I have been asked by both popular blogger Anatoly Karlin and black national merit finalist “Lion of the Judah-sphere” to estimate the IQ of Vladimir Putin.
Putin is a fascinating case because he is both exceptionally rich and powerful yet also exceptionally short. Both money/power and height are positively correlated with IQ so it’s interesting to ask what is the average IQ of whites with the same relative height, and same degree of power as Putin has.
Average IQ of diminutive whites
Putin is well known for not being that tall. Most google searches claim his height is 67 inches, however this video shows several images of him looking shorter than 64 inch tall Prime Minister Medvedev, and this article claims he’s between 62 and 65 inches, so perhaps 63.5 inches is a reasonable guess.
Non-Hispanic white men who are 60 or older, appear to have an average height of 68.6 inches (standard deviation = 2.47). Thus, for his race, sex, and age, Putin probably has a height Z score of -2.06. Given that IQ and height correlate about 0.24, the average IQ Z score for people with his relative height is -2.06(0.24) = -0.49. Assuming whites have a mean IQ of 99 with a standard deviation of 15, converting the IQ Z score to IQ gives:
99 + 15(-0.49) = 92
So whites who have the same height (relative to age and sex) as Putin have an average IQ of 92.
Average IQ of the most powerful whites in history
Forbes magazine took a lot of heat for ranking Putin as the single most powerful person on the planet, even ahead of President Obama, which would be an astonishing achievement for a non-American! At the very least, I think it’s safe to say Putin is the most powerful white gentile in the World. Assuming there are about 976 million white gentiles on the planet, and about 644 million of them are adults, Putin has a normalized Z score of about 5.93 when it comes to power. Some would argue Putin is also the richest person in the World, but authoritative Forbes magazine has been unable to confirm his billionaire status.
Measures of worldly success (i.e. money, power) seem to correlate only moderately with IQ. For example scholar Arthur Jensen put the correlation between IQ and income at about 0.4, and power probably enjoys a similar correlation with IQ (U.S. presidents appear to have IQs similar to billionaires). Thus the the average IQ Z score of the the extremely rare subset of whites who achieved as much self-made power as Putin would be 5.93(0.4) = 2.37. Converting that Z score to IQ gives:
2.37(15) + 99 = 135
So whites who have achieved as much self-made power as Putin average an extremely bright IQ of 135.
Average IQ of whites who are BOTH supremely powerful and diminutive
Putin belongs to two very salient groups: 1) The most powerful whites in history, and 2) diminutive whites.
The first group is extremely bright on average, with a mean IQ 135. The second group is typically kind of dull, with a mean IQ of 92. It is tempting to average the mean IQs of these two groups and conclude that Putin probably has an IQ around 114.
However the better guess for Putin’s IQ is not the average IQ of the groups Putin belongs to, but rather the theoretical average IQ of someone who belongs to both groups. That’s a subtle distinction. In reality Putin is virtually the only person in history who belongs to both groups, but what would be the theoretical average IQ if there were many?
As a brilliant Promethean helped me understand years ago, in order to determine one’s expected IQ based on two variables (in this case money/power and height), you need to know both the correlation of money/power and height with IQ (0.4 and 0.24 respectively) but also the correlation of money/power with height, which is only about 0.13. Armed with these statistics, the following multiple regression equation can be built, which allows us to add the relative predictive power of money/power and height, independent of each other:
Putin’s expected IQ Z score = 0.38(money/power Z score) + 0.19(height Z score)
Putin’s expected IQ Z score = 0.38(5.93) + 0.19(-2.06)
Putin’s expected IQ Z score = 2.25 – 0.39
Putin’s expected IQ Z score = 1.86
Translating this IQ Z score into an IQ:
IQ = (IQ Z score)(15) + 99
IQ = 1.86(15) + 99
IQ = 127
The standard error for this estimate would be 13.44, so we can say with 95% confidence that if Putin was administered a Russian version of the WAIS-IV, he would score anywhere from 100 to 154 (U.S. white norms), with 127 being the single most likely score. In other words, if there were many whites with the same amount of power and relative height as Putin, they would have a mean IQ of 127 with an SD of 13.44. An IQ of 127 would make Putin smarter than 96% of U.S. whites.
However I know virtually nothing about Putin, and thus am limited to a very crude statistical analysis. The wildly popular Anatoly Karlin who blogs about Russia would probably be able to provide a far more informed estimate.
Is IQ 127 a plausible estimate?
One reason to think an IQ of 127 is plausible, despite the huge band of uncertainty around it, is that the thesis advisor Putan had at university remembers he got “good but not great grades,” but was a “meticulous” student. The fact that Putin was a meticulous student at university tells me he was highly motivated, so if he still failed to get great grades, he can not be that much smarter than the average white PhD (IQ 123), which makes 127 a reasonable estimate.
One problem with estimating Putin’s IQ at 127 is that there is reason to believe Obama’s IQ is close to 140. Can Obama really be smarter than Putin when we keep seeing reports that Putin is always outsmarting Obama. For example, we see headlines like:
Even President Obama himself was forced to respond to this narrative:
These reports may suggest I have underestimated Putin and/or overestimated Obama. On the other hand, we shouldn’t expect a perfect correlation between IQ and geopolitical chess skill. And I don’t know for sure that Obama is being outsmarted by Putin because it’s unclear how much Putin’s rising power helps or hurts the United States or Israel, and I don’t know for sure what Obama’s foreign policy goals are.
UPDATE, October 7, 2105
For a review of this article by someone who knows a lot about Russia, check out this analysis by blogger Anatoly Karlin.