Sunday, February 6, 2011

Blue State and Red State IQ is identical

The American left often congratulates itself on being smarter than the right. On the surface, this claim sounds plausible, since academics are disproportionally Democrat, and since some of the states most associated with poor educational outcomes (such as Mississippi) are solidly Republican.

The first problem with this line of argumentation is that it is lazy. The assumption is that if smart people vote Democrat, that in out of itself proves Democrats are right, without needing to prove the Republicans wrong in substance. However, like everyone else, the educated vote based on class interests, cultural identification and the ideological atmosphere of college, not just cold rational analysis of policy differences.

Second, there is actually no scientific evidence for the claim that Democrats are smarter, since no American political science database of voting to my knowledge collects IQ-data. Data on education and voting shows that Democrats and Republicans have identical average years of education. Democrats are over-represented among the most educated but also among the least educated, while Republicans have the middle.

Third, these voting patterns are constantly shifting, and differ across countries (and even within U.S states). As late as 1988 the educated voted overwhelmingly Republican. Through friends in Sweden have access to a high-quality dataset of IQ and voting, which confirms that Swedish Social Democrat voters have lower test scores than Swedish conservative voters. The fundamental arguments between pro-market and pro-government are the same in Europe and the United States. But the American left would never accept that the European right has superior arguments just because their voters have higher IQ than the European left (nor should anyone accept this premise). Yet the same liberals try to bully people in the U.S to vote for them based on the claim that Democrats are smarter than Republicans.

To make things worse, unlike Europe the American left have not taken the time to demonstrate their claim using actual test-score data. Democrats instead simple assume that they are smarter than everyone else!

This theory can ultimately only be evaluated using individual level data. The next best thing is analyzing proxies for state I.Q. Let me caution that this is problematic. Regarding income Andrew Gelman and others have shown the paradox that while Democrat States are on average richer than Republican States, Democrat voters are on average poorer than Republican voters.

Part of the explanation is that in Red states the poor vote Democrat and the rich Republican. Uneducated whites in the South, the demographic group the media likes to paint as bigoted Republicans, actually went close to 45% for Obama, perhaps because they earn little and didn't mind a little redistribution. McCain's margin in the South came from educated whites, a detail the media prefers to ignore since it contradicts their stereotypes.

I will use this paper in the prestigious journal Intelligence to get estimates of state I.Q, based on NAEP test scores.

If you just glance at the list, you might get the impression that the Blue states are indeed smarter than the Red states. I define Red states based on the 2004 Bush map, so New Hampshire is defined as blue and New Mexico as Red.

4 out of the top 5 are Democrat:

1. Massachusetts (D)
2. New Hampshire (D)
3. North Dakota (R)
4. Vermont (D)
5. Minnesota (D)

And 3 out of the 5 bottom states are Republican. Although the author doesn't include the District of Columbia, which would have had the bottom slot if included.

46. New Mexico (R)
47. Hawaii (D)
48. California (D)
49. Louisiana (R)
50. Mississippi (R)

However, looking more carefully at the list, the results are not that consistent. Red Midwestern and Mountain states such as the Dakotas, Montana, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming and Idaho do quite well. Meanwhile, large blue states such as California, Maryland and Illinois have unimpressive scores. So let's just estimate the average for all the Red states, and all the Blue states, weighted by the population of each state.

The result is not really surprising: The average I.Q level of Blue and Red States is identical: Blue States have an average IQ of 99.5 and Red States have an average I.Q of 99.4.

It would be strange if we found large differences, since we know from exit polls that Republican voters are on average no less educated than Democrat voters, and since I.Q and education are strongly correlated.

If the District of Columbia is included, the Red States would score slightly higher than the Blue states (although with I.Q a 1 point difference is meaningless).

Unless Democrats can produce a micro-study of adult voters that demonstrates that Democrat voters have significantly higher I.Q than Republican voters, they should respect the state of science and stop spreading the myth that they are smarter than everyone else.


Here is the full list of states and estimated IQ:

1. Massachusetts 104.3
2. New Hampshire 104.2
3. North Dakota 103.8
4. Vermont 103.8
5. Minnesota 103.7
6. Maine 103.4
7. Montana 103.4
8. Iowa 103.2
9. Connecticut 103.1
10. Wisconsin 102.9
11. Kansas 102.8
12. New Jersey 102.8
13. South Dakota 102.8
14. Wyoming 102.4
15. Nebraska 102.3
16. Virginia 101.9
17. Washington 101.9
18. Ohio 101.8
19. Indiana 101.7
20. Colorado 101.6
21. Pennsylva. 101.5
22. Idaho 101.4
23. Oregon 101.2
24. Utah 101.1
25. Missouri 101
26. New York 100.7
27. Michigan 100.5
28. Delaware 100.4
29. N. Carolina 100.2
30. Texas 100
31. Illinois 99.9
32. Maryland 99.7
33. Rhode Island99.5
34. Kentucky 99.4
35. Oklahoma 99.3
36. Alaska 99
37. W. Virginia 98.7
38. Florida 98.4
39. S. Carolina 98.4
40. Georgia 98
41. Tennessee 97.7
42. Arkansas 97.5
43. Arizona 97.4
44. Nevada 96.5
45. Alabama 95.7
46. New Mexico 95.7
47. Hawaii 95.6
48. California 95.5
49. Louisiana 95.3
50. Mississippi 94.2

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