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Unz on Race/IQ – The Rural/Urban Divide

As I have recently mentioned to several people, I had been aware of the large anomalies and logical inconsistences in the Lynn/Vanhanen IQ model for nearly a decade, and had repeatedly pointed them out on various Internet discussion forums. But since nobody ever paid the slightest attention to what I was saying, I finally decided […]

As I have recently mentioned to several people, I had been aware of the large anomalies and logical inconsistences in the Lynn/Vanhanen IQ model for nearly a decade, and had repeatedly pointed them out on various Internet discussion forums. But since nobody ever paid the slightest attention to what I was saying, I finally decided to write up and publish my Race, IQ, and Wealth.

However, although 80% of my piece consisted merely of setting down in print what I already had long known, I did make some fascinating additional discoveries, the most significant being the seemingly enormous impact of rural/urban conditions upon the tested IQ of white European populations.

As I noted, one very intriguing pattern is that according to Lynn’s IQ data certain European populations such as the South Italians, Irish, Greeks, and South Slavs tended to have IQs much lower than other European populations such as the British and the Dutch. However, according to the Wordsum-IQ data, this pattern is exactly reversed in the United States, with the descendents of immigrants from Southern Italy, Ireland, Greece, and Yugoslavia having much higher IQs than Americans of British or Dutch ancestry. If IQ were largely genetic, this would seem almost inexplicable, but patterns of urbanization might be the obvious explanation: Southern Italy, Ireland, Greece, and Yugoslavia were traditionally far more rural than Britain or the Netherlands, but in America the pattern of ethnic settlement is exactly reversed, with Dutch-Americans and British-Americans being far more rural than those other groups. [erratum: in this paragraph “British” should be replace by “German”]

Next, consider the aggregate IQs of rural and urban/suburban whites. During the 1970s according to Wordsum-IQ data, the intelligence gap between whites raised on farms and those who grew up in an urban/suburban background was enormous, almost exactly equal to the white/black gap. The data would indicate that a non-trivial slice of the white farmboys of the 1970s suffered from clinical mental retardation, which seems quite implausible.

Furthermore, if IQ were genetic, we might tend to expect rural white IQs to slightly drop over time, as many of the most intelligent and ambitious whites moved away to the Big City each generation, leaving their dimmer relatives behind. Instead, we discover the exact opposite effect. The Wordsum-IQ of urban/suburban whites remained almost exactly constant between the 1970s and the 2000s, while the scores for whites from a farming background increased rapidly, thereby eliminating one-third of the overall gap. In effect, urban/suburban whites showed no Flynn Effect, while whites on farms showed a very sizable one. One very plausible explanation would be that the increasing presence of TV and other modern technologies in rural areas greatly improved the “cognitive development environment” for rural whites, thereby raising their IQ scores, while urban/suburban whites had already possessed such an environment and gained little.

Finally, let us consider the European evidence. Today, the international PISA academic tests are widely regarded as one of the best means of estimating national IQs, and if we consider the 2009 PISA scores, we find that the scores were extremely similar for Ireland, Poland, Britain, France, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and several other countries. Since Lynn standardizes the British IQ to 100, that indicates that Ireland and Poland today have IQs around 100, which seems quite plausible.

However, a huge sample placed Ireland’s IQ at 87 in 1972, and Lynn himself has stated that his own Ireland research in the late 1960s convinced him that the Irish were a low IQ population, whose only hope for the future lay in a strong eugenics program. So the evidence indicates that the Irish IQ was around 87 at that point, and has risen nearly a full standard deviation in the four decades which followed. Lynn also provides two additional very large samples, which placed the Irish IQ at around 92 in the early 1990s, so at the half-way mark, the Irish IQ had risen by half the difference between the endpoints, which seems remarkably consistent.

Obviously, for the Irish to raise their Flynn-adjusted IQ by nearly a full standard devision in just over one generation is a total absurdity from a genetic perspective; thus, the huge rise must be due to some class of “environmental” factors. When we consider that Ireland had been one of most rural European countries and rapidly urbanized during exactly that period, the impact of urbanization seems a plausible possibility.

