Why the Decline of America’s Average IQ is a Cause for Concern

https://i1.wp.com/classiciqquiz.net/IQ1_files/1.jpgIQ† is one of those things that some people don’t like to talk about.  Yet, for so many reasons and in so many ways, it is an important concept, on which so many things in life turn.  It is well known that there is a strong positive correlation between IQ and educational level, lifetime earnings, success in your chosen vocation, personal confidence, and (perhaps surprisingly) success in social interactions and relationships.  In general, I think people accept that a higher IQ is a good thing to have.  What causes problems, however, is when we start talking about the genetic component of IQ.  After a long period in which social scientists sought to downplay or eliminate the notion of this genetic component, more recent studies in genetics and heritability seem to have consistently found that the genetic component of IQ makes up around 60-80% of this trait.  Certainly there are other factors involved such a childhood diet, early childhood education, and so forth.  However, these are not nearly as important as many social scientists had thought (or rather, hoped) they would be.

However, it is when you delve into the realm of talking about group IQ – the statistics of IQ variability between different racial and ethnic groups – that you really begin to run afoul of the sensibilities of today’s modern equalitarians and other SJW-influenced outlets.  Indeed, discussing IQ is the single most contentious element in the debates over human biodiversity.  In many circles, the very concept of genetic IQ differences, especially between groups, leads to the sort of self-censorship that causes some to wonder if it’s “racist” to even talk about whether there are “genes for IQ” or not.  It’s acceptable to observe that the reason blacks can, on average, run faster than whites is due to genetic variances.  However, when you start observing that American whites have an average IQ around 103, while American blacks average around 85, that’s when you get put into the punishment box.

Yet – IQ effects are real.  This has been most extensively investigated in recent years by Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen (a psychologist and a political scientist, respectively), culminating in their books IQ and the Wealth of Nations and IQ and Global Inequality. They observed the strong positive correlation between average national IQ and national wealth as expressed through per capita GDP, GDP growth, and other economic indicators.  Basically, the higher the average IQ of a nation, the richer, more productive, and more innovative the nation’s economy is.

The hate-iest hate map you will see all week.

As can be seen graphically in the map above, as well as in tabular form (esp. Table 4) in one of Lynn’s papers on the subject (also alternatively here, with numbers that are generally similar to Lynn’s), there are clearly clusters of nations which can be group by similar IQs, which not coincidentally also happen to represent similar racial and ethnic groups.  The progression from highest to lowest generally follows as: East Asia –> Northern and Western Europe and their Anglospheric descendents –> Russia and Eastern Europe/Balkans –> Southeast Asia and the Southwest Pacific –> Latin America –> The Middle East and South Asia –> Sub-Saharan Africa and descendants in the Caribbean.

However, there are other factors besides economic prowess which correlate positively with national IQ.  For instance, if you compare them with the lists for IQ given above, you can infer that national IQ and per capita scientific publications correlate fairly strongly.  So also do national IQ and patent applications per capita.  Though harder to quantify, I believe it could also be safely said that there is a positive correlation between national IQ and such things as social stability, the quality and extent of physical infrastructure, and the overall quality of life in a country.  I suspect most people who have traveled internationally would vouch for these.

Granted, IQ is not the only factor in all of this.  There are other components to these which help to explain some obvious outliers.  For instance, I see no reason to think that North Koreans are any less intelligent than their co-ethnics in South Korea (µ=106), yet the North obviously doesn’t produce much in the way of science or infrastructure or, well, anything (aside from what it can steal).  This can be chalked up to the loonie-toon crazy government they have.

Likewise, one can reasonably ask why it is that if IQ is so important for economic and social success, then how come the East Asian countries like China, Japan, and Korea didn’t ace everyone else the way Europe did?  Why didn’t East Asian countries develop high science, hit the industrial revolution, and become the people who made the modern world?  I believe the answer can be found by assessing some cultural differences between them and the West.  Westerners combine traits of high intelligence, assertiveness, cultural confidence, and creativity which no other civilisational group on the planet can match.  Asians had the intelligence, but not the  cultural confidence – Europe was eager to explore the world and “share its culture” with everyone else, while China and Japan took oftentimes drastic steps to shut out, or at least minimise cultural interaction with, the foreigners who they encountered.

