Everybody Talks About Low IQ in Africans But Nobody Does Anything About It

The title of this article (first published in the original Al Fin blog) was originally meant as a humorous paraphrase of Mark Twain’s famous quote about the weather.

Everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it. __ Mark Twain?

The thing that makes the quote funny, is that most modern people understand that there is not much that humans can do to change the weather to be more to their liking. But the reality of low IQ — with its accompanying poverty, violence, underachievement, and human misery — is not so funny. And there may be something that could be done about it, if only the politically correct drones who run government, academia, and the media, were willing to acknowledge the problem and help devise open and honest solutions.

IQ of Nations (Wikipedia)

By almost any measure imaginable, Subsaharan Africa is the most backward collection of nations on Earth. When taking measures of literacy, productivity, education, rule of law, corruption, crime, poverty, innovation in terms of patents, Nobel Prizes or Fields Medals, health care, quality of life, etc., SS Africa falls at or near the bottom.

IQ testing has consistently placed average population IQs of most Subsaharan African nations well below 80, with only the Australian aboriginal population (and closely related populations) scoring consistently lower. In other words, the actual performance of the SS African nations by almost any measure is perfectly consistent with the average population IQs which are generally obtained via testing.

If SS Africans consistently outperformed their putative population IQ scores, there would be excellent reason to doubt the validity of those scores. In that case, there would be ample justification to perform much more rigorous IQ testing across the nations of SS Africa. But even with the general agreement between national and regional performance and tested IQ scores, any honest scientist would insist that a program of careful and thorough cognitive testing be carried out in the region.

The reason for this is that there are many possible reasons for the low IQ scores in the region, some of which may well be amenable to intervention — either now or in the foreseeable future. Valid baseline testing is crucial before any broad scale intervention, in order to assess its effectiveness.

Examples of interventions which might conceivably result in increased IQ scores across parts of SS Africa include eradicating or reducing many of the parasitic and infectious diseases in the region, improving general levels of maternal and childhood nutrition, improving early childhood intellectual stimuli and education, providing greater access to books and the internet, reducing local levels of violence and warfare, and so on . . .

Other viable interventions should suggest themselves as we learn more about the nature of intelligence. Two intriguing candidates for improving IQ which are available now include neurofeedback and working memory training.

Why is IQ important?

The results from a series of follow-up studies indicate that the IQ score at age 13 could be viewed as a relatively good indicator for future life outcomes, defined in terms of attained education, occupational status, and material well being. Dramatic differences in this attainment between the groups of respondents with high and low IQ scores attest to this conclusion. Smaller, yet still significant, differences between talented teenagers and their counterparts from the two control groups who apparently did not have the high IQ advantage also support the thesis that IQ matters much for life success. _Source

Intelligence is a life-long trait that exerts powerful influences on educational success, occupational status, use of health services, life style and recreational choices. _ScienceDirect

Specifically, adults with higher intelligence show attenuated cortical thinning and more pronounced cortical thickening over time than do subjects with average or below average IQ. Genes influencing variability in both intelligence and brain plasticity partly drive these associations. Thus, not only does the brain continue to change well into adulthood, these changes are functionally relevant because they are related to intelligence. _J.Neurosci

Relationships between brain volumes and IQ is being solidly established using MRI and DTI studies, and the relationship between cognitive aptitude – brain volume – and genetic complement is likewise being clearly elaborated bit by bit.

A lot of research will be needed to tease apart the portion of cognitive aptitude attributable to particular constellations of genes, from what is due to various factors in the environment. Throughout this very important process, valid and thorough cognitive testing across SS Africa — and any other regions where interventions are contemplated — is absolutely necessary.

Morbidity, mortality, life accomplishment and quality of life are all at stake. Leftist academics, politicians, and pundits attempt to cover up the problem, which only creates greater hardship and misery in the future. Much better to clearly define the problem, then discover what can be done about it — and political correctness be damned.

More: Interesting website with an interesting assortment of articles on IQ

Finally, look over the charts below and consider what kind of society you could put together with a population whose mean IQ is 70, with a standard deviation of 15.

