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A few months ago I posted a table and map of Russian IQ’s as derived from regional PISA performance. Those figures are based on Jarkko Hautamäki’s slideshow comparing regional PISA performance in Finland and Russia.

That material is a bit inadequate because, as had been my custom up that point, I was only making IQ estimates based on the Math and Science components of the PISA tests, and avoiding Reading to maintain reverse compatibility with my (now disused, in favor of just IQ) Human Capital Index. In light of some realizations that verbal IQ is no less important than numerical, I have updated the figures to include the verbal component as well. This doesn’t create any radical changes – the overall IQ only drops by 0.3 points – so I reuse the same map.

(Note that the legend on the map isn’t converted to IQ. “PISA scores, mean 500, SD 100, have to be transformed into IQ values, mean 100, SD 15, by adding or subtracting the deviation from the mean in the relationship 100 : 15 = 6,67.”)


There are any numbers of comments one can make, but I will confine myself to the most important ones:

(1) In some regions, margins of error are high, as samples were low. Nonetheless, it is still possible to identify some concrete patterns. The overall estimate is very accurate because the sample was N=5,308 and representatively distributed across the country.

(2) Moscow pupils performed very well, at the level of the highest scoring OECD countries like Finland, Taiwan, and Korea. This is especially impressive considering the significant numbers of immigrants in that city from the North Caucasus and Central Asia, who come from poorly-scoring countries and rarely have good Russian. This is surely the result of a century of attracting Russia’s (the USSR’s) cognitive elite.

(3) St.-Petersburg and Tyumen oblast performed above the OECD average, while a few other regions performed at or only slightly below the OECD average.

(4) Among ethnic Russian republics, Siberian regions performed well, while the Urals and southern regions performed badly.

(5) Performance in ethnic minority republics differs dramatically. Many of the Turkic and Finno-Ugric regions, such as Tatarstan, Komi, Chuvashia, and Karelia did well; however, Mari El is a big exception. The Buddhist peoples of Asia, such as Chita oblast (now merged into Zabaykalsky Krai) and the Sakha Republic, performed relatively poorly, as did the Muslim North Caucasus region of Dagestan. Chechnya and Ingushetia would probably score around very low – probably in the mid-80′s. We can be pretty confident about that because their unemployment rates are nearly 50% despite tons of federal transfers.

Bear these figures in mind when considering long-term investments into Russia alongside with their business climate, corruption levels, etc.

PISA-derived IQ of Russian regions

The results by each of the 44 Russian regions which participated in PISA are reproduced below:

Moscow 106.6
Saint-Petersburg 102.6
Tyumen oblast 100.6
Novosibirsk 100.0
Chelyabinsk oblast 99.7
Omsk oblast 99.3
Samara oblast 99.2
Vladimir oblast 98.9
Tula oblast 98.6
Karelia 98.1
Tatarstan 98.1
Komi 98.0
Tomsk oblast 97.9
Primorie krai 97.2
Krasnoyarsk 97.1
Chuvashia 97.0
Udmurtia 96.4
Sakhalin oblast 96.4
Saratov oblast 96.0
Tambov oblast 95.9
Moscow oblast 95.6
Volgograd oblast 95.5
Vologda oblast 95.3
Kemerovo oblast 95.3
Altai krai 94.9
Astrakhan oblast 94.8
Ryazan oblast 94.7
Kursk oblast 94.6
Khanty-Mansijsk 94.2
Bashkortostan 93.4
Krasnodar 93.3
Perm krai 93.3
Rostov oblast 93.3
Nizhnij Novgorod 93.1
Voronezh oblast 92.7
Orenburg oblast 92.7
Kaluga oblast 91.7
Sverdlovsk oblast 91.6
Ulyanovsk oblast 91.5
Adygea 91.2
Stavropol 91.0
Mari El 90.1
Dagestan 88.7
Chita oblast 88.5
Sakha (Yakutia) 87.7

Correlation with economic development

Doing the same exercise as I once did with Italy, the exponential correlation between IQ and GDP per capita (adjusted to reflect local prices; 2008) turns out to be R2=0.5262, if we only take into account those regions whose economies aren’t skewed by substantial natural resource sectors.

This is not as good as Italy’s R2=0.7302, but the result is still an amazingly good one in social sciences. In fact in Russia’s case it’s all the more impressive because its economy was for the most part built up under central planning, which isn’t as good as markets at allocating resources efficiently.

Even under a command economy, the principle still holds: Higher average IQ, higher human capital, greater productivity, greater GDP pre capita.

Other data on the Russian average IQ

(1) The PISA-derived IQ is 96.0.

(2) Richard Lynn estimates Russia’s average IQ to be 96.6 in his 2012 book Intelligence: A Unifying Construct for the Social Sciences.

(3) Heiner Rinderman estimates it at 97.3 in a 2009 paper.

The two most comprehensive authorities on international IQ’s, as well as the most comprehensive international standardized test, are all in agreement that Russia’s current average IQ is in the 96-98 range.

Other data on Russian regional IQ

(1) Map of average Unified State Exam (USE) scores among Russians admitted to institutions of higher education in 2010.

This is a biased sample because it only measures those Russians who were admitted to a university in 2010. It is not indicative of average regional IQ.

Data from Межвузовское исследование «Успеваемость студентов первого курсавысших учебных заведений России».

(2) Here is the same data by Federal District. They are, in order: Volga; North-West; Siberia; Central; Urals; Far East; North Caucasus.

(3) The share of “Olympians” (basically students who did really well and get benefits) in the annual university cohort. By region from top to bottom: Northern Caucasus; South; Far East; Volga; Urals; Siberia; North-West; Central.

There is nothing surprising about this. The Central Federal District contains Moscow. The North-West Federal District contains Saint-Petersburg, and I also suspect that ethnic Russians from the North-West region also have the highest IQ potential of all Great Russians because of admixture with Finno-Ugrics. (Finns and ethnic Estonians both have very high PISA scores).

(4) Unfortunately, Russia does not release regional average USE scores. It does this on purpose to avoid inciting ethnic enmity. (Basically, some regions – most of them non-Russian ones – systematically cheat and inflate their USE scores).

(However, I do recall visiting a site showing the number of people from each region who scored a 100/100 on USE subjects such as the Russian language, math, etc. It is a very rigorous exam and getting full marks on a subject like math is exceedingly hard; only a few hundred manage to do it every year if memory serves right. As IQ distributions are bell curves, it should be theoretically possible to get some idea of regional IQ’s by looking at the perfect scorers per capita rate. To do this however I will need to locate that site.)

Other EE Nations

The Ukraine didn’t participate in PISA 2009, but extrapolating from its TIMSS scores, its IQ would be around 93.1. Belarus would probably be considerably higher, because (1) they are basically genetically identical to Great Russians and Poles, and (2) they have done economically better than Ukraine since the 1990′s despite keeping much of their economy state-owned.

This section will be updated with info on other countries in the near future.

Slavic Genetic IQ Ceiling

The Slavic genetic ceiling appears to be around 100 based on the Czechs and Poles. The average height of young Russian men is about 175cm compared to 179cm-180cm among the Central-Europeans (Poles, Czechs, Slovaks). This discrepancy likely arose from the fact that Russia’s (and Ukraine’s) post-Communist transitions were far more catastrophic than those of the Poles and Czechs, involving a major deterioration in quality of nutrition during the 1990′s when the PISA 2009 cohort was growing up.

Russia’s meat consumption per capita (kg).

Russian nutrition has already returned to First World levels however; for instance, meat , fish, fruit, etc. consumption is now basically the same as in Europe or the US. This means that in the next decade I expect the Flynn Effect to kick off in Russia’s favor, raising its average IQ levels to their theoretical peak of 100 by the 2020′s.

(Republished from by permission of author or representative)
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He writes:

These scores are indeed truly remarkable, and completely confirm the apparent pattern of Lynn’s IQ samples, in which desperately poor East Asians tend to score at or above the levels of the most successful and well-educated Western populations… But since the total population is at least well into the hundreds of millions, heavily rural as well as urban, the average PISA score of 520—corresponding to an IQ of 103—cannot be too dissimilar from the overall Chinese figure. And with China’s per capita GDP still only $3,700 and well over half the population still living in rural villages when the tests were conducted, these are absolutely astonishing results… Although opinions may certainly differ, I regard this new evidence as very strong support for my “East Asian Exception” hypothesis.

China isn’t anywhere near as backward as he portrays it.

(1) The urban-rural ratio was essentially 50/50 according to the 2010 Census. Furthermore, rural Chinese don’t really suffer from the absolute destitution common to peasants in Third World countries. They own their own land and it is almost impossible for them to lose it. Malnutrition is now close to non-existent. Slums are now very rare. According to a Gallup poll, Chinese now actually struggle less than Americans to buy food.

(2) Total Chinese meat consumption overtook US meat consumption in 1990, signifying a nutritionally adequate figure (as Americans eat a lot of and perhaps a bit too much meat anyway). Today Chinese meat consumption is half the US level. The PISA 2009 cohort would have been born in 1993, when Chinese nutrition had already essentially converged with the First World.

(3) He uses nominal GDP per capita which is quite meaningless. The PPP level of Chinese GDP per capita is $8,400 and that figure is probably underestimated.

Basically, if we adjust for the fact that in terms of basics (food, education, housing) China is now essentially equivalent to developed countries, it would make sense that its average IQ level is now only about 5 points from its potential maximum.

But really my fundamental problem with the “East Asia Exception” hypothesis is the huge paradox it exposes: Why was it Europe, and not China, that first underwent the Industrial Revolution? And the (initially unrelated) Scientific Revolution, for that matter? If as Ron Unz says the Flynn Effect barely applies to East Asian populations, then what you’d have had five centuries ago is 100mn Chinese, 20% of them urban – with an average IQ of maybe 95; and 100mn Europeans, only 5% of them urban – with an average IQ of 75. Sure Europe had various advantages (as chronicled by Jared Diamond, Kenneth Pomeranz, etc) but surely it couldn’t have trumped the effects of a 1 S.D. IQ advantage? That is why I believe the East Asia Exception to be historically implausible.