Also consider Poland, another very rural European country that also urbanized during those same decades. The largest European IQ sample found anywhere in Lynn establishes the Polish IQ as having been 92 in 1989, very close to the Irish IQ around the same time. And as mentioned above, the PISA score indicate that Poland’s IQ is around 100 today, seeming to demonstrate an IQ rise very similar to that of Ireland.

The most heavily rural countries in Europe include Portugal, Lithuania, Greece, Bulgaria, Rumania, and other parts of the Balkans, and according to Lynn’s data, these also tend to have the lowest national IQs. Meanwhile, Australia has always been heavily urbanized and although as much as one-third of Australians have Irish ancestry, Australia’s mean IQ had always been very close to 100, even when Ireland was at 87. Since per capita GDPs tend to follow a strong rural/urban pattern, this may explain a large portion of Lynn’s wealth/IQ correlation within Europe.

On the other hand, this urban/rural IQ pattern is totally absent in East Asian populations, whose IQs seem almost entirely unaffected by even the most massive trends of urbanization. This has led me to suggest that for some unknown, possibly biological reason, East Asians can achieve nearly their full IQ potential without requiring the same beneficial “cognitive development environment” which white Europeans seem to require.

Obviously, this data does not conclusively establish my rural/urban hypothesis regarding the extreme environmental malleability of white IQs. But it does constitute a massive amount of hard empirical data which seems to totally contradict “the Strong IQ Hypothesis.” Those who believe in the rigid genetic nature of IQ should be required to propose some equally successful alternative explanation for these remarkable patterns.


In the week following its release, my Race/IQ article has already produced an enormous amount of vigorous commentary across the Internet, with links to several of the most recent examples provided below.

Ron Unz and IQ, HBD Chick

No Mexican Flynn Effect (or Ron Unz is no longer credible), Occidentalist

No Exception, Occidentalist

Hispanic Performance by Generation, Occidentalist

Unfortunately, this discussion has been almost entirely restricted to narrow racialist circles, with virtually all non-racialist journalists or pundits maintaining a studious silence on the matter and giving the controversy a very wide berth, although I would argue that issues of race and intelligence have considerable importance in American society. As a consequence of this silence, the debate has been enormously one-sided, with perhaps 95% of the bloggers and commenters disputing my analysis, with varying degrees of knowledge, accuracy, and civility.

For example, one of the most energetic IQ-racialists characterized my analysis as “egregiously dishonest” and “laughable commentary”—calumnies which were widely propagated all across the Internet—before rechecking his own calculations, and then grudgingly conceding that “on re-analysis, Ron Unz’s claim concerning the difference in the GSS sample was upheld”. Similar harsh denunciations of my article have been typical across the hundreds of websites which Google indicates have taken notice of the debate.

It has been suggested to me that perhaps it would be a serious mistake for mainstream journalists or analysts to even take notice of this controversial subject, but I tend to disagree with this approach. As I have previously mentioned, Google indicates that there exist some 103,000 web pages already discussing the theories of Lynn and Vanhanen, and the overwhelming majority of these seem extremely laudatory. To the extent that the Lynn/Vanhanen IQ analysis is contradicted by strong evidence, this should probably be brought to wider attention, lest casual observers tend to naively assume that Lynn and Vanhanen are factually correct although politically-incorrect.

Furthermore, I would suggest that my own hypothesis regarding rural/urban factors might have potentially important policy implications for American society. Daniel Golden’s book The Price of Admission has thoroughly documented the often corrupt admissions practices followed by our leading universities, which largely select America’s future national elites in academics, finance, media, and politics. As he indicates, one of the few meritocratic and non-corrupt aspects of college admissions is the reliance on standardized tests such as the SAT, which supposedly assess actual intellectual ability; the SAT has a high 0.81 correlation with IQ.

However, if my above rural/urban IQ analysis is correct, then the SAT would tend to substantially underestimate the ability of rural students, even aside from their lack of access to SAT coaching or prep courses, with the error perhaps approaching 100 SAT points. Given that rural students are already heavily under-represented in the Ivy League and other elite colleges, perhaps this possibility should receive proper consideration.

(cross-posted at www.ronunz.org)