intelligence and corruption

staffan already posted about this in his terrific post on corruption a couple of months ago, but i thought i’d just reproduce niklas potrafke‘s chart of the correlation (-0.63) which he found between corruption and iq. taken from this paper [pdf – click on charts for LARGER views]:

potrafke - intelligence and corruption

clearly there’s a connection between intelligence and corruption — the less smart your population is, the more corrupt it will probably be (on average).

i think i see some sub-patterns, though. take a look at this:

potrafke - intelligence and corruption 02

– in my lowest iq range — ca. 75 and below — all the populations are very corrupt — the vast majority fall above 6 on the corruption scale. and they all cluster together — they’re all more-or-less equally corrupt, just some a bit more, some a bit less.

– in my middle iq range — ca. 75 to 95 (i probably could’ve set that at 90) — again the majority of populations are very corrupt, and again the majority fall above 6, but that majority is floating well above that regression line, and the corruption hot spot (where this group clumps together) really seems to be pretty much the same as the lower-iq populations, around 7 on the corruption scale. as a group, they haven’t really dropped down on the corruption scale.

– in my highest iq rage — ca. 95 and above — this is where the corruption range really fans out. we’ve got everything from what looks like below 1 on the corruption scale to an 8 (russia).

and the spread is nice and geographical — west to east/north to south: the anglos and the dutch (and are the scandinavians there? i can’t tell), my long-term outbreeders, are the least corrupt — then, working upwards on the chart (i.e. towards more corrupt) you’ve got the belgians and french and spanish — crossing the line into the more corrupt zone you start to have poland and hungary and the czech republic, places on the border of the hajnal line and the medieval outbreeding project — and then you get up to italy and the ukraine and russia.

east asia is, of course, interesting with singapore, hong kong, and japan being some of the least corrupt, and china being way up by corrupt italy. need to work on figuring out east asia one of these days! (~_^)

so, there’s definitely a connection between intelligence and corruption, but that’s not the whole story, otherwise china and russia and italy and korea wouldn’t be very corrupt at all. one thing that the chinese, russians, and italians have in common (don’t know much about the koreans) is a longer history of inbreeding as compared to the english and the dutch (see mating patterns series below ↓ in left-hand column). the awesome epigone did find a correlation (0.44) between consanguinity and corruption, but like i said then, i’m betting that the correlation would be stronger if we could calculate something like degree+length-of-time inbreeding.

see also: Corruption: The Exception or the Rule? @thosewhocansee.

(note: comments do not require an email. lemur alert!)

27 Comments

  1. First of all, thanks for making entire posts available in the feed. It works and is much appreciated, and – as you can see – I do return to comment.

    The one criticism I would make of the study is that the indicator it uses isn’t “corruption” per se, but “corruption perceptions.” Or even more specifically, corruption in the perceptions of a bunch of anonymous economists, businessmen, and sundry “experts” who are not… entirely politically neutral.

    I submit that this indexis a somewhat better representation of corruption in any given country. It is based not on “perceptions” but on concrete data, such as the percentage of respondents saying they had paid a bribe in the past year, as well as specific regulations and laws.

    One of its bonuses is that the East Asian paradox you allude to above largely resolves itself. On my index, South Korea is one of the least corrupt countries in the world, with only 2% of them reporting having paid a bribe in the past year (this ties in with what you said several months ago about how Koreans are more outbred than Japanese. And, guess what! Japan is actually significantly more corrupt on the Corruption Realities Index, with 9% of Japanese reporting paying a bribe in the past year – incidentally, the exact same percentage as in China.

    It also resolves the Russia/Ukraine paradox. While both are very corrupt by European standards, they are actually pretty middling (as opposed to near rock-bottom, as in the Corruption Perceptions Index) by world standards. India is significantly worse, not to mention most of Africa.

    It would interesting to find the IQ/corruption correlation based on the Corruption Realities Index – I’m sure it would be better than with the Corruption Perceptions Index. I might do it sometime.

    Reply

  2. The highest level American intelligentsia is rife with boardroom corruption but high IQ serves as a wonderful cloaking mechanism that allows corruption to escape undetected from the purview of your statistics.

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  3. @anatoly – “The one criticism I would make of the study is that the indicator it uses isn’t ‘corruption’ per se, but ‘corruption perceptions.’ Or even more specifically, corruption in the perceptions of a bunch of anonymous economists, businessmen, and sundry ‘experts’ who are not… entirely politically neutral.”

    yup. agreed!

