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Himachal Pradesh

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The question of Indian IQ is a big puzzle. Far trickier than China’s IQ which I think I’ve basically figured out (101-102 today; 106-108 genetic ceiling).

The PISA-adjusted IQ of India – as extrapolated from the states of Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh, which are relatively rich and are reputed to have good school systems by Indian standards – is a miserly 75.4; Richard Lynn, in his latest estimates based on an international standardized test from 1970 and a more recent TIMSS study in the states of Rajasthan and Orissa is 82.2. The chart above compiled by Steve Sailer from Lynn’s data on numerous IQ tests also indicates it is the low 80′s. In my opinion the low 80′s figures given by the IQ tests is more accurately reflective of today’s Indian g because PISA is after all an academic test and Indian schools leave a lot to be desired.

Regardless, the differences between Indians, and East Asians and Europeans, are huge. India is in fact at the upper level of sub-Saharan African IQ which typically ranges from 65 to 80. There are lots of factors holding India back: Malnutrition (which is on average perhaps worse than in sub-Saharan Africa), vegetarian diets, poor education system, a moderately high rate of consanguineous marriage. But all that said the sheer size of the gap makes me skeptical that all of it is down to environmental factors alone.

On the other hand the average IQ of Indian immigrants to the US is an Ashkenazi Jewish-like 112. Ramanujan was assessed by G.H. Hardy, no lightweight himself, as the most gifted mathematician of his age. Going back further in time, India has a pretty stunning religious, linguistic, mathematical, and philosophical heritage. Only a continuous stream of very high IQ individuals could have both created and sustained such a heritage.

Another very telling feature of India is the pervasive inequality that has characterized it throughout time. Kenneth Pomeranz notes in his book The Great Divergence on why it was Europe and not China that underwent the Industrial Revolution that Early Modern India had levels of inequality significantly in excess of that of either China or Western Europe. Consider that (1) redistributive wealth mechanisms were virtually non-existent then, (2) that India unlike China or Europe nonetheless still had a lot of unused resources which typically puts a damper on inequality; (3) the always relevant correlation between wealth and IQ. All this implies an “IQ Gini index” considerably greater than in either Europe or China even in the pre-industrial past. And according to Sailer, even today whereas “China focuses on giving the masses a solid basic education that prepares them for manufacturing jobs” India on the other hand “focuses more on giving outstanding university educations to the meritocratic elite.”

Finally, we also know that India remains a heavily caste based society, despite very vigorous government attempts to legislate it away. They don’t tend to intermarry. They eat different foods. And they do appear to differ markedly in IQ. Brahmins occupy a lot of the intellectually demanding positions (I cannot find the source but I recall reading that almost all members of India’s version of the Manhattan Project were composed of Brahmins). A lot of the (super high IQ) US Indian immigrants appear to be Brahmins. Meanwhile Indian immigrants to Britain or those who live as diasporas in sub-Saharan Africans tend to under-perform Anglo whites by about 0.5 S.D. These are the “Patels”, etc were talking about who are mostly Vaishya or Shudra and who constitute the vast bulk of India’s population. If they are typically scoring in the low 90′s and India’s average is in the low 80′s then *that* difference can plausibly be ascribed to the Flynn Effect.

So let’s do the power summary for India:

  • Many cultural achievements (philosophy, religion, literature) that up until the Early Modern period compared respectable with those of European, Near Eastern, and East Asian civilization, but were much less prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Levels of inequality in Early Modern times that were higher than in Western Europe, China, or Japan even though on objective factors (e.g. lower levels of land stress) should have been lower.
  • The caste-based nature of traditional Indian society that the government has been powerless to stamp out.

What I conclude from this is that in terms that would be familiar to Westerners: India is a nation of Gypsies and Jews.

Over the centuries, Brahmins have been selected for intelligence. They were expected to master requisite texts and those who couldn’t handle it dropped away. These selective pressures did not apply to the lower castes who made up the vast majority of the population.

The reason for why India split along caste lines was because of Hinduism and its origins as a religion/ideology to hold society together under the boots of the conquering light-skinned Aryans who brought down the original Harappan civilization (indeed 4 millennia on Bollywood still glamorizes lighter-skinned actors and this is not very controversial within Indian society). These invaders became the Kshatriya military caste, and the Brahmins became their spiritual apologists and enablers. (The Kshatriya were also the one major caste that was allowed to eat meat to build up muscles. Quite logical). The darker skinned aborigines had to continue tilling the soil for their new masters.

