IQ and the Wealth of Nations

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IQ and the Wealth of Nations is a controversial 2002 book by Dr. Richard Lynn, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of Ulster, Northern Ireland, and Dr. Tatu Vanhanen, Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Tampere, Tampere, Finland. This book argues that differences in national income (in the form of per capita gross domestic product) correlate with, and can be at least partially attributed to, differences in average national IQ.



The book includes the authors' estimates of average IQ scores for each country, based on their analysis of published reports; their argument that national gross domestic product per capita is correlated with IQ, and their conclusion that the IQ differences correlated with income differences by a factor of about 0.7.

In several cases, IQ did not correlate well with GDP. In these cases, the authors argued that differences in GDP were caused by differences in natural resources and whether the nation used a socialist or "market" economy.

One example of this was Qatar, whose IQ was estimated by Lynn and Vanhanen to be about 78, yet had a disproportionately high per capita GDP of roughly USD $17,000. The authors explain Qatar's disproportionately high GDP by its high petroleum resources. Similarly, the authors think that large resources of diamonds explain the economic growth of the African nation Botswana, the fastest in the world for several decades.

The authors argued that the People's Republic of China's per capita GDP of roughly USD $4,500 could be explained by its use of a communist economic system for much of its recent history. The authors also predicted that communist nations who they believe have comparatively higher IQs, including the PRC, Vietnam, and North Korea, can be expected to gain GDP by moving from centrally-planned to market economic systems, while predicting continued poverty for African nations.

Missing image
The central thesis of IQ and the Wealth of Nations is that the average IQ of a nation correlates with its GDP. Above is a scatterplot with Lynn and Vanhanen's IQ figures and estimates² (explained below) plotted against 2004 per capita GDP (PPP), as reported by the IMF.³ Similar diagrams appear in the book.

The authors stated that they believe IQ is due to both genetic and environmental factors. They also stated that low GDP can cause low IQ, just as low IQ can cause low GDP. (See: Positive feedback)

The authors argued that it is the ethical responsibility of rich, high-IQ nations to financially assist poor, low-IQ nations, as it is the responsibility of rich citizens to assist the poor.

The book was cited several times in the popular press, notably the British conservative newspaper The Times. Because Tatu Vanhanen is the father of Matti Vanhanen, the Finnish Prime minister, his work has received wide publicity in Finland.

National IQ estimates

Central to the book's thesis, and perhaps one of its most controversial parts, is a tabulation of what Lynn and Vanhanen believe to be the average IQs of the world's nations. Rather than do their own IQ studies (a potentially massive project), the authors average and adjust existing studies.

For the most of the 185 nations, no studies are available. In those cases, the authors have presented an estimated value by taking averages of the IQs of surrounding nations. For example, the authors arrived at a figure of 84 for El Salvador by averaging their calculations of 79 for Guatemala and 88 for Colombia. Those estimates are not included in calculations of income differences and do not appear in the table below.

Several cases merit specific attention. To obtain a figure for South Africa, the authors averaged IQ studies done on different ethnic groups, resulting in a figure of 72. The figures for Colombia, Peru and Singapore were arrived at in a similar manner. For People's Republic of China, the authors used a figure of 109.4 from a study done in Shanghai and adjusted it down by an arbitrary 6 points because they believed the average in China's rural areas was probably less than that in Shanghai. Another figure from a study done in Beijing was not adjusted downwards.

To account for the Flynn effect (an increase in IQ scores over time), the authors sometimes adjust the results of older studies upward by an arbitrary number of points. Because of the arbitrary adjustments and the fact that only limited data are available for most nations, the figures given should be considered estimates and can reasonably be expected to vary by about 10 or 15 points in either direction.

Country IQ estimate
Hong Kong (China) 107
South Korea 106
Japan 105
Taiwan (ROC) 104
Singapore 104
Austria 102
Germany 102
Italy 102
Netherlands 102
Sweden 101
Switzerland 101
Belgium 100
China (PRC) 100
New Zealand 100
United Kingdom 100
Hungary 99
Poland 99
Spain 99
Australia 98
Denmark 98
France 98
Norway 98
United States 98
Canada 97
Czech Republic 97
Finland 97
Argentina 96
Russia 96
Slovakia 96
Uruguay 96
Portugal 95
Slovenia 95
Israel 94
Romania 94
Bulgaria 93
Ireland 93
Greece 92
Malaysia 92
Thailand 91
Croatia 90
Country IQ estimate
Peru 90
Turkey 90
Indonesia 89
Suriname 89
Colombia 88
Brazil 87
Iraq 87
Mexico 87
Samoa 87
Tonga 87
Lebanon 86
Philippines 86
Cuba 85
Morocco 85
Fiji 84
Iran 84
Marshall Islands 84
Puerto Rico 84
Egypt 83
India 81
Ecuador 80
Guatemala 79
Barbados 78
Nepal 78
Qatar 78
Zambia 77
Congo-Brazzaville 73
Uganda 73
Jamaica 72
Kenya 72
South Africa 72
Sudan 72
Tanzania 72
Ghana 71
Nigeria 67
Zimbabwe 66
Congo-Kinshasa 65
Sierra Leone 64
Ethiopia 63
Equatorial Guinea 59


The figures were obtained by taking unweighted averages of different IQ tests. The number of studies is very limited; the IQ figure is based on one study in 34 nations, two studies in 30 nations. In most of the nations there was no studies and IQ was etimated based on IQ in surrounding nations. The number of participants in each study were usually limited, often numbering under a few hundred. The exceptions to this were the United States and Japan, for which studies using more than several thousand participants are available.

