2060 IQ Projections

Interesting new study: Future Cognitive Ability: US IQ Prediction until 2060 Based on NAEP

From the abstract:

…US Census Bureau, cognitive trends until 2060 for the entire age cohort and ethnic groups were estimated. Estimated population averages for 2060 are 103 (optimistic) or 102 (pessimistic). The average rise per decade is dec = 0.76 or 0.45 IQ points. White-Black and White-Hispanic gaps are declining by half, Asian-White gaps treble. The catch-up of minorities (their faster ability growth) contributes around 2 IQ to the general rise of 3 IQ;

A modest IQ gain of 2-3 points by 2060 is expected. But, technically, IQ does not rise; instead people become more intelligent and tests are re-designed with harder questions to maintain the same mean, and variance.

Not surprisingly racial IQ disparities will persist with Asians outperforming everyone by a substantial (and growing) margin, although I’m skeptical about projected Asian gains:

As for the methodology, scholastic assessment is used as a proxy for IQ, both of which are highly correlated:

… Empirically, results of scholastic tests and psychometric IQ are highly correlated. Kaufman, Reynolds, Liu, Kaufman, and McGrew reported a latent correlation of rl = .83 (N>2,000) between the Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Cognitive Abilities and the Kaufman Test of Educational Achievement [34]. This result is backed by studies of real-world school achievement: e.g. rl = .81 between General Certificate of Secondary Education scores and Cognitive Abilities Test (N>70,000) [35] or rl = .86 between Scholastic Assessment Test and Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (N>900) [36]. At the national level (the one we will use in our analysis) the correlations are even higher (e.g. r = .89, N = 99 countries) [37].

The economic implications are fascinating:

We calculated expectable wealth productivity effects (in US Dollar of 2010/2011). Internationally, one IQ point corresponds to $810 higher average productivity per capita and year. Between 2012 and 2060 it is expected that 17 year olds’ ability level will increase by 2.16 (pessimistic model) or 3.68 IQ (optimistic model), representing a productivity gain of $1,750 to $2,981 (at constant prices). The general FLynn effect (White’s slow ability rise) contributes at about $219 to $1,806, minorities’ catch up at $1,644 to $1,450, demographic change at–$1,102, interaction between minorities’ catch up and demographic change at $988 to $834 US Dollar.

Smarter people create more economic value, a point I have hammered repeatedly on this blog and confined by actual data. Maybe this should be taken into consideration for America’s immigration policy, as low-IQ people tend to consume more in public benefits than economic value they produce in return. Something as simple as administering IQ tests for immigrants and turning away anyone who doesn’t score above a certain threshold, I imagine, would help put a dent in the growing entitlement spending problem.

This is also compelling argument for eugenics, as raising the national IQ could have substantial compounded returns, economically and socially, for future generations.

I’m skeptical about the projected Asian gains in IQ, especially since the gains are so much greater than for whites, and the paper doesn’t offer a compelling explanation. Maybe assortative mating is the reason, but the paper doesn’t cover this, since of the projected IQs are extrapolated from a linear regression. The weak gains for other races confirms that the ‘Flynn Effect’ may diminish with economic development, which I discuss in more detail here, suggesting that purported gains in IQ are not from people becoming biologically smarter but people living up to their ‘full’ cognitive potential due to better environment. But then wouldn’t we also expect East Asian IQs to plateau at around 107, not 112. Due to the weakening of the Flynn Effect, eugenics may hold promise as a viable long-term solution to boost IQ for developed nations.