Friday, December 14, 2012

How much smarter are Americans today than a hundred years ago?

Nicholas Kristof points out this shocking fact:

The average American in the year 1900 had an I.Q. that by today’s standards would measure about 67. Since the traditional definition of mental retardation was an I.Q. of less than 70, that leads to the remarkable conclusion that a majority of Americans a century ago would count today as intellectually disabled.


DOuglas2 said...

After Coyoteblog, I think that much of the re-normalling of the test has more to do with education that better prepares people to take such tests, rather than actual raw intelligence.

100 years ago, this sort of testing was an anomaly. But now there are more and more such standardized tests at every stage of our education, largely to inform educational bureaucracies about how they are performing in their task compared to peer bureaucracies.

Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

One can only imagine what the typical Tweet, Facebook entry, or blog comment would have been like in in 1912.

T.K. Tortch said...

It wouldn't surprise me if better all-round nutrition, especially for children, accounts for a rise in median I.Q. as much or more than any one thing in particular.

In any case, happy as I am to think we're all getting smarter, I'm skeptical of I.Q. as a measure of a society's health. The important thing to remember is that more smarter people in the world doesn't mean there are more wiser, decent, or considerate people.