Have you ever wondered what your IQ (Intelligent Quotient) is? Have you thought about how those of us in the United States compare to others around the world? You might be surprised to know that the U.S. did not make the top 10 countries with the highest IQ! In fact, we didn’t even make it in the top 20.
In 2019, the U.S. came in at number 28 on the list and dropped to number 32 in 2020.
Tests created to measure IQ are revised every few years to have a standard average of 100. Skills related to reasoning and problem solving are assessed. This includes measures on language, mathematics, spatial reasoning and information processing speed.
The history and development of IQ testing began with William Stern, a German psychologist who coined the term “intelligence quotient” in the early 1900s Alfred Binet and Theodore Simon developed the first IQ test n in 1905; they called it the Binet-Simon Intelligence Scale.
From there, IQ tests around the world followed their model. Now, there are multiple tests that can be administered by a licensed psychologist to children and adults. Some examples of IQ tests utilized today are the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale, the Peabody Individual Achievement Test and the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale.
Where Are the Smartest People in the World?
You are probably wondering who is on that top 10 list. Here is how the U.S. scored compared to the top 10 countries in order by average IQ:
32. United States – 98
10. Switzerland – 101
9. Mongolia – 101
8. Iceland – 101
7. Italy – 102
6. Taiwan – 104
5. China – 105
4. Japan – 105
3. South Korea – 106
2. Hong Kong – 108
1. Singapore – 108
So, what are the people from the top 10 countries doing differently?! Multiple factors play a role in IQ, such as genetics, education, nutrition and environment.
Let’s take a look at the educational rankings for some of the top countries. When a test similar to the ACT and SAT was administered to 15-year-old students throughout the world, the U.S. and the top 10 countries for these scored as follows:
26. United States – 1489
10. Netherlands – 1556
9. Taiwan – 1558
8. New Zealand – 1572
7. Canada – 1580
6. Japan – 1588
5. South Korea – 1623
4. Singapore – 1630
3. Finland – 1631
2. Hong Kong – 1637
1. China – 1731
With one of the most well-developed education systems, why is it that the U.S. falls so low on this list as well? Could it be that over the last 30 years, the U.S. has decreased its funding for education by 3%? This is in contrast to other countries that have increased their funding for education.
Education Systems Compared
When we take a closer look at the differences in education systems between highly developed countries, we see a large difference in the way they have developed and their values. For instance, in the U.K., students take exams around age 16 and decide to follow a university path or a vocational path for the next two years of their schooling.
The educational system in Finland, which is thought to be one of the most developed globally, focuses on equality among its students. Students of all abilities are within the same classes, and every school has access to the same pool of highly-educated teachers.
Additionally, Finland does not create an environment of competition and comparison among its students. Besides one exam at the end of their schooling, they have no mandatory exams!
On the other end of the spectrum, the U.S. education system has a highly competitive atmosphere. Standardized mandatory exams and GPA are used to create an environment of comparison, and students work to get the best scores for entering universities.
Nutrition and IQ
Another variable to consider is the role that nutrition plays in IQ. We know that malnutrition is a key element in lower IQ scores. When we think about this variable, generally, the picture that comes to mind is a lack of food available, or that poverty leads to a financial situation where families can afford less food.
However, what about the fact that large amounts of food in the United States contains high amounts of processed ingredients? Food that costs less tends to be higher in calories but lower in nutritional value than vitamins and minerals go. Is this playing a role?
Could the more stringent regulations on what type of ingredients and additives are allowed in other countries’ foods play a role?