Readers coming to my blog from The Atlantic article “The Mystery of Why Portugal Is So Doomed” saw my comment there directing you to my earlier post “A Tale of Two Maps.” Matthew O’Brien over at The Atlantic seemed to indicate the poor economic situation in Portugal was somehow mysterious. But the reality is that the explanation, ultimately, is far less mysterious he would have us believe. In a “A Tale of Two Maps”, I contrast the average IQ of the various European nations with their economic performance, gauged by the unemployment rate. We saw that there is a distinct correlation between average IQ and unemployment rates. It’s almost as if average IQ was driving economic performance. It turns out that that is the case.
IQ is a key ingredient in achievement. It is high-IQ individuals who are your doctors, architects, engineers, scientists, mathematicians and other key people who make a modern advanced society work. As well, as La Griffe du Lion notes, people with above average IQs – the “smart fraction” – are also the valuable support people to those with very high IQs. These above average folks are the nurses, mechanics, electricians, and others that maintain an advanced society. Without a sufficient fraction of these high IQ individuals in your population to create wealth, your country’s economic development will be limited.
As we can see, average IQ is high all across China, despite the fact that the interior sections of the country are highly impoverished, with many just now developing. And indeed, the horrendous poverty across many parts of China doesn’t stop them from being incredibly inventive, giving us stuff like these:
These were taken from another Atlantic article, “Chinese DIY Inventions”. Go there for the descriptions of this amazing stuff.
You don’t see stuff like this in say, Saudi Arabia (I’d imagine you don’t see a whole lot in Portugal, either). Indeed, contrast what we see in impoverished but inventive China with Saudi Arabia – a country with incredible wealth, thanks to its abundant oil reserves, and a high GDP “per capita” – but which performs poorly on scholastic tests. Despite its wealth, it has an average IQ of about 80. In Saudi Arabia, this is what you find:
This is the average IQ of the various European countries, with the Hajnal line overlain (see A Tale of Two Maps for my sources). To the east of that line (a line also known as The Iron Curtain), we see a distinct decline in average IQ from north to south. The northern ex-communist nations appear to be markedly brighter than the southern ones. Yet both regions were impoverished in the communist era.
EDIT, 10/9/13: Indeed a recent paper by Gregory B. Christainsen has examined issue of “reverse causation” – that national wealth causes average IQ levels as opposed to the reverse – and found little support for the notion. From the paper (emphasis mine):
The study emphasizes the possible role of conditions at or near the test-takers’ time of birth. The paper finds that the impact of living conditions is of much smaller magnitude than is suggested by just looking at correlations between average IQ scores and socioeconomic indicators. After controlling for test-takers’ region of ancestry, the impact of parasitic diseases on average IQ is found to be statistically insignificant when test results from the Caribbean are included in the analysis. As far as IQ and the wealth of nations are concerned, causality thus appears to run mostly from the former to the latter…
Switzerland was 50 times richer than China in terms of real purchasing power. The Chinese were also more poorly nourished and carried a heavier disease burden. In addition, the average number of years of schooling in Switzerland was more than twice as high as in China. Nevertheless, the Chinese registered slightly higher IQs….
…the unweighted mean of all the scores used from the Caribbean is 76, almost the same as the mean of the scores used from sub-Saharan Africa, despite the great difference in parasite prevalence in the two locations. Thus, with Caribbean scores included,the regression analysis regards parasite prevalence as an unimportant factor in the determination of average IQ. Test-takers’ region of ancestry again dominates the results. China has just as heavy a parasite burden as Dominica, but far higher average IQ. Generally speaking, elite Nigerians who do not have parasitic diseases and do not suffer from malnutrition simply do not have IQs that are close to those of elite Germans….
Kuwait’s per capita GDP was even higher than Switzerland’s. Its nutritional standards were clearly much better than China’s, and its disease burden was considerably lower. Yet, its average intelligence level appears to be much lower as well — 17 IQ points lower. In fact, it is not much different than the level for Pakistan, which has had far more miserable living conditions…
The results are clearest in cases where countries have very different living conditions than other countries in the same world region. China has had far worse living conditions than Japan or South Korea, but average IQ scores that are close to those of its neighbors. Taiwanese born in the early 1940s into poor conditions on the island of Taiwan or in Mainland China recorded an average IQ of 102…Kuwait and other oil kingdoms have had much better living conditions than other countries in the North Africa/South Asia region, but test results that are not appreciably different.
Endowed with great diamond wealth, Botswana has been touted as a positive example of economic development in sub-Saharan Africa. For young Botswanan adults born after 1985, average years of schooling exceed the mean for young adults in Turkey, and are only slightly below the average for similarly-aged British nationals…Yet, a reasonably representative sample of Botswanans, aged 17–20, all born in the late 1980s or early 1990s, received an average IQ score of just 71 on the Standard Progressive Matrices (SPM).
The average IQ of Portugal given by Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen is 94.4. That’s high enough to make Portugal a modern advanced society (which appears to require a minimum average IQ of about 92), but not enough to allow it to compete with its northern neighbors like Germany or England (but don’t worry, these northern countries are rapidly working on fixing that problem). The currency union brought on by the EU and the generous loans and investments into Portugal, and the other PIIGS, predicated on the idea that their economies would eventually grow to match those of their “core” neighbors (to borrow HBD Chick’s term) turned out to be a disaster for everyone involved. The problems in your country follow from this. My suggestion would be finding a way to return to your pre-EU days when your citizens found a way to live within their means.
Now, believe me, I understand how disheartening this must be to hear, because my parents are from a country that has similar – but much more severe problems (see “About Me“). The average IQ of Jamaica appears to be only 80. While conditions there may improve somewhat, contrary to the more idealistic hopes of my younger self, Jamaica will never become on par with a country like the United States in terms of its development and standard of living. The “human capital” is simply not there. It’s hard to look at the poverty there and not want to think that one day, “their day will come”, especially knowing the poverty that the now developed nations once suffered. Unfortunately for Jamaica that will not be the case.
Despite the efforts of the EU to improve “education” in Portugal and the other PIIGS – much like our own efforts here in the U.S. – these will not largely improve the lot of the people there. It would make much more sense for the people of the EU to accept that the productivity of Portuguese will never be the same as the Germans or the English, and shape their policies accordingly. For the Northern Europeans to constantly wonder why their Southern neighbors can’t “just be more like us” and seem to “punish” Southerners for this is wrong and counterproductive.
My page HBD Fundamentals for a succinct summary of the evidence behind heritable human differences
My 100th blog post, for a recap of the key points discussed on my blog: 100 Blog Posts – A Reflection on HBD Blogging And What Lies Ahead
My About Me page.