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Race/IQ: Irish IQ & Chinese IQ
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One of the many surprises I’ve encountered when reading the dozens of web pages and many hundreds of comments attacking my Race/IQ analysis is the overwhelming focus of these critics upon my Irish data. Although I discuss similar ethnic IQ evidence regarding the Greeks, Balkan Slavs, Southern Italians, Dutch, Germans, and various other European peoples, it sometimes seems like the attacks on my Irish analysis are more numerous than those against all these other cases combined, perhaps even if we also throw in all the examples dealing with East Asians and every other non-Irish race on the planet.

One obvious explanation might be the possible ethnic origins of many of these anonymous racialist bloggers and commenters. For example, when I pointed out that Lynn had devoted many years of personal research in Ireland and eventually concluded that they were clearly a low-IQ race, several commenters angrily denounced Lynn, one going so far as to call him an anti-Irish bigot of KKK- or Nazi-like proportions. But if so many people want to attack the Irish Front of my analysis, and suggest I’m just dishonestly cherry-picking the data to fabricate a fraudulent case, perhaps we should indeed take a closer look at the Great Irish IQ Question.

First, Lynn was hardly unique among leading IQ experts in characterizing the Irish as being low IQ. For example, Hans Eysenck, one of the foremost IQ researchers of the 20th century said exactly the same thing in his 1971 book “Race, Intelligence, & Education,” claiming that the Irish IQ was very close to that of American blacks, and that the Irish/English IQ gap was almost exactly the same size as the black/white gap in the U.S., being roughly a full standard deviation. Eysenck’s stated position unsurprisingly caused a considerable furor in the British media, including all sorts of angry responses and even (facetious) threats of violence. So the huge and apparently well-designed 1972 study of 3,466 Irish schoolchildren which placed the mean Irish IQ at just 87 hardly seems an absurd outlier.

But let’s explore the Irish IQ data in a more systematic fashion. Although Lynn has inexplicibly dropped that 1972 study in his latest 2012 book, this new volume otherwise contains a plethora of additional Irish IQ studies, displaying a wide variety of results. Indeed, when we consider the total number of Irish studies–10–and the total aggregate sample size—over 20,000 individuals—we discover that Lynn provides us with more aggregate test data on the IQ of Ireland than for any other country in the entire world. Furthermore, since Lynn used British scores for normalization, and Ireland is geographically and culturally an immediate British neighbor as well as English-speaking, British tests could presumably be used without modification, reducing the risk of language or cultural bias during the translation process. Thus, I think a case can be made that we have more reliable information about the recent IQ history of the Irish than that of any other people in the world.

And what does that information tell us? Here is the complete listing of all IQ studies provided by Lynn (omitting his careless duplications), including sample-size, year, and Flynn-adjusted score, to which I have added a 2009 IQ of 100 based on the recent PISA results, which were almost identical to those of Britain:

  • 96 (1964) = 90
  • 3466 (1972) = 87
  • 1361 (1988) = 97
  • 191 (1990) = 87
  • 2029 (1991) = 96
  • 1361 (1993) = 93
  • 2029 (1993) = 91
  • 10000 (2000) = 95
  • 3937 (2009 PISA) = 100
  • 200 (2012) = 92

Now to my eye, this list of datapoints indicates a clear and obvious rise in Irish IQ, during which the gap to British scores steadily dropped from 13 points in 1972 to zero in 2009. But since my critics will surely say I’m as blind as a bat, I also took out my statistical toolkit and ran a weighted-correlation on the data, comparing year with IQ and weighting by sample size. The result was a correlation of 0.86. Indeed, the pattern is so robust that even if we drop the 2009 PISA score since “it’s not really IQ,” the correlation scarcely changes. Obviously, if tested Irish IQs were innate and unchanging as so many seem to claim, the correlation would have been 0.00, a very different value.

Within the social sciences, a correlation of 0.86 is extraordinarily high, almost implausibly so. The inescapable conclusion is that Irish IQs rose at an almost linear rate during the three or four decades after 1972.

Why this occurred is an entirely different matter. I find it extremely difficult to think of a plausible biological explanation, though others are welcome to try. During this exact period, Ireland was undergoing a very rapid rise in urbanization and affluence, and I’d suggest those factors. Perhaps there’s some other cause instead. But the empirical rise of Flynn-adjusted Irish IQ by nearly a full standard deviation in 37 years seems proven fact.

This rapid convergence between Irish and British IQs should hardly surprise us. According to the GSS, the Wordsum-IQs of (Catholic) Irish-Americans rank among the very highest of any white ethnic group, with a value almost identical to that of their British-American ethnic cousins.


