How Intelligent is Your Country?

Inteligencia, IQ, País, Los datos muestran que existen grandes diferencias en la prosperidad y los Cocientes Intelectuales entre las regiones del mundo
(Illustration: Thinkstock)

MONTANA, United States. ─ An intelligence quotient or IQ is a measure of human intelligence derived from standardized tests. By test design, 95 percent of all IQ scores fall between 70 and 130 with 2.5 percent of the population above 130 classified as gifted or genius, and the 2.5 percent below 70 considered significantly below average intelligence. An IQ in the 60 to 70 range is approximately the scholastic equivalent to third grade. Modern IQ tests have been used since the early 1900s.

However, in a 2002 book titled IQ and the Wealth of Nations, psychologist Richard Lynn and political scientist Tatu Vanhanen introduced the concept of IQ as applied to nations. That is, they calculated the intelligence quotient of entire countries. They followed up in 2006 with a second book titled IQ and Global Inequality. Lynn and Vanhanen went further by arguing that national differences in social well-being and economic prosperity are correlated with average national IQs. To be sure, they do not claim that intelligence is the only factor in national prosperity, but one important factor.

The relationship between a nation’s prosperity and that nation’s IQ is a controversial area of study, and Lynn and Vanhanen’s work has been severely criticized. Yet, other studies validate their data. Regardless, their work is thought provoking and a challenge to development economists and other social scientists. International IQ studies are an important measure of which populations have the cognitive skills necessary in a modern economy. The work argues that IQ differences between nations are due to genetic factors, but also to environmental factors such as bad nutrition or warmer climates that negatively influence intelligence quotients.

It appears that there is indeed a correlation between a nation’s IQ and its economic well-being. What is not as clear is the direction of causality. A low GDP can cause low IQ, but a low IQ can also cause a low GDP. Keep in mind that a person, or a nation, is not less intelligent due to a lower level of education. IQ is not related to concrete performance; rather it is the ability for comprehension, learning and performance. Intelligence is more concretely related to the ability to achieve the same education with less effort. Perhaps the same logic can be applied to GDP.

The data show that there are large differences in prosperity and IQs between regions of the world. The highest IQs are found in the developed countries of East Asia such as Taiwan, Singapore, Japan or South Korea. They are followed with intermediate IQ scores in North America and Europe. Middle Eastern and Latin American countries come next, and the lowest IQ scores are found in sub-Sahara Africa and South Asian countries such as Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan.

According to the World Population Review’s 2019 rating of 176 territories, Singapore and Hong Kong have the highest IQ scores of 108. In terms of individual intelligence, 108 is at the high- end of the normal intelligence range of 90 to 109. At the other extreme is Equatorial Guinea with an IQ score of 59. Scores under 70 qualify as feeble-mindedness in individual IQ terms.

In our hemisphere, Canada and the United States top the list with IQs of 99 and 98 respectively. South of the border, Uruguay is highest with an IQ of 96 and Haiti lowest with an IQ of 70. My South Florida readers would want to know that Cuba has an IQ of 85, and Venezuela of 84. Individual IQ scores of 80 to 89 are in the “dullness” category.

The idea that national IQs correlate strongly with national well-being and prosperity is troublesome because IQ levels are not easily improved. Moreover, economic development is also subject to other factors such as the economic and political systems in place, natural resources, the strength of social and political institutions, education levels, work ethic, and more.

Now, Cuba’s “dullness” IQ score of 85 contradicts my compatriots’ folklore theory of Cuban superiority popularized in Marisela Verena’s song Nosotros los Cubanos (We Cubans). Ok, we may not be intellectually gifted, but we are far from dull.

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