In 2002 a pair of professors, Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen, published a controversial book called IQ and the Wealth of Nations. The book was, unsurprisingly, considered controversial as it attempted to rank nations by the average IQ. Some of the methods were considered sketchy at best; after all, Lynn and Vanhanen hadn’t managed to perform intelligence tests on whole populations. Some figures were based on scores achieved by neighboring countries, some were estimated and some used pre-existing data that could easily be deemed insufficient. But despite all this, it made for interesting reading and insightful observations about the relationship between a country’s economics and IQ levels.
Not content with putting their academic reputations on the line once, the two scholars had another crack at listing the world’s nations by average IQ later. In 2006, the book IQ and Global Inequality became available. Beyond the fact that many of their peers were already scoffing at the original data and the conclusions made, this book had additional controversy caused by its publisher. It was printed up by Washington Summit Publishers, who are known to be an active hate group based in Montana, espousing white nationalism. Lynn, who is a British scientist, has been accused of racism, whilst Vanhanen, who is Finnish, has actually been investigated by authorities in Finland after being accused of racial hatred.
Considering the books’ controversial topics, the bigoted publishers and the accusations that surround the authors themselves, it is best to see this list as a snapshot of their assumptions rather than a piece of scientific truisms. Nine out of the 10 countries listed are in Africa, where in many nations education is often interrupted by famine, civil unrest and war.
Further evidence that we should be wary of the academic value of this list is the way in which some data was collected. The authors did not actually collect data from the countries that head this list: It seems, in fact, that they took scores from a home for the developmentally disabled in Spain and then the Flynn effect was applied to the scores to come up with the result for a country over 2,500 miles away… Questionable, at the very least.
Regardless of the potentially sinister undertones of the professors’ work, there is an obvious point to be made when taking this list into account. Lack of money, and the subsequently poor funding of a country’s education system, is the real reason that the following nations feature on this list.
10. Republic of the Congo: 65 average IQ
This country in Central Africa has compulsory education for children, and there are universities for those who want to progress to higher learning. But the low GDP of just over $14 billion means there isn’t much money available for the education system, with students sometimes having to sit on the floor due to the lack of chairs. The country itself is politically unstable, and future civil unrest or war would naturally have a further detrimental effect on education long-term.
9. Cameroon: 64 average IQ
Another Central African nation, Cameroon was once a German colony, before it was divided up under British and French control after the First World War. Language issues and teachers who fail to turn up for work are two major problems the Cameroonian education system has to face. Literacy rates in the more isolated northern areas of the country fall dramatically, to levels below 40%. Schools lack simple amenities, such as running water and furniture.
8. Central African Republic: 64 average IQ
Situated in the heart of the African continent, this country used to be part of French Equatorial Africa. Corruption and political malaise mean this country, which is relatively rich in resources, suffers from an extremely low GDP (just $446 per person) and has one of the worst Human Development Index scores in the world, residing in 180th place. Literacy rates are low, teaching staff levels have been affected by the high incidence of AIDS and HIV, and activities by Séléka militia have prevented students from going to school.
7. Democratic Republic of the Congo: 64 average IQ
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DROC) is one of seven countries in this list to have been given a score of 64. The history of this huge country in Central Africa has been volatile. Formerly known as Zaire, DROC has over 77 million inhabitants. The 11th-largest country in the world only produces a GDP of $30.8 billion and is frequently rocked by violence. The recent Second Congo War caused millions of deaths and ruined the country’s infrastructure. It is a tragic fact that many of this country’s prospective schoolchildren end up wielding a gun instead of a pencil.
6. Ethiopia: 64 average IQ
Ethiopia was the country that shocked the western world in the 1980s when the ravages of famine became apparent, exacerbated by years of war and its location in the Horn of Africa. Around a million people starved to death, and although charity events like Live Aid tried to offer relief, too often the money sent for food found itself used for weapons. Although the education system in Ethiopia has witnessed some improvements, it is still frequently a victim of corruption.
5. Gabon: 64 average IQ
Gabon is a small country on the central-west coast of Africa. The country has a relatively high GDP, at $13,032 per person, and a medium Human Development Index ranking, in 106th place. Nearly 10% of the budget is put aside for education, and there is compulsory education for children aged from 6 to 16. However, overcrowded classrooms and the low quality of training on offer for teachers has contributed to Gabon’s position on this list. But, the country’s position here does seem to be something of an anomaly, considering the GDP and HDI figures. Gabon could be a victim of the criticized and flawed methodology utilized by Lynn and Vanhanen.
4. Mozambique: 64 average IQ
Mozambique is a large country in the south-eastern corner of the continent of Africa. GDP growth in the country has seen spectacular rises in the last few years, but the country still suffers in aspects such as life expectancy and quality of life, due to endemic corruption and the ongoing effects of the destructive Mozambican Civil War, which lasted for 15 years (1977 to 1992) and cost around one million lives. There aren’t enough schools, and places in universities are few and far between.
3. Sierra Leone: 64 average IQ
This is yet another African country that has been devastated by civil war, mostly down to the valuable minerals found in its land (in this case, diamonds). This tiny country on the western coast has become synonymous with blood diamond trade, where diamonds are sold to help pay for military operations often against the established government. Many schools were destroyed during the civil war, and although many have been rebuilt, this has had a negative impact on education in this state, which only has three universities to serve over 6 million people (in contrast, the US has nearly 4,500 colleges and universities).
2. Saint Lucia: 62 average IQ
The only non-African country in this list is the Caribbean island of Saint Lucia. This tiny country of just 238 square miles has a population of 173,765 people and a GDP of $1.2 billion (nominal). Education is free and compulsory, and the country enjoys a high Human Development Index place of 88th. It seems that poverty and wealth inequality are the main factors for Saint Lucia being given such a low IQ level.
1. Equatorial Guinea: 59 average IQ
Considering the statement made in the introduction to this list, about Equatorial Guinea’s rate being obtained through what seem ludicrous methods, it seems unfair that the small central African nation heads this list. But there are some harsh realities about Equatorial Guinea, such as its issues with human trafficking and the sad fact that a fifth of children die before they are 5 years old. The country has been condemned for its atrocious human rights record and less than one percent of the country’s budget is spent on education. Corruption and unequal distribution of wealth (created by oil exports) are also contributing factors to money not going where it needs to be spent.