Race Differences in Intelligence:
PC Won't Make Them Go Away
April 23, 2006
Ever since the publication of
Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen's
IQ and the Wealth of Nations
more than four years ago, I've been
beating the drums
about how hugely important is their finding of a high correlation (r = 0.73)
between average national per capita GDP and average national IQ.
Yet this fascinating research
has been almost completely spiked in
the press. For example, you might think
that The Economist would owe its
some coverage of this research that has so many implications for
international business and investing.
Yet the only time The
Economist has mentioned the book was in citing it as the source when the
magazine fell for that
Now, Lynn has a new book out,
Race Differences in Intelligence,
which tabulates 620 separate studies of
average IQ from 100 different countries
with a total sample size of
nearly four times the number of studies summarized in his book with Vanhanen.
J.P. Rushton's review
on VDARE.com, and here is
Jason Malloy's review
This profusion of data allows us to
do analyses of important issues that haven't been feasible before.
IQ people rationalize to themselves
suppressing mention of national differences in average IQ—especially when
they spend so much time thinking about how they, personally, are smarter
than other people?
A common stratagem, I've
found, is to assume that IQ differences matter only if they are
genetic in origin. Since no
decent, civilized, right-thinking person
possibly believe that
racial differences in IQ have any genetic basis, then racial and national
differences in average IQ can't possibly exist.
Except—they do exist.
And, as I will show that—no matter
what their origin, whether in nature or nurture or both—these IQ gaps will
continue to exist for many decades.
So we need to think about
differences in thinking.
Here's an above-average
example of the usual
kind of wishful thinking from James C. Bennett, author of
The Anglosphere Challenge: Why the English-Speaking
Nations Will Lead the Way in the Twenty-First Century,
on his interesting
Bennett had started a
discussion of the important topic of the differences between China and India
(which I discussed in VDARE.com in
"Interesting India, Competitive China").
Both economies have been growing fast, going back to China freeing up its
economy in 1978 and India in 1991.
Bennett's view is that India
is a better bet in the 21st Century because it will benefit from
institutional advantages over China. As a former British colony, it is part
of the Anglosphere, and thus enjoys common law, representative government,
the Anglo tradition.
I'm sympathetic to this view.
(Although, to be realistic, when it comes to honesty and efficiency,
today's Indian state
isn't exactly Her Majesty's Government under
Still, there's the brute fact
despite its regime's
many shortcomings, China has been growing faster than India—and for much
The simplest explanation: the
Chinese people make
up for the failures of the Beijing oligarchy.
In the discussion, I noted
that my Indian friends frequently tell me that they are far from
representative of their country.
They say Westerners should not generalize from the software industries of
Bangalore to all of
India. Due to the
endogamous caste system,
India is very diverse—much more so than China.
The big question is: what are the
national average IQs of China and India?
Lynn's Race Differences in
Intelligence lists about 600 IQ studies from around the world. For
China, he found 10 studies, with an average IQ of 106 (on a scale where
Britons and white
Americans are at 100). These studies were all published from 1990 onward
(and the young people studied in them were born from about the 1970s to
early 1990s, as shown in the graph above). The scores appear to be somewhat
higher than in earlier years, when the Chinese were more poorly nourished
and educated. In these 10 recent studies, the average Chinese IQs range from
101 to 113.
For India, Lynn found 13 studies,
from 1966 through 2000. The subjects measured in them were born from the
1940s through the late 1980s. The averages range from 78 to 88, with a mean
There is likely to be some upward
movement in test scores in the future as Indians become better nourished and
better educated. Still, India appears to have a long way to go to catch up
Bennett's replies, in part:
“The whole question of trying to make conclusions about ‘national IQs’ from
these tests is problematic. Differential national IQ rates could mean that
there are inherent differences in IQ, but they could just as easily mean
that the socio-cultural-economic differences between nations produce
differential IQ scores for environmental reasons… In a few years further
genomic studies and
fMRI imaging of the brain will tell us far more about heredity and
intelligence (and the nature of intelligence) than we can infer today from
the wide and rather problematic assortment of statistical studies available
today. I think speculation about it is a waste of time right now.”
But (as I responded) it makes no
sense to assume that existing IQ gaps have no real-world impact just because
they might prove not to be genetic. The overwhelming fact is that—whatever
the causes of the disparities may turn out to be—the gaps exist.
And the crucial point is that China
appears to have a lead on India of at least one standard deviation (by
Lynn's estimate, 1.5 standard deviations or 23 points). From all we know
about national IQ trends over time, the possibility of that gap disappearing
before, say, 2050, is very small.
Relative differences in average
national IQs change even more slowly than, say, relative differences in
average national height, which take a couple of generations to fully work
through the system.
