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IQs of East Asians

One of the major arguments against heredetarianism is the claim that East Asians’ higher IQs than Europeans is merely a result of effort, and are in fact an example of effort raising the IQ of an entire group by about 4 points relative to 100, which is presumably what they would score if they were as “lazy” as Europeans.

There are 3 reasons to be highly skeptical of this claim:

1. The results of East Asian adoption studies

2. The global patterns of East Asian IQ scores and low verbal IQ relative to their other scores

3. Facts strongly suggestive of genetic causation of the White-Asian differences – such as myopia, the scores of mixed-race East Asians and specific gene variants East Asians have compared to Europeans.

Adoption Studies

Results of four adoption studies:

Country Age Asian Score Number Reference
Holland 7 108 36 Stams 2000
Belgium 10 110 19 Frydman 1989
USA 3-4 115 25 Clark and Hanisee 1982
USA 8-12 119.58 43 Gildea 1992

Results from Winick 1975

Group IQ Number
“Malnourished” 102 36
“Moderately nourished” 106 38
“Well nourished” 112 37

Children were admitted at Holt Adoption Service, and were in three groups:

1 – Malnourished: below 3rd percentile in height and weight

2 – Moderately nourished: 3rd to 24th percentile in height and weight

3 – Well-Nourished: 25th percentile plus

The fact that these adopted East Asians perform at or better than East Asians raised by East Asian parents calls into question the value of that parenting. It’s possible that some adoptive parents provide the same kind of intensive environment that the East Asian parents create, but there’s no particular reason to believe that. Especially five times in a row.

  1. A Global Pattern and Subtests

The IQs of racial groups in the United States, including East Asians, has been covered in detail here.

This includes data from the NAEP, TIMSS, PISA, ACT and IQ tests, that puts the East Asians in the US at 103.3 to the US Whites 100. And the East Asians do relatively worse on verbal tests than on mathematical tests in every single test in every single year.

Britain – UKCAT scores

Group Verbal Quantitative Non-Verbal Number
White British 101.1 100.2 101.3 145,340
White Irish 101.3 100.0 99.8 492
Chinese 100.8 109.6 112.1 519

Brazil – Fernandez 2001

Race Raw Score IQ Number
“Asian” 38.5 104.3 186
White 35.5 100 735
“Brown” 25.2 85.1 718
Black 15.8 71.6 223

Studies collected by Lynn 2006

Group Reasoning / Arithmetic Verbal Visual-Spatial Study
Chinese in Canada 103 97 106 Vernon, 1984
Chinese in Canada 99 103 Kline and Lee, 1972
Chinese in Canada 97 105 Peters and Ellis, 1970
Chinese in Holland 102 85 Pieke, 1988

I hunted down the Pieke study, and it was very interesting because it was looking at the offspring of first generation immigrants, some of whom had begun schooling in China, and so this is a real, bona fide example of how Chinese for whom Dutch is a second language perform compared to other ethnic groups in Holland for whom Dutch is their first language:

Group Arithmetic Score Verbal Score
Dutch 70 72.5
NW Europeans 69 70
Chinese (Parents 1st Gen immigrants) 73 61.5
Turks 51 52
Moroccans 49 52
Suriname Creoles 47 56
Suriname Hindis 53 56.5

That Chinese immigrant children are out-performing multi-generational Turks and Moroccans on verbal tests, but probably never passing the European verbal scores, is evidence of just how overwhelming genetics is, and how rapidly environmental factors just melt away since, presumably, the Chinese in Holland are now at about the level of Chinese in Canada in terms of verbal score in their respective language.

And the global pattern is overwhelming. East Asians have higher IQs everywhere and it’s always on nonverbal tests. The idea that it’s down to “Asian languages” just seems weird for two reasons; first of all, this relatively lower verbal score persists into 3rd and 4thgenerations, and second of all, these East Asians are beating every other group except Whites in verbal scores.

So this “cultural” disadvantage that impacts language but not math is precise enough to set East Asians just below Europeans on verbal scores, but above everyone else, and it stays that way for multiple generations even as East Asians beat out the Whites on math? And this is supposedly true in Brazil, Canada, the UK, Holland, and most extensively documented the US?

A tortured environmental explanation for this is unnecessary when genes can explain it:

“East Asians are genetically geared toward mathematical and visual-spatial intelligence, less toward verbal, and that’s why they score higher on that than on verbal in every country at every point in history on every large-scale IQ or IQ-like test ever given.”

In addition, their overall IQ or IQ-like scores are always higher than the white population in every country they go to if not immediately, eventually.

