Berlin Gets Bad News From PISA

There are several ways to influence national mean IQ levels. One is to improve nutrition and education, but vitally important though they are, they suffer from diminishing returns as populations bump up against their genetic ceilings. Another is to promote eugenic policies, or at least policies to mitigate the dysgenic trends that are typical of modern developed societies, but they tend to be ethically questionable and politically unfeasible. The third major lever is the immigration system, but how can we assess whether it’s doing its job of only letting in the people who would be a net benefit to the host country?

In my wanderings through the interwebs, I found that the NCES has an excellent “International Data Explorer” with all kinds of socio-economic data on the tested students of each country that participated in the PISA standardized tests (which correlate closely with IQ). Of particular interest was data on scores broken down by immigration status (native, 1st generation, 2nd generation), which was frankly stunning in the degree to which it confirms various stereotypes and explains why migrants succeed in some countries and live in lawless ghettos in others. See the graph below (click to enlarge).

One thing that immediately leaps out from above is that just as US scores leap upwards (from 496 to about 525, in line with Australia and Canada) once only whites are considered, so do scores in many European states when only natives are considered (e.g. Germany from 510 to 533; Switzerland from 517 to 542; the Netherlands from 519 to 533). In fact, the countries mentioned above and a few others equalize with Japan’s 529, Taiwan’s 534, and South Korea’s 541 (the natives of these developed East Asian societies also score a lot higher than their immigrants, but the overall effect on the national average is modest because migrant children are such a small percentage of their school-age populations). In other words, in the worst affected European countries, immigrants are lowering the mean national IQ (converted from PISA scores) by as much as 3 points.

This might not seem like much, but it is highly significant when bearing in mind the extremely close correlation between national IQ and prosperity. Furthermore, since immigrant populations tend to be highly variant – for instance, Britain has a lot of Poles, who are essentially equal to the natives in cognitive capacity (maybe even superior, once you adjust for the fact that it is better-educated Poles who tend to emigrate), and a lot of Pakistanis, who are far below them. This is a good explanation for the general sense of dereliction one sees (and the crime one is likely to experience) when entering Pakistani ghettos in the UK.

Also note from the graph that there is typically a very high degree of overlap between 1st and 2nd generation immigrant children. The 2nd generation children DO typically perform better, presumably because 1st generation immigrants may frequently have language difficulties and problems with adjusting to a new culture. But the degree of convergence of 2nd generation children to the native mean is modest, despite their transferal to typically far more advanced educational environments. Convergence is almost inconsequential in most European countries like Germany, France, Benelux, Norway, and actually negative in the US (i.e. American 2nd generation immigrant children do worse than the 1st generation).

This second chart shows the IQ gap – derived from the differences in PISA scores – between native children, and children who are 2nd generation immigrants (i.e., born within the country in question). I think that it is more useful to compare the 2nd generation with natives than the 1st generation because their educational environments will have been similar; the language issue will have vastly declined in importance; immigrant population will have taken their first step in “reversion to the mean” in terms of their ethnic group IQ; 2nd generation progeny are far less likely to emigrate back to their countries of origin; etc. So what do we see here?

(1) Australia (2nd generation migrants have +2 IQ points relative to natives) and Singapore (+1), two countries with immigration policies that are cognitively elitist in practice, enjoy immigrants that are superior to the native population and will clearly benefit them a lot.

(2) Canada’s (-2) system is mixed, with many immigrants of both high and low quality. The commentator celtthedog has an explanation that sounds plausible: “… Americans who cite Canada’s allegedly magnificent immigration system that only accepts highly skilled immigrants, need to acknowledge that accompanying this is a refugee programm, which lets in scores of pretty much worthless migrants. Do you really think the hoards of Jamaicans, Somalis, Sikhs and Moslems actually benefit Canada in any meaningful way or were brought in on the basis of skills native-born Canadians don’t have? Canada’s system is 50% good, 50% atrocious.”

(3) I’d have expected the UK’s (-2) immigrants to perform about as badly as in the rest of Europe, but on inspection, it’s in the same boat as Canada. Yes, there are many Pakistani and Black immigrants, but Britain also attracts many well-qualified East-Central Europeans and Asians.

(4) The US (-4) has an idiotic immigration system that penalizes highly-qualified workers while being relatively lax at controlling (inevitably unqualified, lower-IQ) illegals from Central America. But nonetheless, it’s an economic and technological dynamo, and despite policy failures there are still plenty of high-IQ immigrants.

(5) Spain (-5), Italy (-6), Norway (-7), Sweden (-9), the Netherlands (-9), France (-9), Germany (-10) and Belgium (-11) have progressively worse quality immigrants relative to the natives in their countries. (The reason for why the Med countries do “better” than the Teutonic ones isn’t because they have better immigrants, but because their native IQ’s are lower). Unlike the US, they tend to have few highly-qualified immigrants, as English speaking (and typically lower tax) nations like Australia, the US, etc. are more attractive to high-IQ cosmopolitans. What’s more, a big proportion of the immigrants to Europe are Muslims, whose faith and habits conflict with local mores to a far greater extent than Catholic Hispanics clash with the indigenous American culture.

(6) In countries like Dubai, Qatar, Kazakhstan, and Israel, the higher quality of immigrants is presumably due to the fairly low human capital of the host nations themselves.

