What is the IQ Breaking Point?

How Low Can Average IQ Go Before Countries Fail?

Blogger Staffan looks at this issue from the standpoint of the correlations of IQ with multiple societal variables — (via HBDChick) — , including education, number of scientists and engineers, per capita income, crime, corruption, democracy, life expectancy, poverty & unemployment, etc. Staffan arrives at a magic average IQ number of “97,” below which a society will tend to break down.

The IQ of Nations table below should provide a visual overview for comparison. A high IQ is only a “necessary” condition for a stable and prosperous society, and not a “sufficient” condition. North Korea, for example, should have roughly the same average IQ as South Korea and thus about the same level of prosperity. But since North Korea’s government does not allow citizens to freely exchange ideas, skills, and goods, North Korea is badly hobbled as a nation.

Russia is hobbled by its alcohol dependence. The US is becoming hobbled by disastrous government policies that have grown progressively worse under President Obama — with national malaise worsening over time.

It is possible for nations in possession of rich natural resources such as oil or other mineral wealth to economically out-perform national IQ for a time, until either the wealth runs out, or the government becomes ever more corrupt to the point of Zimbabwe level dysfunction.

IQ is not everything, but it is the beginning of great possibilities, if it is developed and then set free to create and exchange. And remember that average IQs can decline over time. Intelligent people need to devise workarounds for all likely contingencies.

The intelligence scores came from work carried out earlier this decade by Richard Lynn, a British psychologist, and Tatu Vanhanen, a Finnish political scientist, who analysed IQ studies from 113 countries, and from subsequent work by Jelte Wicherts, a Dutch psychologist.

Countries are ranked highest to lowest national IQ score.







1 Singapore 108
2 South Korea 106
3 Japan 105
4 Italy 102
5 Iceland 101
5 Mongolia 101
6 Switzerland 101
7 Austria 100
7 China 100
7 Luxembourg 100
7 Netherlands 100
7 Norway 100
7 United Kingdom 100
8 Belgium 99
8 Canada 99
8 Estonia 99
8 Finland 99
8 Germany 99
8 New Zealand 99
8 Poland 99
8 Sweden 99
9 Andorra 98
9 Australia 98
9 Czech Republic 98
9 Denmark 98
9 France 98
9 Hungary 98
9 Latvia 98
9 Spain 98
9 United States 98
10 Belarus 97
10 Malta 97
10 Russia 97
10 Ukraine 97
11 Moldova 96
11 Slovakia 96
11 Slovenia 96
11 Uruguay 96
12 Israel 95
12 Portugal 95
13 Armenia 94
13 Georgia 94
13 Kazakhstan 94
13 Romania 94
13 Vietnam 94
14 Argentina 93
14 Bulgaria 93
15 Greece 92
15 Ireland 92
15 Malaysia 92
16 Brunei 91
16 Cambodia 91
16 Cyprus 91
16 FYROM 91
16 Lithuania 91
16 Sierra Leone 91
16 Thailand 91
17 Albania 90
17 Bosnia and Herzegovina 90
17 Chile 90
17 Croatia 90
17 Kyrgyzstan 90
17 Turkey 90
18 Cook Islands 89
18 Costa Rica 89
18 Laos 89
18 Mauritius 89
18 Serbia 89
18 Suriname 89
19 Ecuador 88
19 Mexico 88
19 Samoa 88
20 Azerbaijan 87
20 Bolivia 87
20 Brazil 87
20 Guyana 87
20 Indonesia 87
20 Iraq 87
20 Myanmar (Burma) 87
20 Tajikistan 87
20 Turkmenistan 87
20 Uzbekistan 87
21 Kuwait 86
21 Philippines 86
21 Seychelles 86
21 Tonga 86
22 Cuba 85
22 Eritrea 85
22 Fiji 85
22 Kiribati 85
22 Peru 85
22 Trinidad and Tobago 85
22 Yemen 85
23 Afghanistan 84
23 Bahamas, The 84
23 Belize 84
23 Colombia 84
23 Iran 84
23 Jordan 84
23 Marshall Islands 84
23 Micronesia, Federated States of 84
23 Morocco 84
23 Nigeria 84
23 Pakistan 84
23 Panama 84
23 Paraguay 84
23 Saudi Arabia 84
23 Solomon Islands 84
23 Uganda 84
23 United Arab Emirates 84
23 Vanuatu 84
23 Venezuela 84
24 Algeria 83
24 Bahrain 83
24 Libya 83
24 Oman 83
24 Papua New Guinea 83
24 Syria 83
24 Tunisia 83
25 Bangladesh 82
25 Dominican Republic 82
25 India 82
25 Lebanon 82
25 Madagascar 82
25 Zimbabwe 82
26 Egypt 81
26 Honduras 81
26 Maldives 81
26 Nicaragua 81
27 Barbados 80
27 Bhutan 80
27 El Salvador 80
27 Kenya 80
28 Guatemala 79
28 Sri Lanka 79
28 Zambia 79
29 Congo, Democratic Republic of the 78
29 Nepal 78
29 Qatar 78
30 Comoros 77
30 South Africa 77
31 Cape Verde 76
31 Congo, Republic of the 76
31 Mauritania 76
31 Senegal 76
32 Mali 74
32 Namibia 74
33 Ghana 73
34 Tanzania 72
35 Central African Republic 71
35 Grenada 71
35 Jamaica 71
35 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 71
35 Sudan 71
36 Antigua and Barbuda 70
36 Benin 70
36 Botswana 70
36 Rwanda 70
36 Togo 70
37 Burundi 69
37 Cote d’Ivoire 69
37 Ethiopia 69
37 Malawi 69
37 Niger 69
38 Angola 68
38 Burkina Faso 68
38 Chad 68
38 Djibouti 68
38 Somalia 68
38 Swaziland 68
39 Dominica 67
39 Guinea 67
39 Guinea-Bissau 67
39 Haiti 67
39 Lesotho 67
39 Liberia 67
39 Saint Kitts and Nevis 67
39 Sao Tome and Principe 67
40 Gambia, The 66
41 Cameroon 64
41 Gabon 64
41 Mozambique 64
42 Saint Lucia 62
43 Equatorial Guinea 59
North Korea N/A

