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Full text of the TIMES article
November 10, 2003 |
The wealth of nations is mapped by their IQ
By Glen Owen
Research says that intelligence is the largest factor
behind economic success
A COUNTRY’S prosperity is closely related to the
average IQ of its population, according to research
that has mapped global intelligence levels.
The study of 60 countries identified a clear
correlation between assessments of national mental
ability and real gross domestic product, or GDP.
The authors of the work said that the findings showed
that international aid agencies should do more to
improve the nutrition of pregnant women and infants -
the most important environmental determinant of
intelligence - to help to lift developing nations out
Richard Lynn, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the
University of Ulster, and Tatu Vanhanen, Professor
Emeritus of Political Science at the University of
Tampere in Finland, tested the non-verbal reasoning
abilities of a representative sample of the different
populations. They found that the countries of the
Pacific Rim had the highest intelligence scores:
Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, China, Hong Kong and
Singapore averaged IQs of about 105.
The next brightest were the populations of Europe, the
United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand,
averaging 100. In South Asia, North Africa and most
Latin American countries, the score was an average of
about 85, and in sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean
closer to 70.
Set against international measures of economic
performance, the academics concluded that about 58 per
cent of the differences in national wealth could be
explained by differences in intelligence. Each average
IQ point above 70 was worth about UKP 600 in GDP per head
of population. The report says that people with high
IQs can acquire complex skills to produce goods and
services for which there is international demand.
It also says that they are more likely to develop
efficient public services such as transport and
telecommunications, which provide an efficient
infrastructure, and are more likely to have
intelligent political leaders who manage their
Variations from the trend could be explained by
political and economic factors: countries such as
China and Russia and in Eastern Europe with high
average IQs (about 100) but low per capita incomes
often had a history of socialist systems. These
inhibited the natural relationship between skills and
national wealth, the authors said.
"The per capita income in China is low - about UKP 400
a year - because of the inefficiency of the communist
system,"rofessor Flynn said. "Now the Chinese have
introduced a market economy the growth rate is rapid,
about 10 per cent a year compared with about 2 per
cent in Europe.
"China can be predicted to reach parity with Europe
and the US in about 50 years time, and become the new
economic and military superpower."
Other variations could be explained by natural
resources: the presence of oil in the Gulf states,
diamonds in Botswana and the tourist-friendly climate
in Bermuda, for example, all raised GDP beyond that in
countries with comparable IQ ratings.
Although a large proportion of intelligence is thought
to be inherited - about 50 per cent globally,
according to the most recent estimates - environmental
factors are also significant. Average IQs have been
rising sharply in developed countries, in some by up
to 25 points in a single generation.
"There is no doubt that poor nutrition has an effect
on IQ levels,?Professor Flynn said. “Even in
economically developed countries there are pockets of
poor nutrition which affect intelligence. In Britain
it is estimated that about 10 per cent of children
have sub-optimum nutrition. If they are given
supplements in adolecence, their IQs rise by about
five points. In developing countries, where
malnourishment is more serious, they would rise by
between ten and fifteen points. Poor standards of
health are a factor as conditions such as chronic
diarrhoea affect nutrition. And it also has a
detrimental effect if education standards are poor or
nonexistent. It has also been suggested that the
spread of 'cognitively stimulating technology' such as
computer games - another corollary of economic
development - has contributed to the rise.
"Our critics would suggest that we are confusing cause
and effect, and that IQs are higher in rich countries
because of better health, education and so on. But we
don't think that is likely: intelligence is the
largest single factor behind national wealth. It then
becomes a virtuous circle, with the benefits of the
resulting affluence adding extra IQ points."
The psychologist Oliver James said that too much
reliance had been put on IQ measures as objective
assessments of brainpower. "The IQ test is heavily
culturally conditioned," he said.
"In this country it tests your middle-classness and
how well you know how to please the testers. The IQ of
a working-class child adopted by a middle-class family
will rise by about 12 points. (The authors) are
confusing IQ with education. If a country has a good
education system, their economy will benefit. It is
rich countries that are likely to have those systems."