(7) It is interesting to know that the country with the biggest gap between natives and 2nd generation immigrants for which statistics exist is Mexico (-12), which is known for contributing many low-quality immigrants itself. So the immigrants who come to Mexico are truly bottom of the barrel types, which presumably explains why Mexican border defenses to the south are militarized to an extent that would drive liberals apoplectic if implemented in the US. This, and the lure of El Dorado to the north, probably explains why Mexico itself doesn’t have an immigration problem: Although it might have the worst immigrants relative to its indigenous population, Mexico’s native (421) and national (420) average PISA scores are virtually identical, implying that its immigrants are numerically insignificant.

Immigrants are a matter of both quantity and quality. If immigrants are overwhelmingly low-IQ relative to the host population, but very low in numbers, as in Japan or Mexico, then this isn’t a major concern. If they are are high in numbers, but comparable to the host population, as in Australia, then this isn’t a huge concern either. If they are high-IQ relative to the natives, then it’s typically a boon for the host nation, as with Israel (presumably thanks to Ashkenazi Jews from the former USSR), or the Arab oil states; though a longer-term concern might be the emergence of “market dominant minorities”, such as the Jews in old Europe, or the Chinese diaspora in South East Asia.

However, clearly the worst scenario is when immigrants are both many and far inferior in IQ to the aborigine population, to the extent that the mean national IQ appreciably plummets due to their influence. The final graph is perhaps the most important. It shows the difference between national average IQ’s, and average IQ’s for natives, as derived from the PISA scores. Countries experiencing a net fall in the average IQ relative to the native IQ of more than 2 points include Benelux and the Germanic lands. More modest falls in average IQ are experienced in France, the UK, Russia, and Canada. The gap in the US is only 0.9 – presumably, because unskilled Hispanic immigrants aren’t the worst types can get, and are further counterbalanced by many skilled, high-IQ immigrants from Asia; and also because the native US population already includes Blacks, whereas European countries don’t tend to have sizable low-IQ indigenous minorities. In Norway, where Breivik comes from, the effect is only 0.5 points, and in Greece, where the Golden Dawn party recently put up a good showing, it’s a truly insignificant 0.1 points. I wonder why the strongest anti-immigrant reactions are in countries where the issue isn’t all that significant?

It is not controversial to argue that immigration policies should ideally benefit the host country. Liberal economists in particular argue that for loose immigration policies, especially in the case of countries with rapidly aging populations, so as to arrest the decline of the workforce and pressures on pensions. They tend to view the incomers as a source of labor, rarely accounting for its quality in any detail, let alone considering the long-term social and economic consequences of the mass influx of lower mean IQ populations.

In reality, IQ is closely correlated with any number of highly important things like productivity, criminality, civic-mindedness, welfare dependency, etc. and research is converging on the view that IQ is highly heritable and that different ethnic groups have different genetic IQ ceilings. This is all reflected in the far lower average cognitive capacities of the immigrant populations of Europe, and to a lesser extent, the US and Canada, relative to that of natives. For a long time this view necessarily had to be based on stereotypes, anecdotes, or at best limited regional studies, with the consequence that someone raising these issues ran the risk of being called insensitive to “institutional racism” and various other, largely irrelevant liberal/PC hogwash. The detailed PISA results demonstrate that schoolchild immigrant IQ’s may rise somewhat when they are born in developed nations – the average for all countries on which data is available is a rise of 1.6 IQ points from the 1st to 2nd generation – as they get access to better nutrition and education (i.e. experiencing an accelerated Flynn Effect), and resolve any lingering language issues; but for all that, they remain far closer to the stock from which they came, while convergence to native IQ levels typically remains modest or non-existent.

Just giving it more time, Newspeak, and diversity officers won’t resolve these issues. As it stands, to varying extents, the developed world has decided to just that – stick its head in the sand and pour calumnies – not to mention the occasional prosecution for “hate speech” – on dissenters such as Thilo Sarrazin.

The PISA 2009 data in full.

National Native 2nd Gen 1st Gen
Shanghai 577 589
Hong Kong 546 557 554 520
Finland 544 549 464
Singapore 543 550 558 552
South Korea 541 544
Japan 529 535
Canada 527 533 519 521
New Zealand 524 532 497 524
Taiwan 519 534
Australia 519 521 533 521
Netherlands 519 533 471 469
Liechtenstein 518 539
Switzerland 517 542 479 465
Estonia 514 524 479
Germany 510 533 463 458
Belgium 509 525 453 448
Macao 508 514 511 508
Iceland 501 505 426
Poland 501 503
Norway 500 504 456 441
United Kingdom 500 508 495 467
Denmark 499 509 441 421
Slovenia 499 513 455 422
France 497 508 445 429
Ireland 497 503 473
United States 496 502 474 481
Hungary 496 497
Sweden 495 505 447 417
Czech Republic 490 498 451 487
Portugal 490 493 467 460
Slovak Republic 488 495
Austria 487 508 437 407
Latvia 487 489 469
Italy 486 491 449 414
Spain 484 493 461 427
Luxembourg 482 510 447 457
Lithuania 479 486 459
Croatia 474 476 463 453
Greece 473 474 449 415
Russia 468 477 447 452
Dubai, UAE 459 395 467 503
Israel 459 456 470 447
Turkey 454 451
Serbia 442 443 467 446
Chile 439 437
Bulgaria 432 437
Uruguay 427 428
Romania 426 429
Thailand 422 422
Mexico 420 421 344 331
Trinidad & Tobago 413 417 427
Montenegro 404 403 425 405
Jordan 402 402 418 418
Brazil 401 399 323
Colombia 399 394
Kazakhstan 398 402 431 373
Argentina 396 398 365 359
Tunisia 392 387
Azerbaijan 389 403 392
Indonesia 385 378
Albania 384 388
Qatar 373 339 389 452
Panama 369 378 394 328
Peru 368 370
Kyrgyz Republic 325 333

Anatoly Karlin is a transhumanist interested in psychometrics, life extension, UBI, crypto/network states, X risks, and ushering in the Biosingularity.