__ Source of IQ Table

An interesting informal check on this idea is “the wallet test.” This test actually applies to particular cities, rather than countries. And results are likely to change as current immigration policies continue to play out. But integrity is a crucial part of the cement that holds societies together.

How do you measure integrity? How about just tallying the number of lost wallets returned in a given timeframe? That’s how Reader’s Digest says it conducted a “global, social experiment” to identify the “most (and least) honest cities in the world.”

RD’s methodology:

In each, we put a name with a cellphone number, a family photo, coupons, and business cards, plus the equivalent of $50. We “dropped” 12 wallets in each of the 16 cities we selected, leaving them in parks, near shopping malls, and on sidewalks. Then we watched to see what would happen.

And here they are, ranked from most to least honest according to the number of pilfered man-purses (why RD focused on only one gender’s money-toting modus operandi is anyone’s guess).

1. Helsinki, Finland (11 of 12 wallets returned)

2. Mumbai, India (9 of 12 wallets returned)

3. Budapest, Hungary and New York City, U.S. (8 of 12 wallets returned)

4. Moscow, Russia and Amsterdam, the Netherlands (7 of 12 wallets returned)

5. Berlin, Germany and Ljubljana, Slovenia (6 of 12 wallets returned)

6. London, England and Warsaw, Poland (5 of 12 wallets returned)

7. Bucharest, Romania, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Zurich, Switzerland (4 of 12 wallets returned)

8. Prague, Czech Republic (3 of 12 wallets returned)

9. Madrid, Spain (2 of 12 wallets returned)

10. Lisbon, Portugal (1 of 12 wallets returned)


(via HBDChick)

The researchers were not brave enough to try the experiment in Sub Saharan Africa, but perhaps Lisbon and Madrid might serve as suitable proxies, given modern immigration realities. Remember: the wallet test was performed in cities, and populations of large central cities do not necessarily reflect the population profile of the nation at large.

Others have looked at the idea of an IQ Breaking Point, and arrived at numbers between 90 and 95, as IQ breaking points. At the original Al Fin blog, we decided that societies could prosper with average IQs as low as 85, as long as they had a strong market dominant minority with much higher average IQs, maintained a meritocratic system of hiring (no affirmative action), and had firm control over law enforcement and the military to maintain the rule of law.