In the same vein, East Asians do not tend to demonstrate as much genuine abstract creativity as Westerners do – Eastern arts, while beautiful and technically very advanced, rarely show the flashes of ingenuity which Western arts did; likewise Eastern philosophies tended to be grounded in moral and ethical questions and eschewed the sort of esoteric speculation which Greek and other Western philosophical systems pursued.

(Alternatively, one could look at Smart Fraction Theory, whose exposition includes a discussion of why East Asian countries don’t outperform white countries, despite their IQ advantage.  A theory proposed – but noted as not being supported by quantitative evidence – is that the East Asian IQ distribution has a larger kurtosis value, i.e. is narrower [fewer outliers, more clustering around the mean] than that for other groups.  If this were the case, then the East Asian distribution would be such that while their average IQ is slightly higher than those for European groups, they would still produce relatively fewer of the really high IQ individuals who are responsible for the really innovative scientific, entrepreneurial, and philosophical ideas that are the practical demonstrations of creative genius.)

At any rate, it’s obvious that IQ is important.  And yes, I am getting around to the point about declining American national IQ.

As a result of these IQ clusters, we can divide the countries of the world into four basic groups:

  1. Innovators – these are the countries with average national IQs ranging from ~96-108.  Typically, these nations are characterised by advanced infrastructure and educational systems, lower corruption and higher quality administration, and they contribute to scientific and technological advances to an outsized degree compared to the rest of the world.
  2. Maintainers – these are the countries ranging from ~88-95.  While they are certainly capable of keeping the lights on and the water flowing (for the most part), they don’t really contribute much to the development of new technologies or to scientific output.  They can maintain, but not advance to any great degree, the level of human civilisation, either technically or morally/philosophically.
  3. Stragglers – these countries range between ~80-87.  The levels of social organisation, infrastructure, and administrative competency are low, while corruption and socially disfunctional behaviours are high.  These societies aren’t necessarily falling apart, but they aren’t exactly successful by any reasonable metric, either.
  4. Basket Cases – these are the countries with average IQs below 80.  Most of them are either failing states, or else would be if they were not propped up by extensive foreign aid.  They are generally characterised by one or two core cities with some infrastructure and organisation, surrounded by a hinterland of tribal divisions or areas under the effective control of petty warlords.  The cities (and therefore the government) are often controlled by a small clique comprised of the hundreds or thousands (out of multiple millions of population) with IQs high enough to allow them to understand and apply things like administration, science, and economics.

So here’s the point about declining American IQ.  The listed number for the USA’s average national IQ is 98 – respectable enough, and in line with many European nations.  However, this number represents a decline from the “standard” 100 which represented the average American IQ from around the time when the Stanford-Binet test was adopted in the USA, around the time of World War I.  For reasons I will discuss in a moment, the average American IQ is thought to have declined even further, possibly as low as 95 or 96.

This is troublesome because this would represent a crossing of the threshold between America as an innovator nation and America as a maintainer nation.

What is the cause of this?  Frankly, the single greatest factor in declining average American IQ is the introduction of large numbers of low IQ immigrants from straggler and basket case parts of the world, especially Latin America and the Middle East.

A country’s population is like a cake – the quality of the individual ingredients will determine the quality of the overall product.  From an IQ standpoint, when you introduce millions of lower IQ immigrants, you lower the overall IQ of the country.  As we can see from Lynn’s data, the average IQs in the Latin American countries which send the most immigrants to the USA range between 79-87.  So far, the number of immigrants from Middle Eastern countries has been small compared to the Latin American influx, but considering that the average IQs of these nations range from ~85-90, the plans by the US government to increase “refugee” resettlement bodes poorly for long-term American average IQ as well.

One can see the effect which immigrant population has had in the United States from the map below.

The second hate-iest hate map you will see all week.

We see two things of interest from an HBD perspective.  The first is that the IQ by state appears to positively correlate with the percentage of white population, and therefore negatively correlates with percentage of non-Asian minority (NAM) population.  The five highest IQ states are Massachusetts (73.7% white + 6.3% East Asian), New Hampshire (93.9% white), North Dakota (90.0% white), Vermont (94.3% white), and Minnesota (83.1% white + 4.0% East Asian).  The other really high IQ states like Maine, Montana, and Iowa are also as white as Google’s workforce.

Converse, the lower IQ states are found in the South and the Southwest.  The South is explained by the relatively high percentage of blacks (µ=85).  The Southwest, on the other hand, has absorbed the bulk of the influx from Latin America.  In both cases, the componency of white IQ, which as we see from the northern states to be in the 103-104 range, is diluted by the lower IQ portions of their populations.