Inventor of Idiot’s Limbo, the Katechon Hypothesis, and Elite Human Capital.


Apart from writing booksreviewstravel writing, and sundry blogging, I Tweet at @powerfultakes and run a Substack newsletter.


  1. Given the stark difference in achievement between Near Eastern Christians (Maronites, Copts, Assyrians), Balkan Christians (Greeks, Serbs, etc.), Armenians, and Sikhs/Hindus in Europe compared with their Islamic neighbors (Muslim Arabs, Turkish Muslims, and Pakistanis/Bangladeshis): one has to seriously wonder if Islam ITSELF exerts a major dumbing down effect wherever it spreads! I mean, when we talk about ‘genetic ceilings’: malnutrition aside, there must be something major that is accounting for the poor quality of Muslim immigrants, given the stark difference between them and their non-Islamic genetic cousins?

    As someone who spent 17 years in Saudi Arabia, I could not help but notice this…

    • There is a theory that historically in South Asia Islam and Christianity had special appeal to lower-caste individuals. Islam and Christianity are universalist. They preach that everyone is equal before God. I can easily see how that would be attractive to lower-caste Hindus. Brahmins, on the other hand, would have been completely satisfied with Hinduism.

      Separately from that, it’s interesting to look at small remnants of formerly-huge religious communities. Parsis and Levantine Christians appear to be smarter than their neighbors. They descend from small minorities that, for whatever reasons, stubbornly refused to convert to Islam after everyone else converted. Perhaps Armenians can be added to this list. Before the 20th century they did not have a compact area of settlement. They were sprinkled over a large area of the Ottoman Empire, everywhere a minority. I’ve read that before the Russian Revolution Russian Old Believers had a reputation for being more successful in business than the majority. This is again a case of a small group descended from those who refused to convert when everyone else converted (to a new, government-backed version of Orthodoxy). Perhaps such events select for intelligence – just a guess. I haven’t heard of Copts being wealthier or smarter than other Egyptians though. It would be interesting to survey all such known communities.

      • yalensis says

        Very fascinating point, @glossy, about small communities who refused to go along with whatever big Ideological Paradigm Switch (IDP) the Evil Empire was trying to impose on them. You give examples of small Christian communities in India and Ottoman Empire, Old Believers in Russia, etc. Not sure if any of this is correlated with genetic intelligence, although the elephant in the room is the example of the Jews themselves, who refused to assimilate to various big-empire Idiocracies (Assyria, Persia, Rome). Everybody knows that Jews are the smartest people in the world (unless I am confusing historical, Biblical Jews with modern Ashkenazis who may be genetically different), but in any case I fail to see how the Jewish religion itself is any big fountain of wisdom or intelligence. Yeah, it was good that this particular tribe acquired literacy and learned to read, but big deal, other peoples did that too and invented way better alphabets.
        Plus, Jews really came into their own during the European diaspora, and not because of their religion: Since they were the outsiders in Christian Europe, they were the ones who promoted religious tolerance and secularism. This secularism (aka agnosticism), promoted by disapora Jews, is what led to the all the good things to follow which made Europe great, namely the Scientific Method of thinking, inventions, industrial revolution, evolutionary biology which led to modern medicine; art, culture, development of chemistry and electronics and so on.

    • Re: Ryan G

      You might be interested in this paper:

      The authors looked at the association between Haplogroups and National IQs for European, North African, and Middle Eastern countries. When human development and religion were controlled for, the following was found:

      “If weighted Weberian religion (weighted to achievement and educational
      orientation) is used this cultural index has a strong effect, but the
      effect of haplogroup set B remains (rWR=.89, rHsA=.81, rHsB=
      −.88, βWR→IQ=.54, βHsA→IQ=−.04, βHsB→IQ=−.48). If all
      variables together are used in one analysis the haplogroup set B
      has the strongest effect (−.362) followed by religion (.361) and
      HDI (.264).

  2. My question regarding Islam is NOT at all insignificant: Muslims account for 1/4 of the global population, and Muslims are a rapidly growing demographic group in the Western World. If Islam (particularly the Sunni Orthodox core) really is dumbing down its followers, then this is a serious issue!

    • yalensis says

      Agree that official Islamic Orthodoxy is a threat to human intelligence. For example, strict Sunni societies do not permit the teaching of any scientific fact (I am not just alluding to evolutionary biology, but any scientific fact whatsoever) that contradicts anything stated in the Koran. For example, the Koran states that the Moon is farther away from the Earth than the stars. Having to stick to this idea would naturally bring any astronomy class in school to an awkward, embarrassing impasse.
      Islam is okay if people just treat it as a cultural choice, but not when it gets in the way of science.
      But then again, societies like Saudi Arabia have no tradition of secular public schooling.

  3. Islam permits polygamy, which encourages inbreeding and deterioration in the gene pool.

    • it’s not the polygamy that encourages inbreeding in islamic societies, although polygamy does also narrow the gene pool. islamic societies (in particular the arab world, maghreb, mashriq and the ‘stans) regularly practice cousin marriage. in some of these countries — like saudi arabia and pakistan — the cousin marriage rates are 50%+. (see also here re. egypt.)

      • Thanks for that link hbd chick.