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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).

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As human capital is so important for prosperity, it behoves us to know China’s in detail to assess whether it will continue converging on developed countries. Until recently the best data we had were disparate IQ tests (on the basis of which Richard Lynn’s latest estimate is an IQ of 105.8 in his 2012 book Intelligence: A Unifying Construct for the Social Sciences) as well as PISA international standardized test scores from cities like Shanghai and Hong Kong. However, the problem was that they were hardly nationally representative due to the “cognitive clustering” effect. The Chinese did not allow the OECD to publish data for the rest of the country and this understandably raised further questions about the situation in its interior heartlands, although even in 2010 I was already able to report a PISA representative saying that “even in some of the very poor areas you get performance close to the OECD average.”

As regards Chinese intelligence

Happily (via commentator Jing) we learned that the PISA data for Zhejiang province and the China average had been released on the Chinese Internet. I collated this as well as data for Chinese-majority cities outside China in the table below, while also adding in their PISA-converted IQ scores, the scores of just natives (i.e. minus immigrants), percentage of the Han population, and nominal and PPP GDP per capita.

Reading Math Science Average (native) IQ (native IQ) %汉族 GDP/c (n) GDP/c (P)
China* 486 550 524 520 ~ 103.0 ~ 91.6% 5,430 8,442
China: Shanghai 556 600 575 577 589 111.6 113.4 99.0% 12,783 19,874
China: Zhejiang 525 598 567 563 ~ 109.5 ~ 99.2% 9,083 14,121
Hong Kong 533 555 549 546 557 106.9 108.6 93.6% 34,457 49,990
Macau 487 525 511 508 514 101.2 102.1 95.0% 65,550 77,607
Singapore 526 562 542 543 550 106.5 107.5 74.1% 46,241 61,103
Taiwan 495 543 520 519 534 102.9 105.1 98.0% 20,101 37,720

* Twelve provinces including Shanghai, Zhejiang, Beijing, Tianjin, Jiangsu totaling 621 schools, 21,003 students. Results have been released for Shanghai, and later on for Zhejiang (59 schools, 1,800 students – of which 80% were township-village schools) and for the 12-province average.

(1) Academic performance, and the IQ for which it is a good proxy, is very high for a developing nation. Presumably, this gap can largely be ascribed to the legacy of initial historical backwardness coupled with Maoist economics.

(2) The average PISA-converted IQ of the 12 provinces surveyed in PISA is 103.0. (I do not know if provincial results were appropriately weighed for population when calculating the 12-province average but probably not). We know the identities of five of the 12 tested provinces (Shanghai, Zhejiang, Beijing, Tianjin, Jiangsu). They are all very high-income and developed by Chinese standards. Furthermore, these five provinces – with the exception of Tianjin – all perform well above average according to stats from a Chinese online IQ testing website.

The provinces of Jiangsu and Zhejiang also have a reputation in China as gaokao powerhouses.

(3) The Chinese average as given by PISA therefore appears to have an upwards bias, as at least a third of the tested provinces – Shanghai, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Beijing – are at the very top end of the Chinese IQ league charts. As such, the true IQ average for China is likely closer to 101-102.

(4) The very high score of Shanghai (111.6) is surely for the most part a reflection of its long status as a magnet of Chinese cognitive elites. This may well be true for Hong Kong (106.9) too although perhaps to a lesser extent. But the IQ of native Taiwanese is 105.1 even though the Han Chinese there are substantially interbred with lower-IQ aborigines. Singapore (107.5) too drew Chinese cognitive elites, and quite consciously too – their immigration policies were (are) de facto cognitively elitist – but on the other hand, this is counteracted by their large, lower-IQ Malay and Indian minorities. Regardless, one cannot escape the conclusion that with the (unexplained) exception of Macau, all developed Han majority regions have IQ’s in the 105-110 range. Likewise with other East Asians, such as native Koreans (106.6) and native Japanese (105.3). This means that there is a 5-10 point IQ gap between developed East Asian regions and the Chinese average.

(5) The biggest gaps between China and Chinese enclave regions are typically where we can reasonably hypothesize a “cognitive clustering” effect, so minus that the current gap is probably closer to 5 points. This means that China very likely still has the potential to raise its average IQ by c. 5 points via the Flynn Effect.

(6) A side-consequence is that this presents a serious challenge to Ron Unz’s theory of The East Asian Exception to Socio-Economic IQ Influences.

As regards Chinese intelligence in global perspective

Below is another table with a list of countries representing a typical sample of the developed countries that China is striving to become; and the emerging nations (BRIC’s and SE Asian) with which China is typically compared.

Reading Math Science Average (native) IQ (native IQ)
Korea 539 546 538 541 544 106.2 106.6
Japan 520 529 539 529 535 104.4 105.3
China 486 550 524 520 ~ 103.0 ~
Germany 497 513 520 510 533 101.5 105.0
United States 500 487 502 496 502 99.5 100.3
Russia 459 468 478 468 477 95.3 96.6
Thailand 421 419 425 422 422 88.3 88.3
Malaysia 414 404 422 413 ~ 87.0 ~
Brazil 412 386 405 401 399 85.2 84.9
Indonesia 402 371 383 385 378 82.8 81.7
India* 327 345 337 336 ~ 75.4 ~

* Average of Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh.

(1) Assuming that average Chinese IQ is now 101-102:

  • Means that it is approximately equivalent to the German IQ of 101.5 (with the typical East Asian bias towards better numerical and worse verbal scores).
  • As of today, this IQ level is still somewhat below those of other developed East Asian nations be they Korean, Japanese, or Han majority. It is also slightly below the results of Australians, Canadians, native Germans and white Americans; and approximately equal to the results of native Britons and French.
  • It is head and shoulders above other SE Asian “tigers” whose average IQ’s are in the high 80′s (Thailand, Malaysia) or low 80′s (Indonesia).
  • Relative to the BRIC’s, the Chinese average IQ is substantially ahead of Russia (95.3) and greatly ahead of Brazil (85.2). As for India, whose average IQ is 75.4 according to PISA results from two fairly rich provinces, there is simply no comparison whatsoever. As I have indeed pointed out on numerous occasions.

(2) Needless to say this is an extremely good result that practically ensures convergence to developed country levels within a reasonable time frame. This is especially true because as is almost always the case, there exists a positive feedback loop with greater development pushing average Chinese IQ to its genetic “ceiling” of approximately 105-108. That in turn will further raise the capacity of Chinese labor for skills absorption and even greater productivity.

Addendum 8/15: The commentator Jing graciously provided the list of all the 12 Chinese provinces that participated in the PISA 2009 study. They were: Tianjin, Shanghai, Beijing, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Jilin, Hubei, Hebei, Hainan, Sichuan, Yunnan, Ningxia.

This allowed me to make an interesting conclusion. No matter whether you weigh the provincial IQ scores above by population or not, the difference between the 12 provinces and China on average is only about 0.5 points in favor of the 12 provinces. This means that the PISA sample is actually pretty good – and that China’s PISA-derived IQ is in fact about 102.5 or so.

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In recent days Ron Unz’s article Race, IQ, and Wealth (The American Conservative) has been making the rounds in the HBDsphere. Broadly speaking it argues for the predominance of cultural and environmental factors as opposed to genetic in forming IQ. It is fairly long but it’s also one of the best statements of that position out there, and I highly suggest you go and read it in its entirety (as well as the good discussions it spawned at thanks to hbd* chick, Peter Frost, David Sanders, etc).

(Incidentally, part of the reason it is so good is that it avoids throwing round the racism card in addressing proponents of the genetic-determinist model of IQ, as do all too many mainstream commentators. That is really a kind of trolling, and by and by, will as such no longer be tolerated on this blog as it once was.)

To prove his case Ron Unz takes data from Lynn and Vanhanen, the two foremost compilers of global IQ data (along with Rinderman), and turns it against their own position that national IQ levels – barring a universal Flynn Effect – are essentially fixed: “… I would suggest that the heralded 300-page work by Lynn and Vanhanen constituted a game-ending own-goal against their IQ-determinist side, but that neither of the competing ideological teams ever noticed. … Given that Lynn and Vanhanen rank as titans of the racial-difference camp, perhaps their ideological opponents, who often come from less quantitative backgrounds, are reluctant even to open the pages of their books, fearful lest the vast quantity of data within prove that the racialist analysis is factually correct after all. Meanwhile, the pro-racialist elements may simply skim over the hundreds of pages of dry and detailed quantitative evidence and skip to the summary text, which claims that the data demonstrate IQ is genetically fixed and determines which nations will be rich and which will be poor.”

In support of his thesis Ron Unz cites the wide dispersion seen in IQ results for European populations, which are genetically close. Many East-Central European societies that scored low during the 1950′s-80′s have since come close to converging with results from Western Europe. Furthermore, South Europeans and East Europeans who migrated to the US in the 1920′s scored in the mid-80′s – a 1 S.D. discrepancy that is about as big as that which continually separates Blacks from whites. I.e., very significant. However, these folks all managed to integrate into American society and now have IQ’s higher than those of longer established (and more rural) groups such as the Germans and Dutch. In particular, he cites a test administered to 3,500 Irish schoolchildren in 1972, which showed an average IQ of just 87. That is almost 1 S.D. lower than the IQ of Irish-Americans, or for that matter, more recent PISA results which now show the Irish to be well within the European cognitive mainstream.