Some populations are essentially uneducable and unassimilable to modern high technology societies. The attempt to actively incorporate such very low IQ populations into advanced nations is a study in progress, likely to achieve disastrous results across the board.

The Dangerous Child movement is an effort to develop competent cores of communities able to preserve the best of modern civilisation in the face of the all-too-visible breakdown taking place in designed fashion, in central governments and large central cities.

It is the best of times and it is the worst of times. Science and technology are rushing ahead, far beyond the capability of most of the world’s populations to sustain their progress over time. Demographics is key to the future. Some countries will be overrun as ancient Rome was overrun. Other nations will break into various functional and dysfunctional fragments.

The world is changing rapidly, and with all the best of intentions.

Good intentions or not, reality will not be denied, and reality is a much harsher place than Davos, a polite Seattle salon, or animated Manhattan cocktail party, where the best intentioned folk mingle to share their visions for the future.

This entry was posted in Demographics, IQ, Wealth of Nations and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to What is the IQ Breaking Point?

  1. bob sykes says:

    I assume the Israeli results are an average of the Palestinians and the Jews, otherwise nonsensical. Our immigrant stream of Mexicans and Central Americans is better than the European stream of Africans and Middle Easterners, and our immigrant don’t want to destroy our culture. Combined with the collapse of the native European populations, it does look good for European civilization.

    By the way, when the Wester Roman Empire collapsed to German invasion, the Germans wanted to be Romans, and they merely replaced the Roman hierarchy and kept the institutions and economy intact. Also, the Germans likely improved IQs in the West. Very different from the Muslim invasion of Europe.

  2. Abelard Lindsey says:

    I assume the Israeli results are an average of the Palestinians and the Jews, otherwise nonsensical.

    Its also an average of the Ashkenazim and the other Jews. Remember, its the Ashkenazim who have their famously high average IQ of 115. The other Jews are no different than the co-ethnics of wherever they came from.

  3. alfin2101 says:

    As A.L. commented, the Israeli average IQ combines all Jewish ethnics (Ashkenazim, Sephardim, etc) plus the arab inhabitants. Jewish economic success is due to a number of factors, some hereditary and some cultural. Among hereditary factors, high executive function independent of IQ can be even more important to success than IQ.

    From a distance, it would be easy to see the collapse of Rome and the dissolution of Roman rule in Britain and Europe, as a relatively painless and bloodless process. Far in the future, historians and educated people may take the same detached view toward the collapse of western civilisation in the 21st century. Painless. Bloodless. Piece of cake. 😉

    As for the difference in quality between the North American and the European immigrants, simply understand that newcomers bring their worlds along with them. If they cannot adapt to a high technology world, they will become dependent upon the public purse. Large numbers of clannish low IQ people paid by government to loiter and get into mischief are not likely to help create a better future, at least in the sense that intelligent, productive, and educated people think of a better future.

    • Abelard Lindsey says:

      I agree that traits such as executive function, future time orientation, and what not are as important to success as IQ, probably more so. It would be nice if there was a way to quantitatively measure these traits in humans like intelligence. The correlates between these various measurements would be interesting.

      From a distance, it would be easy to see the collapse of Rome and the dissolution of Roman rule in Britain and Europe, as a relatively painless and bloodless process.

      My understanding is that the barbarian invasion of Rome was pretty much genocidal. As far as the end of western civilization goes, I think Europe is finished. However, I still think the U.S. can possibly resurrect itself. The test of American exceptionalism is if we throw off the yoke of government-sponsored kleptocracy. I’m not sure if we will pass the test.

  4. alfin2101 says:

    The US government has become the dog, wagging the tail of the civil society. Government is the vampire and it is running out of blood to suck. At current trends, soon most US government spending will be deficit financed rather than tax financed, making even a disciplined tax rebellion futile and pointless.

    If basic electoral reforms could be passed to make US elections semi-honest once again, there might be a chance to reverse course, temporarily. Perhaps long enough to develop fallback positions. But voter fraud is so deeply entrenched in big city precincts that it will be an uphill battle to get rid of the cheats and thieves currently in office.

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