Education and IQ

So, I am regularly told that “IQ is not this huge factor!” and that “education makes more of a difference in people’s lives” as this big thing that is supposed to make hereditarian beliefs about intelligence go out the window. Along with that we also get the “If group x had better education, their IQ would rise.” Stuff like this, commonly believed, yet unproved nonsense, is why I’m here.

In this post, I hope to show the reader that group IQ differences are not due to educational backgrounds and because of that, IQ remains the best predictor of outcomes, not educational achievement.

1: The Gene-Environment Correlation

This section serves to introduce some key preliminaries as well as explain how the gene-environment correlation (rGE) impacts the debate of education’s effect on IQ.

First, IQ is a good measure of intelligence. IQ tests measure g (general intelligence at 0.8 (Jensen, 1998). Intelligence can be recognized as “learning ability” or “cognitive ability” or “measure of one’s ability to solve problems”. That being said, IQ tests do measure other things as well, and it is important to narrow it to g. Next, we should understand the evidence generally suggests IQ is 80-90% heritable (Jeffrey, 2019). In addition, g is heritable at about the same amount (Panizzon et al. 2012). Given this is the case, not much is going to have a large effect on people’s IQ. Locurto (1990) looks at four major adoption studies to assess the effect of environment on IQ, and he finds the malleability of IQ is very low. It is noted that even massive changes can only create a limited effect on IQ.

For the purposes of this post, I’ll assume most people don’t need much more explanation of other concepts including that which is racial groups do differ in IQ and mental ability. I’ll add as well I do believe the difference between racial groups in IQ is likely due to genetics (see the video “Why 80%” by Ryan Faulk; also see Piffer, [2015] and Hill et al. [2017]). Soon, on this website, the writer at Radical Statistica will be posting a full paper going in-depth on the topic of racial differences in intelligence.

Right off the bat, we should note that education shouldn’t influence intelligence because intelligence is just your ability to learn what is in school, not how much knowledge you have. IQ tests are mostly logic based questions, unrelated to things you learn in school, which was the point when the concept behind them, g, was portrayed that way at it’s conception in 1904 by Thomas Spearman.

With this in place, we do have evidence that genetics influence intelligence and even the intelligence gap between blacks, whites, and Asians. Now, let’s review the gene-environment correlation. This is a term used in biology to simply recognize that genes influence environments. There are many ways it can happen: your parents share your genes and will influence you in the same way your own genes influence you to act; your friends, considering they live in the same community and IQ, at least, determines outcomes and people naturally self segregate by race (see [Taylor, 2011]) your peers will have an influence as well. This makes your genes more phenotypic, and hence they express themselves more in relation to those who share your genes.

Let’s apply this to education: if you have a higher IQ, chances are your parents do too and so do the people in your neighborhood. Because of this, your school will be better, you will have higher grades, and your parents will encourage you to work hard along with your fellow students. Hence IQ has influenced the school quality, but school quality has not made you any more intelligent – you just have more knowledge. That knowledge, you would not have been able to easily attain if you had a low IQ, regardless of your school.

2: Better education (generally) doesn’t increase intelligence

One of the most influential studies in hereditarian thought is “How Much Can We Boost IQ and Scholastic Achievement?” by Arthur Jensen. It may be argued this was one of the major, early re-sparks of talking about this type of thing. Jensen provides a strong case that typical education programs are not the preferred option to increasing IQ, and that furthermore, education doesn’t seem to be any sort of driving factor (Jensen, 1969)

Batty et al. (2007) shows that educational attainment’s correlation with IQ increases with age. Heritability of IQ also increases with age due to a phenomenon known as the Wilson Effect (Bouchard, 2003).

Educational attainment IQ at seven years IQ at nine years IQ at 11 years
 r 0.52 0.56 0.61
 n 6812 6711 6721

The correlation between “r of educational attainment and IQ over age” and “heritability of IQ with age” is shown below (note: I think Google Sheets is overexaggerating, but you get the point):


What this can imply is that, since the correlation between educational attainment and heritability of IQ is strong, educational attainment is strongly influenced by the genetic component of intelligence, rather than intelligence being changed by education.

Some major studies confirming an intelligence-education, causal link are:

Deary et al. (2005) finds the link between education and intelligence is strong and likely caused by the genetic component of intelligence.

Bartels et al. (2002) proves a strong link between the genetic component of intelligence and educational attainment at younger ages.

Petrill and Wilkerson (2000) notes that the genetic cause for intelligence increases with age, the rGE needs to be acknowledged and that genetic causes for intelligence are linked with educational attainment.

Regardless of this, the opposition should provide evidence education influences IQ, especially since hereditarians have provided plenty of evidence to show both a) it shouldn’t and b) the heritability of IQ is roughly 0.8. To make such a logically inconsistent case should place more of the burden of proof on them. One of the main studies people on the environmentalist side will cite is the meta-analysis, Ritchie et al. (2018) which, as some have pointed out, shows IQ can be raised one-five points through better education and an extra year. Reading through the study, I didn’t find any real issues, but that the study doesn’t directly measure the thing we’re most concerned with: g. In an article of Psychology Today they ask the editor of the journal Intelligence, Richard Haier, about the study:

“Further, IQ and general intelligence are not the same thing, as Haier points out; one is an imperfect proxy for the other. “IQ points are useful metrics,” he says, “but they’re not really a measure of intelligence directly.” Any effects of education on IQ may be related to improvements in particular skills, as opposed to a broader elevation of general cognitive ability.”