Genetics and Intelligence

Linda Gottfredson: Why g matters

More on g from Linda Gottfredson

Genes, Brain Size, IQ: The link is clear


A glimpse at the complexity involved in studying brain development and IQ in children: Normal vs. ADHD (PDF). ADHD is heritable, just as is IQ. We see from this study how small genetic differences can affect brain development in childhood. Clearly, larger genetic differences could lead to an even larger divergence in childhood brain development.

That is why it is so important to move beyond modern politically correct denialism regarding genes and IQ, and genes and behaviour. The fate of our world may depend upon the quality of our knowledge here.

Human brains are terrible things to waste

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22 Responses to Everybody Talks About Low IQ in Africans But Nobody Does Anything About It

  1. LOW LAT says:

    Why can’t anyone accept the fact that blacks are less cognitively capable than whites? It is a fact, whites migrated out of Africa to Europe where they were forced to survive using their intelligence.
    But in Africa this is not the case, They live in warm tropical climates where you didn’t to be smart to survive.

    • Steve says:

      If you didn’t need to be smart to survive in Africa, why did humans evolve there from more ape like ancestors in the first place? All that extra intelligence, useless was it?

      • RJJ says:

        Both morons…

      • Richard says:

        Some intelligence was obviously advantageous – evolution does not simply occur, it occurs when mutations are advantageous, and are retained by the organism through enhanced procreation – but increased environmental challenge means that increased mutation leading to increased evolutionary fitness is rewarded through enhanced procreation.

  2. alfin2101 says:

    Steve: Africa is a big place with a wide range of evolutionary niches. Genetic diversity in African humans is large, indicating a lot of “evolution.” But evolution works to adapt a breeding population to its environment, and never stops.

    Various pre-humans evolved in Africa, then left for other continents. The same with homo sapiens. Evolution continued working after the populations diverged to different environments. We see the results of this divergent evolution when we make comparisons between the different breeding populations of the planet.

    Science looks at the evidence dispassionately, and tries to understand. Political correctness denies the evidence, and tries to divert attention to other issues. Each of us has a choice in how to look at the issue.

  3. I’m an African, a pure African, I have recently been taking IQ tests and all my result have been between 129 and 143. I’m not here to lie and say Africans have high IQ’s, I understand I’m one of the few exception, but I do believe as we eradicate poverty on the continent our IQ’s will improve slowly but dramatically.
    I can tell here that there is a strong correlation between social-economic background and intelligence went compare the way me and my friends, who’ve grown up affluent, reason and the way my relatives in the rural areas reason, I fell like Einstein around them. I feel a little sadness but more optimism because I know that were not destined to fail.

    • alfin2101 says:

      Thanks for your comment. Clearly many Africans exist who have high IQs. I have worked with several such persons.

      It is in the “statistical sense” that one is forced to place Africa and Africans at the lower end of the spectrum for aptitude and achievement. I applaud your optimism for the future.

      In the present, the best and most recent appraisal for average IQ in sub Saharan Africa, comes from Rindermann (via Erwin Schmidt): http://meinnaturwissenschaftsblog.blogspot.com/2013/12/african-cognitive-ability.html

      The best estimate for average IQ south of the Sahara was given as “75” IQ points in Rindermann’s recent paper. Some researchers put forward average estimates at or below “70” and others give estimates of around “80” IQ points. 75, plus or minus 5, would seem a reasonable estimate at this time.

      The problem with acquiring more precise numbers is that most agencies who fund scientific research in the west are afraid of the likely results of more careful and comprehensive studies. Unfortunately, when you turn your back on reality, it is likely to bite you in a painful location at a time when you are unprepared.

      • Martin says:

        Ok, just had to test if my comment was going to post.