Christianity.proclaimed the spiritual inequality of all men. In fact it was a very special religion in that it took a very strict line against within-kin marriages in general. Hence why a caste society or anything resembling it is pretty much impossible under Christianity as long as everyone is considered a fellow Christian. (Whereas caste is inherent to Hinduism). Nonetheless we learn that even a millennium after the Norman invasion of Britain people with Norman surnames such as Darcy, Percy, Baskerville and Mandeville are still on average richer than Anglo-Patels like Smith, Mason and Cooper. Nonetheless British society as Western Europe in general traditionally considered itself as one organic society with only small groups of “service nomads” like Gypsies (peddlers, fortune tellers) and Jews (moneylenders) outside it.

In India basically the entire population appears to be composed of “service nomads” who belong to their own groups and exchange services with other groups. The Vaishya are traders and artisans; The Shudra are farmers; the Kshatriya are warriors; the Brahmins are priests and scholars. Their religion is what binds them together and keeps the whole thing flowing, hence why it is not opposed even by those ostensibly disadvantaged by it. Over several millennia of this caste society operating, in which different castes hardly ever intermarried, you got a plethora of distinct populations that were adapted to their particular divinely-appointed task in life.

In practice this meant a small subsection of Ashkenazi Jewish-like Brahmins with very high IQ’s; and a huge mass of peasants with genetic IQ ceilings somewhere in between those of Europeans and Negroids.

(I would also hypothesize that after the coming of medical modernity this makes for a bad dysgenics situation because Brahmin families will probably have far lower fertility rates than say Shudra, so their share of the Indian population will dwindle; in contrast, homogeneous European and East Asian populations would appear to be more insulated against dysgenic trends because in those societies dysgenics only occurs via lower IQ segments of the population having more kids, while in a place like India – or increasingly multicultural America/Europe – not only lower IQ individuals have more kids but also lower IQ population groups).

So my estimates: (1) India’s current IQ is in the low 80′s; (2) The Flynn effect could yet bring it up to perhaps the low 90′s if India successfully develops (in China the gap is about 5 points but China is of course far richer now and eats far more meat); however, successful development is much harder than in China because starting point IQ’s are far lower. We can expect India to continue growing and gaining on the developed nations but at a pace that will never match China’s; nor, barring technological revolutions (brain-computer interfaces, etc), will it feasibly ever develop to the levels of majority East Asian or European societies.

India will continue benefiting from an extremely intelligent and culturally creative but also very small intellectual upper class of Brahmins. Unfortunately much like Jews they cannot be expected to be all that loyal to the Indian nation (to the extent that an Indian nation exists).

(Republished from by permission of author or representative)
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It is not a secret to longtime readers of this blog that I rate India’s prospects far more pessimistically than I do China’s. My main reason is I do not share the delusion that democracy is a panacea and that whatever advantage in this sphere India has is more than outweighed by China’s lead in any number of other areas ranging from infrastructure and fiscal sustainability to child malnutrition and corruption. However, one of the biggest and certainly most critical gaps is in educational attainment, which is the most important component of human capital – the key factor underlying all productivity increases and longterm economic growth. China’s literacy rate is 96%, whereas Indian literacy is still far from universal at just 74%.

Many people claim that China’s educational success is superficial, arguing that although it has achieved good literacy figures, standards – especially in the poor rural areas that have been neglected by the state during the reform period – are very low. This is not a minority view. The problem is that for proof they cite figures such as the average number of years of schooling or secondary enrollment ratios – which are still substantially inferior to those of developed nations – and assume that they directly correlate to the human capital generated among Chinese youth. This is a flawed approach because it doesn’t take into account the quality of schooling. Though not without its problems, by far the most objective method of assessing that is to look at international standardized tests in literacy, numeracy, and science. The most comprehensive such study is PISA, and it tells a radically different story.

The big problem, until recently, was that there was no internationalized student testing data for either China or India. (There was data for cities like Hong Kong and Shanghai, but it was not very useful because they are hardly representative of China). An alternative approach was to compare national IQ’s, in which China usually scored 100-105 and India scored in the low 80′s. But this method has methodological flaws because the IQ tests aren’t consistent across countries. (This, incidentally, also makes this approach a punching bag for PC enforcers who can’t bear to entertain the possibility of differing IQ’s across national and ethnic groups).

In contrast, the PISA tests are standardized, and – barring a few quibbles – largely free of the consistency and sampling problems that tend to plague international IQ comparisons. And they confirm what the IQ data has long hinted at: At least among schoolchildren close to graduation, the Chinese are simply far, far smarter than their Indian counterparts (necessary caveat: As measured by these tests).

I already covered China, so I will simply quote in extenso from an older post. I emphasize the most important part in bold.