        That certainly requires further investigation. I had no idea cousin marriage was that prevalent in the Muslim word. (And it is, with the exception of southern India, largely limited to the Middle East from Pakistan to Morocco).

        This might well be the “dumbing down” effect postulated by Ryan G. above to explain lower than expected IQ in many Muslim regions. I notice in particular that even among Arab states, the higher the rate of consanguineous marriage – the worse they tend to do on various measures of IQ (and general non-oil related development for that matter).

        What does Islam as a religion say about cousin marriages? Is it encouraged by the religion, or is it something that is more specific to Middle East culture?

        • Jennifer Hor says

          Dear Anatoly and hbd chick,

          This link to an article on premarital genetic counselling in Qatar might interest you both. In the third last paragraph, a doctor explains that marriages between cousins have increased due to tribal traditions and growing wealth. Rich families want to keep and concentrate wealth among themselves rather than spread it out and marriages between close relatives are one way to do it.

          Wikipedia also has a detailed article on cousin marriage in the Middle East:

          Funny how the more wealthy or middle class people in Third World countries become, the more they cling to traditions and superstitions. Bride burning in India is associated not with poor people but with increasing urbanisation and the growth of the middle class. Where and how these traditions and customs began originally might be the more interesting question.

          • @jennifer – “Rich families want to keep and concentrate wealth among themselves rather than spread it out and marriages between close relatives are one way to do it.”

            absolutely. one of the main reasons given by all sorts of peoples who practice cousin marriage around the world — and there are a lot of them, esp. traditionally — is that they want to keep the wealth or the assets in the family. often there’s not only inheritance to be kept in mind, but also things like brideprice or whatever. typically, when a cousin marriage happens, the brideprice is reduced or even skipped.

            @jennifer – “Funny how the more wealthy or middle class people in Third World countries become, the more they cling to traditions and superstitions.”

            interestingly, one middle eastern country where middle- and upper-class people altered their marriage patterns from cousin marriage to outbreeding is egypt. still, most of the rest of the populace still marries cousins, so the nation is still quite clannish.

          • yalensis says

            Dear Jennifer: In the 1800’s (maybe earlier), cousin marriage was practiced among English aristocracy and landed middle class. Two examples from Jane Austen:
            (1) In “Pride and Prejudice”, Lady Catherine De Bourgh schemes to implement not one but two cousin marriages: (Mr. Darcy + Miss deBourgh); and (Mr.Collins + Elizabeth Bennet). The fact that plucky Elizabeth foils both schemes is not germane to my point.
            (2) In “Mansfield Park”, after many emotional storms, Fanny Price ends up marrying her beloved cousin, Edmund Bertram. No eyebrows were raised, except on the part of Fanny’s romantic rival, Mary Crawford.

            • Jennifer Hor says

              Dear Yalensis,

              You will love this article by Razib Khan at his GNXP blog, it’s about how the Hapsburg dynasty in Spain from the 1560s to 1700 became so inbred through so many consanguineous marriages that the dynasty’s last monarch Charles II was more inbred than the average offspring of brother-sister matings. Poor old Charles was physically and mentally disabled, had no children from his two marriages and died before the age of 40. There is a family tree printed in the article showing several loops indicating an uncle-niece or cousin-cousin marriage.

              • yalensis says

                Dear Jennifer:
                wow! Thanks for that. I feel sorry for poor old Carlos, what a crummy life, he should have sued his parents for having him!
                Still on the topic of incest: I just finished watching on DVD the Metropolitan Opera 2010-2011 season production of “Der Ring des Nibelungs”. I am a Wagner freak, so I will watch any new production of the “Ring”. This particular production (which cost something to 20 million to stage) was an Epic Failure, due to an extremely flawed set design. On the bright side, the singers and orchestra were excellent, so still worth watching.
                But I digress… What is noticeable about all these mythological stories is the high level of incest. For example, all of Act II of “Die Walküre” is taken up with the love story of Siegmund and Sieglinde, twin brother and sister, separated in childhood, reunited, they fall in love and run away together (knowing that they are sibs, but they are so much in love the don’t care). Their father is Wotan, God and Sky and War, and chief god in the Icelandic pantheon. Their mother is a human woman from the Wolf Clan. So the twins are half god, half human, half Wolf, and all HOT TO TROT! Last heirs to the Volsung race, their raging love produces the half-wit hero, Siegfried, whose humorous antics take up all of the following opera in the cycle.
                If you are not familiar with the story, Siegfriend (1) forges sword, (2) slays dragon, (3) kills evil Dwarf, and (4) gets the girl.
                In summary, Siegfried breaks through the Ring of Fire to claim his beautiful Bride, who happens to be his own Aunt. Usually Aunts are only required to to send you some money on your birthday. But Siegfried demands SO much more: “Hi, Auntie Brunhilde! It’s me, your nephew Siegfried. Now let’s get it on and f***!”
                See, if you don’t believe me, Brunhilde is Wotan’s daughter, by Erda (the Earth Goddess), who bore Wotan 9 Valkyrie daughters, including Brunhilde. This would make Brunhilde half-sister to Siegmund/Sieglinde, and thereby Aunt (or maybe half-Aunt) to Siegfried.
                But none of that matters, as these two crazy kids blast out their mutual love and sexual attraction for one another at the end of Act III.
                (One wonders what an idiot THEIR incestuous offspring would turn out to be, but fortunately, it never gets to that point, thanks to Götterdämmerung and Brunhilde immolating herself to save the world, and all that…)

              • Jennifer Hor says


                That’s why I love reading Teutonic and Greek mythology, the shenanigans of gods and demi-gods are much better than watching soap operas like “The Bold and the Beautiful” where there are so many consanguineous pairings that it’s a wonder everyone doesn’t look alike. (Or they would if the filming budget included a plastic surgeon to make everyone “beautiful”.)

