Saturday, February 16, 2019

Data: Are athletes smarter or dumber than others?

There are positive correlations between IQ and both longevity and height.  Many genes underlie these traits -- it looks like there are health-promoting genes that manifest themselves not only through a long life but perhaps a better functioning brain and ending up taller. And a smart/tall/long-lived person might also have a comparatively small number of mutations that work against health.

Does being an athlete fit in with the rest of these traits?  One might expect height and athleticism to be correlated simply because popular sports like basketball and football favor bigger people.  How about IQ and being a good athlete?  Here are the correlations for IQ and self-rated athletic ability (GSS):

White males (n = 440)   -.05
White females (n = 553)  .01
Black males (n = 74)  -.09
Black females (n = 103)  -.14

For all demographic groups, IQ and athletic ability are either not correlated or a negatively correlated. It does not appear to be the case that there are genes that promote both at the same time (or that subtract from both simultaneously).

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