Why your nation’s IQ matters more than your own

We know that intelligence matters at the level of the individual, impacting performance in school, work, and life. Decades of research supports that point. But what if your personal intelligence level doesn’t matter as much as the average level of intelligence of the country in which you live? This is what economist Garett Jones of George Mason University calls the “paradox of IQ” in his new book Hive Mind: How Your Nations IQ Matters So Much More Than Your Own.

Jones discovered this paradox when researching the link between IQ and income with his colleague W. Joel Schneider. Within a country, the link between IQ and income appears modest, with one IQ point predicting 1% higher income per person. But across countries, that same IQ point predicts 6% higher income per person. Why would it be that the IQ of the country you live in matters more than your individual IQ for predicting eventual income? This led Jones on a quest to explore some of the reasons why this might be, and potential implications of this paradox, discussed in detail in his new book.

In an interview, Jones told Quartz, “If something appears to matter more for a nation than it does for an individual, that something may well be causing positive side effects.” He described three key paths that may generate positive side effects: the links between IQ and patience, cooperation, and team performance. A fourth path, the productivity of those around you, multiplies the impact of the other three. All these paths are supported by research studies spanning psychology, economics, management, and political science, specifically large research syntheses or meta-analyses.

Source: The World Economic Forum in Collaboration with Quartz

Written by Jonathan Wai Research Scientist, Duke Universit