                The saga of King Pelops and his descendants – his sons Atreus and Thyestes, grandsons Agamemnon and Aegisthus (husband and lover respectively of Clytemnestra) and a couple of unnamed kids, and grandchildren Orestes and Elektra – all cursed when Pelops cheated in a chariot race so he could marry Hippodameia, is totally mind-blowing. The unnamed children are included here because when Thyestes seduced Atreus’s wife Aerope (after Atreus won the throne of Argos and Thyestes got jealous as all second-place getters do), Atreus killed Aerope and ordered Thyestes’s unnamed sons killed, cooked and served to their father for dinner. When Thyestes found out what his brother had done, he swore revenge and consulted an oracle for advice; the oracle told him to disguise himself and rape his daughter Pelopia who would bear a son. Thyestes did that, then later Atreus came along and saw Pelopia, fell in love and married her. The son, Aegisthus, whom Atreus assumed was his own, grew up and killed Atreus and Thyestes claimed Atreus’s throne. Pelopia committed suicide when she found out that Thyestes had been the man who raped her. Atreus’s sons Agamemnon and Menelaus later killed Thyestes. Of course you know what happened next after Agamemnon and Menelaus married the sisters Clytemnestra and Helen respectively – those two sure got their husbands (and a cast of hundreds if not thousands plus one city) into a whole heap of trouble.

                Clytemnestra and Helen were born from two eggs laid by a Spartan queen Leda who had been impregnated by a swan (randy old Zeus in disguise). Castor and Polydeuces, also known as the Dioskouroi, were born from the same eggs. In some versons of the story, only Helen and Polydeuces were Zeus’s actual children and the other two were fathered by Leda’s husband Tyndareos.

                The curse of Pelops wasn’t lifted until Orestes sought sanctuary at Athena’s temple from the Furies for killing his mother and Aegisthus, and Athena got a jury of 12 people to determine the seriousness of Orestes’s crime against Clytemnestra’s crime of killing her husband. The court was split so Athena cast the deciding vote and Orestes was let off scot-free.

                You wonder why mythologies are so obsessed with stories of incest, family strife, cannibalism and gender-benders. My favourite story about the god Thor is the one where his hammer is stolen so he has to get it back from the giant who took it. The giant demands Freya as his bride in an exchange so Loki tells Thor to dress up as Freya in full bridal gown. Thor does this and Loki as bridesmaid accompanies the god to the wedding and wedding feast where Thor impresses his “husband” and the guests with his (non-existent) table manners. Once Thor gets his hammer back, he and Loki kill the giant and everyone else. I guess this is one story Marvel Studios won’t be in a hurry to film!

        • @anatoly – “What does Islam as a religion say about cousin marriages? Is it encouraged by the religion, or is it something that is more specific to Middle East culture?”

          all the cousin marriage that you see in the arab world, maghreb, mashriq and the ‘stans, is more of a cultural thing than a religious one, but islam has also encouraged it — in a way. islam doesn’t prohibit cousin marriage, nor does it encourage it directly, but muhammed and many of his close followers married their cousins, as was the custom amongst the arabs, and since muslims ought to emulate muhammed’s life there is a sort of a push there from the religion. but fundamentally it was and is a cultural practice.

          the arabs have been practicing cousin marriage since well before muhammed’s time and they’ve been practicing an unusual form that most peoples around the world have tended to avoid: father’s brother’s daughter (fbd) marriage. it’s too complicated to go into in a blog comment (and i’d probably bore you to tears (~_^) ), but suffice it to say that fbd marriage is the most inbred form of cousin marriage there is since the individuals involved are from the same lineage. it was this form of cousin marriage that the arabs introduced to the peoples of north africa and the middle east and south asia. and the arabs may have picked it up from the jews who migrated from the levant into the arabian peninsula.

          keep in mind that the map that you looked at has no time depth to it. the data for the map are mostly all very recent. some of the earliest data go back to the ’40s and ’50s, but some areas of the world have been practicing cousin marriage for very long periods of time, like the arabs described above and the chinese who have been marrying their cousins since the third century b.c. this fact is lost on the map which only has recent data for china. yes, the chinese don’t marry their cousins much anymore, at least not in urban areas, but their long history of inbreeding likely has implications.

        • @anatoly – “This might well be the ‘dumbing down’ effect postulated by Ryan G. above to explain lower than expected IQ in many Muslim regions.”

          yes, i’ve been thinking that all the inbreeding in the muslim world may have led to some inbreeding depression and, therefore, low iqs (you might want to have a look at this).

          but i’ve also been wondering lately if an additional effect of all the fbd cousin marriage on iq might be that, since fbd marriage seems to lead to societies based on tribes (i think it does anyway), perhaps low iq individuals are not weeded out of the population/gene pool since the tribe sorta takes care of them and even helps them along in life to the point where they are able to even reproduce (see last two paragraphs in this post for an example of how this works). i mean, if you’re living in a tribal society in which cousin marriage is common and you’re kinda slow, you might just be married off to one of your cousins who is also a little slow. and the extended family looks out for you guys, so there you go … low iqs not weeded out of the population.

          not sure if anyone else has thought along these lines.

        • Branko Stojanovic says

          I think it doesn’t have to do anything with Islam, cause in Iran that is very rare phenomenon. It is general tradition among tribal societies. But with smaller families and fertility rates it will decline in Arab world also.

