Intelligence Makes People Think Like Economists
By Bryan Caplan
I’ve been telling EconLog readers about my article with Steve Miller on intelligence and economic beliefs for years. Now our piece has finally been published in Intelligence. Quick version of the paper:
Adding a measure of intelligence to the list of independent variables and re-estimating confirms that ability bias is present and substantial. Adding intelligence as an independent variable does not simply shrink our estimates of the effect of education. It is more important than education in both statistical and economic terms. In fact, intelligence turns out to be the single strongest predictor of economic beliefs.
Subtle version of the paper:
First, even though intelligence is the most important overall predictor of economic beliefs, it is not the most important predictor of beliefs in any of the four categories. Party, ideology, and male gender are stronger predictors for the anti-market questions. Education and “other race” are stronger predictors for the anti-foreign questions. Black is a stronger predictor of the make-work questions. Income growth is a stronger predictor for the pessimistic questions. Intelligence is the most important overall predictor of economic beliefs because it has a strong effect in all four categories, not because it has an overwhelming effect in any particular category.
Second, intelligence is more important than education for every category except anti-foreign bias. For anti-market and make-work bias, intelligence is much more important than education; for pessimistic bias, intelligence has a moderate edge. Education is, however, the most important predictor of anti-foreign bias. This is consistent with the literature finding that education “tends to socialize students to have more tolerant, pro-outsider views of the world” (Hainmueller & Hiscox, 2006, p. 473). In contrast, the typical educational experience gives students mixed signals about anti-market, make-work, and pessimistic biases. Classes in economics and high-IQ peers restrain these biases, but classes in other social sciences and humanities, as well as student activism, arguably encourage them.