“As regular blog readers know, I think that educational capital and more broadly average IQ levels are one of the key – and frequently under-appreciated due to political correctness – determinants of economic development and whether or not convergence to developed country levels is even possible. Its much higher educational capital is one of the key reasons why I think China will continue doing much better than India in development, regardless of its “democratic deficit.” However, many people argue that China’s human capital must actually be quite low, because it doesn’t spend much on education, resources are bare in the provinces, statistical fudging under unaccountable governors, etc.

The recent results from the international standardized PISA tests in math, reading and science will make this an increasingly untenable position. Shanghai got by far the best results out of all the OECD countries (never mind the developing ones). Now while you might (rightly) argue Shanghai draws much of the elite of the Yangtze river delta, the Financial Times has more: “Citing further, as-yet unpublished OECD research, Mr Schleicher said: “We have actually done Pisa in 12 of the provinces in China. Even in some of the very poor areas you get performance close to the OECD average.””

Since countries like the US and France get scores “close to the OECD average”, this means that the workforces soon to be entering China’s economy, even from its poorest regions, will be no less skilled than those of leading Western economies (note too that the numbers of Chinese university graduates are soaring). And with China’s massive population, four times bigger than America’s, its road to superpowerdom must be all but guaranteed. [AK adds: I.e., because under market economies, development - as proxied by GDP per capita - tends to converge to a level commensurate with the human capital level of the country in question].”

Also in December 2011, but unnoticed by myself until now, PISA released additional information on nine countries*. Critically, this included two Indian provinces, Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh. How did they do relative to China?

On math proficiency, Tamil Nadu scored 351 and Himachal Pradesh scored 338. On science, they scored 348 and 325, respectively. In both cases, they were at ROCK BOTTOM of the league table of the 74 sampled countries together with Kyrgyzstan. Literally no other country did worse.

In comparison, even the poorest Chinese regions performed close to the OECD average of about 500, putting them in the same rank as the bottom half of the industrialized countries such as Russia, Italy, or the United States (high 400′s); but well above other prominent developing states such as Brazil, Mexico, and Malaysia (high 300′s-low 400′s). The better off Chinese regions will have presumably done better, perhaps similar to Australia or Japan, while the most developed Chinese region, Shanghai, blew every other country out of the water with a mean score of 600 in math and 575 in science.

Note that Tamil Nadu is fairly developed by Indian standards, while Himachal Pradesh is about average. One simply shudders to imagine what the results would be in a poor state such as Bihar or Uttar Pradesh. China and India are both truly exceptional in educational attainment for dynamically developing emerging markets, but only the former is exceptional in a good way.

Many Indians like to see themselves as equal competitors to China, and are encouraged in their endeavour by gushing Western editorials and Tom Friedman drones who praise their few islands of programming prowess – in reality, much of which is actually pretty low-level stuff – and widespread knowledge of the English language (which makes India a good destination for call centers but not much else), while ignoring the various aspects of Indian life – the caste system, malnutrition, stupendously bad schools – that are holding them back. The low quality of Indians human capital reveals the “demographic dividend” that India is supposed to enjoy in the coming decades as the wild fantasies of what Sailer rightly calls “Davos Man craziness at its craziest.” A large cohort of young people is worse than useless when most of them are functionally illiterate and innumerate; instead of fostering well-compensated jobs that drive productivity forwards, they will form reservoirs of poverty and potential instability.

Instead of buying into their own rhetoric of a “India shining”, Indians would be better served by focusing on the nitty gritty of bringing childhood malnutrition DOWN to Sub-Saharan African levels, achieving the life expectancy of late Maoist China, and moving up at least to the level of a Mexico or Moldova in numeracy and science skills. Because as long as India’s human capital remains at the bottom of the global league tables so will the prosperity of its citizens.

* One other thing I noted in amusement is Georgia’s horrendous performance on the PISA: 379 in math, 373 in science. From being one of the most literate and urbane nationalities in the USSR to hanging out with Indonesia and Panama near the bottom of the international numeracy league tables, Georgians have sure come a long way under Saakashvili.

(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
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Anatoly Karlin
About Anatoly Karlin

I am a blogger, thinker, and businessman in the SF Bay Area. I’m originally from Russia, spent many years in Britain, and studied at U.C. Berkeley.

One of my tenets is that ideologies tend to suck. As such, I hesitate about attaching labels to myself. That said, if it’s really necessary, I suppose “liberal-conservative neoreactionary” would be close enough.

Though I consider myself part of the Orthodox Church, my philosophy and spiritual views are more influenced by digital physics, Gnosticism, and Russian cosmism than anything specifically Judeo-Christian.