The Chosen People: A Study of Jewish Intelligence and Achievement
Whitefish, MT: Washington Summit Publishers, 2011
Reviewed by Bob Williams
Richard Lynn has added yet another valuable collection of global data and historical insight to the literature. Various sources (Lynn, Herrnstein and Murray, Storfer, etc.) have reported studies showing high mean IQs for Ashkenazi Jews, which Lynn estimates to be 110, but these have not included a detailed study of Jewish intelligence on a global basis, nor a supportive set of data relating to real world accomplishments. The Chosen People provides both, along with a fascinating look at Jewish history. The result is a bit of a history book, combined with a truly massive quantity of data.
In the early part of the book, Lynn discusses the Mizrahim, Sephardim, Ashkenazim, and Ethiopian Jews as separate groups with different mean IQs. [Mean IQs in the prior order: 91, 99, 110, and 66] Lynn examines these four groups on a country-by-country basis and historical basis, sometimes going back 2,000 years. Proceeding alphabetically from Australia through 17 countries, ending with the United States the reader sees a consistent pattern of outstanding accomplishment in a wide variety of fields.
The pattern that emerges is consistent and becomes repetitious. Jews consistently show low fertility, low infant mortality, greater longevity, high educational achievement, high income, high SES, encouragement of eugenic practices, and extraordinary performance levels in a wide range of disciplines. To show the magnitude of achievement, Lynn presented data in the form of Achievement Quotients (AQ), which are simply the ratio of the percentage of Jews who met an achievement measurement (such as receiving the Nobel Prize), divided by the percentage of Jews in the country. For example, US data from 1922 to 1932 showed that 37% of virtuosi musicians were Jews. The 1927 population (3.6%) was taken as the reference, giving an achievement quotient of 10. In situations where the Jewish population is quite small, the AQs sometimes become large. For example, Switzerland has produced 17 Nobel Prize winners, three of whom were Jewish. During the 20th century, Jews were about 0.3% of the Swiss population. This works out to an AQ of 60.
In the U.S. (1960), Jewish AQs by profession show a wide range of successes:
Psychiatrists 5.8 Lawyers 3.3
Dentists 4.0 Architects 1.7
Mathematicians 3.8 Engineers 1.1
Doctors 3.7 Artists 1.4
Writers 3.4 Military 0.5
Lynn interprets the high verbal scores of Jews as explaining the relative magnitudes of the above numbers. AQs above 3.0 are found in fields that depend strongly on verbal (and math) skills; those with lower AQs are fields that require strong visualization and spatial abilities.
Of the country chapters, the one on the US is the most detailed and the one on Israel is of special interest, given the nature of the country. The U.S. discussion has a section on “Music and Hollywood” that is not paralleled by discussions of the other countries. No American would be surprised that the motion picture business is dominated by Jews, but the degree of the domination was beyond my prior knowledge. Studios such as Paramont, Fox, Universal, Goldwin, etc. were founded by and are still run by Jews. Some of the great performers (Streisand, Borge, Marx, Newman, and Hoffman, for example) retained their Jewish names, but many changed their names. Some of the highly recognizable names in Lynn’s longer list:
Konigsberg Woody Allen
Ullman Douglas Fairbanks
Kaminsky Danny Kaye
Schwartz Tony Curtis
Keisler Hedy Lamarr
Tuvim Judy Holiday
Goldenberg Edward Robinson
Kubelsky Jack Benny
Gumm Judy Garland
Birnbaum George Burns
Jews have likewise been generously represented in both classical and popular music as composers and performers. In the former category there are such names as Copland, Bernstein, Schnabel, Horowitz, Rubinstein, Heifetz, Milstein, Stern, and Menuhin.
The Jewish dominance has likewise shown up in the media, founding or controlling entities such as Time, Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report, Daily News, Atlantic Monthly, Commentary, The Public Interest, The New York Review of Books, New Republic, and Partisan Review.. Some AQs for media elites:
% Jews AQ
1975 Media elite 26 10.0
1980 Media elite 30 13.6
1980 Hollywood movies 66 30.0
1994 Hollywood TV 46 20.9
Israel has five major ethnic groups: Ashkenazim, Sephardic, Oriental, Ethiopian, and Arabs. The Arabs (as discussed in the last chapters) are the source group for Jews, about 2,000 years ago. Their mean IQ in Israel today is 86 (the mean outside of Israel is 84); they account for 20% of the population. Oriental Jews in Israel have a mean IQ of 85. As Lynn has shown in his other books, the genetic nature of intelligence is evident in mixed groups. In this case, high school graduates with both parents European have the largest percentage of their children above high IQ reference points (128, 120, and 110); families with one parent European and one Oriental had smaller percentages at these levels; when both parents were Oriental, the percentages were considerably lower at the reference IQs. Since all of these children were reared together in the same kibbutzim environment, the effect is presumably limited to genetic causes.
