One way to measure the success of a nation is by measuring the IQ, or intelligence quotient, of the residents of the nation. Some experts say measuring an average IQ by country can teach you much more than you may initially realize about the health of a specific part of the world.
In this list of the top IQ nations around the globe, Asia dominates the top six slots, with Japan receiving the top prize. The most significant indicator of this nation’s success is their culture’s healthy relationship with diet and exercise. This foundation serves as a path for high intelligence.
Nations like Japan and others in the top five like China, Taiwan, South Korea, and Singapore are known for their rigorous educational standards and prestigious academic success.
There is still much debate about the reliability of data about the average IQ by country and what that data can tell us about larger economic or social trends. In the 1980s, scientists first stated the link between a nation’s “human capital” as measured by their IQ and success.
These scientists stated that in order for a nation to survive in a post-industrial world, its citizens must succeed in a modern society. Modern intelligence, like the kind measured in an IQ test, is necessary for a nation to thrive.
However, this idea has become quite controversial in the years after these findings were published. There are several areas of controversy in this theory, including cultural bias, how the data was collected, and the short-term nature of the data.
For example, scientists resisted this data, saying there is more than one type of intelligence and other cultures measure success differently than in the West. It would be almost impossible to deliver an IQ test to everyone in a nation and even harder to achieve consistent results.
Also, there did not seem to be a consistent application of factors to determine the IQ of each nation. These IQ numbers came from a combination of adult literacy rate, rate of democratization, life expectancy, and the score given to other nations nearby.
Other Ways to Measure Intelligence
While an intelligence quotient is a popular way to measure intelligence, there are other ways to look at this idea. A nation’s smarts could also be tracked through each country’s academic test scores or their contributions to knowledge and innovation.
Some even say the number of Nobel Prizes won by a nation indicates their intelligence and overall success. To determine the list of nations’ IQ scores for lists like these, multiple factors are combined to come up with an average number.
However, it is essential to remember these metrics are still based on a Westernized, developed world view of intelligence. It is necessary to consider if these tests account for resilience over trauma, traditional or cultural knowledge, or other practical forms of intelligence.
Another theory came to light in the late 2000s, saying there was an overall consistent and meaningful raising of intelligence and IQ points between the 1950s and the 1990s in much of the world.
This data mainly refers to the Western and industrialized world, including the United States, which saw an increase of about three IQ points each decade.
In what is now called the Flynn Effect, scientists point to several different factors to explain this phenomenon. This includes improvements in education and focuses on secondary education, better nutrition and healthcare, and a renewed interest in teaching students how to take tests.
While there is much debate about how much importance should be placed on the IQ points of each country, this data is still released and analyzed to this day.
We will discuss the highest and lowest IQ countries worldwide, including the highest and lowest in Europe.
IQ in Europe
The Flynn Effect was stated to have affected Europe as well, with an increased average IQ in Europe throughout most of the 20th century. However, some scientists hypothesize there may now be a reverse Flynn Effect happening in much of Europe.
Research may suggest that a decline in IQ points is now happening throughout the world, including many European nations and Australia. Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Great Britain, the Netherlands, and German-speaking countries may have been significantly affected.
However, many say there is no need to be worried about the suggested reverse Flynn effect that trends seem to show since the 1990s. There is no way to tell if natural changes to our culture have made the measurements from the Flynn Effect less representative of our current situation.
Europe contains a wide spectrum of countries, languages, traditions, and levels of development. Although not as varied as other parts of the world, Europe still shows diversity in their list of the highest IQ countries and average IQ countries in Europe.
Highest IQ Countries
Europe has eight countries within the top 20 highest IQ countries globally. These nations include:
- the Netherlands
- the United Kingdom
Finland ranks the highest in this list of the IQ of nations, with an average IQ listed at 101.20. Finland is located in northern Europe, alongside the other peninsulas of the Nordic countries like Sweden and Finland.
A Scandinavian country, nations like Finland consistently rank near the top in lists like this for their exceptional social programs and educational system. Finland also holds the prize with the most geniuses per capita, which may explain this high ranking.
This nation may be the fourth-smallest in Europe (sixth-smallest country in the world), boasting the second-fewest tourists each year, but there are many smart people living here.
With a total population of around 38,000 people and a landmass that is eight times smaller than the American city of Los Angeles, Liechtenstein consistently ranks as a thriving nation. This country has one of the highest GDPs in the world and zero debt as a nation.
Even though German-speaking nations were explicitly called out as a sufferer of the current reverse Flynn Effect, Germany comes in as the nation with the tenth highest IQ score in the world.
With an average national IQ of about 100.74, environmental factors like a thriving economy and abundant healthy and nutritious food contribute to this high score.
Average IQ Countries
In Europe, the lowest IQ country comes in at number 76 of the total 199 nations included on the list. Romania, at number 76, still boasts an average IQ score of 86.88. This score is still above the average global level of 82.03 IQ points.
