Note: In this post “Africans” means just black Africans and IQs are on a scale where Britain = 100 and America = 98 in 2006.
“The average African IQ is 70” is something you hear on the Internet. It means that black Africans have an average IQ of 70. Some put it lower at 67. It has become an article of faith among HBDers and other scientific racists.
It is not just the Internet: it has appeared in at least 20 scientific papers and in several books and studies. It is what James Watson had in mind in 2007 when he said he was:
inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa [because] all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours – whereas all the testing says not really.
The number comes from Richard Lynn, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Ulster. He took some studies where IQ tests were given to Africans, took the average and got 67.
The number is suspect for a very simple reason: Africans do way better at school than you would expect from an average IQ of 67. Given their PISA scores and other measures of school achievement, you would expect an IQ somewhere near 82.
As it turns out, Lynn’s 67 is based in part on children who lost points because:
- Some were not used to pencils and could not draw. One boy said it was the first time he ever drew a picture.
- Some were not familiar with line drawings.
- Some did not wear Western clothes and so did not draw people that way.
- Many did not know about telephones, tennis, dollars, miles or other things common in America.
The main one: Most knew English only as a foreign language.
On top of that, Lynn marked down some scores and did not say why or how:
- Boys in Uganda who averaged 86 Lynn marked down to 80.
- Zulu children in South Africa who averaged 89 were marked down to 74.
- From a study on Nigeria and Sierra Leone he took the two worst samples out of five. No reason given.
Of the 42 studies he could have used, Lynn used 11. They had an average IQ of 67. The studies he did not use had an average IQ of 80. He gave no reason for his choice (though he did not seem to know about those that appeared only in African journals).
There are good reasons to throw out some studies:
- The test was not properly administered.
- The test was not given in full.
- The test takers were not a representative sample.
- The test has known cultural biases.
- The test has not been tried on a broad Western sample, making it hard to compare.
If you throw out all those you are left with 12 of the 42 studies. They have an average IQ of 81. Very close to the 82 expected from school achievement.
That is where the Netherlands was in the 1950s if you take into account the rising IQs of the Flynn Effect – which seems to have run its course in the West but not in Africa.
Huge thanks to the Cynic for pointing me towards the scientific paper this post is mostly based on (see below for the link).
- Wicherts, J. M., et al., A systematic literature review of the average IQ of sub-Saharan Africans,
Intelligence (2009), doi:10.1016/j.intell.2009.05.002 – the paper that this post is mostly based on
- Anti-black racism as a guide to science