April 17th, 2006


If you're so clever and rich, why aren't you happy?

Well, IQ has been largely discredited. Eysenck and the others who championed the system of measuring intelligence are out of fashion. These days we tend to say "IQ tests merely measure one's ability to take IQ tests". Well, those of us on the left, anyway. Of course, it's true that Wikipedia's entry on Intelligence Quotient does say that IQ "is taken by psychologists to be an excellent proxy for intelligence, and possibly the best measurable definition of intellectual ability", but they add that it's "generally not taken to represent intelligence perfectly".

Caveats like that are important when we come to the fraught, hot-button-scattered area of the correlations between race and intelligence. Wikipedia says:

"While the distributions of IQ scores among different racial-ethnic groups overlap considerably, groups differ in where their members cluster along the IQ scale. Some groups (e.g. East Asians and Jews) cluster higher than whites, while other groups (e.g. Blacks and Hispanics) cluster lower than whites."

This is borne out by stuff we're seeing in the news. "Europe's skills fall behind Asia", the BBC reported recently, citing a report published in Brussels by the Lisbon Council which says that Europe's 11.6 trillion euro economy is threatened by the fact that France and Germany "are no longer among the world's leaders in developing knowledge and skills" and are being overtaken by countries like South Korea.

Wikipedia's article on Race and Intelligence admits the controversy of such correlations, but doesn't deny they exist, and also makes clear another correlation: there are strong links between average intelligence and national wealth. "For example, a randomly selected group of Americans with an average IQ of 103 had a poverty rate 25% lower than a group with an average IQ of 100."

And, while it would be a mistake to equate education with IQ, it seems clear that where they're in sync, as in South Korea, they have a dramatic effect on the wealth of a nation. The graph on the right shows the "earnings dividend" produced by different levels of education in different countries. As you can see, getting a higher education more or less doubles your earnings in almost every country.

Again, it's South Korea which is the education star: 97% of South Korea's 25 to 34-year-olds today have high school education. That's the highest rate among the main industrialised countries.

This brings us to a book published in 2002 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. Incidentally, Finland is Europe's one success story in terms of educational investment and achievement, and it's showing in the nation's booming economy. And that's pretty much the message of the book these men wrote, IQ and the Wealth of Nations: that the average IQ of a nation correlates with its GDP.

The Wikipedia's article on the book gives us a handy Top 100 run-down of nations by their (estimated) average IQs. Here's the hot Top 25:

Hong Kong (PRC) 107
South Korea 106
Japan 105
Taiwan 104
Singapore 103
Austria 102
Germany 102
Italy 102
Netherlands 102
Sweden 101
Switzerland 101
Belgium 100
China 100
New Zealand 100
United Kingdom 100
Hungary 99
Poland 99
Australia 98
Denmark 98
France 98
Norway 98
United States 98
Canada 97
Czech Republic 97
Finland 97

At the bottom of the list we find a sad cluster of African countries: Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Congo-Kinshasa, Zimbabwe, Guinea, Nigeria, Ghana... But wait, I say "sad" assuming that being rich and good at IQ tests makes you happy. But it isn't so. Not only have we been adamant in the past on Click Opera that richer isn't happier, we've also read the research that says that the world's happiest people live in Africa. In a survey of happiness published in New Scientist magazine in 2003 the country with the highest percentage of happy people was... Nigeria.