This means Europe has a lot of nations that rank at about average or above average in this IQ metric. The eight nations that are lumped in together right around that 82.03 average IQ mark are:
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
Romania is one of the larger countries in Europe, and it boasts a healthy population. With a perfectly respectable average IQ score of 86.88, Romania is still a very intelligent nation based on this metric.
Romanians are known for being a disciplined and adaptable kind of people. According to scientists who study IQ, the ability to sustain and persevere speaks to a special kind of grit and intelligence, although trauma can affect some people’s ability to perform.
A former Communist nation, this country consistently takes center stage and snatches up all the prizes in one of the most grueling and demanding competitions in human history: the Olympics.
Greece ranks at number 55 out of 200 nations on this IQ list, with an average national IQ listed at 90.77. Greece is well known for its Mediterranean culture, characterized by distinctive food and music. As an ancient civilization, Greece set the standard for much of the Western world.
Much of this nation still maintain a traditional way of life on the Greek islands. Fishermen and other merchants still operate a successful trade, although some of the things measured on an IQ test may not reflect this.
A well-known nation and European tourist magnet, the nation of Spain comes in at number 45 on the global IQ list. Spain earned an IQ score of 93.90.
In fact, a Spanish study set out to debunk this IQ score metric. These scientists said that an IQ score is an unfair and impossible standard to measure others against because of the nearly unlimited factors that make people unique.
Lowest IQ Countries in th World
When it comes to the nations with the lowest IQ, this list ranks almost all the African and Middle Eastern nations firmly at the bottom. This pattern raises eyebrows regarding the “dumbest” country in the world among some scientists, questioning the biased nature of this research collection.
The average IQ score around the globe is measured as 82.03. The ten lowest-scoring nations of IQ tests are Nepal, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guatemala, Cape Verde, Gambia, Nicaragua, Guinea, Ghana, and the Ivory Coast. All but three of these nations are located in Africa.
Social scientists point to many cultural and environmental factors that contribute to the low scores for IQ in these nations. If there is no reliable food and water, education falls to a lower place on the priority list.
Many of these countries that land at the bottom are also consistently in periods of war, disease, or other trauma. This type of environment over a prolonged period of time reduces a nation’s ability to innovate and thrive.
Nepal is a brutal and beautiful nation located at the base of the Himalayas in South Asia. This isolated, landlocked country is best known as being the gateway to the tallest mountain in the world, Mount Everest.
However, this nation experiences extremes in terms of weather and availability of basic resources. Babies are born underweight, and the consistent lack of nutrition gets in the way of long-term educational opportunities.
These factors contribute to the nation of Nepal having the lowest IQ of all nations in the world, coming in at an average of 42.99. The average global IQ is 82.03, so Nepal ranks far below the average intelligence level measured worldwide.
Sierra Leone is a small African nation located on the West Coast of the continent. This nation has experienced a tumultuous history, including an extended occupation by Great Britain that ended in 1961.
The first Western-style university is located in Sierra Leone, and English is widely spoken there because of its long colonial history. However, the prevalence of natural resources like gold and diamonds and reliance on agriculture makes this nation heavily dependent on manual labor.
Our list ranks Sierra Leone at the 198th lowest IQ in the nation, with an average score of 45.07.
This Central American nation comes in at number 193 on the list of the lowest IQ nations in the world. Nestled in a narrow stretch of Spanish-speaking nations near the equator, Nicaragua has also experienced a brutal history – similar to many of the nations ranked at the bottom for IQ.
Constantly at the front lines of the drug war and associated gang violence, Nicaragua struggles to provide a nurturing environment for many of its citizens.
However, one study refuted this reputation of low IQ citizens in Nicaragua by introducing the concept of self-efficacy. This study said that by this metric, Nicaraguan students could support themselves and their neighbors because they live in a collective society.
This makes them more successful and of a higher IQ in their culture than an American student who may not know how to cook or build a structure. However, Americans and other Westerners usually live in an individualistic society instead and do not measure success in the same way.
Cape Verde, also known as Cabo Verde, is a small island nation located about 400 miles off of the west coast of Africa, in the Atlantic Ocean. This country ranks at #195 on the global IQ list with an average IQ of 52.5 for this tropical island nation.
Because of its strategic location, this nation was also subjected to the whims of colonists and explorers. This disruption to the traditional way of life continues to this day, perhaps in the form of IQ tests.
Cape Verde has no natural resources to share with other nations, making them incredibly resilient and self-reliant. Like the Nicaraguan example, this level of grit is another metric of success that cannot be measured on IQ tests.
While the data may show that Asia ranks at the top for global IQ and Africa holds down the bottom, there is actually much more to these numbers than at first glance.
The average IQ by country is simply just one metric to determine the success of the many diverse, fascinating, and complicated nations all around our globe.