At this point I should perhaps mention that I my conversion to the “dark side” of genetic determinism is fairly recent and that as early as six months ago I would have agreed with Unz’s reasoning in its entirety – that national IQ’s are mainly a product of culture and development levels and such and have little to do with racial difference (see IQ and Industrialism, 2010). Now I still consider these factors play an important role, but NOT the dominant one. Ron Unz’s article serves as an excellent foil to explain why:


(1) It is important to emphasize that Lynn and Vanhanen basically collate a wide variety of tests across space and time that are non-standardized. Some measure verbal ability (which Europeans are good at and generally hasn’t risen much); others measure spatial or mathematical abilities (which East Asians are better at than Europeans, and which was very much influenced by the Flynn Effect throughout the 20th century). Many of their tests suffer from small and/or biased samples – and I imagine this would be especially true of IQ tests conducted in East-Central Europe. That said, the results of these tests cannot be dismissed out of hand, because of their relative consistency.

(2) As regards US data on immigrants’ IQ from the 1920′s, we cannot also exclude the (artificial) effects of poor English language comprehension. Certainly we know that liberal arguments against the validity of IQ tests emphasizes that the tests in that period were linguistically rigged against immigrants and if that is true then it would make sense that their scores were “mismeasured”. Had I been subjected to a verbal IQ test in English in 1995, say, I would have come out as a clinical retard.

(3) That said, the low Irish results from 1972 are indeed puzzling and deserve a detailed response. THAT SAID, before rushing to ascribe to the difference in development levels, we must also take note that Ireland before the 1975 was a very high-emigration country.

Note that Ireland’s population was actually declining until 1960, despite births outnumbering deaths by almost 2:1. More than 1% of the Irish left their country every single year. The schoolchildren of 1972 would have presumably been born for the most part in the 1950′s, not far from the end-point of a (likely dysgenic) process that had been going on uninterruptedly since the Great Famine. While there is no way to know for sure, there is reason to suspect that on average emigrants had higher IQ’s than average, as the act of emigration requires initiative, fore-planning, future time orientation, and other factors usually associated with higher IQ’s. Operating for a century this would have surely had a dysgenic effect, but fortunately on its cessation, the population would get a chance to revert to its natural mean. Coupled with big infusions of Poles and other East Europeans during the 2000′s, and the undeniable but modest boost that great wealth can make to IQ, it is probably not that surprising that in the PISA tests the Irish have converged with the West European mainstream.

Note that according to my estimates derived from PISA/TIMMS and Rinderman’s, even today countries with ultra-high rates of emigration such as Moldova (86/92), Georgia (83/88), Armenia (96/93), and Kyrgyzstan (75/70) also have extremely low IQ results relative to where we would intuitively expect them to be. Armenians are the closest genetic relatives of Ashkenazi Jews, who are (in)famous for being well above average; furthermore, Armenians have typically been more educated than average, and quite a lot of Soviet chess Grandmasters were Armenian or part-Armenian. Moldovans are crudely East Slavs and Romanians, and “should” be somewhere in the low 90′s (although note that both Ukraine and especially Romania have had very substantial emigrations of their own). Georgians are crudely Greeks and Turks, and basically something like a fourth of them left – both during the Soviet era, and especially during the 1990′s. The Kyrgyz are a Turkic and Mongoloid-like people, and as with the Georgians, about a quarter of them have left for greener pastures. Though it should be noted that Kyrgyzstan has one of the highest rates of consanguineous marriage in the world (i.e. inbreeding) and that this is surely a huge additional depressant on their IQ.

In short, PISA data suggests that mass emigration – especially when ongoing for a long time – has a very significant dysgenic effect on IQ. I do not think it unreasonable to posit that this is the reason why 3,500 Irish schoolchildren scored an average of 87 in IQ tests held in 1972.

(4) While I agree with hbd* chick’s observation that the emigration had a significant dysgenic effect on Irish IQ (see above), unlike her I think that it has been almost entirely remedied by now. She argues that Irish PISA scores only managed to converge with those of France because of its flood of lower-IQ immigrants that brought the national average down. The data doesn’t back this up however. Ireland’s native PISA score in 2009 was 503 (national – 497), not really ALL that different from France’s 508 (497), the UK’s 508 (500), Poland’s 503 (501), etc.

(5) Extrapolating from these spatio-temporal discrepancies in IQ among West European populations, Ron Unz extends the exercise to Mexico and Hispanic immigration in general. He notes that among Mexican-Americans born in the US, the average IQ as derived from Wordsum improved from 85 (i.e. Third World) to 95 (i.e. basically just about enough to build a First World society). This is substantially higher than the average for Mexico today which is something like 88 (me) or 85 (Rinderman). This is of course highly encouraging.

Possible problems. First, what kind of Mexicans? There are huge disparities between the northern predominantly European states, which are basically something like Portugal, to the southern predominantly Amerindian states, which look more like India. Think of it like Italy Extreme (where IQ ranges from 103 in the northern states to low-90′s in the south). As I understand it, the older migrations was primarily from the former region; indeed, part of the Mexican-American population is indigenous, having been conquered in the 19th century. But it is a fact today that Hispanic migration is primarily from southern Mexico and Central America. Will they be as successful in converging to the American average like Europeans and the old Mexican-Americans?

Second, read David Sanders’ response at VDARE. Overall Hispanic scores have remained low, typically in the low 90′s (unfortunately, Sanders seems to conflate Mexican-Americans with Hispanics, which is not really accurate at all; but the main point stands). PISA confirmed those figures both in 2006 and 2009. Part of this stagnation is surely due to the continuing influx of poor Hispanics with bad English skills. Nonetheless, I am not sure it is possible that it is still the main reason today. After all, the US Hispanic population is now very big, at around 16.3% of the total population according to the last Census. As such the influence of new arrivals on the overall group average is now surely quite modest.

Main things to take home. First, if Hispanic average is low 90′s and Mexican-American average is 95, then Hispanic non-Mexican average is probably something like 90. Flynn magic and acclimatization to America may raise it to 95, while Mexican-Americans may eke out a few more points. Still, hard to see them catching up to the US White average of 103 anytime soon. Encouragingly, this is not the kind of awning difference that leads to quasi-caste societies like in South Africa, on the other hand, the differences will still be significant and not helped by the fact that Hispanic culture is quite different from mainstream US white culture.

(6) Also as noted by David Sanders you could just as easily use isolated test data to argue that being rich LOWERS your IQ. Because for every Greece and Ireland …

Country IQ at Point 1 IQ at Point 2 IQ Change Annual GDP Per Capita Increase Time Gap Between Tests (years)
East Germany 90 99 +9 $769 (using Czech figures) 11
Greece 88 95 +7 $6047 18
Ireland 87 98 +11 $1191 7

There is a France and an Israel.

Country IQ at Point 1 IQ at Point 2 IQ Change GDP Per Capita Increase Time Gap Between Tests (years)
Israel 97 90 -7 $5276 14
Poland 106 92 -14 $561 10
Portugal 101 88 -13 $1073 8
France 99.5 (average of two studies) 94 -5.5 $9630 17

Lynn and Vanhanen’s data is valid for general conclusions because at the large scale noise is smoothed out, but it is very dangerous to use it to illustrate individual examples. Even today, if you look at the geography of PISA test results in the US – a STANDARDIZED test to boot, unlike the IQ tests compiled by L. & V. – there will still be significant differences even in White results which range from about 96 in West Virginia to 106 in Massachusetts. This is perfectly natural and to be expected because of internal migration and cognitive clustering patterns that have lasted decades and centuries.

(7) “Among the higher performing white American groups are the Irish, the Greeks, the Yugoslavs, and the Italians, while Americans of Dutch extraction are near the bottom for whites, as are oldstock Americans who no longer identify with any European country but are presumably British in main ancestry. Meanwhile, German-Americans are generally at or slightly below the white American average.”

Several things we have to bear in mind: (a) Ultimately modest initial differences (especially once we account for linguistic issues in the 1920′s immigrant tests discussed above); (b) Intermarriage which has been very substantial and smooths out ethnic differences in the urban areas; (c) Unz’s own observation – with which I’m fully agreed as it seems to be universal! – that urban dwellers tend to perform better on IQ tests than rural dwellers all other things being equal (as Marx observed: “Idiocy of rural life”).

(8) I notice that Ron Unz steers clear of the elephant in the room as regards theories of IQ as predominantly a product of culture – US Blacks. Problem is, they are more urban than whites; so can’t use the reasoning in the previous point. And as discussed very extensively in The Bell Curve (Murray & Herrnstein), no, this is not because IQ tests are culturally biased or because Blacks just don’t care about them. US Black IQ’s be they derived from SATS or PISA or other tests pretty much all now consistently show them as being in the high-80′s. The Black White gap shrank slowly until the 1990 but since then progress has stalled or even reversed. The sad but logical conclusion is that their genetic IQ potential as a group is now more or less maxed out. It would be interesting to see how Ron Unz would try to explain this away.

Another element of Lynn’s and Vanhanen’s more recent work (e.g. The Global Curve) that has not been tackled is the remarkably consistent tendency for the exact same racial patterns to reproduce themselves all over the world in different countries and within radically different cultural milieus and across time that feature similar hierarchies in economic success, crime, IQ, etc: East Asians, then Whites, then South-East Asians, Indians, and/or Hispanics; then Blacks. It is hard, very hard indeed, to think of any theory that can account for this that doesn’t lean heavily on genetic determinism.