          In this hit book you have chapter about this:

          and even better if you find whole book by Todd about this:

      • I generally dislike broad terms being used to describe specific situations. This would apply to the type of consanguineous marriage that is prevalent in the middle east. Yes, in layman’s terms they would be marrying first cousins, but genetically speaking as a result of so many from previous generations marrying first cousins and so on, isn’t it now the case that most “first cousin marriages” are really more like “double first cousin marriages” (or closer)? If so then they are effectively practicing half-sibling marriage which is naturally going to be a whole lot worse than simple cousin marriage.

        • olivegreen says

          Yes, there is a study on this, and apparently the progeny of multiple generations of cousin marriages have a genome which is almost twice as homozygous (11% vs 6%) than is predicted by mathematical models for the children of first cousins.

  4. Steve Bloomberg says

    Interesting analysis. Unfortunately a lot of policy makers/politicians would never think of this, and if they did, would find it unpalatable. I appreciate your willingness to look at this objectively.

  5. “…but they tend to be ethically questionable…”

    Coercive eugenics feels immoral to me, but so does doing nothing while the world is moving in the dysgenic direction. Non-coercive eugenics (monetary incentives to felons, hardcore addicts, layabouts) doesn’t seem ethically questionable to me at all. If they don’t want to take the money, nothing happens.

    “I’d have expected the UK’s (-2) immigrants to perform about as badly as in the rest of Europe, but on inspection, it’s in the same boat as Canada.”

    I’m sure that Oxbridge, Eton, Harrow, etc. are drawing in big brains from all over the world. Nothing like that on the continent except for posh secondary schools in Switzerland. The City is also more important than any continental equivalent, and it must be drawing in foreign talent. Also, for some reason the rich people of the third world, who must be much smarter than than the third-world poor, love London. The international rich are much more likely to know English than continental Euro languages. Perhaps there are other factors. Maybe there are legal reasons why shady, disreputable rich guys like Berezovsky prefer London – I wouldn’t know. But they do seem to prefer it to other places.

    I didn’t know that Kazakhstan attracted any immigrants, much less high-IQ immigrants. Their oil and gas industry is attracting foreign engineers? Just guessing.

    “It is interesting to know that the country with the biggest gap between natives and 2nd generation immigrants for which statistics exist is Mexico (-12)”

    Those are presumably people from Guatemala and points south. Perhaps some of them know Amerindian languages better than Spanish. But, yes, the size of the gap is surprising.

    “If they are are high in numbers, but comparable to the host population, as in Australia, then this isn’t a huge concern either. ”

    There’s more to ethnic conflict than economic competition. I don’t think that the The Baltic-Russian conflict in the Baltic states arises from any difference in mean IQs. Same thing for Canada’s and Belgium’s traditional, pre-immigration ethnic issues. I’m sure there’s some difference, but it’s got to be tiny. People tend to side with those to whom they’re more related. It’s like caring for one’s family, but on a bigger scale. The Russian phrase “nashih byut” is relevant here. It’s my impression that Japanese and Koreans still can’t stand each other, even though the difference in their mean IQs is marginal. IQ differences make ethnic conflicts worse, but these conflicts can exist without them.

    “I wonder why the strongest anti-immigrant reactions are in countries where the issue isn’t all that significant?”

    Breivik was probably just a lone, unrepresentative nut case. Greece’s economic troubles are probably exacerbating any conflicts that they might have had.

    One more thing: everyone understands why the extinction of rare bird species is bad, but some people seem to not understand that the loss of human diversity is similarly bad. More mixing = less diversity. How can anyone welcome humanity’s movement towards becoming an undifferentiated gray mass?

    One can come up with a million examples, some trivial, others universally important. The less Englishness there is in Englishmen, the less English humor there will be in the world, for example. But their humor is so insanely cool! And, as far as I know, there’s never been anything like it anywhere else. I’ve never seen anybody imitate it successfully. Same for French sensuality that gave the world all that food and drink and clothes, same for the Italian feeling for visual beauty, German seriousness, etc. All of these talents and peculiarities were created by millenia of obscure, poorly-understood forces working on millions of people. And now all of this is being diluted, partially lost. To me this feels much more tragic than anything that could ever happen to any owls. Even if this process was completely painless to individuals (and because of all the crime, it’s not), the world would still be losing something very important.

  6. @anatoly – “The third major lever is the immigration system, but how can we assess whether it’s doing its job of only letting in the people who would be a net benefit to the host country?”

    obviously iq is (or should be) a major criterion when picking and choosing immigrants (if they’re really necessary/desirable at all), but it’s not the only one.

    don’t forget that different populations have differing innate social behaviors (such as altruism) which result in the various “flavors” of societies we see out there ranging from individualistic to clannish to tribal. on average, immigrants from tribal societies, such as somalia, or even clannish societies, such as china, will not be a good fit in nw european societies which have been based on individual rights and duties for at least a millennium now.

    great post! thanks for digging up these numbers. (^_^)

  7. Jennifer Hor says

    I don’t think Islam in itself dumbs down people but like all other religions with long histories, it has picked up folk traditions and customs that lots of Muslims and non-Muslims alike believe are part of the religion and these might be having effects on Muslims’ motivations on improving themselves. Female genital mutilation is one tradition people often associate with Islam and often wherever Islam has spread, FGM has followed even though the tradition predates Islam itself. Another tradition that often follows Islam is marriage between cousins or between closely related people and this has been noted in Pakistani communities in the UK.