        Here is an idea, Alfin2101:
        I’m sure you agree that diversity is a winner when it comes to evolution, adaptability and ultimately survival. I think that Neanderthal blood helped the humans that migrated from Africa to Europe adapt best. Imagine, you have a huge brain and strength like Neanderthal and you mix it with the fast slender vocally precise Africans and you have a improved human.
        Fast forward and you have a global population where everyone in the world has Neanderthal blood except for SS Africans. They are they’re only ones that don’t have that. Everyone else in the planet has up to approx. 5% Neanderthal blood. Scientist have found multiple genes that benefit the adaptation to weather and other environmental difficulties.
        I have also seen cases where a person that looks 100% black is actually in a Caucasian Y – Haplo Group, which means that they look black from the outside but are actually mostly white at the genetic level.
        I haven’t developed a good eye to spot a SS African with 0% Neanderthal Blood to a SS African with 1%+ Neanderthal Blood.
        I don’t have a conclusion but modern SS Africans will possibly fade out as did the Neanderthals. Thanks to both we now have a mix that may be more adaptable.
        I myself am 60% Native American/Asian and 20% Euro with 1% Nigerian. I’m glad we live in a future where we can go beyond skin color to gather facts and details of origin.

  4. Bill Gates says:

    Public Domain: All information in public domain. All academic research is published in journals.

    All these journals are now in internet for all to see. All journals are either “””public domain””” or “”fair use””” for all to see.

    IQ 100. Half above 100/Half below 100. Half/Half. the gap between races have been known/tested for the last 80-100 years.

    Jews have highest IQ at 115. Sub-saharian africans have IQ at 70.

    All IQ test are benchmarked/standard at 100. one hundred. Half above 100/Half below 100.

    All public information in public domain. Public domain for all to see for free free free.

  5. Subsahara says:

    I am also pure African and have an SAT score that translates to an IQ of 147.83 which is int the 99.989 percentile. What is surprising is that I know many other people like me. While it is true that Africa on Average has the lowest IQs it is also worth noting that Africans have the HIGHEST RATE of GROWTH of IQ. This is explained by the flynn effect and it is what I observe here. People who have a family in which about the older 3 generations were educated tended to be exceptionally smart.

    • alfin2101 says:

      Your comment is quite interesting, particularly the level of precision with which you report your IQ score and IQ percentile. Congratulations on your high score and the very precise manner in which you report it.

      The best brains in Africa seem to cluster within particular tribes, such as Nigeria’s Igbo tribe. It is too bad that tribal rivalries often prevent Africa’s best from rising to the top levels of African society.

      Africa certainly needs as many bright people as it can get, given the preponderance of persons with very low IQ scores, low levels of executive function, and apparently low levels of aptitude. It is a shame that many of Africa’s best persons tend to migrate outward, although in many ways it is also understandable.

      As far as the Flynn effect — more properly referred to as the Lynn-Flynn effect — the jury is still out on any real world impact it may have on populations.

      It is likely that families with members of high intelligence will have many members who seek out institutions of higher education, so the direction of causation may very well be the opposite to what is often inferred.

      Again, congratulations on your high score and level of precision.

      • Subsahara says:

        I actually posted the numbers at the precision an online conversion chart for SAT-IQ offers. I had a 1550/1600(800Math,750Verbal). I am actually from Ethiopia,which apparently has the lowest average IQ in the world. This doesn’t seem right to me because I know many people who are just as or even smarter than I am.It is indeed true that families with members of high intelligence migrate to western countries. Recently I read that there are more Ethiopian physicians in the city of Seattle than there are in Ethiopia.I myself got a scholarship to Stanford for studying computer science this year and am moving to the states next year. I know about many other people who are also joining an elite institution in the united states this year. Until a rigorous scientific survey is taken,I cannot accept these statistic as they contradicts what I see here everyday. Sure we are not even near towards as being as civilized as the western countries but even in the most rural and unexpected areas here, there are exceptional bright people , who if had been given the opportunity would have made it very far in life.