Despite all these caveats and criticisms, it need be borne in mind that only a pure ideologue would argue that IQ is solely genetically determined. Indeed, the Flynn Effect – mostly composed of better nutrition (we can deduce this partly because it is the poorest performers who tend to make the biggest gains, and that furthermore, the Flynn Effect petered out in White countries at just about the time that their average human heights reached a plateau) and various other things such as familiarity with standardized tests – is very significant, typically adding a massive 15-20 IQ points overall (compare US Blacks with scores in the high-80′s, adjust down to 85 to take into account 20% white admixture, then consider that the Ghanans, Nigerians, etc. among whom Flynn hasn’t had much chance to take root yet, score around 65-70). Also of huge significance is the geography of cognitive clustering which has been discussed here in the context of dysgenic emigration, as well as in the cases of some countries, the culturally-mediated factor of consanguineous marriage (which however takes a long time to fix even disregarding the cultural barriers to dismantling such systems).


In an addendum to the initial article, Ron Unz writes about The East Asian Exception to Socio-Economic IQ Influences. He notes that while (Flynn-adjusted) South and East European scores improved form the 88-94 range, this was much less true for the East Asian nations which started off with very high scores even in the 1950′s and 1960′s and only made very marginal improvements to the present day. Ironically, Unz’s explanation for this is primarily genetic and I DISAGREE with it.

The most plausible inference from these decades of accumulated data is that the IQs of East Asian peoples tend to be more robust and insulated against the negative impact of cultural or economic deprivation than those of European groups or various others—a truly remarkable finding. This might be due to cultural factors of some type, or perhaps certain aspects of East Asian spoken or written languages. But a fascinating possibility is that this IQ robustness may have a substantially genetic component. … Over one hundred years ago, The Changing Chinese by A.E. Ross, one of America’s greatest early sociologists, provided copious anecdotal evidence indicating greater Chinese resistance to illness and injury and perhaps even an ability to survive on more meager food rations. Certainly these sorts of traits might be expected to have undergone strong selection in a country such as China, whose huge population had lived many centuries at the absolute Malthusian edge of starvation.

Here I would note several things:

(a) While on paper East Asian GDP’s – especially outside Japan – were indeed quite a lot lower than those of Southern and Eastern Europe in the 1950′s and 1960′s, it does not necessarily follow that there was a huge corresponding difference in food availability. Asian agricultural technology was always advanced relative to their actual level of economic development, and their diets were probably better balanced than in the Mediterranean and almost certainly better balanced than in East-Central Europe.

(b) Sampling issues. This requires further investigation, but it is very important to be nationally representative given cognitive clustering. E.g., people are far brighter in Shanghai or Beijing than in Henan.

(c) “For consistency, all these results are drawn directly from Lynn/Vanhanen, and include their Flynn and other IQ adjustments up and down, several of which seemed rather large and arbitrary…” I.e., if the Flynn adjustments seem “rather large”, then logically the earlier IQ results should be lower than otherwise stated; and hence, the gain thanks to the Flynn Effect correspondingly larger.

(d) In a famous book on China by the American missionary Arthur H. Smith, titled “Chinese Characteristics” and published in the 1890′s, he expresses a low opinion of Chinese intellectual acumen at the time. In a chapter tellingly called “Intellectual Turbidity“, he notes that the great mass of Chinese are seemingly incapable of abstract logical reasoning, WHEREAS Chinese scholars – though understandably few in number, considering the country’s underdevelopment – can display impressive intellectual acumen. This makes total sense given what we now know of psychometrics and life in traditional societies. The masses have peasant-like mentalities and are illiterate and malnourished, which translates into very low IQ’s; the scholars, however, are fairly well nourished and literate and urban and high-IQ, and thus can communicate at Smith’s level. However, as there are so few of them, the characteristics of the dull peasant masses predominate at the average national level so the national IQ level is very low. Today however the Chinese IQ is well above 100 however you measure it. This is the Flynn Effect in action over a century, in China as everywhere else.

So, East Asians probably aren’t as much of an Exception as Ron Unz presents them as. Or not an exception at all. Arguably using them to try to prove that Lynn and Vanhanen scored a “game-ending own goal” is kind of an own goal to Unz’s own minimization of the genetic component of IQ.


In conclusion, I think the Flynn Effect DID act on East Asian societies, though it is plausible that it was not to such a high degree as in European societies for cultural, environmental, or genetic reasons. And as with Europeans they have now maxed out their potential (Japan, Korea, Taiwan) or come close to it (China). However US Blacks also seem to have maxed out their potential and at levels very significantly (1 S.D.) below those of both US Whites / Anglo-Germanic Europe and East Asians. Coupled with lots of other evidence this to me convincingly suggests a strong racial component to group average IQ differences.

Mexican-Americans and especially US Hispanics (who still have many immigrants among them) can still make very substantial gains but given the very big gap between them and US Whites, I am skeptical that they will be able to close it it in the future by themselves. That said intermarriage rates between native-born Hispanics and non-Hispanics are quite high so I expect them to gradually blend in with the US population over the next century. Perhaps a more critical difference from prior European immigrants apart from the lower IQ of Amerindian-stock Hispanic immigrants is that they come from or via a nation contiguous with the US. This lack of distance means that they will be better able to maintain their culture within the US, and the US will slowly become a more “Latinized” country although they will not ever feasibly come to exercise a dominant cultural influence.

(Republished from by permission of author or representative)
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Now that I’m done with the Necessary Caveats, it’s time we had a look at why exactly HBD/IQ theories are both valid, and relevant to the real world. As I see it, their main import (as interpreted by me) can be distilled into a few logically consecutive, falsifiable statements:

  1. IQ tests are a valid, culturally fair measure of cognitive ability.
  2. It is hereditary.
  3. Race is real.
  4. There are racial/ethnic differences in average IQ that cannot be explained merely by reference to socio-economic or cultural factors.
  5. The US is an excellent “laboratory” to ascertain the average genetic IQ ceiling of different races and ethnicities.
  6. Average IQ influences prosperity, and general living standards.
  7. Consequently, knowing the racial constraints on average IQ’s – i.e., the IQ ceilings – we can estimate the relative development potential of different countries and regions.

All of them have have acquired a great deal of supporting evidence, even though they – or in particular, their linkage – remains taboo for the media and wider public discussion. By the numbers:

1. There is typically a large degree of correlation between various IQ tests, and academic achievement scores (1, 2). Nobody has yet discovered a test which has a negative correlation with a battery of other tests. This implies that there is a common “g factor” behind all types of cognitive ability.

Obviously this allows for very big variations within a single person. But within a group, someone who does well in one test will most likely also do well in another.

The argument that IQ tests are culturally biased is frequently made on the basis that they show differences in performance between racial/ethnic groups. This is a fallacy. In any case, there are IQ tests designed to be culturally fair insofar as they eschew words and test pattern recognition, such as Cattell Culture Fair III and Raven’s Progressive Matrices. These tests have a high correlation with the battery of other tests, i.e. they are valid reflections of g.

2. The scientific literature converges on a range from 40%-80% for IQ heritability. (1, 2) The correlation in scores between twins reared apart is around 75%-80%.

3. Is race a social construct? The commonsense answer is no. Consider that beyond the “my lying eyes” stuff (e.g. skin color/melanin content; epicanthic folds, etc.), there is also evidence of genetic differences in: Physical abilities (west African sprinters; Kenyan marathoners); conformity (Asians); lactose tolerance (whites); alcohol intolerance (Asians); even average penis size (large – Africa; Latin America; small – East Asia). The latter example isn’t nearly as… flippant as it seems, since testosterone levels have a large effect on behavior. There are multiple genetic disorders that only affect certain races or ethnicities, and race specific drugs are now coming online.

But ultimately, this is one of those cases where a picture is worth a thousand words.

This is a genetic map of Europe, superimposed on a geographic map (remarkable how it works out almost perfectly). Note that although there is some degree of overlap between European ethnicities, there are still clear clusters and centers of gravity corresponding to particular nationalities.

Now look at this genetic map (click to enlarge). See that dark blue oval to the center-left? That is Europe. Recall that even within that tiny space there are distinct clusters, with virtually zero overlap between, say, Greeks and Germans. Now note the vast distance that separates Europe from East Asia (center-right), and the three African clusters (bottom).

So it’s really just a minor matter of semantics. Some people shy away from using the word “race”, instead speaking of “genetic clusters”, “population groups”, “groups of common geographic ancestry”, etc. “Race” is short and convenient.PI

4. There is a vast body of global IQ scores (e.g. Lynn). They follow a consistent pattern: East Asian countries tend to score 105, European and Euro-settler countries 100, and sub-Saharan African countries 65-80.

The internationalized standardized PISA tests display the same pattern (as expected, since they load on the same g).

(Internationally, I think the culture argument makes some interesting points. E.g., the Protestant work ethic – reflected even now in the fact that the world’s richest and highest-IQ white countries tend to be Protestant. But there are two problems. First, possible narrative fallacy, e.g. Confucianism, with its connotations of traditionalism and conservatism, was once used to explain why Asian countries lagged behind Europe; but with their success in the past generation, the respect for learning, rule of law, etc. that it supposedly instilled is now sometimes used to explain their success! Can’t have it both ways. Second, what applies in one period can wane in another. Yes, Protestantism fostered human capital development by emphasizing independent Bible reading (i.e. more literacy!), which in turn helped early industrial growth. But today this effect seems to have receded into the past – see the success of south Germany, north Italy, France, Ireland.)

5. The US is an excellent “laboratory” to estimate the average genetic IQ ceiling of different races and ethnicities by virtue of its diversity; standardized education system that produces results that, when broken down by race, are superior to almost every other country in the world; decent equality of educational opportunity; no nutritional deficit among any population group; and post-Flynn effect status.

Within the US, all tests of cognitive ability – IQ, PISA (1, 2), SAT – replicate the global pattern. Though there is variance from test to test, but as a rule, the intelligence hierarchy is as follows: Asian-Americans; whites; Hispanics; blacks. The gaps between Asian-Americans and whites are narrowed than internationally (because Asian-Americans also include medium-IQ peoples like Filipinos and Vietnamese); and the gaps between whites and blacks are narrowed (because, unlike African or Haitian blacks, African-Americans enjoy better nutrition and education.

