In 2002 Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen’s book IQ and Wealth of Nations estimated the IQs of 185 countries. Critics accused them of cherry picking sources, using unrepresentative samples, comparing and combining samples tested on wildly different tests taken decades apart, and daring to think IQ could be measured cross-culturally. And yet despite nearly two decades of opprobrium, those national IQs remain a landmark, cited in countless peer reviewed articles and repeatedly revised.
One way Lynn has validated his numbers is by showing their high correlation with international exams like Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). Another independent data-set against which Lynn’s numbers can be tested (assuming he already hasn’t done so) is the IEA‘s Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). Ostensibly an achievement test, the math section resembles an IQ test, and the test is scored so that most countries average between 400 and 600.
Using the score distribution of UK students as a reference group (see technical note below), I converted the scores from 39 countries to IQ equivalents. My source for the TIMMS scores is exhibit 1.2 in this report.
|Country||TIMMS score (8th grade math; 2015)||IQ equivalent|
|Korea, Rep. of,||606||116|
|Hong Kong SAR||594||113|
|United Arab Emirates||465||90|
|Iran, Islamic Rep. of||436||85|
Consistent with Lynn’s hierarchy, we find that East Asian countries cluster around the top (Japan IQ 112 to Korea, Repub of, IQ 116), followed by white majority countries (New Zealand IQ 95 to Russian federation IQ 103), followed by Dark Caucasoid countries (Saudi Arabia IQ 73 to United Arab Emirates IQ 90) and lastly sub-Saharan countries (South Africa IQ 73 to Botswana IQ 77). And while Lynn’s data was ridiculed for declaring entire countries “mentally retarded”, it’s perhaps a sign of higher quality data that no country in this data-set averaged below IQ 70 (though most of the poorest countries chose not to participate).
On page 95 of the report, we’re told that only 10% of England’s 8th graders could score 625+, 36% could score 550+, 69% could score 475+, and 93% could score 400+. Subtracting these percentages from 100 gives the following percentiles: 90, 64, 31, and 7 which can be converted to the following IQs: 119, 105, 93, and 78. Now that we have the IQ equivalents of four TIMMS scores, we can make a linear equation converting TIMMS to IQ which is IQ = 0.18(TIMMS score) + 6.5: