Friday, November 22, 2019

How often are the highly intelligent found among the poorest people?

In the last post, it was mentioned that high IQ people are VERY diverse in terms of income. Many are not particularly interested in pursuing lots of money. But let's look at the other end: Few people would want to be poor, so does IQ keep one out of poverty?

Using General Social Survey data, I looked to see how many people in the highest IQ category (125+) are found in the lowest 10% of income earners (sample size = 16,626). For men, it's 3.4%. So smart guys have a low rate of poverty, but not all escape it. I imagine these men have serious physical or mental health issues.

For smart women, it's 8.0%. Their rate is lower than average, but not by that much. In addition to the health issues that men might face, some intelligent woman are likely to be stay-at-home moms who don't earn much.


  1. Grinding poverty is less interesting for the reason you cite than is working class wages. There are "severely gifted" guys like Chris Langan (IQ >185) who, due to their handicap, don't fit into academia's culture of compliance but can't "kick the habit" of pursuing an intellectual vocation. Nowadays it isn't as bad for these guys since they can usually "learn to code", and thereby stay out of the jobs (some physically dangerous like Langan's stint as a bar bouncer and logger). That only works until the next tech-bubble bursts when only H-1bs are permitted to hold onto their jobs while the rest are sent packing. However, even during these interludes of respite from physical danger, they must hold onto their coding jobs by devoting every waking hour investing their mental horsepower in reengineering the rube goldberg systems in the wake of their H-1b betters. That doesn't work so well for those dedicated to higher vocations. So the temptation to simply fall below the poverty line where at least Medicaid will keep them from croaking (as did some of my PLATO colleagues after the DotCon bubble), if not feign mental illness to acquire disability insurance, is quite attractive.

    1. Anonymous10:54 AM

      Do you think Langan has some sort of disability?

      I've been following his Facebook posts, and I was surprised at how bitter he seemed to be. Not about the lack of official recognition from academia and the wider world for his theory of the universe and philosophy - I can understand why an extremely high IQ person like Langan with a strong opinion of his own intelligence and a relatively low one of others would be bitter that his life's philosophical work was not officially recognized and celebrated. But he seems very bitter about relatively mundane things like money and his material circumstances, not getting attention from attractive women, etc. I thought he was one of those extremely intelligent ascetic types who valued their intellectual vocation much more highly and had little regard for more mundane material matters. If he was that interested in his material circumstances, I would imagine that with his intellectual horsepower, it would be relatively trivial for him to make more money.

    2. Rather than try to defend Langan's psychological state in terms of rational motives for his behavior, which I believe you elide to your own discredit, I'll offer simply this defense against the implied ad hominem:

      The phase "severely gifted" is Langan's. This indicates that whatever character defects/disabilities from which he may suffer, there is at least a degree of self-awareness that one might be hard pressed to find in such "disabled" contributors as Einstein and Darwin.

    3. Anonymous5:44 PM

      I never thought he was disabled. In fact, I was surprised at how articulate, normal, and personable he comes across for his level of IQ. I've encountered other very high IQ people, and they tend to seem eccentric, weird, or even mildly "autistic". He's not like that at all. He comes across as very high IQ and very normal and sociable and not disabled at all.

      Because he's so intelligent and normal and sociable, his bitterness seemed incongruous, as he doesn't seem like the type of high IQ person who struggles materially because of social skill deficits. He comes across as the bright and hyper articulate and confident types that succeed, except with real brainpower to back it up.

      I agree that there are no doubt perfectly rational motives for his behavior. I just thought that you had special insight or knowledge about him because you used "severely gifted" and "handicap".

    4. Well then we are talking at cross-purposes due, perhaps, to my not drawing a clearer delineation between Langan as an exemplar of an older generation and the "learn to code" generation represented by the likely GSS sample Inductivist reports, to which I was referring by "Nowadays...". When I fell back referring to a prior generation (my PLATO colleagues) it was merely to describe what I had witnessed as a potentially life-and-death consequence of not utilizing one's high intelligence to keep one's self below the poverty line in the face of the immigration invasion of the STEM field combined with post bubble periods. To the best of my knowledge Langan has never resorted to this. Many whites don't, in part because we lack "community organizers" to coach us unless we take jobs at Walmart where it is part of their business model.

      Nevertheless, do not take my lack of correction of your reported observations of Langan's behavior as assent to their being representative.

      To the best of my knowledge (which is not "inside" except insofar as I've met and talked with him) he's a normal white guy emotionally. I'm perfectly aware of the fact that this places him in the camp of the pathologized -- particularly when resentful of the advantage that's been taken of them, myself included. At least many of us have not ended our lives with opioids to quell our "hate", nor turned our talents toward the blunt force demanded of us by justice, given our lack of material resources. It does take resources, including information if not money, to engage in surgical strikes with minimum collateral damage. The de facto use of human shields by the powers that be renders the "resentment" all the more intense.

    5. Anonymous7:54 PM

      But he's obviously not "normal" in an important sense: he's as far as we know, the smartest man alive. It's unfair to compare him to the rest of us normies, and those who've succumbed to opioids and the like, even if we're all in the same boat.

      He reminds me of the genius protagonist in Good Will Hunting, who works as a janitor and in construction despite his genius IQ. There's a scene where he's being interviewed by the NSA for a high paying job and he goes on a monologue about why he wouldn't take such a job. It's the sort of thing I could imagine Langan saying:

      And the rest of us normies are like his buddy in the movie wondering why he's still hanging around:

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