It must also be noted that whereas most of these tests indicate that Asians closed gaps (in reading, writing) and overtook whites (in math) over the years, there has been no sign of any significant convergence for blacks.

Is it because schools in poorer areas (inner city, where NAM’s cluster) are badly funded? No, per student funding tends to be broadly similar for both inner city and suburban schools. Besides, education funding doesn’t play a major role in results. In Italy, there is no correlation between school funding and performance by province. China gets PISA and IQ results higher than America’s despite spending a tiny fraction of the resources that the US lavishes on each of its pupils. Indeed, it probably doesn’t matter much, as IQ tends to be fixed by the age of the 5.

Is it because blacks come from poorer families on average? IQ is a far more persuasive explanation for why people are poor in the first place. Refer to The Bell Curve (Murray & Herrnstein).

US blacks (85-90) get far better IQ scores than Africans (65-80). These two facts are highly important because in Africa, the IQ’s of many populations are currently constrained by poor nutrition and (in some cases) the different psychologies of pre-industrial and illiterate peoples. In practice, and discounting variation (Africa is the world’s most genetically diverse continent, so it is not impossible that there will be some relatively high-IQ subgroups among them), it seems likely that the average IQ ceiling for African blacks is similar to the actual IQ’s of US blacks. I.e., maybe 85 (lower than 85-90, because US blacks have 20% admixture with whites).

US Hispanics score better than Mexicans or Central Americans, displaying IQ’s (or IQ equivalents) in the low 90′s (Mexico: 88-90; Panama: 84-80). Whites are at around 100. Asian-Americans tend to be in the low to mid 100′s, but there is huge variance (East Asians – higher; South-East Asians – lower).

7. Refer to Education as the Elixir of Growth III. There is a 0.43 correlation between the GDP (PPP) per capita of a country with its PISA/TIMMS scores, which rises to a stunning 0.84 once countries with a post-Communist legacy (low outliers), resource windfalls (high outliers), or offshore financial industries that constitute the bulk of their GDP (high outliers) are removed from the same. (Any correlation of >0.5 is an excellent one in social science). This implies a fairly rigid glass ceiling on GDP per capita for any one country in relation to its IQ. It’s largely invisible, as few people appreciate the importance of human capital to growth, but it’s most certainly there.

At the micro level, the g factor tends to be by far the best indicator of job performance (above grades, interviews, references, etc) – not only in “cognitive elite” jobs such as lawyers or physicians, but also to a significant extent even among menial workers. There is a correlation of 0.9-0.95 between employees in a certain profession and prestige ratings of those professions by the general public. The correlation between IQ and income is around 0.4-0.5.

The importance of average genetic IQ ceilings

We have a fairly strong and convincing (to me anyway) theory that average IQ ceilings depends on race, and that IQ (g, PISA scores, etc) are remarkable closely correlated with economic prosperity. Furthermore, it is almost certain that the causation is largely one way, at least once basic nutritional and literacy problems are solved; otherwise, the Chinese and Koreans would not be outperforming US Hispanics or African-Americans.

Following from the graph of Human Capital Index and income above, there seems to be a point past 450 – about 92.5, in IQ terms – at which (market-based) economies transition from middle-income status, to high-income. If Mexico could raise its human capital to about the levels of their compatriots in the US, this would (going by correlations) enable a massive expansion in its productivity.

Unfortunately, the average genetic IQ ceiling for African blacks is 85, maybe 90 at most. Nonetheless, if Africa could consistently raise it to even the former figure, it would then have a degree of human capital equivalent to today’s Brazil. Though true convergence with developed countries is precluded, reaching Brazil’s levels would be a gargantuan improvement for the living standards of the average African.

In general, it should be possible to construct a “potential IQ” (and corresponding potential GDP per capita level) for each country. They would look something like this (PISA/IQ format):

  • US (500/100) – All racial groups are already performing very close to their genetic potential (Asian-Americans (NOT East Asians) – low 100′s, whites – 100, Hispanics – low 90′s, blacks – high 80′s). The challenge will be in maintaining it (due to Hispanic immigration).
  • China (550/108) – It currently has 103(PISA converted into IQ)-105(IQ), but may still eke out a few more points by totally eliminating malnutrition. Should have no problem in becoming as rich as Korea or Japan with one more generation.
  • India (450/92.5) – Very low (and puzzling) 75(PISA)-82. But also malnutrition is still extremely high, as are endemic diseases; the vegetarianism of a significant portion of the population may also have a negative effect (protein aids brain development). My estimate is that average Indian genetic IQ ceiling is similar to Hispanics, but with huge variance due to caste/ethnic diversity.
  • Russia (500/100) – Moderate score at 95(PISA)-97(IQ). Smaller than ethnically similar Poland (99/100), due to 2 possible factors: (1) Academic focus to exclusion of more general g (Russia does much better on TIMMS, PIRLS); (2) Possible effects of highly prevalent alcoholism on the current cohort being tested. Poland’s score may represent a more accurate “Slavic ceiling.” Natural GDP per capita level would seem to be in between the Germanic countries and the Med, but resource windfall would nudge it closer to the former.
  • Brazil (460/94) – Today at 87(PISA)-85(IQ). Capping off the BRIC’s, the potential is derived by taking the estimated genetic ceilings of US blacks (with adjustment for Brazilian blacks having more admixture) with Med Europe ceiling, and weighing by population ratios.
  • Germanic Europe (520/103) – based on current scores, but will face challenge in maintaining it (due to immigration policies).
  • Med Europe (490/99) – based on Spain, Portugal, Italy results. In a way, one can see the Euro crisis – which is mostly affecting the PIGS – as the invisible hand’s way of bumping down the Med countries to a level more in line with their lower human capital (relative to the Germanic countries).
  • Turkey (470/96) – now at 91(PISA)/93(IQ), but potential based on Greece’s current scores; Turks and Greeks genetically similar.
  • Japan (530/105) – as now, no significant change as immigration is low. But economic difficulties due to debt, negative population growth, ballooning elderly dependency ratios.
  • Israel (?) – is globally irrelevant but a really fascinating case study, complicated by the discrepancy between Ashkenazi Euro-Jewish IQ scores (c.115) and Israel’s mediocre performance of 95(IQ)/94(PISA) which is hard to explain as Ashkenazi Jews still make up more than half of Israel’s population. Also lots of demography has to be taken into account. Deserves a separate post.
  • Australia, Canada (520/103) – as now, but will NOT face difficulties maintaining them because of their Cognitive Elitist immigration policies; as they also enjoy resource windfalls, they will probably do economically better than the rest of the developed world.

Based on the figures above, we can expect that the BRIC’s nations should in principle be able to converge to developed country levels. However, there are two major groups within the BRIC’s. China and Russia are already at a human capital level that enables convergence (China’s is significantly higher, but Russia is already richer, and also has the added bonus of a resource windfall). In contrast, Brazil and India are not currently at human capital levels that enable convergence; however, they do both have the potential to raise them to just the levels needed to break out of the “middle-income” trap and converge. But for that they have to develop their human capital to its full genetic potential. The quantity of the needed change is very significant and, even under rosy assumptions (e.g. +3 IQ points a decade until equalization with genetic potential), the process will take decades. Until they at least the low 90′s, they will remain stuck – especially Brazil, because it is already very rich for its human capital level – with fairly low long-term growth rates.

Whatever their average genetic IQ ceilings, it is highly advisable for all the poorer and low-IQ nations to: (1) improve childhood nutrition (e.g. free vitamin pills at schools seems especially low-cost/high-impact); (2) anti-vegetarian propaganda, where such applies; (3) study the experience of foreign countries, esp. the US which has had a lot of success with maximizing NAM scores, and Finland which (at least on PISA) manages to maximize white scores; (4) explore pharmaceutical and technological means of bridging their IQ gaps with the developed world (e.g. nootropics).

(Republished from by permission of author or representative)
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This may be the article I’ve hesitated longest over publishing. Its subject matter has always hovered as a specter over my writings on the close relation between human capital and economic growth; an obvious but studiously ignored presence*. I am talking, of course, about race and IQ. Of racial differences in IQ, to be precise.

Why now? First, it’s a propitious moment to raise the issue, what with the recent publicity surrounding the Trayvon Martin case and the firing of John Derbyshire from The National Review (for writing an article in another magazine whose recommendations most liberals follow in private even as they denounce it as incorrigibly racist in public). But my purpose isn’t to get attention as such. On these matters, it tends to come from unwelcome quarters, either from the PC police (who regard any discussion of race other than to deny it as crimethink), or from the reactionary White nationalist crowd, who think they’ve stumbled on ideological soul-brethren (thanks but no thanks, or to quote Robert Lindsay, “We’re never getting a boarding pass. Never!”). I suspect being a liberal race realist is somewhat akin to being a Jew before anti-Semitism went out of fashion. You get fired on from all sides. Not fun.

The second, more substantive reason, is that the issue matters. If it was an irrelevance, I obviously wouldn’t bother (though tellingly, most people have no problem discussing genetic causes for relatively unimportant things, such as the preponderance of Kenyan marathoners, or East Asians’ lack of alcohol tolerance). But there is a mountain of evidence indicating that IQ levels have a very real and direct influence on the world, from the life earnings potential of individuals to the wealth and poverty of nations.

This is a futurist blog, and it has never shied away from inconvenient but pertinent observations that go against Establishment orthodoxy, e.g. that the world is finite, and industrial growth in its current form is unsustainable. As regards its distribution, my views on the sources of prosperity would discomfit both left and right; contrary to theorists from both camps, it is mainly determined by levels of human capital, both within nations and internationally (the two major outlier groups, countries with resource windfalls or central-planning legacies, are exceptions that prove the rule). A corollary is that if there are genetically rooted differences in IQ between races that go beyond the power of racism or exploitation to explain, then there would be variegated ceilings on the extent to which human capital can be developed in different nations and different societies. It would also mean that major inequalities in global development are here to stay.

