Moral and Mental Development
By Arnold Kling
‘Audacious Epigone’ writes (UPDATE: link fixed),
A state’s live-in desirability, as defined by CQ Press in the form of a livability index that considers 44 social, cultural, and economic factors, rigorously correlates with that state’s estimated average IQ. The correlation using my numbers is .78, while using VCU Professor McDaniel’s subsequent better numbers yields an r-value of .80. In both cases, the p-value is effectively zero.
Read the entire post. I was curious as to the 44 factors that make up the livability index. I believe I found them here.
I was concerned that the livability index discriminates in favor of the tastes of high-IQ people. For example, one of the positive factors is “books in public libraries per capita,” as opposed to, say, number of NASCAR events per year. But apart from the library book measure, all of the indicators appear to be things like income and crime, as opposed to high-brow taste.
I think that economists tend to be unduly reticent about reporting on the influence of IQ and moral discipline on the standard of living. People get squeamish when you try. David Warsh speaks for many when he writes,
There were a lot of things I would have rather done last week than read A Farewell to Alms. But then I wasn’t won over by Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel, either. And it was a much better written book.
Everyone would much rather believe Jared Diamond than Gregory Clark, so Diamond gets away with flimsy evidence while Clark has to undertake painstaking research.For those of you with prurient interests, here is a post on the negative correlation between IQ and early sexual activity. The post looks at a number of potential explanations.
My guess is that the reason that resistance to the use of IQ as an explanatory variable is high, and particularly high among people on the left, is that it appears to offer less scope for government policy to achieve social improvements. If everything depends on IQ, and IQ is fixed, then social programs can ameliorate problems but not solve them.
If you think that the key variable is college education, then sending more low-IQ youngsters to college is good policy. If you think that the key variable is IQ, then sending more low-IQ youngsters to college is a waste.
One of the stereotypes that people have about IQ is that it is 100 percent inherited, with no environmental influences. I believe that this stereotype is wrong. I believe that the Flynn effect is real and important.
A social interventionist could get a lot of leverage out of policies that could achieve gains in IQ that appear to be available from environmental influences. As Randall Parker (who sent me the link to the post by “Audacious Epigone”) points out, this would do a great deal to improve economic growth.