  1. Things Suggestive of Genetic Causation

    There are three things suggestive of genetic causation of the European / East Asian IQ gap. Mixed race East Asians / Europeans, knowledge from specific genes, and prevalence of myopia (nearsightedness).

Mixed Race

First is the results, as presented by Richard Udry in 2003, from the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health. In it he found that the Picture Vocabulary Test (PVT) score and GPAs of White / Asian hybrids were intermediate in both PVT and GPA.

Race % “High GPA” % “High PVT” Number
White 32.27 26.98 463,364
White / Asian Hybrid 37.58 23.08 583
Asian 43.16 20.99 4,133

This is interesting because Europeans do better on the PVT, but worse on GPA. And the hybrids score lower than Europeans but higher than Asians on the PVT, and lower than Asians but higher than Europeans on GPA.

This is a bizarre level of precision for the White-Asian IQ differences to be down to environment.

Rushton 1997 looked at the Collaborate Perinatal Project. He found that the average IQ of East Asians in the project was 114, Europeans 102, and the hybrids were 103. However, of the 37 hybrids, 32 were white / asian, and 5 were asian / black. Under heredetarian assumptions, this should have cost the hybrids 1 point.

While the hybrids in this sample were a bit lower than heredetarians would predict given the very high 114 IQ of “pure” East Asians in the sample, the hybrids were still intermediate; besides, it was a small sample.

Specific Gene Data

David Piffer showed that, on 9 gene variants that are associated with intelligence (positively or negatively), East Asians did “better” on 6 of the 9 genes compared to Europeans (either having less of a “negative” allele or more of a “positive” allele).

Obviously we have a long way to go until molecular genetic evidence can tell us much about group differences in IQ (if we went by molecular genetics studies, we’d have to believe that there was almost no genetic component to variation in height), but the limited data that exists evidences a genetic component to the East Asian / European IQ gap.


Last is near-sightedness (myopia). Myopia is robustly associated with higher nonverbal IQ. Myopia has a heritability of about 0.42. According to Douglas R Fredrick, about 70-90% of East Asians are myopic, 30-40% of Europeans are myopic, and only about 10-20% of Africans are myopic. This is just one more line of evidence that the differences between Europeans and East Asians are largely a result of genetic differences.


For any of these things in isolation, you can come up with an environment-only explanation.

The problem is that so many lines of evidence point to genetics, and an environmental explanation would have to explain the pattern of intelligence in east asians (relatively lower verbal) and higher IQs – all around the world and for decades.

It would have to explain the intermediate scores of mixed European-Asians, the coincidences of higher rates of myopia and East Asians having certain alleles that predict higher IQs.

Not only can a genetic explanation explain this data – all of these things positively bolster a genetic explanation, while an environmentalist orientation would at best just have to cope with all of this.

  • Othmar Regin

    It’s Genetic!

  • Big Rod

    This just proves again how influential genetics is on brain function. Yet try to explain that to someone who proclaims they are not racist and they will call you a racist because you believe in biological influence on brain development!

    • guard4her

      The problem is they say “racist” like it’s a bad thing.

  • MaskOfZero

    The problem I have with the various IQ studies is the question:

    With such IQ advantages, why were Asian cultures not as successful as European cultures in every measure of scientific, technological and social advancement?

    While there were successful Asian cultures historically, and the Chinese culture was successful in stability and longevity–none of them compare to the Renaissance, the Protestant Reformation, the Enlightenment, and the Scientific and Industrial Revolutions–all of which transformed the world.
    One would think that with Asian IQs being so high, that we would be emulating them–not the reverse.

    • T.I.J

      Population groups differ in average intelligence as well as temperament and psychological proclivities.

    • Данил Хамаганов

      There are two races worth to live on Earth: Whites and East Asians

    • onlooker

      It’s like asking ‘why the student with the highest IQ in class doesn’t get the top grades?’. You have mistaken IQ for success. Just because people have the ‘tool’ to succeed doesn’t mean they know how to use it efficiently and be successful. Cultural or environmental factors can overpower the IQ factor but that is another topic on its own. I believe the papers discuss merely from the perspective of IQ, not success. To be successful or influential, people will need more than just high IQ.

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  • Peter Chan

    Agreed! It is uncommon to find an East Asians with strong verbal skills, it is probably both genetics and environmental. Most Chinese parents do not possess good verbal skills, and it is unlikely their offspring’s would have a good model to learn from in their young age. In Chinese culture as well as other Each Asian’s, smooth/fast talkers are looked upon with great suspicions, in general, students are encouraged to listen more than talk! If you looked at the Zen or Kung Fu masters, they hardly talk, it is up to the student to appreciate and learn it by understanding it themselves.