In two previous posts (The Wealth of Nations, Cognitive Capitalism) I had mused on the contribution of human intelligence to the creation of wealth.
Last week I belatedly came across Earl Hunt’s (2012) “What makes nations intelligent?” Perspectives on Psychological Science 7 (3) 284-306. In this piece he sets out some of the evidence for intelligence making people and nations rich.
One strong example is that intelligence predicts job success at r= 0.4 for low complexity jobs, r= 0.52 for medium complexity jobs and r=0.58 for high complexity jobs. These complex jobs make the biggest difference because they increase the rate of productivity gains. Societies had few such permanent jobs before the industrial revolution, and the increasing complexity of the emerging industrial economy depended on such occupations. Bright people were needed to fill these demanding posts, which led to the emergence of a middle class of skilled workers.
Another strong example is that in our own age the very, very brightest in adolescence (top 99.75th percentile) go on by age 40 to be three to five times more productive than even the very bright (99.25th percentile) and at least 12 times more productive than the rest of the population (in terms of patents, which is a good predictor of economic innovation and wealth creation). Intelligence matters.
But my eye was drawn to a simple summary of the causes of wealth, based on Rindermann’s 2008 work on 17 nations for which he had data for cognitive data. So, in the hope of getting comments, I leave you with a single table showing some of the desirable national consequences of intelligence, and some undesirable consequences of the lack of it.
Table 4. Correlations of National Levels of Cognitive Ability with selected desirable and undesirable attributes of the country 1960-1996
Attribute Correl Attribute Correl
Rule of law .64 Fertility rate -.73
Quality govt .64 Gini inequality -.51
GDP per capita .63 HIV infection rate -.48
Economic freedom .52 Govt spend % -.47
Economic growth .44 Homicide rate -.23
Solved homicides .32 War: freq & impact -.22
Rindermann, H. (2008) Relevance of education and intelligence at the national level for the economic welfare of people. Intelligence, 36, 127-142.