Friday, July 21, 2006

Mexican-Americans rank dead last on vocabulary, while Jews rank first--big surprise: The GSS asks respondents 10 vocabulary words. Below are the average number of correct answers for various American ethnic groups. I included only those born here since immigrants are at a disadvantage:

1. Jews 7.65
2. Chinese 7.17
3. Lithuanians (non-Jewish) 7.12
4. Austrians (non-Jewish) 7.00
5. English/Welsh 6.85
6. Danes 6.84
7. Scots 6.72
7. Yugoslavs 6.72
9. Russians (non-Jewish) 6.71
10. Norwegians 6.65
11. Swiss 6.64
12. Swedes 6.60
13. Hungarians (non-Jewish) 6.58
13. Finns 6.58
15. Japanese 6.54
16. Czechs 6.51
17. Irish 6.42
18. Greeks 6.41
19. Italians 6.40
20. Poles (non-Jewish) 6.36
21. French 6.30
22. Germans 6.28
23. French Canadians 6.19

U.S. average 6.17

24. Portuguese 6.13
25. West Indians 6.10
26. Rumanians (non-Jewish) 6.00
26. Arabs 6.00
26. East Indians 6.00
26. Belgians 6.00
30. Dutch 5.89
31. Spain 5.73
32. Filipinos 5.27
33. American Indians 5.20
34. Blacks 5.04
35. Puerto Ricans 4.99
36. Mexicans 4.83

Jews are in a class all their own here. Compared to Mexican-Americans, they answered 60% more of the questions correctly. They inflated substantially the means of several countries, so I excluded them where they did. Whites are generally in the top half, while poor minorities, especially those who use English less at home, drop to the bottom. Mexicans might work hard at some things, but not at building up a decent vocabulary. The exceptions to this pattern are Chinese Americans who are ranked second, and the Japanese who are above average (but significantly below the Chinese). The Dutch and Belgians are white groups who rank toward the bottom. Those from Spain are even lower--there is a tendency for southern Europeans to have poor rankings.

Comparing these numbers to national IQ estimates (Lynn's work) most of the rankings are similar, but a few are strange. Japan has the highest average IQ of any nation (except for South Korea, perhaps), but does not rank so high in this list. (Of course, NE Asians are strongest on visio-spatial skills, but why then are the Chinese at the top of my list?) Studies of Belgians and the Dutch estimate IQs around 100, but the numbers here are much lower. Spain is in the high 90s, but it ranks 31st in this list. (Some Hispanics might say they are from Spain). In my list, Greek Americans are above average, but according to Lynn, Greece is in the low 90s. Of course, some differences could be explained by immigrants and their descendants being different from the average back home. This might explain how West Indians score almost the U.S. average in terms of vocabulary. My numbers seem right for Filipinos since they have low average IQs, but that fact is at odds with all my other posts which show that Filipinos are high quality immigrants.


  1. How about Indians from India? Pakistanis? Too few of them?

  2. Anonymous12:10 PM

    It would be nice to assume that all immigrants teach their children English. Unfortunately, many of the Mexican children grow up speaking Spanish. They don't learn English as a first language. How much of the low score of Mexican children reflects low IQ versus lack of exposure to English?

    If the GSS breaks down the vocabulary score of Mexicans by geographic area, one can get an idea how much assimilation - or lack thereof - makes a difference. The GSS also has a question - what language do you speak at home. Look at the vocabulary score of Mexicans for those who speak English at home.

  3. Robert: East Indians ranked 26th--lower than I would have guessed. And yes, there are too few Pakistanis.

  4. Re: Spain -- who exactly are these people in the GSS? I ask because the Spaniards are pretty much the only European group that didn't send many immigrants this way. Is it just a word for "white Latin American"?

  5. Anonymous12:09 PM

    so where may i take the gss vocab test? thanks.

  6. Anonymous3:00 PM

    "Spain -- who exactly are these people in the GSS?"

    To think that I naively assumed that Spain meant "that country in Europe."

    This reminds us that the GSS data needs to be interpreted with the understanding that many repsondents are too stupid to understand the questions.

  7. Anonymous3:07 PM

    By the way, there are only 18 Chinese people in the GSS who were born in this country and who took the Wordsum test, and you should know that means that the sample size is way too small to make any judgments about the average intelligence of all Chinese-Americans.

    Same applies to the 11 people from the Phillipines.

  8. I know where Spain is -- I lived there, dumbass. I specifically worded to question to express skepticism that there were sufficiently many individuals of Spanish descent in the US to draw any conclusions about them, as opposed to their being Latin Americans who trace their ancestry to Spain 5 centuries ago, i.e. white Hispanics who may or may not resemble present-day Spaniards.

  9. Anonymous11:05 AM

    umm, I was referring to what I assumed was your suggestion that some people who are from Latin America indicated they were from Spain because they speak Spanish. It's perfectly reasonable to assume that some respondents might make that mistake.

  10. Anonymous11:06 AM

    And that mistake would explain why the wordsum average for people from Spain is so low. As a Western European country, I would expect Spaniards to have Wordsum scores similar to French or Italians.


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