Meanwhile, some equally important evidence has suddenly appeared regarding the separate question of Chinese IQ.

In my original companion article, I presented Lynn’s two dozen samples for East Asians and noted the remarkable fact that virtually all of the IQ results came in at or somewhat above 100, despite the desperate poverty and low socio-economic status of many of the populations when tested. I also pointed out that the Flynn-adjusted national IQs remained approximately constant over the decades, despite massive changes in national wealth and development.

These patterns were totally different than those of European-derived populations, and I hypothesized that for some biological or cultural reason, East Asians were relatively immune to socio-economic deprivation compared to Europeans. Lynn’s latest 2012 book more than doubles the number of such East Asian IQ samples, and these completely follow the same same pattern, strengthening my hypothesis.

Put another way, suppose we examine the many hundreds of national IQ samples collected by Lynn and restrict our attention to those from deeply impoverished and/or overwhelmingly rural populations. Virtually every such East Asian case comes in at or well above 100, while scarcely a single such non-East Asian population scores anything close to 100. The worldwide bifurcation between East Asians and other groups seems almost absolute.

However, a closer examination of the underlying data later led me to consider that the evidence was possibly less strong than I had originally imagined. The vast majority of the East Asian IQ studies reported by Lynn include few details of the circumstances under which they were conducted, but those that do almost invariably turn out to be based upon urban samples, and hence are not necessarily representative of national scores. This raises the possibility that most of the remainder were similarly urban. Whether my IQ urbanization hypothesis is correct or whether cities merely attract brighter people, it is well known that urban populations usually tend to have higher IQ scores, so if the East Asian IQ data did turn out to be almost entirely, any ethnic conclusions would be weakened.

As a related example of this, when the international academic PISA scores were announced last year, the 15M Chinese megalopolis of Shanghai ranked at the absolute top, with scores averaging far above those of any nation in the world, drawing some attention. Since PISA scores are a crude proxy for IQ, Shanghai was estimated to score a very high 111, but as China’s most elite urban center, it was almost certainly a major national outlier, and not to be taken as a fair comparison to national averages elsewhere. (The same was true for the high IQs of Chinese city-states such as Singapore and Hong Kong). Although there were hints that China’s larger scale PISA scores were also very strong, these were merely hints.

However, that has all now changed, as blogger Anatoly Karlin has located the 2009 PISA scores for a dozen major provinces on the Chinese Internet, and published a lengthy post presenting and analyzing them. 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.

The twelve provinces whose scores were released do include several of China’s most developed and best performing areas, including Beijing, Jiangsu, and Zhejiang, as well as Shanghai, so the average is probably a bit above that for the country as a whole. 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.

For example, the reported Chinese PISA scores are far above those of the United States and nearly every European country, many of which are almost totally urbanized and have incomes ten times that of China. Even if we attempt to exclude Europe’s less affluent and lower-performing immigrant populations, and consider only the PISA averages for native Europeans, China’s numbers were exceeded only by the natives of Finland, Germany, Switzerland, and the Low Countries. Consider that this performance was achieved by a country which was still mostly rural, and whose rural incomes averaged little more than \$1000 per year.

Although opinions may certainly differ, I regard this new evidence as very strong support for my “East Asian Exception” hypothesis. I believe it is almost unimagineable that any non-East Asian population of rural villagers with annual incomes in the \$1000 range would have tested IQs very close to 100. Just consider the generally dismal IQ scores we find in Southern Europe, the Balkans, Argentina, and Chile, where incomes are often ten or twenty times that level.

We would certainly expect Chinese numbers to rise further as the country continues to develop, but my point is that East Asian IQs seem to possess a uniquely high floor compared with those of any other population group.

Needless to say, I feel no need to retract any of the conclusions from my previous article China’s Rise, America’s Fall.


Finally, here are links to some interesting recent posts on my overall analysis, spanning the range of debate, commendation, and distortion with bitter denunciation:

(Republished from The American Conservative by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Race/Ethnicity • Tags: IQ, Race/IQ 
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  1. The weighted correlation with time is driven overwhelmingly by the 1972 study, and the 2009 PISA. Drop those, and it falls by about a factor of 10, to negligible levels. This would still be pretty good evidence if Ireland was a random country, but you cherry-picked it precisely for these studies from a much larger universe, adding a severe selection bias.

    What’s the correlation with income growth/urbanization for the unselected sample? It will be much lower than for a country chosen as an outlier for high correlation based on a couple studies. Those studies may have had representativeness problems, giving a systematic bias that large sample sizes do not solve.

  2. cecelia says:

    A factor that you may not be considering is the extent to which bias has been reduced in IQ measurements. IQ tests from the 60’s and 70’s included many class biases which resulted in lower scores for those in the working class.

