January 18, 2018

IQ of Sub-Saharan Africa

In estimating the median IQ of Africa, I use 3 sources: Lynn’s IQ study data, international test scores, and Wicherts’ data.

The advantage of the international test scores is that they are a well-funded body that sets out to get representative samples from all of the countries they are testing. The disadvantage is that these tests are not technically IQ tests.

Lynn and Wicherts can give estimates for IQ, but there is dispute as to what studies to include.

International Test scores from Sub-Saharan Africa:

“TIQ” stands for test IQ and is just the raw score converted to a rank order number in the same way IQ test scores are reported (with the median score being 100 and standard deviations of 15).

Average is 73.95

Median study IQ is 74

Of course this is more heavily weighted toward South Africa, which has a large non-African minority that almost certainly drives up the score. Also, most countries in Africa don’t do these tests and so we have no international data from them, and they would probably have lower scores than the African countries that do report test scores.

Richard Lynn argues that the Africans who take these tests are the more accessible schools, which tend to be in more urban areas, which tend to be better. So using these numbers may overestimate Africa’s IQ. But who cares, it’s still really low.

Next we can look at the direct measurements of IQ data itself, and on this there is a dispute between Richard Lynn and Jelte Wicherts. Richard Lynn assembled 57 studies totaling 26,897 people.

Of the studies Lynn assembled, the median was 68, the weighted average was 70.9, and the unweighted average is 71.12. The average of these 3 numbers is 70.01.

Lynn for some reason likes to make all sorts of “corrections” and ends up estimating an IQ of 67. This is an example of “regime flavor” in my opinion (researchers coming to conclusions that deviate from their own data). But really Lynn’s data says 70.

Jelte Wicherts criticized Lynn’s selection of studies. He argued that Lynn included studies with developmentally disabled, with people who didn’t understand the test, with people who have HIV, malaria and parasites.

Lynn’s response was basically that those things represent black Africa, and to exclude those studies is to, in essence, exclude the problems of Africa. And Lynn and Wicherts went back and forth on that.

I don’t know who I side with on that, and those criticisms aren’t stupid. However, since Lynn’s numbers are basically 70, and the international test scores point to an IQ of 74, and since the students being tested in those are probably slightly above average of Africa, Lynn’s numbers seem very plausible.

Wicherts estimates the median IQ of Sub-Saharan Africa to be 80. And he does this by excluding studies that had the problems he referred to above.

To be blunt, he excluded the studies that have the problems of Africa, and when the problems of Africa were removed, the median IQ was only 5 points less than the median IQ of African-AMERICANS, and African-Americans have on average 20% European admixture.

One of Wicherts’ criticisms was bizarrely technical, and that was to exclude studies from Sudan saying it’s not part of Sub-Saharan Africa. Technically speaking it’s debatable, as the UN defines Sudan as part of North Africa, while the US Library of Congress defines Sudan as part of Sub-Saharan Africa.

But since the point is to infer the IQs of black people in Africa, and Sudan is overwhelmingly black, it should be included, and trying to exclude Sudan on the basis of some autistic geographic challenge is shallow and pedantic. It’s an argument a 4-year old with very rule-based thinking would make.

Averaging Lynn’s numbers, Wicherts’ numbers, and the international test scores yields a score of 74.67.

Wicherts’ number is not without value, but it’s not representative of Africa. The most representative number is probably the international test scores, which are probably slightly elite, and Lynn’s numbers are probably slightly depressed.

Lynn’s number: 70.01

Average of Lynn and international test scores: 72

International Test Scores: 74

Average of all 3 numbers: 74.67

Average of Wicherts and international test scores: 77

Wicherts’ estimate: 80

My opinion is 72.

PS: As an egalitarian, accepting the IQ of Africa at 80 would put you in a bit of a tough situation. Because the median IQ of blacks in the United States is roughly 85, and so if the difference in environment between blacks in the US and blacks in Africa only produces a 5-point difference, how plausible would it be that the 15-point gap between blacks and whites in the United States is due to those, much smaller, environmental differences?

Moreover, if blacks in Africa have an IQ of 80, that would confirm an estimate of the “genotypic IQ of the pure African” being 81.25. Because African-Americans are ~20% European by admixture, and the median IQ of European-Americans is 100, factoring that out would give us an estimate of the “pure Afro-American IQ” of 81.25, which is very close to Wicherts’ estimate of 80 for the continent of Africa.

The per-capita GDP of Africa is around $1,700 in purchasing power parity (which controls for the fact that most things are cheaper in Africa), while that number for African-Americans is around $35,000. Moreover, Africans deal with things like malnutrition and starvation, HIV, malaria and parasites, along with awful schools and outright illiteracy. It would be weird if this difference DIDN’T cause a lower IQ.

A super-low African-in-Africa IQ HELPS the egalitarian side, because their whole shtick is big environmental effects, while the heredetarian benefits from a high African-in-Africa IQ because it shows weak environmental effects in the MOST environmentally depressed region on the planet. Heck, the egalitarian would benefit from treating Lynn’s 67 number as gospel.

For the egalitarian, if you use Wicherts’ data, you’re going to have a very hard time arguing environment for the black-white IQ gap in the United States. You’re just going to have a bad time.

TIMSS 1995:


TIMSS 1999:


TIMSS 2003:



PIRLS 2006:


IEA 1992 Reading assessment:


Second International Science Study 1983:


Lynn’s data:


Wicherts-Lynn Exchange:



Facebook Comments
  • Emil Kirkegaard

    Actually, they do use some tests in Africa, but not the same ones. Except that a few did take part in TIMMS which is enough to link the scales. What were the findings?

    “I compare three different equating methods and find that learning levels in this sample of African countries are consistently (a) low in absolute terms, with average pupils scoring below the fifth percentile for most developed economies; (b) significantly lower than predicted by African per capita GDP levels; and (c) converging slowly, if at all, to the rest of the world during the 2000s.”

    Average below 5th centile. 5th centile is IQ 75. In the paper he says most of the countries are more than 2 standard deviations below, i.e. have scores that correspond to <70 IQ.


    There is also studies that post-date the 2010 discussion of SSA IQs. E.g. this review of Zulu IQ. Last study is form 2005, n=522. Weighted IQ was 67.1, decreasing with age (cumulative deficit perhaps).


  • Marcus

    The IQ data are not very salient to Wichert’s argument, it is Wichert et al.’s argument regarding the Flynn effect that Lynn failed to respond to that seems most important.

  • Stewart Hughes

    this IQ difernece is very small,,,, 10 % usualy,, no much diference..

    • Ryan Faulk

      Well it’s about two standard deviations and it will basically guarantee that SS Africa will always be relatively poor.

  • Mitchell

    The results justify limiting immigration from Africa.

    Either you bring in those incapable of work, completely reliant on welfare, and criminal in nature.

    Or, you strip the countries of their intellectual elite, the people who could work in the West, who would be the ones helping their home countries to develop.

    The Left protest that we are stripping Africa of its natural resources – why don’t they protest the West stripping its intellectual resources when we allow the very few best Africans in?