But first, a much-needed definition of terms to clarify why Race Realism (or “Human Biodiversity”) is not coterminous with Racism.

Defining Racism, Race Denial, and Race Realism

In the US, liberals flat-out deny racial differences in IQ (“Race is a social construct,” “IQ tests were invented by racists and don’t measure anything”), and indulge in all sorts of mental acrobatics to explain away why a generation of affirmative action has utterly failed to narrow the academic performance or socio-economic chasm between Whites and NAM’s (Non-Asian Minorities). Conservatives just blame it all on Blacks’ supposed moral defects and the “entitlement culture” that supposedly dominates there, i.e. the precise opposite argument to liberals who decry the plight of Blacks who have to contend with the “privileged” position of the white man (the question of why the Man isn’t keeping Asians down is typically skirted over).

However, mainstream pundits from both camps are united on one thing: Innate racial differences do not, cannot have anything to do with it. Anyone who so much as implies otherwise is a Racist Bigot.

To be honest, there is undeniably a great deal of overlap between Racists and Race Realists. I think there are two reasons for that. First, Race Realism is not a socially respectable position to hold (unlike in pre-1970′s America, or for that matter, practically all of East Asia today). Many Americans who adopt it explicitly – as opposed to confessing to it while drunk, which happens quite frequently – tend to be marginalized whites who aren’t interested in truth and only need some sort of explanation for their low status (e.g. blaming the ZOG, “skraelings”, etc). Second, the uniform hostility that any declared Race Realist runs into – e.g., John Derbyshire, who got castigated by the left and cast aside by his former comrades on the right – no doubt has a polarizing effect. As I mentioned above, being fired on from all sides isn’t fun. Or as Lindsay points out, “only in the arena of reactionary thought are views about race realism allowed to flourish.”

But are Race Realists the same thing as Racists? I do not think so. First, because the association smacks of Lysenkoism (the US justifies its high inequalities by the American dream that anyone can, though self-improvement and hard work, earn enough to enjoy la dolce vita; but if, God forbid, it’s true that racial differences make the goal practically unattainable for large swathes of the population, that kind of throws a spanner in the works. Wrecker! Saboteur! Off to the Gulag Guantanamo with him!). Second, and most importantly, Race Realism does not by and in of itself justify overt discrimination, or Racism; tarring both with the same brush is an association fallacy.

Though Race Realism may induce skepticism as regards the efficacy or fairness of certain leveling policies, e.g. affirmative action, that is a very far cry from calling for a return to segregation, or race war, or whatever. I would even argue that Race Realism is far less paternalistic, insulting and harmful to NAM’s in general and Blacks in particular than the typical attitudes of colorblind conservatives, who attack certain negative perceived features of Black culture (e.g. “entitlements culture”, “anti-intellectualism”, “family breakdown”, “gangsta rap”, etc). In doing so they argue that Blacks as a group fail to achieve what Whites or Asians do in terms of salaries, employment, crime etc. due to their own moral defects, as opposed to it being the result of factors they truly have no control over, and as such need a good dose of discipline, “moral direction” and tough love to find their way (i.e. no affirmative action whatsoever, no social welfare, even more insanely hardline drugs policies, etc).

The liberal Race Realist to the contrary acknowledges these divergent outcomes as a regrettable but inevitable consequence of innate group differences (especially in IQ, which largely determines educational attainment and life prospects), but on the other hand appreciates that it’s wrong and illogical to blame a people for their bad luck in life’s genetic lottery, and is willing to meet them halfway in trying to ameliorate their plight by supporting subsidized housing, education, income redistribution, etc. This is in stark contrast to the conservative reactionary, who would throw NAM’s to the dogs of unfettered capitalism, but for some reason it is still the liberal Race Realist who is the racist.

(There are, of course, also many Conservative / Libertarian Race Realists. Functionally, if not on their theoretical foundations, their stances are similar to those of their Race Denier ideological counterparts. More on classifications later.)

Still not convinced? Here are three Q&A’s that I hope will further reveal the Race Denier / Racist binary for the false dichotomy it really is.

Q1) One national leader is a progressive sociologist for his time and denies there are innate differences in cognitive ability between blacks and whites. Another is so progressive that he even bans IQ tests because they show some races getting lower scores than others. The third national leader believes in a hierarchy of races, with his own at the top, and rules his country with a firm fist. Which of these is the racist?

A) The first leader was Hendrik Verwoerd, the architect of South African apartheid. The second leader was Hitler (he banned IQ tests because Germans got lower scores than Jews). The third leader was Lee Kuan Yew, who repressed Chinese nationalism despite his belief in Chinese intellectual and cultural superiority, and transformed Singapore from a Third World slum into a gleaming technopolis.

Q2) One man is a “post-racial” President, while another man is a Presidential candidate who – if recently dredged up kompromat is true – may have associated with racists in the 1970′s. Who is the racist scumbag?

A) Obama also supports the war on drugs that is the single biggest reason why every tenth young Black man is in jail, and launched a war against Libya that ended up with the ethnic cleansing of Blacks from that country and the destabilization of a neighboring Black country. Ron Paul promises an end to the war on drugs and foreign military adventures.

Q3) A racist American schoolboy, reeking of White Privilege, arrogantly claims a prize that should have rightly gone to a black. What a racist, right?!

A) The schoolboy in question was an immigrant from South Africa who applied for a “African-American Student of the Year” at his Nebraska school. Despite being white, he was objectively far more African (by virtue of having lived there) than any of the students there, black or where, who had only lived in the US. The school was not amused and suspended him, proving that when prodded, the Race Deniers – no matter be they liberal or conservative – are in fact very far from colorblind as they claim to be. Who’d’ve thunk?

Towards a new classification

Thus far, I hope I have at least made a halfway persuasive argument that Race Realism and Racism are not coterminous. (The detailed evidence for Human Biodiversity, especially as regards IQ, and its implications for US and global development, will have to await a second post).

In its stead, I suggest another classification, one that takes into account the true range of thought around this subject.

By the numbers:

Race Deniers (PC; diversity police; colorblind; “multiculti” (in racist lingo)): This is the official ideology of the Western Establishment and “respectable” white people take care to at least pay homage to it even if they don’t really believe it (at least when sober). The mainstream punditry, be they liberal or conservative, all aggressively hold to this position – arguably, more so in the US, than in Europe, despite the latter being commonly regarded as more liberal/left-wing. Their slogan is “differences are only skin-deep.”

The failure of NAM’s (Non-Asian Minorities) to integrate and converge to average levels is explained differently on both left (oppression, racism, legacy of colonialism, etc) and right (laziness, shiftlessness, lack of appreciation for capitalism, etc) but ascribing it to genetic or racial factors is a universal taboo. Verboten! You’re safe from prosecution if you do it in a measured way, even in PC Europe, but you certainly run the risk of a good media pillorying and getting fired from your job.

While you may think Race Denial precludes Racism, I do not think that’s the case. Take the case of the South African schoolboy above. Or, arguably – and of infinitely greater import – take Hendrik Verwoerd, who at least in his early sociologist days seems to have denied an innate different in cognitive ability between blacks and whites. That didn’t stop him from setting up a cruel and patently unjust ethnocracy in South Africa.

Race Realism (cognitive elitism, racial particularism, Human Biodiversity, “racists” (to Race Deniers)): The belief that there are innate differences in races on socially meaningful parameters, such as cognitive ability, and based on assessment of the scientific and empirical evidence. Racism does not naturally follow, as that involves calling for overt discrimination based on the aforementioned beliefs (see below).

There are several prominent Race Realist pundits. Robert Lindsay is the foremost Liberal Race Realist (and quite a bit more: He has quite the idiosyncratic portfolio, also including stuff on linguists and pro-Stalinism; make of that what you will). I can’t recommend his fundamental post on the matter, Liberal Race Realism: Clearing Up a Few Things, highly enough, as it jives almost perfectly with my own views.

Here is the conundrum for Left-liberalism:

Just supposing that there are differences between the races that are not caused by oppression, racism, etc. This is painfully obvious to anyone who will look. The Left refuses to look, because the reality of the whole mess is bad for the Left. So we say it doesn’t exist, unscientifically. We wish the reality away. …

Suppose Blacks had the same abilities as Whites, genetically.

All of the problems, including low IQ, were simply due the fact that they are fucking up, often on purpose. If this were true, and strangely enough, this sort of follows from liberal beliefs about genes and environment, I would argue for a harsh response to Blacks. Not necessarily cutting them off altogether, but I would certainly be a bit less likely to help them.

But there’s no evidence that that is true.

If Blacks do have low IQ due to things they cannot control, then, as a socialist, I would argue that there is no reason that the higher IQ group ought to obtain dramatically higher income, wealth, housing, living spaces and health than the lower one.

As much as possible, socialists should try to attempt to more equalize incomes, housing, living spaces and health care access for both groups, the higher IQ and the lower. …

Why should Whites be allowed to become dramatically richer, healthier, better housed, and live in better places than Blacks, simply because of how the genetic dice got rolled?

Answer: They have no such right. If both groups were equal, and Whites got that way by simply trying harder, then we could make the argument that the White position is just.

Why should Blacks be forced to become dramatically poorer, less healthy, worse housed, and live in worse places than Whites, simply because of how they were born, a variable that they had no control over whatsoever?

Answer: This is not right. It is not just. They should not be forced into these outcomes, and that they are is an outrageous injustice.

Steve Sailer is a Race Realist from the conservative side of the spectrum. Half Sigma, from the libertarian. The most significant academic bloggers at the GNXP network. I guess you could classify this blog, AKarlin as a Liberal Race Realist blog from now on. Why should I continue paying lip service to an ideology that I find to be incredible in the literal meaning of the word? It’s simply dishonest.