    In some countries like Lebanon and Syria, the former French colonial government had a habit of favouring Christians and allowing them to gain education and other privileges at the expense of the Muslim communities. This explains in part why in those countries Muslims seem more backward than Christians. Interesting thing is that the Druze, who started as a heretical offshoot of Islam, have done very well in Lebanon, Syria and also Israel – a high percentage of people serving as officers and in combat units in the Israeli Defense Forces are Druze by religion.

    In Australia at least, most Muslims have come as refugees from poor areas in their native countries (most Muslims here came from Lebanon in the 1980s) so they traditionally haven’t had much education and culture, and the mindset and values that encourage learning, deferment of self-gratification, and setting and striving for long-term goals.

    My understanding about Muslims in Germany is that they were encouraged to come only as guest workers; they were not expected to settle permanently but to stay only as long as they were required to help rebuild industry and fill shortages in certain categories of work and go back to Turkey. To that end, for a long time Germany didn’t provide services to immigrants to learn German and to integrate into German society. The immigrants themselves, accepting that they were only temporary, also didn’t bother to try to integrate. Unfortunately for everyone involved, “temporary” became permanent and it’s only recently that Germany has introduced programs aimed at encouraging Turkish people to mix with non-Turks. The same problem may apply to Austria, Belgium and other European countries that had guest worker programs.

    If there is anything intrinsic in Islam that discourages self-improvement, it might be the notion of predestination (that your destiny has been worked out in advance by God and you can’t change it) but then Hinduism and Buddhism also have the concept of karma which discourages individuals from improving themselves. In some countries Roman Catholicism also discourages or used to discourage people from questioning the status quo. A fatalistic attitude to life doesn’t lead to high ambitions in individuals and communities.

    The reason that Parsis as a group have over-achieved in India and other countries is that the British favoured them as native administrators and entrepreneurs during colonial rule. Some time before the British arrived in India, the Parsis got rid of caste distinctions in their society and the only distinction they made was between priests and commoners. Because of this, the British found them easier to deal with than Hindus and even Muslims and native Christians, all of whom had accepted caste distinctions among themselves and who wouldn’t co-operate with one another, let alone representatives of a foreign power. These days, Parsis are a diminishing group, in part because their priests disapprove of Parsis marrying non-Parsis and refuse to accept as converts the non-Parsi spouses and any children they have; at the same time Parsis, being a wealthy lot, tend to marry late and have children late in life so they end up with small families. They’re also an inbred group and low fertility is one result of continuous inbreeding.

  8. Branko Stojanovic says

    Russia is in much worse position than Germany, because it starts from low point of natives, and have low IQ immigrants. You should dedicate one article on darussophile about this.

  9. OT, but did you know “in Shanghai, as in most other Chinese cities, the rural migrant workers that are the true urban working poor (totaling about 150 million in the country), are not allowed to send their kids to public high schools in the city. This is engineered by the discriminatory hukou or household registration system, which classifies them as “outsiders.” Those teenagers will have to go back home to continue education, or drop out of school altogether.”

    The hukou system. Know how it works?

    China’s human capital may have been grossly over-estimated.And the fundamental inequities in Chinese society under-estimated. Read it and weep.

  10. I am completely baffled by Israel. I have seen test figures that also show poor performance in measures of human capital. And yet there’s all the Nobel prizes, etc. What’s going on?

    • Jennifer Hor says


      Government spending on education, health and other social services in Israel has dropped and school-teachers are underpaid. Apparently they also don’t spend many hours per day in front of students compared to teachers in other countries. Higher education also has problems with attracting research funding.

      There is more inequality in Israel and about one-third of all children live in poverty. Some of these kids are in ultra-Orthodox or haredim families which are often very large and live on social security. Haredim men are required to spend time studying Torah and the Talmud and their education doesn’t permit them to learn work skills that would enable them to hold a job. They marry very young as well, usually to teenage brides selected for them by their rabbi teachers. Haredim families are usually very poor and the children may be malnourished which affects their intelligence.

      Wealth in Israel is supposedly concentrated among 20 families and much of the social and economic inequality can be sheeted home to the government where the level of corruption stinks to high heaven. Ex-prime minister Ehud Olmert faces charges of fraud and breach of trust. Former president Moshe Katsave was convicted of rape and sexual harassment in 2010.
      You are probably aware that Israel gets over US$10 billion in foreign aid from the US annually and wondering where all that aid goes … I assume most of that aid money goes on buying weapons and military equipment from US arms companies.

  11. So, what’s the point of this post? What do you propose should be done with this info? Should developed nations be walled, only accepting inside their borders foreign individuals with a high enough IQ (one that won’t lower their average)? Should we accept explicit labor specialization between nations based on our “genetic IQ ceilings”?

    • yalensis says

      That is a very good question, @Makryu. Studies like this are not pure knowledge for knowledge sake, but will be used to help formulate government policies. Maybe not such a bad thing, if just limited to immigration reforms. I don’t personally see anything wrong with screening immigrants based on taking exams. (Kind of like taking civil service exams to get a government job.) Maybe that is what America should have been doing all along, instead of the “Give me your tired, your poor, your wreched illiterate masses…” etc. As a result of which, over the decades, USA ended up with many excellent immigrants, but also a lot of duds and criminals, and is rapidly developing into a full-blown Idiocracy.
      More sinisterly, I fear this type of study will be used WITHIN societies to target ethnic minorities and deny them opportunities, on the grounds that they are genetically deficient. Most likely, within America, this type of study will probably be used against African Americans, who are NOT immigrants, but indigenous to that culture; but as a lower-ranking caste; and until recently they were relegated to menial jobs, on the grounds that they were too dull-witted to do important things. Anatoly’s study will reinforce the “dumb darky” stereotype of Negroes and will probably be used by right-wing American policy makers to justify unfair hiring practices and not investing in urban public schools, etc.
      In summary, this study is a potential Pandora’s box fraught with many political risks.