This affects the nation as a whole – we can’t simply isolate certain elements in our population.  Everyone – white, black or Hispanic – contributes to the “tangibles” in American society, everything from cultural output to crime rate.  As our average IQ continues to decline, our popular culture will continue to coarsen (we’ve gone from classical music to Khloe Kardashian in just a few short decades), the cultural acceptability of “being smart” and getting into things like science and engineering will decline (discouraging academic achievement because it’s “acting white” is already a problem in both the black and Hispanic communities), and we’ll see scientific and technical achievement begin to fall away.  As America becomes a maintainer nation, we’ll see corruption grow worse and social cohesion and organisation will weaken.

The reason for this is because as IQ declines, the proportion of the population exhibiting IQs above 130 – the point at where you begin to find truly gifted individuals who make significant creative and innovative contributions across all of the various fields of study – grows smaller and smaller.  Yet, it is exactly this high IQ portion of the population which really contributes in an outsized way to the stability and well-being of its nation.

I won’t bore the reader with an in-depth explanation of the statistical mathematics that underlie what I’ll be saying below.  Suffice it to say that large population IQ, like much else in nature and industry, maps onto a normal distribution (aka the “bell curve”).  The standard deviations (σ) for this curve are roughly 15 points each (i.e. +1σ = 115, +2σ = 130, etc. when µ=100).

The proportion of really intelligent individuals (IQ ≥ 130) in any society is actually fairly small.  But when the average IQ is lower, this proportion drops off in a non-linear fashion.  You can have a very large population, but if your average national IQ is low, you still won’t have many of these really high IQ people who move a society forward.  Let’s look at a contrast between the USA (using the “official” µ=98, ~324,000,000 population) and India (µ=81, ~1, 293,000,000 population).  When you plug in the numbers, the USA will have 1.64% of its population at IQ 130 or above, which translates to 5,313,600 individuals.  India, on the other hand, will have 0.05% of its population at IQ 130 or above, which calculates to 646,500 individuals.  Despite quadrupling the USA in population, India has just a little over 12% of the number of high IQ individuals as the USA (and a good share of them have moved to the USA, UK, or other Western nations).

That’s the power of the bell curve, and is why IQ decline should alarm any thinking person.  When you add low IQ population to a country, you are disproportionately adding to the low end of the bell curve, while adding very few high end individuals.  And even if the absolute number of IQ 130 or above individuals remains the same, the fact that you are adding millions of low IQ individuals (many of whom will end up as voters) means more people who are takers rather than contributers, more people who would rather the government pay for welfare than scientific research and who would rather we spend money on EBT cards instead of NASA.  A higher proportion of lower IQ individuals WILL have a depressive effect on the ability of high IQ individuals to act on their creativity, entrepreneurship, and independent thinking.  As we see in many African countries, large numbers of low IQ members of society absorb pretty much all the time and energy of the small high IQ population which has to take care of them.  Taken to the extreme, you’d find a situation not unlike that depicted in C.M. Kornbluth’s “Marching Moron” stories.

The obvious answer for how to arrest this trend is to get serious about sending as many of the masses of these immigrants home, and replacing our current “invade-the-world-invite-the-world” immigration system with one which selects for talented, high IQ individuals who will be net positives for us, rather than net drains.  We don’t need millions of foreigners who take low-skill jobs, drain the treasury through welfare, and commit a disproportionate share of crimes.  We would be wise, however, to entice the smaller numbers of high IQ individuals from other nations, who would be more easily assimilable and who would contribute in ways that the large percentage of our own population could not.

† – For the purposes of this post, I will be referring to numbers obtained from the Stanford-Binet test, as it is historically the most widely used IQ test.



7 thoughts on “Why the Decline of America’s Average IQ is a Cause for Concern

  1. Seems it would be wrong for the West to take the poor countries’ few high-IQ citizens, when those poor countries need them even more.


    1. Well Jack…actually that’s a pretty good point. It *does* seem rather unseemly for us to snatch away the relatively few folks in those societies who would be best able to help uplift their societies socially, technologically, and administratively.

      One mitigating point is that the training of these folks in our universities *specifically to the view that they would go back and help their own countries* has been less than successful because too many of them decide to stay here. Makes me wonder if we shouldn’t make returning home to be a mandatory requirement for getting educated here.


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