Satoshi Kanazawa, Richard Lynn, Richard Herrnstein, Charles Murray, Arthur Jensen, Steven Pinker, James Watson are prominent researchers/academics who identify(ied) as Race Realists / HBDers. For that matter, most of the people doing research on population groups, genetic clusters, etc would fit the label.

Closely related (though not coterminous) with Race Realists are “Cognitive Elitists”. These folks believe in the value of a high-IQ society, in that it will have more culture, less crime, more interesting conversations, etc. They are typically high IQ themselves and associate with the “cognitive elite”, i.e. the high-IQ stratum of the population that typically clusters in certain geographical areas (e.g. Shanghai and Beijing in China; Moscow in Russia; Washington, Connecticut/Massachusetts/NY, and the Bay Area in the US). As such, they are strong supporters of comprehensive, well-funded education systems and immigration systems that give priority to skilled workers. Australia and Canada are two good examples of countries that are run by cognitive elitists, even if they don’t identify themselves as such and formally deny IQ and its heritability. Immigration policies give priority to skilled workers, and their public university systems are top notch. I guess one could even call their immigration policies “Deniably Race Realist” because in today’s world, qualified worker typically means East Asian or White anyway.

I would argue the ANC leadership of South Africa has been consistently Race Realist, bizarre as it may sound at first. The blacks had been repressed there by whites for generations (really repressed, not its non-existent form in post-1960′s US). It would have been understandable had they gone down the Robert Mugabe route of confiscations and expulsions. They didn’t. The “price” is that South Africa is now one of the most stratified societies in the world, where the Gini income inequality index is at 70 (higher than under apartheid) and whites and blacks live in separate worlds. The alternative – i.e., Zimbabwe, and its retreat from relative prosperity to complete destitution – would have been much worse for South African blacks themselves.

Lee Kuan Yew was and remains a Race Realist, but gets no flak for it because he isn’t White. I do not think he is a Chinese chauvinist because he cited objective data and scholarly works in support of his views (e.g. IQ scores by race, and Arnold Toynbee’s civilizational history, that argued “hard societies” developed in harsh northern climes where you needed brains to survive), and didn’t refrain from also arguing that Jewish Americans were intellectually superior to the Chinese (citing their disproportionate share of Nobel Prizes). Though immigration policy favored Chinese, on account of their lower birth rates, he also vigorously repressed expressions of Chinese nationalism in Singapore to maintain social unity. Quite clearly he was a Race Realist and Cognitive Elitist, but not a Racist. I can’t say I’m a huge admirer of the Singaporean social model – I’m of the opinion drugs should be legal, not banned under penalty of death (!) – but there is no denying he did a great job for Singapore.

Racism: This starts when one demands overt discrimination based on race. For instance, while Race Realism isn’t Racism per se, it can – admittedly – easily tip over into “Scientific Racism.” Unlike platonic Race Realists, the Scientific Racists are primarily driven by antipathy; indeed, they may have started out as simple Racists, and specifically sought out the science component to serve as an intellectual veneer for their beliefs. As such, they are prone to confirmation bias, and risk degenerating into “Pseudo-Scientific Racism.” Nazi phrenologists and race theorists are classic examples of Pseudo-Scientific Racists. There there are, of course, the simple Racists, who are usually just low-IQ and tend to be unhappy with life. Half-Sigma pegs them perfectly:

What’s the difference between a race realist and a racist? The race realist understands The g Factor, The Bell Curve, and other works of scientific research. The racist apparently thinks that because Barack Obama is half black, it’s impossible for him to have a significantly higher g than John McCain.”

Most of the people at Stormfront are simple racists. There is a lot of pseudo-science and wild conspiracy theorizing there.

Concluding remarks

It would be nice to believe that if only we could raise more aid to the poorest nations, global inequalities could be erased away; and that at the US level, more social welfare and affirmative action for NAM’s (Non-Asian Minorities) could bridge its deep racial chasms in achievement, which have hitherto been stubbornly unyielding. However, the evidence thus far suggests that many of these chasms are substantially rooted in genetics, and as such would be impossible to close under a capitalist system, or indeed, any economic system that offers increasing returns on better human capital (Maoism is the closest one that comes qualifying to that standard, but is probably not the way to go as most would agree). I’d love to be proven wrong but I’m pretty certain it would have to wait for the age of mass genetic engineering or brain-computer interfaces.

As I hope I made clear, none of this means that overt discrimination is justified, or social spending on NAM’s – especially on education – should be reduced (like Race Denying conservative reactionaries would want to). There is ample evidence to support the view that practically everyone benefits from more education, and it’s better than more foreign wars regardless. (Contrary to stereotypes, the US education system actually isn’t doing too bad of a job; though it gets mediocre scores on international student assessments, when broken down by race, its typically near the very forefront). Just don’t expect miracles from social engineering when biology stands in the way.

The next post will take a far more detailed look at the intersections between race, IQ (or g), the effects of environment/culture (which are real but typically overstated), and implications for development.

* Well, ignored by the blog; discussed at length by Lazy Glossophiliac in the comments section.

(Republished from by permission of author or representative)
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What are the reasons behind the wealth and poverty of nations? Since this question has exercised the minds of thinkers from Adam Smith to David Landes, Jared Diamond and Richard Lynn, I decided to take a look at it myself. I came to the conclusion that while geography, macroeconomic policies, resource windfalls and the microeconomic environment do play important roles, by far the most important factor is the state of a country’s human capital – things like literacy rates, school life expectancy and performance on international student assessments.

This is not a new idea. A Goldman Sachs report, Dreaming with BRICs, noted that:

Many cross-country studies have found positive and statistically significant correlations between schooling and growth rates of per capita GDP—on the order of 0.3% faster annual growth over a 30-year period from an additional one year of schooling.

However, I think education is much more central to this. The problem with using years of schooling as a yardstick is that in many middle-income countries, like Argentina, Turkey or Brazil, the amount of schooling is converging to that of the developed world, but the quality isn’t. This is attested to by their performance on international student assessments like PISA. For instance, in the 2006 PISA Science assessment, only 15.2% of Brazilians were at Level 3 or higher (the threshold for moving beyond purely linear problem-solving), compared with 47.6% of Russian, 51.3% of American and 66.9% of Australian students. Is it really then surprising to discover that from 1997 to 2007 purchasing power GDP per capita in Brazil and Russia, both medium-income countries, has grown at 1.3% and 6.0%, respectively, i.e., that Russia is playing the game of economic catch-up much more successfully?

I collected educational statistics on 65 countries and used a formula to work out a Human Capital Index (HCI), relying on three main stats – the literacy rate, PISA/TIMSS/PIRLS performance and tertiary attainment. I then compared this with their purchasing power GDP per capita and its average growth rate for 1997-2007. The results are in the table below.

Source: CIA World Factbook for literacy rates, GDP per capita, 2007 GDP per capita growth; PISA 2006 executive summary for Maths, Science, Reading stats (note: China, India are guessed); eighth-grade Maths, Science performance from Highlights from TIMSS 2003; fourth-grade Reading from PIRLS 2006; tertiary enrolment, 1997-2006 GDP per capita growth from World Bank. M1 and M2 refer to the mean of a country’s scores across PISA and TIMSS/PIRLS, respectively, divided by average across all participating countries; if there’s a figure for both M1 and M2, then M3 = (M1+M2) / 2; if not, M3 = M1 or M2, as appropriate. HCI = literacy * M3 * tertiary enrolment ^ (1/3). Figures in italics are those for which I’ve had to use other sources.

The chart below shows how closely educational capital and wealth correlate in 2007. We see an inverse square relationship or possibly a kind of S-curve with two inflection points.

Let us note a few things:

1. Notice that out of the 30 countries with an HCI below 0.80, with the marginal exception of Saudi Arabia, not a single one had a GDP per capita exceeding 20,000 $. In fact, this chart understates the pattern, because the detailed educational stats produced by programs like PISA and TIMSS typically don’t include low-income countries, where human capital is going to be typically very low.

2. Practically all outliers can be explained by one of two things – resource windfalls and socialist legacies. Among all countries with HCI’s of less than 0.80, the top outliers are all big oil or minerals exporters. This artificially inflates their GDP’s, varying in extent from Iran, South Africa and Mexico (where oil and minerals production co-exists with a burgeoning manufacturing base) to Saudi Arabia and Botswana (which are dominated by hydrocarbons and diamonds, respectively). The latter are green and the former are cyan/green. The reason Norway is the world’s most affluent country also comes down to the oil boost (its human capital is unremarkable by average OECD standards).

3. Similarly, the vast majority of low outliers come from the former Communist bloc. East European former satellites are red, post-Soviet countries are dark red and Russia is black. Note how far off the vast majority of them are from where their HCI seems to indicate they should be (the exceptions being Azerbaijan, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and to a lesser extent Bulgaria and Romania). Poland, Hungary and the post-Soviet world are currently well below their potential. The explanation is that these countries have spent much of this century languishing under central planning with all its inefficiencies and contradictions and thereafter being subjected to a decade-long period of brutal restructuring, before normal economic growth could again resume towards the mid to late 1990′s. Meanwhile, the Communist emphasis on education payed off bigtime, as human capital is comparable to that of much richer countries. It is worth noting also that the gap between potential and actual is greatest in the former Soviet bloc, presumably because the socialist legacy was strongest there (no folk memory of pre-WW2 capitalism, no Visegrad-like experiments with creeping capitalism, etc). The big exception is Azerbaijan, which has an oil windfall; Russia, the other country in a similar position, doesn’t replicate this because its potential (based on human capital) is much higher – its socialist legacy outweighs its resource windfall.