    @anatoly – “I submit that this index is a somewhat better representation of corruption in any given country.”

    ah! excellent! i hadn’t realized you’d put that together. that’s awesome! and very interesting all the details you pointed out there about the results. hmmmm….

    @anatoly – “It would interesting to find the IQ/corruption correlation based on the Corruption Realities Index – I’m sure it would be better than with the Corruption Perceptions Index. I might do it sometime.”

    i might beat you to it! (~_^) i don’t have any time this week, but maybe next week? would be cool to plot the consang.net data against your corruption index, too.

    @anatoly – “First of all, thanks for making entire posts available in the feed.”

    oh, good! glad it worked. (^_^)

    Reply

  4. @socially extinct – “So the very definition of ‘corruption’ itself is subject to what…?”

    this is based upon transparency international’s corruption perceptions index which you can read about here — or on their website.

    @socially extinct – “The highest level American intelligentsia is rife with boardroom corruption but high IQ serves as a wonderful cloaking mechanism that allows corruption to escape undetected from the purview of your statistics.”

    yes, there is corruption everywhere, in all countries. humans are jerks.

    but there is more corruption in some societies than in others. i think bribery info is very telling: do you, in a country where there is a national health care system, have to slip your doctor an extra twenty in a brown envelope at every visit (greece)? or do you just go to the doctor and get treated no problem (england, scandinavia)? tax evasion is also interesting: does pretty much EVERYbody cheat on paying income/sales taxes (greece, italy)? or are citizens/business owners mostly upstanding and honest (minnesota)?

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  5. @hbd chick: Nice data. That is certainly one for your side along the lines of “inbreeding is the root of all evil.” I have made my peace with stupidity and I can stomach a degree of violence, but you have implicated dishonesty, and that one I can’t swallow. Down with inbreeding. However, a degree of consanguinity is still necessary for survival in the long run. My data set is too strong to deny it. So given that there are some nifty people in the world (and pretty much that has always been my assumption without evidence until you came along) I still think it would be nice if they didn’t go extinct and I am still baffled whay nobody gives a perfervid flying finger exept me.

    Reply

  6. This is interesting. I wish I could do all these comparisons here in Brazil. I believe that the average iq European colonization regions is larger than that in the majority black for example. Here there is the myth that the crime of corruption is a crime characteristic of white people of middle class upper middle class. Not quite. Unfortunately, many poor people would do exactly the same thing if they were in better condition. Actually, they do.
    I think regardless of IQ, corruption in Brazil is quite high. I think the south of the country, the ‘majority’ white, shows a pattern similar to the Slavic nations, both in the medium and in iq level corruption. At the end of the day, the southern states must have a standard of living similar to nations like Poland to Slovakia.

    Another important factor that could be considered here is the genetic difference that exists between the elite and the poorer classes. I read that this factor has an effect of predation of the upper classes in relation to the lower precisely because of genetic discontinuity. Interestingly, I read an excerpt from Carleton Coon on the Polish and spoke precisely the differences between the elite and the other social classes. It seems that the richest Poles also had an unusual presence of Dinaric types and greater percentage of mixed types, with characteristics of both type as the pure blonde and brunettes. Coon studies were made at the beginning of the last century and until then, we know that there was a large Jewish population living in the country, do not know if he considered only the Poles or Jews counted as national also.

    I understood in relation to that northern Europeans outbreed that besides the history of centuries without a lot consanguineous marriages also occurred a broadening of the distribution of genes within these populations resulting in high levels of solidarity regardless of social class. That just does not happen here, where society is very stratified. There is a great myth about the racial mix here, that in the mix at all times and without criteria and not how it happens. Actually who are always mixed in Brazil were the lower classes.

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  7. I have a hypothesis.

    In countries with lower average IQ, there tends to be a disproportionate higher rate of low level corruption (blue collar crime). In countries with higher average IQ, there tends to be a disproportionate higher rate of high level corruption (white colar crime). The reason for this is that high level crime tends to be more complex which requires the capacity for higher cognitive functioning and hence higher IQ.

    As for total corruption rates (both low level and high level), that would be more determined by the presence or absence of a culture of trust (see Trust: Human Nature and the Reconstitution of Social Order by Francis Fukuyama).

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  8. Then there are situational factors, like how diverse, or maybe divided, a society is. This may relate to the fact that really populuous countries are relatively corrupt, as well as the American South. Botswana, the least corrupt African country has most of its population belonging to the same tribe. As the previous commenter mentions this is more about trust, which may ultimately depend on clannish/tribal tendencies combined with certain kinds of diversity.