  3. I get an adjusted R^2 of 0.7. When I leave out the big data point, I get an adjusted R^2 of 0.56. I didn’t try to get fancy with autocorrelated residuals, but the data don’t say what you say it says.

  4. Oh, fiddlesticks; you said correlation, not R^2; your numbers check out.

  5. statsquatch says: • Website

    Were results are driven by 1972 study which includes subjects in the same age cohort as your other driver the 2000 study.

    Do any of these studies come from probability samples like the NLSY in the US? I doubt it.
    If you use a random effects model the trend is not significant.

  6. statsquatch says: • Website

    “An inescapable conclusions”? Nothing is inescapable with this data.

    Your Irish results depend on the 72 study, done in children, and the 2000 study, done in adults. These studies have overlapping age cohorts. Meaning that you are proposing a within individual increase of IQ of half an SD over time. This is a radical contention.

    I doubt these studies represent a probabilistic sample from Eire, unlike the GSS and NLSY in the US, so a simpler explanation is non-systematic sampling error. This hypothesis matches the extreme heterogeneity in this sample.

    If you fit a random effects model the yearly trend is not significant. Also, you should weight by the square root of the sample size (e.g., the Standard Error) to reflect the uncertainty of the estimates. This should bring your R down a little but not much.

  7. JL says:

    “StatSquatch” analysed the same data using a random effects model, see here. He found that the increase in IQ was not statistically significant.

  8. JL says:

    Looking at the Greek data, I don’t see Unz’s “Super Flynn effect”:

    Year=1972, N=400, IQ=88
    Year=1972 N=227, IQ=97
    Year=1973, N=990, IQ=92
    Year=1981, N=220, IQ=95
    Year=1999, N=731, IQ=89

    (The years are publication dates; the data may be a few years older in each case.)

  9. Severn says:

    Ha ha. I love the way you simultaneously argue that there is no genetic basis for claiming that whites are more intelligent than blacks or “Hispanics” (this gap is supposedly all “social” or “cultural”) and also that of course there is a genetic basis for East Asians (and Jews?) being more intelligent than whites.

    Your argument with respect to Europeans rests entirely on a single cherry-picked study from a single cherry-picked country and ignoring the vast amounts of contrary data.

  10. Severn says:

    A commenter on another site made this observation, which I’m copying here in case you missed it.

    “Those Irish children who supposedly had an average IQ of 87 entered the Irish workforce in the late 1970’s. By 1980 they were the age range 14 – 21. By 1990 they were 24 – 31 years of age.

    How did the unfortunate Irish economy fare when this wave of semi-cretins entered the workforce? Between 1979 and 1990, the Irish economy grew at an average of 2.4% per year, outstripping the growth of the economies of virtually every other European county and the US.

    The success of the Irish economy cannot be explained by Ron’s answer – that later generations of Irish were smarter for some reason. Those later generations came too late to explain the rise in Ireland’s standard of living.

    Perhaps Ron believes that it was actually that very same generation of “87 IQ” people whose intelligence rose. That would answer the question of how people so stupid performed so well. And there appears to be nothing in the Unz conception of intelligence to preclude the IQ’s of many individual people rising dramatically over time.

    Once you have rejected a genetic basis for IQ and embraced a social/cultural model, there is no reason to assume that IQ has to rise on a generational basis. You should be able to take a group of people with an average IQ of 85 who grew up in one social/cultural model, immerse them in a different social/cultural model, and see their IQ rise sharply and quickly.”

  11. Severn says:

    In my original companion article, I presented Lynn’s two dozen samples for East Asians and noted the remarkable fact that virtually all of the IQ results came in at or somewhat above 100, despite the desperate poverty and low socio-economic status of many of the populations when tested.

    I’m utterly perplexed as to that you mean by this. Lynn has data on just five East Asian “countries” – Japan, China, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Singapore. (The latter two are city-states rather than countries in the commonly accepted sense and are populated by ethnic Chinese for the most part) Three out of the five were not notable even fifty years ago for the “desperate poverty and low socio-economic status” of their populations.

    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.

    There is absolutely nothing in Lynn’s data to suggest that the the East Asia IQ test takers were “desperately poor” while the European test takers were “successful and well-educated”. This is just more editorializing on your part.

  12. Eoin says:

    That 2009 PSA result was a decline from the previous results where Ireland was above average for the OECD countries, in 2006 Ireland did much better in maths and this fact caused consternation in Irish educational circles. There is some other evidence that Irish IQ or education is better than the Anglo Saxon. Northern Ireland gets the best results in high school tests, a curriculum shared with England and Wales though not Scotland and the Catholic schools do better again, twice as well as protestant schools ie the native Irish. This could be a dumbing down effect in the UK, a grade inflation caused by Labour policies.

