2007 August 19 Sunday
Smarter States More Livable Places

Audacious Epigone finds that IQ offers a very strong correlation with livability of a state.

A state's live-in desirability, as defined by CQ Press in the form of a livability index that considers 44 social, cultural, and economic factors, rigorously correlates with that state's estimated average IQ. The correlation using my numbers is .78, while using VCU Professor McDaniel's subsequent better numbers yields an r-value of .80. In both cases, the p-value is effectively zero.

That .80 constitutes a stronger relationship with livability than with any other variable considered. Keep in mind, the importance of IQ underestimated by this method, as many of those variables are part of the 44 used to gauge livability--in this sense, they have a built in statistical advantage that the IQ estimates do not have. Other correlations with livability include:

Illegitimacy rate (-.68)
Average life expectancy (.62)
Racial composition of the population (.62)
% of the population with a bachelor's degree or greater (.56)
Violent crime rate (-.54)
Unemployment rate (.50)
Per-student educational expenditures (.45)
Gun ownership rate (-.44)
Median age (.20)

Being surrounded by dummies lowers one's quality of life. The more dummies that have dumb babies the poorer your quality of life will become. Not a pretty thing to say. But the truth can be ugly. Audacious says raising IQ should become a primary policy goal. I agree.

An incredible amount of time and effort is spent arguing between competing policy prescriptions which either have little to offer toward improving quality of life or which have a net effect of lowering quality of life. I tire of hearing liberals and pseudo-conservatives posing as morally superior or more realistic than each other while both groups ignore empirical reality.

The correlation of IQ and per capita GDP is so strong that it is exponential. This strongly suggests that lower IQ immigrants lower the productivity of higher IQ workers. Some libertarian economists want us to believe that immigrants of lesser intellectual ability free up smarter people for smarter work and enable greater specialization of labor. But the results reported in Lynn and Vanhanen's IQ and the Wealth Of Nations show this is not the case. Dummies create too many external costs for smarties that they more than cancel out any benefits that come from the theoretical potential of greater specialization of labor. There appears to be a threshold IQ below which people can contribute very little to raising per capita GDP.

If realistic discussion of IQ research was not treated by the Left as a violation of a taboo we could start building a consensus on how to raise IQ. Would nutritional improvements, drugs, genetic engineering, or eugenic breeding practices work best for boosting IQ? The answer depends on when and where you ask that question. In Africa better nutrition and better disease control would both boost IQ. In Western economies my guess is that our best bet for boosting IQ is to encourage more eugenic breeding practices.

Advances in genetic testing technologies will bring the costs of genetic testing down so far that the genetic variants that contribute to determining IQ will be discovered over the next 10 years or so. Then the taboo against IQ discussions will break down as the scientific evidence makes the existing taboo impossible to defend. When that new era arrives methods to boost IQ will finally get the attention they deserve.

On a related note see my previous post Benthamite Libertarian Collectivists Wrong On Open Borders.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2007 August 19 02:46 PM  Immigration Dumbing Down

John S Bolton said at August 19, 2007 4:13 PM:

I would like to see this elaborated on, the significance of the shape of the curve vs. linear correlation, etc.
Paging statistics cognoscenti... it means at least that the linear correlation
understates the stength of the relation between IQ and per capita output on the scale of nations.
Now we have the state correlations showing similarly high numbers.
This all does point to genetic factors, as one might conclude also by the historical comparisons
in terms of miles, and relative cultural penetration.
If we have cultural explanations to give the leading role to, and leaving little
or nothing for genetic difference to account for;
how then could western culture with great advances of technology and science to show
IN SITU, have been able to penetrate thousands of miles, in 100 or so years,
where it had the same genetic substrate
to ride along on, and not be able to penetrate even
a few miles off the coast, almost anywhere in the tropics in hundreds,
even 500 years?

Audacious Epigone said at August 19, 2007 7:29 PM:

The number of jobs in which a lower IQ is beneficial is very small. John pointed out tomato-grading. Perhaps also jobs like folding a hundreds of towels in the laundry of a large resort--jobs that provide so little stimulation to a person of average intelligence that they find it impossible to stay even remotely motivated. But even then, it probably only holds up in a sterile environment. Give the average Joe a personal radio or and IPod, and he probably outdoes the person with an IQ two SDs below his. Of course, these types of jobs provide marginal value and are the most easily mechanized.

You should provide a link to the post dealing with the libertarian fallacy you allude to. It's definitely germane to the topic.

Ned said at August 20, 2007 8:58 AM:

The data are striking. What, then, should we do? One solution might be to pay poor/low IQ women not to have children. Another might be to provide free birth control, including abortions, to all women. Rich/high IQ women already have full access to these services, so making them available to all at no charge would grant poor women equal access. Raising the mean IQ of the population would probably do more to promote prosperity than all the Great Society giveaway programs put together.

Rick Darby said at August 20, 2007 7:34 PM:

I remember reading a few years ago about a foundation -- basically one individual, I believe -- that issued reasonably substantial monetary grants to women living on welfare for having their tubes tied. Does anyone else recall this or have a reference?

It was completely voluntary. In terms of bang for the buck, probably the best social amelioration scheme anyone has devised in years, since "eugenics" became a dirty word because it was practiced on unwilling subjects in some places. Naturally the stupid couldn't make distinctions between forced and voluntary eugenics; all they could do was foam at the mouth whenever the subject came up.

But we live in a society where economics is everything. And so according to our current superstitions, the improvement of society cannot come about except by making people richer or seeing to it that they somehow have more stuff. No matter how often this kind of social engineering falls short in practice, the only prescription we hear is more of it.

Encouraging high-IQ breeding and discouraging low-IQ breeding, without compulsion, is far more apt to lead to a better society.

Randall Parker said at August 20, 2007 7:53 PM:


You are thinking of Barbara Harris and Project Prevention.

Audacious Epigone said at August 21, 2007 11:05 AM:


Project Prevention is a great operation. It was my top charity last year, and will probably be this year as well.

I'm not especially enthusiastic about how Harris (who had been a foster parent for lots of 'crack babies' before starting her organization) has moved from focusing primarily on ligations to less permanent solutions, like stipends for continued contraceptive use. But the good isn't the enemy of the perfect.

James Bowery said at August 21, 2007 6:03 PM:

A more complete list of correlations with McDaniel's IQ estimates.

This rank ordering automatically applies sqrt or log to one or both of the variables to maximize the correlation before entering it into the list of correlations. It does not attempt to maximize normality of the distributions so the significance measures are a maximum.

Brian H said at November 25, 2007 10:19 PM:

I recommend Kornbluth's "The Marching Morons", if you can find it.

But fortunately genetic variability is sufficient that many dumb parents have bright kids, and unfortunately the reverse. One case is often the exception that proves the rule; years ago (in Chicago, IIRC) a child periodically fostered to an upper middle class family had a 40 point IQ jump (85 to 125) when there, which vanished each time she was returned to her mother. The case history didn't say where she ended up.

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