    Just as an example, it’s curious that Italy is so much more corrupt than its neigbor Slovenia when they measure a full seven points higher in national IQ. It might just have something to do with the fact that Slovenia is one of the gay-friendliest countries in Europe and Italy is the opposite. Not saying homosexuality as such has anything to do with it but it could be a proxy for outgroup attitudes.

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  9. Say, where is Portugal on that graph.? The graph is hard to read, even enlarged.

    I write this because I have been reading Sarah Hoyt’s blog a lot, lately. She is a Portagee, and makes jokes about the Portagee penchant for making lots of laws, and then ignoring them.

    One example she gives is that Portugal was arguably the first country which outlawed child labor, but a lot of kids she knew got papers in fourth grade certifying them as ineducable, so that they could get jobs in the textile mills.

    I heartily recommend her blog to you. It is http://www. accordingtohoyt. com. She is a fellow Odd, and writes SF for a living.

    Reply

  10. @justthisguy – “Say, where is Portugal on that graph?”

    i think it’s to the left of spain (ESP) and kinda splatted on to top of israel (ISR) — i can make out a PRT there (presumably portugal). between spain (ESP) and cyprus (CYP) — at around 95 iq and about 4 on the corruption scale.

    thanks for the link! cool. (^_^)

    Reply

  11. Curvilinear – yes, I thought so too. In the Potrafke graph there seems to be an IQ threshold where countries start to become less corrupt. That threshold seems to be 10 points higher in Asia compared to Europe, and we don’t yet know what it is many places in the world.

    @Socially Extinct. Yes, we all know the conventional wisdom here. We tend to be suspicious of it, however. I’m betting you aren’t familiar with a lot of actual boardrooms.

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  12. Having spent much of my professional life looking at charts like this, I don’t see your correlation between IQ and corruption. Below IQ 88, everyone is corrupt, and above there is mere uncorrelated scatter. Furthermore, almost all the so-called corruption below 88 is most certainly nepotism (a la Karzai et familia). Westerners like to classify nepotism as corruption, but it is a morally correct act in countries like Afganistan.

    In short, I call BS on this study.

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  13. corruption in the perceptions of a bunch of anonymous economists, businessmen, and sundry “experts” who are not… entirely politically neutral.

    No kidding.

    Much of the scatter at the high IQ portion of the graph looks like it reflects political disagreement, and international tensions, rather than actual differences in the level of corruption.

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  14. @bob sykes
    Westerners like to classify nepotism as corruption, but it is a morally correct act in countries like Afganistan.

    Nepotism may be “morally correct” in Afganistan but it still has a crippling effect. Corrupt countries are dysfunctional sh*tholes.

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  15. Hong Kong and Singapore seem to have picked up low corruption from their time as British colonies. Perhaps the people were smart enough to realize how beneficial low corruption is.

    About the Corruption Perception Index, I think it is accurate. I’ve read a lot about the corruption in China and Russia, and they are both VERY corrupt.

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  16. bob sykes
    “Westerners like to classify nepotism as corruption, but it is a morally correct act in countries like Afganistan.”

    Yeah but why? That’s the bit we’re interested in here.

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  17. “Westerners like to classify nepotism as corruption, but it is a morally correct act in countries like Afganistan.”

    So? Are we going to adopt their point of view and vocabulary and call it “being friendly” or something. And then discuss the societal problem of friendliness?

    Reply

  18. you are the perfect antidote to misogynistic Islam and i say all power to you :swoon: i hope one day you write a book :)

    Reply

  19. I agree with some of the commenters above. Another way of looking at it is that essentially everyone is corrupt, but the NW Europeans (and select East Asians like the Japanese and Singaporeans) constitute a set of outliers.

    It could also be curvilinear as well.

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  20. @jayman – “Another way of looking at it is that essentially everyone is corrupt, but the NW Europeans (and select East Asians like the Japanese and Singaporeans) constitute a set of outliers.”

    yes, all groups are corrupt — just some less so than others (or some more so than others).

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  21. This is how I define corruption. Would a cop or any other civil servant in country X be more likely to accept a bribe or be offended by it. That tell you how corrupt the society and it’s people are. Why bother having cops if their job is just to take bribes? Why even pay them from the public funds at that point?

    There are probably many more layers, but that’s what effect most people on a day to day basis.

    Reply

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