  6. Arvind from India says:

    Hey guys in Africa – don’t worry too much about an African IQ ceiling. American IQ in 1900 was 67 or so. That was enough to kick start an industrial country that would later become a superpower. Of course the Americans had good institutions derived from Europe and it’s own 100+ years of governance. I guess there is a small genetic factor, but IQ’s are largely cultural. Nurture dominates nature a lot. I would suggest a read of the book “outliers” to see the effect in action on how even geniuses don’t “make it” when raised under suboptimal conditions. (case in point – Chris Langdon who has an IQ of more than 200)

    • Richard says:

      If it was 67, then it must have been about 40 in Africa. The thing is, we know that our grandparents were not imbeciles. The Flynn effect doesn’t seem to reflect actual intelligence increases. We don’t really know how it works.

  7. I am an African-American male from the metro Atlanta area. I grew up in an all black lower middle class community. I believe it was in the 3rd or 4th grade that I was accepted into the Discovery Program. To be eligible students must qualify in three of the following four areas:
    -Mental Ability (CogAT)
    Minimum score of 96th percentile (or higher) in at least one sub-test area
    -Achievement (ITBS)
    Minimum score of 90th percentile (or higher) on the total reading, total math, or complete composite
    Minimum score of 90th percentile (or higher) on an assessment for creativity
    Minimum of 90th percentile (or higher) on an assessment for motivation (Grades K-12)

    In the 7th grade I was identified by Duke TIP as gifted and talented. Standards used for identification: Students must score in the 95th percentile or higher on a grade-level standardized achievement test, aptitude test, mental-ability test, approved state criterion-referenced test, or 125 or above on an IQ test. Duke had all seventh graders it identified take the SAT. I scored in the middle 50% range of the 37,713 seventh graders that took the test. Then in the 8th grade I went to a majority white school outside of my school district. I was in all advance classes. I was one of few black in the advanced classes. Most other blacks were in the normal level class. I began to feel insecure. I felt like I had few people to identify with and that I didn’t belong to either group, and my scholastic performance began to slip. Also keep in mind that this white community was much more affluent which also contributed to me feeling insecure. I went from being an all A student to being a B student. When I took the SAT later in high school I scored just mediocre. My last couple of years in high school I developed an interest in opera. I was accepted into the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music from which I graduated with a 3.2GPA. I never had a piano lesson or any music theory classes prior to attending. Yet I was in music classes with gifted music students from Asia, Europe, and from all over the United States most having received formal training from a very early age. I was still relatively successful there. I actually had a piano teacher tell me because my piano skills weren’t high that I would have a difficult time in the field. Take about a blow to confidence.

    Moving forward I have sung in some of the world’s leading opera houses including the Zurich Opera, the Hamburgishe Staatsoper, New York City Opera just to name a few. I have sung in Italian (primarily), German, and English with repertoire ranging from Mozart to Verdi to Gershwin. Last year I began looking into research on the IQ of musicians and I took the best online test I could find (it wasn’t free). My overall general score was 125. And I scored above 130 on 9 of the 13 individual categories of the test.

    I am now back in school studying Oracle Database Administration and C++. I have a 4.0GPA. Since My SAT scores were so old I had to take the Compass test for placement. I scored 94 out 100 for Writing, and 96 out of 100 for Reading, and Algebra was 69 out of 100(keep in mind my last math class was 17 years ago).

    From my perspective I think socioeconomics has a lot to do with gap in test scores between whites and blacks. I also think whites place much more emphasis on the importance of education. And because they often times occupy a higher socioeconomic position they are able to provide the means to support education from a very early age.

    That’s just my two cents.

    • alfin2101 says:

      Thanks for your inspiring personal note. I wish more persons with experiences such as yourself would put themselves forward as proper role models — for persons of all races.

      When Al Fin looks at racial comparisons, it is done from a statistical — or population — standpoint. That is the only valid way to compare populations. But the stories of individuals can be inspiring, and also need to be told.

    • James Rhyee says:

      Dear Fred:
      Don’t get too defensive. If you are intelligent as you claim to be, you should know your case is just an anecdote, which can not be generalized. Perhaps lucky for you who seem to have an IQ in the top 0.1% range. Which cannot imply the average IQ of the SS Africans otherwise. As you know we are talking about the statistics here. And no offense to you.