Below is a table with three indicators for each country – their actual GDP, potential GDP based on average macroeconomic/microeconomic policies and potential GDP based on optimal policies.

Potential and Actual GDP per capita (2007 $)
Actual Mean Potential
Max Potential
Georgia 4,200 15,000
Latvia 17,700 38,000
Moldova 2,200 17,000
Poland 16,200 33,000
Russia 14,600 35,000 49,000

4. There are five other low outliers – Slovenia, Taiwan, New Zealand, Finland and South Korea, of which the latter two are particularly big. The explanations aren’t as clear-cut here, but I’ll throw a few around. Finland is a northern country covered in permafrost that inflates construction, energy and transport costs, while New Zealand has a small population (i.e. a small market) far removed from the arteries of world trade. Slovenia has a socialist legacy. Taiwan and Korea are very densely populated, which impacts negatively on the productivity of the retail and construction sectors. Singapore is a top outlier, much richer than warranted by its human capital – I suppose that’s because of its status as a major trade hub. Not as convincing? I kind of agree. The above explanations do not have the all-encompassing unity and simplicity of the socialist legacy or the resource windfall. Which is why it’s time for us to talk about economic growth rates.

Speaking of which – see below.

Countries are marked by GDP / capita growth rates from 1997 to 2007. The colors go as follows: white (1.0-1.9%); yellow (2.0-2.9%); orange (3.0-3.9%); red (4.0-5.9%); dark red (6.0%-7.9%) and black (8.0%-14.9%). Also, GDP per capita figures (on the y-axis) are for 1997 – this is because what we are interested in is the influence of education levels on future growth, which we know for the period from 1997 up until today. Unfortunately, educational stats for 1997 will be much less comprehensive (PISA and TIMMS embraced much fewer countries then), plus it would take a lot of time digging them up – hence I made a rough assumption that they were the same as for 2007. Actually, the HCI is based on a collation of different stats from the 2000-2005 period).

One thing that immediately stands out is how countries that are below their potential tend to have much higher growth rates than those on or above their potential. In other words, excluding chaotic and cyclical trends, economies tend to a steady state depending on the level of their human capital. Thus, the blue and cyan groups above tend to have equal growth in GDP per capita (although since the population grows in most cyan countries, absolute GDP growth will be larger), meaning that the cyan countries aren’t converging and should not converge economically, no matter their degree of openness or transparency.

The most glaring exceptions are typically due to oil booms and the like, which not only increase GDP in of themselves but also fuel consumption splurges. The purple group is the most interesting, which mainly encompasses relatively well-educated post-Communist countries. Unshackled from the chains of socialism, they are now growing very quickly due to the huge ‘potential gap’ that exists between their human capital and development level. (Picture this as a question of heat diffusion – the greater the difference, the greater the pressure to close it). The green countries must massively increase their investment into education if they want to join the development bandwagon.

Now for some questions and answers:

What does this mean for development strategies?

Policy-makers must realize that education is the elixir of economic growth. Individual incomes grow due to the introduction of new technologies, which increase total factor productivity. (Granted, it is possible to increase labor participation rates and increase savings – but only up to a point. There are only so many people in any workforce, while investment is subject to diminishing returns. The only long-term development model is continuous technological adaptation, which is recognized by the exogenous growth model). However, a country’s ability to take advantage of technology diffusion is governed by its educational levels (e.g., the illiterate will have little need for a computer).

It is not enough, however, to enroll every annual cohort, give them ten years of public schooling and consider the task done, as is the pattern in much of the developing world today. School life expectancy in much of Latin America, the Middle East, South Asia and China might be drawing close to Western standards – the same cannot be said, however, for its quality, as these international student assessments reveal. Secondly, tertiary enrollment there (15-30%) remains far below Western and post-Communist standards (50-80%). To bridge the gap into society-wide participation in the ongoing technological revolutions, developing countries must make efforts to remedy the two above problems. Massive labor and capital infusions will only take you so far. Once a country achieves a GDP per capita of around 5,000 – 10,000$, growth becomes a matter of increasing productivity in the services and higher-tech manufacturing sectors. This requires annual cohorts of well-educated workers.

I am not denying that there are many other conditions that have to be fulfilled for economic convergence to happen. Goldman Sachs, for instance, has compiled a Growth Environment Index that takes into account thirteen factors: inflation, government deficits, external debt, investment, openness, years of schooling, life expectancy, political stability, rule of law, corruption and Internet, PC and telephone penetration levels. I think this approach misses the central point of development, however. An honest and well-run state simply reduces barriers to an economy reaching its maximum potential level of development; if the human resources are lacking, it will not converge to Western levels.

To illustrate this, let’s take a few middle-income countries, say, Chile and Estonia – both have solid macro-economics and perform respectably in rankings such as economic freedom, ease of doing business and corruption perceptions. Nonetheless, Chile’s per capita growth rate for the past ten years has been a sluggish 2.6%, compared to Estonia’s tigerish 7.7%. Why? I suspect it has something to do with Chile scoring 0.69 and Estonia 1.00 in my Human Capital Index. Russia, rarely cited as a paragon of economic freedom but with a good HCI of 0.94, outperformed Chile with growth of 6.0%. I suspect that the 1-2% difference from Estonia is due to the greater barriers to technology/productivity diffusion in Russia. (Incidentally, the reason the late USSR grew slowly was because its human capital was immensely burdened by the planned economy).

The same goes for the arguments of geographic determinism. Yes, being landlocked and frozen, or suffering the scourges of endemic debilitating diseases in tropical climes, tends to negatively affect development. I don’t see, however, how these disadvantages are different in quality from factors like macroeconomic incompetence or failing institutions.

How will this affect the world’s future?

In my previous Core Article Towards a New Russian Century?, I identified economic convergence, doubly exponential growth in IT and climate change as key drivers of world geopolitics in the decades ahead. On the topic of the former, I wrote:

Of course, it’s not sufficient merely to be behind to catch up. One must also have the human capital and physical infrastructure in place. One of the best proxies for human capital is education. Now as we can see from the info above, Russia’s (and eastern Europe’s) educational profile is of a First World character. Hence it is likely that the region’s impressive post-millennial growth will be sustained, resulting in convergence with west European countries by a 2020-30 time frame.

I stand by this prediction. According to the data, Latin America, the Middle East and South Asia all have educational systems that leave much to be desired, and little sign of fundamental change can be observed (there is no discernable improvement in Mexico’s and Brazil’s PISA scores from 2000 to 2006; tertiary enrolments in the above regions are increasing at a glacial pace).

India is still plagued by illiteracy and as late as 2005 a tenth of the youth cohort didn’t receive primary education, 43% didn’t receive secondary and only 11% received a higher-level education (an unimpressive over 6% in 1991), according to the World Bank. India will be a Great Power, but its few economic/technological centres will remain islands of prosperity amidst a sea of backwardness.

China has a decent school life expectancy, literacy rate and enrollment rates (universal primary and 74% secondary), but its tertiary enrollment ratio is low at 20% in 2005. (Nonetheless, it has increased very rapidly, from 3% in 1991, and if the experience of other countries is anything to go by, a concerted effort could see their rates rise to developed-country standards within the next twenty years). I have no idea how average Chinese students would score on the PISA tests (comparing them to Hong Kong or Macau is a pointless exercise, because of the vast disparity in development), so I guessed 420. If so, then China’s current 10% growth rates should soon moderate to around 5% – as my second graph shows, it is a) fast approaching its potential and b) it’s hampered by bureaucracy and corruption. Today most Chinese growth, unlike in east-central Europe, comes from infusions of labor and capital rather than productivity improvements – growth which could experience a severe and protracted slowdown once the surplus labor pool in the countryside is expended and investment rates are hit by a financial crisis, as happened with the other east Asian tigers after 1997.

In conclusion, China seems set to do considerably better than other developing regions of the world (Latin America, Middle East, South Asia and Africa), but will still be very far from converging to advanced industrial levels in 2025. Meanwhile, eastern Europe will converge with western Europe, while Finland, Korea and Estonia may become some of the richest countries in the world.

How did you work out the Human Capital Index?

Explained beneath the big table. Basically, literacy rate * international student assessment scores mean average * tertiary enrollment ^ (1/3). The reasoning is that a) you must be literate, at a minimum, to participate in a modern economy, b) international student assessments give a clue as to the quality of those who are educated (better than school life expectancy) and c) tertiary education improves human capital further, though not to the same absolute extent as elementary schooling – hence we take the cube root of that figure.

I am aware that in an ideal situation, we would make a sample representing everyone in the country take a skills test to gauge human capital; since we don’t have that luxury, we must rely on available statistics, two of which (test scores and tertiary enrolment) apply mostly to the newest cohorts entering those countries’ labor forces.

What has this got to do with Russia?

When I say things like “Russia will have a GDP per capita of 30,000$ by 2020″, I work by a set of assumptions and beliefs that may not be entirely clear to the casual reader of this blog, particularly the Russophobe variety which believes Russia’s economy is an oil bubble about to pop like a balloon. Which is understandable, given that the Western MSM’s discourse on Russia’s prospects is mostly negative.

Nonetheless, some facts must be acknowledged. The government since 1998 has handled the economy well, balancing inflation and ruble depreciation by maintaining fiscal discipline. Since 2006, they have embarked on large-scale basic (agriculture, housing, health and education) and strategic (nanotechnology, venture capital) investment programs. Yes, the bureaucracy is unwieldy, corruption is a problem and life is hard for small businesses, but as the last few years have showed, these problems are not fatal – at worst, they have shaved off 1-2% of annual GDP growth, and in any case the Baltics are the exception rather than the rule in the post-Soviet space. Most importantly, Russia’s human capital is of First World standards – and as we’ve argued here, this is the key component of development.

If anything, it would be exceptional if Russia didn’t converge to west European levels of development by the 2020′s.

(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.