The Sciences

The stupid rich and poor smart do exist

Gene ExpressionBy Razib KhanJan 21, 2011 5:56 AM

Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news
 

WORDSUM is a variable in the General Social Survey. It is a 10 word vocabulary test. A score of 10 is perfect. A score of 0 means you didn't know any of the vocabulary words. WORDSUM has a correlation of 0.71 with general intelligence. In other words, variation of WORDSUM can explain 50% of the variation of general intelligence. To the left is a distribution of WORDSUM results from the 2000s. As you can see, a score of 7 is modal. In the treatment below I will label 0-4 "Dumb," 5-7 "Not Dumb," and 8-10 "Smart." Who says I'm not charitable? You also probably know that general intelligence has some correlation with income and wealth. But to what extent? One way you can look at this is inspecting the SEI variable in the GSS, which combines both monetary and non-monetary status and achievement, and see how it relates to WORDSUM. The correlation is 0.38. It's there, but not that strong. To further explore the issue I want to focus on two GSS variables, WEALTH and INCOME. WEALTH was asked in 2006, and it has a lot of categories of interest. INCOME has been asked a since 1974, but unfortunately its highest category is $25,000 and more, so there's not much information at the non-low end of the scale (at least in current dollar values). Below you see WEALTH crossed with WORDSUM. I've presented columns and rows adding up to 100%. Then you see INCOME crossed with WORDSUM. I've just created two categories, low, and non-low (less than $25,000 and more). Additionally, since the sample sizes were large I constrained to those 50 years and older for INCOME.

Of those with low income, about 1 out of 5 are smart. And of those who are smart, 1 out of 5 are poor. Remember, this is for those above the age of 50, not college students. I thought perhaps retirees might be skewing this. Constraining it to 50-64 changes the results some in a significant fashion. 1 out of 5 poor remain smart, but only 1 out of 10 of the smart are poor. As for the rich dumb, you have to look to wealth. It is notable to me that there's a big drop off at more than $500,000 dollars in wealth. And, a large fraction of those with wealth in the $100,000 to $500,000 are dumb. I think we might be seeing the 2000s real estate boom. In any case, I began to think of this after a recent post by the quant-blogger Audacious Epigone, Average IQ by occupation (estimated from median income). This is what he did:

Wealth & Intelligence (2006)

Columns = 100%

Less than $40 K$40-$100 K$100-$250 K$250-$500 KMore than $500 K

Dumb221412135

Not Dumb5565635748

Smart2322253147

Row = 100%

Less than $40 K$40-$100 K$100-$250 K$250-$500 KMore than $500 K

Dumb501318164

Not Dumb3216241810

Smart2911202020

Income & intelligence (2000-2008), age 50 and above

Columns = 100%

LowNot Low

Dumb3211

Not Dumb5050

Smart1839

Row = 100%

LowNot Low

Dumb5842

Not Dumb3268

Smart1783

...It's not supposed to be an exact measure of IQ by profession by any means, as it is based entirely on average annual income figures. In other words, it's an income table with the values converted to IQ scores.... ...the following table estimates average IQ scores by occupation solely on the basis of the Career Cast mid-level income figures. The median salary (of a paralegal assistant) is taken to correspond to an IQ of 100. One standard deviation is assumed to be 15 IQ points....

You can see the full list at the Audacious Epigone's place, but here's a selection I found of interest:

Off the top of my head, I would say that the highest disjunction in the low income direction would be clergy. This is especially true for Roman Catholic and mainline Protestant denominations in the United States, which have moderately stringent educational prerequisites for their clerics. I assume that the biggest in the other direction are surgeons and medical doctors, who enter a market where there's less and less real price signalling, where labor controls the supply of future labor, as well as well influencing the range of services that competitive professions (e.g., nurses) can provide.

OccupationEstimated IQ from median income

Surgeon234

Physician161

CEO148

Dentist140

Attorney128

Petroleum engineer126

Pharmacist126

Physicist125

Astronomer125

Financial planner123

Nuclear engineer121

Optometrist121

Aerospace engineer120

Mathematician120

Economist117

Software engineer117

School principle116

Electrical engineer115

Web developer115

Construction foreman115

Geologist114

Veterinarian114

Mechanical engineer113

Biologist111

Statistician111

Architect111

Chemist109

Stockbroker109

Registered nurse107

Historian107

Philosopher106

Accountant106

Farmer105

Zoologist104

Author103

Undertaker103

Librarian103

Anthropologist103

Dietician102

Archeologist102

Physiologist102

Teacher102

Police officer101

Actor101

Electrician100

Paralegal100

Plumber100

Clergy98

Social worker97

Carpenter97

Machinist96

Nuclear decontamination technician96

Welder95

Roofer95

Bus driver95

Agricultural scientist95

Typist94

Travel Agent93

Butcher92

Barber90

Janitor90

Maid88

Dishwasher88

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month
Already a subscriber? Log In or Register
1 free articleSubscribe
Want unlimited access?

Subscribe today and save 70%

Subscribe

Already a subscriber? Log In or Register
More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Join
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

 
Subscribe
To The Magazine

Save up to 70% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2021 Kalmbach Media Co.