Ethiopian Jews in Israel have a mean IQ of about 69 (about the same as that for sub-Saharan Africans–67). Ethiopian Jews in Israel display the characteristics of other low IQ groups: high juvenile crime rate; high percentage of single-parent families; high dropout rates from high school; poor school achievement; low scores on matriculation exams; low employment rates (45% of men in 2003); high fertility (60% of families with 5 or more children); and a high HIV infection rate. The Brookdale Institute estimated that each Ethiopian immigrant costs the Israeli taxpayer about $100,000 over the course of his lifetime.
There are a large number of measures that indicate very high performance in various fields. Among those used in the book:
Membership in the Royal Society and Membership in the British Academy (Britian)
Fields Medalist and Wolf Prize (mathematics)
Wealth (wealth quotients are calculated the same way as EQs)
Eminence (Charles Murray’s Human Accomplishment cited)
Education (educational quotients are calculated the same way as EQs)
Chess grandmasters and bridge champions
Jews, and particularly Ashkenazi Jews, have performed much better in these measures than would be expected on the basis of their group size. This leads to the obvious question of why? Throughout the book, Lynn points to high intelligence as a likely explanation for success in any task that is cognitively demanding. The 10 point IQ advantage (relative to the Northwest European standard, known as the Greenwich standard,” after the reference point for longitude) increases the percentage representation at the high end of the bell curve. Above IQ 130 the representation is four times that of a group with a mean of 100; above 145, it is six times as great. [My calculation agrees with Lynn’s at 130, but I found a 7.3 times as great number for 145.] The point is that various AQs are considerably larger than the number of high IQ individuals who might form a pool for success in the measures listed above. Charles Murray also commented that the higher mean IQ is not sufficient to explain the high rates of success of Jews.
Lynn presents discussions of other factors that may account for the unusually high achievements, such as cultural values and motivation. He offers the formula: IQ x Motivation x Opportunity = Achievement.
Causes for the High IQ of Ashkenazi Jews
Lynn discusses the history of the four Jewish groups and offers some speculation as to how they arrived at their present day numbers. The Ashkenazi Jews are decedents of Arabs, who presumably had the same mean IQ (84) as they have today, leading to the most interesting question of how they increased the mean by 26 points and what factors may have led to the higher verbal-math and lower visualization-spatial abilities.
Before getting into specific theories, Lynn discusses the genetic basis of intelligence and the present day understanding that the family environment has no long-term effect on intelligence. He builds a solid case that the high Ashkenazim mean is not the result of environmental factors, then addresses the possible explanations for the genetic boost.
Eugenic Hypothesis – The idea is that Jewish customs and practices favor the survival of the intelligent. The only argument that seems to support this line is that sometimes there were restrictions on the marriages of the poor. This happened when the controlling Gentiles limited the number of Jewish marriages allowed per year. The problem with this hypothesis is that it fails to explain why there were significantly greater gains among the Ashkenazim than among other Jews.
Persecution Hypothesis - The country by country history from Lynn shows that Jews were frequently expelled from one nation, then another, throughout Europe. At various times they were killed, sometimes in connection with the Inquisition and Crusades. It is not unreasonable to believe that this protracted and deadly stress factor caused disproportionate numbers of less intelligent Jews to die, in much the same way as the stress of cold weather is likely to have killed off less intelligent people who migrated north from the African Savannah.
Discrimination Hypothesis – Jews were sometimes limited to the jobs they were allowed to hold, limiting their options severely. One area in which Jews were successful was money lending (as a result of usury laws that applied to Gentiles). This was a sufficiently complex task that it is reasonable to believe that only the bright survived. At that time, wealth was a significant advantage to survival, as infant and child mortality rates were high.
Miscegenation Hypothesis – There is evidence of interbreeding between Jews and Gentiles who lived in the same locations. This practice created a path for higher IQ genes to boost the Jewish mean intelligence. Lynn put the gain limit at 6 points, moving the mean from 84 to 90 and requiring other factors to account for the additional gain of 20 points.
Apostasy Hypothesis – Proposed by Charles Murray, this hypothesis is based on a requirement from 64 AD that all Jewish boys attend school. The scholastic requirements were demanding and the argument is that individuals who did not possess high verbal ability became discouraged and renounced their faith. This is consistent with the decrease in the number of Jews from 4.5 million in the 1st century to about 1.5 million in the 6th century.
Lynn does not argue in favor of or against any of the five hypotheses, but points out that they are all possible and that several or all of these processes contributed to the IQ gains. He ends the book with three conclusions: (1) the high IQ of the Jews must be genetic; (2) eugenic customs contributed to high Jewish IQ, proving that eugenic practices work; and (3) a minority group with high IQ succeeds despite discrimination. These conclusions are strongly supported by the large body of independent research cited by Lynn, but all are counter to the PC thinking that is prevalent today.
Jewish populations are declining throughout the world, except in Israel. This has been due to low Jewish fertility, migration to Israel, loss of faith, and intermarriage with Gentiles. In the U.S. Jewish fertility is 1.16, which will result in an approximate halving of the population in each generation. Despite migration to Israel, the Central Intelligence Agency issued a report in March of 2009, predicting that Palestinians and Jews would merge in a single state and that, over time, the higher fertility of the Palestinians would lead to their majority status. That, combined with a predicted migration of Jews from Israel to Russia will likely result in Israel not surviving as a Jewish state.