But, this might not be enough to prove this study didn’t look at actual intelligence. So, let’s see what the study says. They grouped the different subtests measured in IQ tests to certain categories. The things that can be picked up through education, aka less g-loaded subtests, were put into their own category, while the more g-loaded subtests such as reasoning and processing speed were lumped into “other”:

“The second classification method was to highlight tests that might be considered achievement measures. To do this, we classified every test that would likely have involved content that was directly taught at school (including reading, arithmetic, and science tests) as “achievement,” and the remaining tests, which generally involved IQ-type measures (ranging from processing speed to reasoning to vocabulary), as “other” tests.”

They note in the study the “other” tests, which measure skills related to learning ability and cognitive ability aren’t raised nearly as much as achievement based IQ subtests:

“We then split the outcome tests into “achievement” tests versus “other” tests. There was only one achievement test in the control-prior intelligence design, so we did not run this analysis. For policy change, there was no significant difference in the educational effect on the 7 achievement tests (2.760 IQ points, SE = 0.968, p = .004) versus the 23 other tests (1.784 points, SE = 0.553, p = .001; difference SE = 1.011, p = .334). However, for school-age cutoff, which had the largest proportion of achievement tests (38 of the 86 tests were classed as achievement tests), achievement tests showed a substantially and significantly larger educational effect (6.231 points, SE = 0.339, p = 2.85×10−75) than other tests (3.839 points, SE = 0.412, p = 1.11×10−20; difference SE = 0.371, p = 1.19×10−10).”

This isn’t something the authors are unaware of. One of the leading authors, Stuart Ritchie, has published another study on the topic where he tests whether the increase in IQ is due to particular skills or g. He finds, as has been demonstrated, it is largely due to increases in the ability of different skills. Educational quality does increase performance on cognitive tests but that is not caused by any increase in general intelligence (Ritchie et al. 2015). Instead of using this as an environmentalist case, Ritchie et al. actually makes a hereditarian case.

This would also hold in line with Woodley et al. (2015) that the most g-loaded subtests are the most heritable.

3: Group IQ differences hold across education levels

Next, I’ll provide the case that even across different education levels, black and white IQ differences are still present. This is an immediate thing, noticed in early childhood. A meta-analysis by James Malloy finds that the IQ gap between blacks and whites is roughly 1 standard deviation at age three, before environmental factors have played as much of an effect and before education has started (Malloy, 2013). This shows that school is an unlikely causal effect of the IQ gap.

Eysenck (1979) finds that later-in-life IQ is actually better predicted by IQ in early childhood, than from a parent, which implies this early in life difference is actually very important to the debate of black-white IQ differences.

Peoples et al. (1995) finds similar results in that, even at age three, group differences exist in the Stanford Binet test. They find, similar to Spearman’s Hypothesis, that the greater the test’s g loading, the greater the difference is in test scores. This confirms what is said before, while including the aspect of g. Worth noting as well, since g is largely heritable, this implies a genetic causation for the difference in cognitive ability between races.

Here are the differences in SAT scores by race/ethnicity (note that SAT scores have a strong correlation to IQ):

2017 Mean SAT Scores, and Percentage Meeting Benchmarks, by Race and Ethnicity

Group Reading and Writing Mathematics Met Both Benchmarks
American Indian/Alaska Native 486 477 27%
Asian 569 612 70%
Black 479 462 20%
Latino 500 487 31%
Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander 498 488 32%
White 565 553 59%

This is important because black people are basically given every advantage in education.

First, we can look directly to the education funding given per individual (Richwine, 2011):

Black people get more per individual than white people and white people get more per individual than Asians. There’s also evidence from both political sides that education funding in America is progressive (for more on this, read this Random Critical Analysis article). The left wing Brookings Institute finds districts with a greater proportion of poor students get more funding than those with a greater proportion of non-poor students (Chingos, 2017). Since black people are far more likely to be poor than white people, chances are they’d get more per district than whites do, on average.

In addition I know of two studies that have found education funding has very little effect on standardized testing as well: Lips and Watkins (2008) and Coulson (2014). All of this should make the debate much more cut and clear – the educational advantage is on blacks, yet they do worse on IQ tests. This means the black-white IQ gap can’t be due to educational differences. In alignment with all the other evidence, it must be the other way around.

Ryan Faulk from The Alternative Hypothesis has also made a good case that even in the same education range, differences in cognitive ability exist between black and white people.


Since it is IQ that affects education – and NOT the other way around – we can conclude that the effects education has on doing well in life are not driven by education alone. The origin would be IQ and hence any study that finds education makes x or y life outcome better, just means, in general, that IQ does.

The correlations of IQ to life outcomes is already high, and maybe this will make the importance of it more clear for those who question the hereditarian theory. I think this article makes the education-IQ argument more clear than already was. I couldn’t find anything covering the same things on other HBD blogs (correct me if I’m wrong, please).

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