Academic journal article Mankind Quarterly

The Social Ecology of Intelligence on a Caribbean Island

Academic journal article Mankind Quarterly

The Social Ecology of Intelligence on a Caribbean Island

Article excerpt

Many social consequences and correlates of test intelligence have been described in modern industrialized societies, but we do not know which of these are culture-dependent and which (if any) are culturally invariant. The present study describes the relationships of test intelligence with social outcomes in the Caribbean island nation of Dominica. In samples of 372 young people (age 18-25) and 352 old people (age 51-62), we find that IQ is related to high income and low unemployment. In the old generation, high test intelligence is also related to the habit of marrying and of having one's children with only one partner. Among women but not men in both generations, high verbal ability is related to low fertility. We find a positive correlation between verbal ability and religiosity, which is not mediated by education or parental socioeconomic status. High IQ predicts low subjective well-being in those regression models that control for the effects of income. The results are discussed with reference to findings from economically and cognitively more developed societies, and related to historical trends and cultural evolution.

Key Words: Dominica: Caribbean, intelligence, IQ; Income; Education; Socioeconomic status; Religiosity; Family structure; Fertility; Reproductive behavior; Subjective well-being; Response biases.

In their 1994 bestseller The Bell Curve, Herrnstein and Murray used data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth to compare the relative importance of childhood socioeconomic background and IQ on a variety of adult outcomes in the United States, ranging from earnings to teenage pregnancy and delinquency. We do not have a data source of similar quality for any of the less developed countries, and therefore we know very little about the relationship of scores on IQ tests to non-cognitive real-world outcomes in these countries.

If the kind of "intelligence" that these tests are meant to measure is important only in advanced industrialized societies, or if the tests are valid only in those countries in which they were constructed, then the test scores will be unrelated to real-world outcomes in the less developed countries. However, if intelligence is a general human trait that serves similar functions in all societies, and that can be measured with the same instruments in all societies, then the correlates will be similar. There have been a few studies about the country-level correlates of IQ that have shown that "national IQ" is related to national wealth (Lynn and Vanhanen, 2002), economic growth (Jones and Schneider, 2004; Weede and Kämpf, 2002), and people's beliefs, attitudes and values (Meisenberg, 2004). Even suicide is related to intelligence at the national level, with high-IQ countries reporting higher suicide rates (Voracek, 2004). In this paper, however, we describe correlates of IQ at the level of individuals within a single country.

Our fieldwork was done in Dominica, an English-speaking island nation with a population of 68,000. The population is mainly Afro-Caribbean, with a small minority of about 2000 Caribs. Economically, Dominica is one of the less developed Caribbean islands, with a GNP estimated at $3360 in 2003. The economy depends on peasant farming, some tourism, very little industry, and a medical school with about 1000 students from the United States.

In a survey conducted between October 2004 and March 2005, we administered two cognitive tests to Dominicans. One was Raven's Standard Progressive Matrices test, which assesses nonverbal reasoning with picture puzzles; and the other was a vocabulary test. Along with the tests we administered a questionnaire with items about the respondent's demographic, educational and socioeconomic background, and also about opinions, attitudes and values. This battery was administered to two groups: young people between age 18 and 25, and old people between age 51 and 62.

In two previous papers we reported the IQ differences between the two generations (Meisenberg et al. …

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