      • Richard says:

        For some reason, people don’t seem able to understand that statistics deals with large data sets, and not individual exceptions.

    • Richard says:

      African-Americans are “black” in skin, but are not “pure” sub-Saharan Africans. There has been a great deal of miscegenation in the US, and so the relationship that you find, say, in Africa does not exist. In South Africa, the average “coloured” or mixed-race IQ is the same as the average US black IQ (85), which tends to confirm this. I don’t imagine there are many US blacks who have IQ’s of 70, which is the average in sub-Saharan Africa. I am from Africa, and when I went to the US, this was quite noticeable to me.

  8. Yzark's Human Friend says:

    My IQ is a trillion-billion-zillion-million, and I can communicate fairly well with advanced species that are invisible to our dimension and normal senses. We even play chess sometimes because they are cool with that (its child’s play to us though.) I don’t think Yzark likes me too much because I show off sometimes, he says I’m pretty smart for a human. I stay modest though, and he teases me for not taking over the planet. A mere IQ of 150 would make one as smart as a slime booger on planet Zhemark.

    No seriously my IQ is 120, do I get points for creativity though? I want a MENSA brownie 😛

  9. Tim Boland says:

    One thing not mentioned is that there are various kinds of intelligence: academic, spatial, kinesthetic, athletic and that kind of intelligence related to musical and artistic geniuses. It seems highly likely that those early hominid Africans who migrated out of Africa into Europe, for example, encountered more challenging conditions in terms of terrain, with less flatland, more hills and mountains, and densely forested and shrubby landscapes. I would think it may have been more challenging to track and kill prey animals in densely forested areas, especially during harsh winters.

    When we think in terms of very early humans, who had anything but a modern existence or tools, those individuals who were the most adaptive and ingenious in relating to these challenges and colder weather were the individuals who often would survive and pass on their genes.

    I once posited this idea to a friend from Russia, who came from an area and family hostile to Jewish people. I suggested that Jewish people tend to have high IQs, as they are the ones whose ancestors survived the pogroms and other horrors so had to be especially intelligent, and adaptive, those individuals then passing on their genes to the next generation.

    • alfin2101 says:

      You may consider reading “The Ten Thousand Year Explosion” by Harpending and Cochran. It provides a deeper investigation into why Ashkenazim average higher scores on IQ tests. More

      A more demanding environment is likely to select for more resourceful breeders, within the specific demands of the particular environment, as long as it doesn’t kill them off.

      The following diatribe is not directed at you, but rather to the people who use Gardner’s theory to excuse poor performance by particular groups:

      Howard Gardner’s unproven theory of multiple intelligences is something of a red herring and an exercise in miscategorisation. One can easily take a particular skill and label it “an intelligence,” but does it add to the body of knowledge about intelligence, or does it confuse the issue?

      For example, what if we labeled the ability to roll one’s tongue a certain way as a type of tongue intelligence? Or the trait of “double-jointedness” as a type of joint intelligence? The ability to play chess well as a type of “chess intelligence?” The ability to whistle, a type of whistle intelligence? The ability to wiggle one’s ears as a type of ear wiggling intelligence?

      People exhibit a wide range of skills and abilities, but they should not all be treated as “intelligences.” Doing so is often a deliberate attempt to sabotage a particular, well defined and limited field of study within psychology — which has provided excellent results when tested against the real world.

      The study of “g” or general factor for intelligence, is best left unsullied by violations of Occam;s rule.

      There is a wide range of excuses made for groups who score low on IQ and other aptitude tests, including stereotype threat, cultural incompatibility, multiple intelligences, lack of relevance to real life, etc etc. People who make such excuses never seem to stick around to test their claims in a rigorous manner. It is almost as if they desperately wish to change the subject.

      I highly recommend reading this PDF document by intelligence scholar Linda Gottfredsono:

      Why “g” Matters (PDF>

      After reading it, one should easily see why the concept of “intelligence” is limited to a specific set of factors, which can be easily tested in persons of any culture, and parsimoniously expressed as “g” for purposes of comparison.

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