The Astonishing Role of IQ in 21st Century America
IQ – Intelligence Part 1
By: George Noga – June 15, 2012
This is the first of two posts about the shocking role of intelligence (as in IQ) in contemporary life; this installment deals with its transformational effect on our private lives; the second part addresses a radioactive issue: IQ and public policy. A sea change, mostly over the past half century, has taken place off all radar screens. It already exerts a profound effect on our lives and, when it reaches its culmination later this century, will forever change life on Earth as we know it.
“O wonder! How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in’t.”
Brave New World was taken from Shakespeare; in The Tempest when Miranda, who was raised on an isolated island, saw other people for the first time, she exclaimed the above words. Aldous Huxley’s dystopian novel is set in the year 2540; what he warned about is happening 500 years early. The difference is instead of the World State controlling children’s IQs in Hatcheries and Conditioning Centres, we are doing it voluntarily but every bit as thoroughly.
Six Fundamental Truths About IQ
We have allowed myth and political correctness to creep into our views about IQ, mainly because the truth makes many uncomfortable. Liberals in particular get apoplectic whenever hereditary differences are highlighted, such as when they learn little girls really do like to play with dolls and little boys with guns. The following axioms are accepted virtually unanimously by professionals and academics who study such things, albeit a few won’t say so publicly.
- There is such a thing as general level of intelligence on which human beings differ;
- All academic and achievement standardized tests measure this factor to some extent; tests expressly designed to measure cognitive ability (IQ) do it most accurately;
- IQ scores match what people mean when they use terms like smart and intelligent;
- Scores that measure IQ are stable throughout life although not perfectly so;
- Properly designed and administered IQ tests are not biased against any group; and,
- Cognitive ability is substantially heritable, no less than 40% and no more than 80%.
Psychometrics in the Twenty-First Century
Around the middle of the last century the sea change began to be wrought. In earlier times high intelligence was nearly randomly and broadly distributed throughout society. A laborer, farmer or plumber was just as likely to have high IQ as anyone. Moreover, IQ rarely entered into the calculus of marriage. Everything changed beginning circa 1950; to wit:
High IQ students attending college soared from a low percentage to about 90% today of those who are in the top quartile. Among the top few centiles, the share is nearly 100%.
Elite colleges were transformed. In 1950 Harvard was easy to get into; by 1960 the average 1952 freshman would be in the bottom 10%. Today they wouldn’t even apply.
Bright kids from every place and background were identified and sorted. Today, any high performing kid could go to college and, if needed, without having to pay.
The entire non college population has been drained of the brightest kids and now has a markedly lower IQ than mere decades ago.
“The market value of IQ is soaring and the income/wealth gap
between the elite and others is widening at an alarming rate.”
Educational partitioning has been followed by occupational selection. High performers are concentrated in certain occupations specifically screened for that purpose. High IQ professions now take 5 times more of the elite than 20 years ago.
Cognitive ability and job ability are conjoined. The market value of IQ is soaring and the income/wealth gap between high performers and others is widening at an alarming rate.
Now we see physical segregation in addition to that in academia and the workplace.
The final step, selective marriage based on IQ, already is well established. Marriage and breeding between elites and others is rare even today as with Huxley’s Alphas and others. To put it bluntly, people want smart kids who can thrive in the world of the future.
This is happening all over the world and the trend is accelerating rapidly.
What Does This Mean For Our Future?
Brave New World is arriving 500 years early. What kind of dystopian world will our children and grandchildren inhabit? Cognitive elites already matriculate in different schools, work in different jobs and workplaces, earn vastly more income, worship differently, shop differently, live in different cities and neighborhoods and send their kids to different schools. They intermarry and have kids who are even more elite. Now we are getting third generation elites for whom even their grandparents can’t supply them with insights into the life of ordinary Americans. But wait; it gets even worse.
“The greatest source of inequality in America today
is not economic – it is cognitive and cultural.”
Elites don’t go to the same movies, watch the same TV shows, eat at the same restaurants, buy the same automobiles and vacation in the same places. They don’t look the same due to different notions about diet, exercise, body fat, cosmetic surgery, tattoos and piercings. They even have longer life spans. They raise their children differently, are indifferent to professional sports teams, eschew the military, disdain hunting and fishing, have different politics and well, you get the idea. Most will go through their entire life without ever talking with an Evangelical Christian, having a friend without a college degree or even knowing someone with a below average IQ. For crying out loud, they even eat breakfast (yogurt and muesli) differently.
I don’t pretend to know how all this will end, except that it cannot be good. We are nearing the point where today’s cognitive elite Alpha pluses and Alphas are about as different from today’s Gammas, Deltas and Epsilons as in Huxley’s Brave New World. The main take away point for readers is to understand the radically transformed role IQ plays in the modern world and that the trend will become more and more pronounced over time. It explains a great many things no one likes to talk about and should influence our future public policies.
Next up: The role of IQ in public policy. Danger: Radioactive!
Credits and source notes: Charles Murray’s books “The Bell Curve” and “Coming Apart” were the source of ideas and data about the role of intelligence as was “The Global Bell Curve” by Richard Lynn. In addition, I read numerous scholarly journal articles in 2008-09 in connection with writing a chapter about IQ for a family history.