'Mexican'.

Anonymous said...

I visited this site looking for military officers median IQs. I had no idea this was a race hate page. I'll visit another site where people aren't as stupid. As for IQs, I see no indication of significant ones here. By the way, I'm black, and a member of the Giga and Mega Societies. I also am an S.G.I.G. and a member of the I.S.P.I. Remember, you who think yourselves superior to a people due to their paint job must remember, the six foot hole says all are equal. Now I'll look for some intelligent websites.

Anonymous said...

19 is the minimum for an army afqt score. I've seen it happen. 50 is minimum for navy.

Anonymous said...

The use of statistically reliable data such as SAT, ACT, AFQT, GCT and IQ scores for comparative purposes begs the question: Why are not the actual individual aggregate scores of these tests available for research?

With todays information technology there is no satisfactory explanation! And to my thinking today's technology dates back to 1969 when my ALAT score put me into a three month Vietnamese language course at DLIWC.

If these actual individual aggregate scores are available the social science trick would be to project over time incidents of success and failure. For instance, retirement stats from each military service would provide a basis for inferring success. UCMJ violations would provide failure.

Happy BCNF!

Anonymous said...

I haven't "measured my intellectual pecker" since childhood, where I was IQ tested for admissions to my school's gifted program. The aide got me to the timed test late, but let me try. All they said they could tell me that I'm 148+ and that tests really weren't that accurate above a certain point ... but this was decades ago. I'm a white male, but I tend to doubt that has boo to do with the results. And I'm sure people interested in this blog likely have higher than avg. IQ's.

The reason I'm commenting is that one of my anthropology professors I'm pretty close to explained to me that many IQ tests (at that time at least) were culturally-biased ... but this was way back in the late 80's or so, maybe 90 and I'm more curious about other things so I have studied the subject too much. But specifically, he participated in a program that measured the IQ's of Navajo students. He made a pretty solid argument that having people from different cultures take SAT-type tests and IQ tests of the day that are all about what "we" learn in school and practice ... and trying to port that over to IQ has some issues. Pull a kid out of the Brazilian rain forest and give him an IQ test ... then tell him he's a little smarter than a monkey, and so on. Then take all your numbers and rank those cultures on a top to bottom scale, putting your own culture at the top with those that or more similar to yours being smarter and those who are less similar being less so.

Sounds a little like early Anglo anthropologists ranking cultures according to how "civilized" they were ... ranking their own culture as the apex of civilization of course.

I'm not saying this is all total bunk. I'm just saying it's something to keep in mind. Certainly doesn't look "politically correct." But hey, these days, if you analyze other cultures and you're not an anthropologist everybody will call you a racist, lol.

Good luck with your pecker measuring, lol. ;)

Unknown said...

Clearly IQ tests are culturally biased toward Europeans....that's why East Asians consistent score higher than Europeans.

It's funny how someone guffaws pecker measuring then tries to whip his 148 '12 incher' out.

You'd think all you 150's would be able to figure out that blacks have lived in this country far longer than the immigrants outs coring them would debunk your theory.

Anonymous said...

Your "80%" would be called a 1.8 odds ratio (OR). The reason for the higher odds ratio could mean many contradictory things. Maybe they are brave fighters who are wounded. Maybe they are recruited at a higher rate. Maybe the military coddles them. Maybe they take actions that result in a higher rate of injury. Impossible, at this point, to say it means anything. One thing is clear though. Being "white" is not the reason. Maybe being perceived as white or believing something special because you identify as white.

Unknown said...

If you look at the numbers on race and is, it never says anything about lets saycall whites,are smart all blacks are dum, but when lumped into groups some groups score higher then others, since youvare one of these high iq blacks please try to be a leader in the black communty, and npt a race baiter