Since IQs are quite
stable from childhood
through adulthood, a trailing population's main hope for closing the gap
with a higher IQ group rests on its future children.
Let's look at a stylized example.
Assume that the IQ gap between two populations, such as China and India, is
currently 15 points. And, assume that the babies being born tomorrow in
India are suddenly as smart as the babies being born in China.
The red line reflects the growth in
the trailing country's workforce's average IQ if the gap disappeared among
all babies born in 2006.
The subsequent narrowing of the
workforce disparity wouldn't even begin until the 2006 babies started
their careers at age 18 in 2024.
If the retirement age is 65 and the
population remains stable, then the gap would only be half-closed by 2047,
and wouldn't disappear until 2071.
We know that a truly bad
environment, such as modern Africa's, can depress IQ. In Lynn's new book, he
has adopted the argument I made my
2002 VDARE.com review
of his last book that the much lower IQs of black Africans (Lynn now
estimates, based on 57 studies, that the sub-Saharan average is 67) compared
to their African-American cousins (Lynn lists 31 studies since WWI with a
median of 85) is proof that some combination of malnutrition, poor health,
weak education, lack of mental stimulus, or other factors can drive IQ below
its genetic potential.
But it's unrealistic to assume that
the gap will magically disappear among babies in 2006.
For example, there were huge
improvements in the environmental conditions of African-Americans in the
20th Century, but the
IQ gap between whites and blacks
remained stable at around 15-16 points from WWI onward. Only in the last
Commentary last year,
has evidence appeared suggesting a
narrowing of the gap by two or three points.
So, a more plausible guess for our
stylized model of how fast a 15 point gap could narrow would be that it
might take, say, two generations (or until 2056, 50 years from now) for the
IQ disparity to vanish among newborns. The blue line in the graph above
shows the impact of this more realistic assumption on the workforce: the
intelligence gap isn't even halfway gone until 2072, and doesn't disappear
Unfortunately, there's not much
evidence of relative changes in IQ that large in children over even two
generations. Most of the 600 studies of in Lynn's book are of narrowly
defined cohorts of children (e.g., ages 6-8), so sharp rises or falls in
national average IQ should be visible, if they are occurring.
Thumbing through Lynn's new book,
however, what jumps out at you is the comparative stability of group average
IQs over the decades. The IQ rich aren't getting richer, but neither are the
IQ poor. Groups seem to stay about where they started out in the early days
of IQ testing.
As I showed a couple of years
ago using data from Lynn's old book, there is some evidence for a
modest upward trend in IQ scores
in Chinese-speaking countries relative to the rest of the world (hardly
surprising considering how much life has improved there). Otherwise,
however, it's hard to see many relative IQ trends over time.
One possible exception: It
looks like the
Polynesian Maoris of
New Zealand have, over two or three generations, improved from the 80s into
the 90s. But, then again, that might just be caused by the inevitable noise
in the data.
Also, Asian-American scores appear
to have increased from the upper 90s into the middle 100s, but that could be
due to greater selection for smarts among immigrants. (Many early East Asian
immigrants were laborers, such as the ones who helped building the
transcontinental railroad, while more recent ones have often been students.)
Or perhaps IQ tests have simply
become a little more culturally sensitive and unbiased over the generations.
But, clearly, the overall
pattern is relative stability. Here, for instance, is a graph showing that
there has been no overlap of average scores among
Japanese (23 studies,
represented in red),
Hispanics in America (17 studies in green),
(17 studies in blue).
(Once again, as in the India-China
graph, I'm indicating the estimated average date of birth of the subjects
of the IQ tests. For example, say there was a study published in 2002 on 9
to 11 year olds. I assume the test was given two years before the
publication date, and the average subject was born 10 years before the test
The Japanese have consistently
scored somewhere around 105 on a scale where white American are pegged at
100, Hispanics in the U.S. at about 90 (which, by the way, is roughly the
world average), and Australian Aborigines at very low levels.
You'll note that despite all the
hopeful talk about Hispanics assimilating, the IQ gap has remained at around
10 points going all the way back to two studies done in the 1920s.
So, whether these big differences in
IQ between China and India originate in purely environmental differences, or
from a mix of environment and genetics, is simply not all that
relevant—until you start thinking about the second half of this century.
Right now, it's best not to
get distracted by this contentious nature vs. nurture issue. Whatever
the cause of the big IQ difference between China and India, it will very
still remain for the
rest of our lifetimes.
And the existence of that gap is a
fact of world-historical importance.
As, of course, is the
existence of the gap between Hispanics—and the
post-1965 immigrant influx
in general—and white Americans.
It’s already clear U.S.
policy, in effect, is to
because of the
low skill levels of
What Lynn’s data suggests is
that we are also importing permanent inequality—and
[Steve Sailer [email
him] is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and
Conservative. His website
features his daily blog.]