  13. I would like to see these studies compared to studies on access to protein. The earlier Irish-later Irish and the Ireland Irish-US Irish score variations point to this.

    Also, you need to account for the motivation of the test-takers. Those who see the test as a pointless exercise within a static socio-economic setting are simply not going to try as hard as those who believe doing well on the test might get them somewhere.

    It is important to remember that we have cultures of failure that drag people down and cultures of success that drive people forward. Taking tests with a group who negates achievement is demoralizing.

    I have noticed that Mr. Unz, who I believe does important work, loves statistics, but seems to lack what C. Wright Mills called “The Sociological Imagination”. His work needs more context.

  14. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    The Irish English IQ gap in the past may have really been just the typical urban rural IQ gap.
    While in Ireland it seemed not to be bothered by these studies, thinking they were clearly a load of s_ _ _ e—which apparently they were.

  15. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    My conclusion:
    IQ studies are not interchangeable.

  16. Whilst the ecological lessons from the low IQs of Bushmen and Australian Aborigines are ignored by the researchers in the plain sight of clear evidence from scientists like Tom McMahon, Tim Flannery and Gordon Orians and Antoni Milewski, there exists much IQ sensitivity to environment (which is why I have urged Richard Lynn in emails to work with genotypic IQ as far as possible. The Greek data especially show quite a few errors from small sample sizes, which makes Lynns’ feat all the more impressive.

    The probable cause of East Asian’s high IQs is the hypereutrophic Asian seas driven by cold currents and rivers that wash out enormous amounts of sediment from the Himalayas to the Pacific via the Yellow, Liao, Hai and Yangtze. As Michael Huston shows, these seas have ten times the secondary productivity of the warm, oligotrophic seas on which Australian Aborigines lived (and which were found throughout the world and not just in Australia before the Antarctic Ice Sheet formed in the Oligocene). The skill needed to hunt these marine resources, as shown by the high encephalisation of cetaceans compared to cool-climate terrestrial mammals, is extremely high vis-a-vis hunting terrestrial game.

  17. Mrcan says:

    I.Q. although not static is nevertheless a valuable tool. The Irish anomaly reminds me of the Dutch. The Dutch the tallest people on the planet were formerly considered to be the shortest people in Europe. The Irish in Ireland and in the diaspora are currently doing extremely well in intelligence tests yet formerly did quite poorly. why? The Irish historically were doubly oppressed. They were oppressed by the British and Protestant ascendancy both in Ireland, the British Isles and in the diaspora. The Irish were also culturally oppressed by the Roman Catholic Church. Acknowledging their shortcomings began to invest in their future. The investment Ireland has made in education took several decades to work its way through the population. The Ireland of today is also much less theocratic than in the past where thinking and enquiry were discouraged by the Church. The Irish in the diaspora living in a freer society, have had many more economic and educational opportunities which has enabled them to become one of the most successful White ethnic groups in America. They have done this, perhaps ironically for the most part remaining Catholic.

  18. I think from memory, both Eysenck and Lynn both made the obvious point that the main reason for the low average IQ in Ireland was that all the high IQ Irish had spent the previous two centuries leaving the place. One can think of many “British” intellectual or cultural figures over the years who were actually Irish born or descended: Conan Doyle, Burke, AJ Cronin, John Lennon etc.

    Possible the reason for the steep rise in the figures might have been that many Irish professionals moved back when the economy started taking off?

  19. I found your first analysis of urbanisation driving IQs very sound and plausible but you’re missing the the other elephant in the room, outside of the east asians (and south asians I assume) – african americans. Despite living in generally even more urbanised environments than many whites or even hispanics, african american IQ levels while better than Africa certainly, are nowhere near whites or of course, Asians. This leads me to suggest that both you and Lynn are both correct – environmental factors and genetics are important. Maybe you could say environment in the short run (~1-2 generations) and genetics in the long run.

    Likewise, I concur, once China becomes more affluent and diets improve we should see IQs approaching at least Hong Kong levels on average. My only dissension here being that Japan has hit a ceiling not too much above Western Europe.

    As an Irishman I also note anecdotally, that Irish IQs have definitely increased as we passed through the Celtic Tiger. The older Irish are pretty thick owing to a quaint and some would say, innocent, upbringing. The newer Irish, with exposure to the internet, wealth, urban living and travel, free education are at a different level…but what the lord giveth in IQ, he taketh away in testosterone…which is more dangerous I would theorise.

  20. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    May not be the East Asian exception but Communist did a good job on public education. Cuba is also a poor country with high IQ population relative to income, even though over sixty percent of their population is Black.

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