Studies that were averaged together often used different methods of IQ testing, different scales for IQ values and/or were done decades apart. IQ in children is different although correlated with IQ later in life and many of the studies tested only young children.

Many nations are very heterogeneous ethnically. This is true for most developing countries. It is very doubtful that an often limited number of participants from one or a few areas are representative for the population as whole.

There are also errors in the raw data presented by authors. The results from Vinko Buj's 1981 study used different scaling from Lynn and Vanhanen's. Also, Buj's original IQ figures in Ireland, Norway and Greece differ from the figures given by Lynn and Vanhanen.

As noted earlier, in many cases arbitrary adjustments were made by authors to account for the Flynn effect or when the authors thought that the studies were not representative of the ethnic or social composition of the nation.

They also adjusted the figures relative to the baseline of UK results, which was taken as 100. When the overall population of the sample countries is taken into account, the mean IQ of the world as indicated by these figures is about 90, which is different from the standard calibration, which sets the mean IQ of any total population at 100.

It should be noted that there is controversy about whether IQ is a valid measurement of intelligence, especially among third-world populations. See the article at IQ for details, as well as the article Race and intelligence. In particular, note that most individuals in a given country will not have the country's average IQ, and that it is generally agreed that many factors, including environment, culture, demographics, wealth, pollution, and educational opportunities, affect measured IQ.

One common criticism is that many of the countries with the best average scores are those where testing (e.g. American SATs, baccalaureate examinations) is a crucial aspect of the educational process, and that many of these tests (esp. the SATs) have been shown to be very similar to IQ tests. In these nations, because students study extensively for the high-stakes examinations, it is quite possible that IQ scores are higher because people are subjected to frequent examinations for which they prepare extensively.

There are many difficulties when one is measuring IQ scores across cultures, and in multiple languages. First of all, use of the same set of exams requires translation, with all its attendant difficulties. To adapt to this, many IQ testers rely on both verbal tests, involving word analogies and the like, and non-verbal tests, which involve pictures, diagrams, and conceptual relationships (such as in-out, big-small, and so on). Roughly the same results tend to be gained with either approach.

The book reports a correlation between IQ and GDP. The paper does not explicitly point out other factors which may directly cause the correlation. The Copenhagen Consensus points out that "iodine-deficient individuals score an average of 13.5 points lower in IQ tests." In this case, a nation's poverty may be self-sustaining in cases where successive generations cannot meet basic nutrition requirements.

Other factors may serve to heighten poverty while simultaneously decreasing IQ. For example, it is common for teenage children in sub-Saharan Africa to be the primary earners for their family. This is due to AIDS-related deaths of older caregivers. As children leave school to begin subsistence farming, their education ends and IQs will be markedly lower. The book does not adequately address the casual relationship of these outside factors to both poverty and intelligence.

Finally, the Flynn effect may well reduce or eliminate differences in IQ between nations in the future. One estimate is that the average IQ of the US was below 75 before factors like improved nutrition started to increase IQ scores. It seems likely that the Flynn effect started first in more affluent nations and that it will also disappear first in these nations. Then the IQ gap between nations will diminish.

Peer-reviewed papers using IQ scores from the book

The results were not peer-reviewed. The book is sharply criticized in the peer-reviewed paper The Impact of National IQ on Income and Growth [1] ( Although critical of the IQ data, for the sake of argument the paper assumes that the data are correct but then criticize the statistical methods used, finding no effect on growth or income. Another peer-reviewed paper making the same assumption, Intelligence, Human Capital, and Economic Growth: An Extreme-Bounds Analysis [2] (, find a strong connection to growth although making no claim that IQ explains most of the difference in growth between nations.

False attribution regarding U.S. states and political party

Some sources, such as The Economist, 15th-21st May 2004 (p.44 in the UK edition), have reported a list of average IQ's of U.S. states, supposedly from IQ and the Wealth of Nations. In fact, such data do not appear in the book. At about the same time, conservative American commentator Steve Sailer exposed the table as a hoax that had already circulated among hundreds of liberal-leaning blogs and other Internet sites. In the following week's edition,The Economist admitted their error and stated (in their column On the trail) that they "were the victim of a hoax". The hoax recurred after the 2004 U.S. election, again falsely attributed to IQ and the Wealth of Nations ([3] (, but the incident prompted one computer scientist to compile a genuine state-by-state chart using SAT and ACT scores ([4] (


  1. IQ and the Wealth of Nations Richard Lynn, Tatu Vanhanen Praeger, ISBN 027597510X
  2. See [5] (
  3. International Monetary Fund reported 2004 per capita GDP (PPP). [6] (

See also

External links



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