      • I think that in these decadent times, in this beginning eclipse, the greater risk is probably rather that a higher group-IQ would be seen as an unfair advantage; “after all, members of your genetic class were just born with it, they did nothing to deserve it…” And that, Sir, would be sinister.

    • Jennifer Hor says

      Dear Makryu,

      The object was to stimulate discussion into why immigrant groups in some countries like Germany are failing to integrate whereas in other countries they are doing better than the host populations. So far we’ve identified consanguineous marriages as one potentially harmful influence on IQ levels of immigrant Muslim groups. If you scroll back over past comments we’ve made here, you’ll see hbd chick’s link to the Egypt article on consanguineous marriages and that article notes that young educated urban Egyptians are less likely to marry close relatives than less educated rural Egyptians. If developed nations developed policies that provide better education to immigrants and their children and grandchildren, provide genetic counselling on the dangers of constant consanguineous marriages through generations and co-opt religious leaders and organisations into providing this information, then immigrants’ attitudes towards this custom may change. Foreign aid with this strategy will assist developing countries in imroving the genetic health of their populations.

      • yalensis says

        Dear Jennifer, continuing above thread on mythologies:
        Yikes, I am getting sloppy, I had several typos in my comment, including the one about “Act II of Die Walküre”, that of course should have read “Act I”. Act I is the chance meeting and love story of the Volsung twins, Siegmund and Sieglinde. Act II is all Wotan, having a fight with his wife Fricka, and agonizing about his numerous treaties and contracts, and how the heck is he going to get the Ring back from the giant Fafner?
        Speaking of which, your story about Thor losing his Hammer and using Freya as a bargaining chip is very reminiscent of whatever myth Wagner used in the plot of “Das Rheingold”, the first opera in the Ring cycle. In Wagner’s version, Loki (=Loge) is the demi-god of Fire, and a notorious trickster. Wotan calls upon his legendary cunning to help him solve a problem, involving Freya (goddess of Spring). Underhandedly, in the backstory, Wotan had hired the two Giants, Fafner and Fasolt, to build his new Fortress in the sky (=Valhalla), so that he and his fellow Gods could have a decent crib to frolic in. As payment he promised the giants Freya to be their bride. (It goes without saying that Freya was not consulted in this deal!)
        So, when the Giants finish building Valhalla, they naturally demand their payment (=Freya). But Wotan cannot afford to really hand her over, since her Golden Apples (which she grows in her magical garden) are the fruit that bestows eternal youth upon her fellow gods and goddesses, which include Thor (here under the name Donner = Thunder).
        Once again, Wotan has painted himself into a corner, by entering into a contract that he cannot possibly honor. So, he brings in Loki to find a way to weasel out of it. Loki’s solution drives the main plot of the opera, involving Wotan and Loki making a trip to the underworld to steal Alberich’s hoard of Gold, including the magical Ring, under the assumption that the giants will accept the Gold in lieu of Freya.
        Meanwhile, Freya is being held captive by the two giants, and since she is Spring, the world and the gods begin to wither away in her absence.
        Eventually the Giants agree to release Freya in return for a heap of Gold that is exactly the size and measurements of Freya herself. Freya is laid upon the ground and the Gods pile up the Gold until she is completely covered – all but one gleaming eye. The giants demand that her gleaming eye be covered, but there is no Gold left. Only the Ring, which just happens to be the exact same size and shape as Freya’s gleaming eye. So, Wotan has no choice except to toss the Ring (which has been cursed by Alberich) onto the hoard that is transferred over to the Giants, as ransom for Freya.
        In the Wagner version of the Freya myth, Thor (=Donner) doesn’t really have that much to do, except chafe ineffectually and threaten the giants with his Hammer.

  12. Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Serbia and Bulgaria have significant gypsy populations. Due to high gypsy and low native fertility their share among the students is even greater. Although I am not aware of any statistics on gypsy test scores, I am pretty sure they score very low (lot of school drop-outs, high crime rate…). Unfortunately it is difficult even to find reliable statistics on the number of gypsies. E. g. in Hungary ca. 8-9%, but the official statistics is ~2%, which is clearly nonsense. Their share among newborns is about 1/5, which can clearly have an impact on PISA scores.


      “To examine whether the Roma (Gypsy) population of Serbia, like other South Asian population groups, average lower than Europeans on g, the general factor of intelligence, we tested 323 16- to 66-year-olds (111 males; 212 females) in three different communities over a two-year-period on the Raven’s Colored and/or Standard Progressive Matrices and four measures of executive function. Out of the total of 60 Matrices, the Roma solved an average of 29, placing them at the 3rd percentile on 1993 U.S. norms, yielding an IQ equivalent of 70. On the executive function tests, the Roma averaged at about the level of Serbian 10-year-olds.”

      • I have been aware of that study, but, alas, the subjects lived in very poor conditions even for gypsies. I also find the estimate of 70 too low – my personal experience does not agree with such a low number. Though it is rarely discussed, gypsies are not particularly homogeneous. Some of their groups e.g. “musician gypsies” (muzsikus or zenész cigányok in Hungarian) perform adequately – though not well – at school.

  13. New paper by Rindermann et al.
    “Haplogroups as evolutionary markers of cognitive ability”