How Literate are the OECD’s Baby Boomers?

For the most part, not very, especially in non-Nordic continental Europe and continental Asia:

Literacy scores for the demographic born 1947-1957.
Literacy scores for the demographic born 1947-1957.
Literacy scores for the demographic born 1988-1996.
Literacy scores for the demographic born 1988-1996.

Data from here. Survey taken in 2012. Notice that England* is the only land in the OECD where the average literacy score of the demographic born 1947-1957 (most of the Baby Boomers) is not lower than that of the demographic born 1988-1996 (a large minority of the Millennials). I attribute much of this to the mass immigration of foreign races and an increasingly decadent schooling system in that land.

By this data, the period 1947-1996 may well be considered one of the (probably) last great intellectual rise of non-Germanic continental Europe (though no doubt China and Vietnam experienced literacy booms, too). Though, unsurprisingly, the largest difference in scores between the young and the old is to be found in Korea, the second-largest gaps are to be found in Finland and Spain, while the third/fourth-largest gap is to be found in Poland. Yet, Korea’s Boomers scored higher than those of Italy and France and Finland’s scored higher than those of Germany. The Finnish score improvement is by far the most startling. The score improvements of Poland and Spain are more self-explanatory. I also find it interesting Czechoslovakia had a surprisingly literate Boomer generation.

Two weeks ago, psychiatrist Scott asked

“See, this is another thing that confuses me about the Flynn Effect. Taiwan etc are still slightly above the European average. So either they had fully caught up to Europe in Flynnification by 1960 (how?!) or Asians have some sort of magic anti-Flynn-effect armor.”

When I pointed to technology spreading quickly, Scott said

But what technology would work like that? If it’s things like farming technology, educational technology, medical technology, etc, shouldn’t we have to wait for people to be fed, taught, and cured, respectively, which usually only comes after some level of economic development?

-Though literacy scores are not IQ scores -they are much less subject to the Flynn Effect- I suspect from the highly chronologically consistent Flynn-adjusted East Asian data Lynn cites the Flynn effect may be of much the same size and near-contemporary all over the world, with, however, the qualifier expressed in the below paragraph. Ron Unz’s attempt to argue the contrary suffers from excessive reliance on small studies and wildly variable and discordant results. If those studies were as serially consistent in their results, sample size, and methodology, as Gallup or Pew’s opinion polls, or even the East Asian scores, I might take them seriously.

However, there might be, as those stressing environmental factors say, a tendency of those places with the largest IQ gaps with the developed nations inexplicable by income to have their average IQ scores be most affected by poor environmental conditions -up to a point. -I will make the case for why this is plausible in a later post (though, unfortunately, without use of IQ test scores), with the emphasis being on Yemen and Qatar. Contrary, however, to the claims of those proposing the idea that culture, IQ, and standardized educational test scores are extremely malleable by income, exogenous environmental factors such as this matter only to a mild degree, certainly not enough to explain within-country gaps in average IQ and educational test scores between races and ethnic groups.

So while the nations with no IQ gap with the developed world -for example, 1960s Taiwan and Korea- may have their IQ scores not be substantially affected by per capita income at all, this may not be the case for nations with a substantial IQ gap with the developed world, such as Yemen or the Black-majority world.

What’s really needed to test this hypothesis is two things:

  1. Detailed, large, and thorough IQ studies of the wealthier Black Caribbean countries, to see how much of the Black African-Black American IQ gap can be attributed to factors resulting from differences in per capita income alone, as well as similar or identical studies done in both the poorest and richest regions of the Arabian Peninsula.
  2. A look at the intellectual attainment of early 19th century Austria and Japan, which were quite poor countries for the time.

The first set of studies, while almost certainly far more difficult to get funding for in the present intellectual climate, would yield far more fruitful and exact data than the second.

I decided to use literacy in place of numeracy scores here because numeracy seemed to peak for the demographic born between 1978 and 1987 for too many countries for my liking. I suspect this is driven by students studying higher-level mathematics in universities. Literacy, however, is far less likely to be improved by university education.

*Yes, I know I colored all of Great Britain for England, but I also colored all Belgium for Flanders. Probably doesn’t make that much of a difference.

Author: pithom

An atheist with an interest in the history of the ancient Near East. Author of the Against Jebel al-Lawz Wordpress blog.

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