Tag Archives: Labor Force

Employment: Socioeconomics vs IQ – The Bell Curve

The Impact Of IQ On Employment:

In previous posts I’ve explored the impact that socioeconomic status has on various measurements in society.  For example, we’ve seen that poverty, education and employment, among other measures, are influenced by the socioeconomic status of the family unit.  In fact, I’ve gone through the whole list of factors explored by the authors of the book, “The Bell Curve” and explored just that impact.

But is that the whole story?

The book presents a second half, another “look” if you will.  And that “other look” is the impact of IQ on these various outcomes.  This post will deal with the impact of IQ on employment.

Probability of Being Out of the Labor Force

One of the measures of the employment prospects of an individual is being active in the labor force; are you looking for a job.  I’ve already presented the data that explains an unexpected result.  Namely, that as the socioeconomic status of the family increases, so does the probability that a white male in the study will leave the labor force for at least a month in 1989.

However, the authors asked another question, “What if age, socioeconomic status and race are held constant, what happens then?  What role does IQ play in labor force participation?

It’s pretty straightforward.  Those of us scoring the lowest on IQ tests are predicted to leave the labor force at a 20% clip.  Those of us scoring in the 2nd standard deviation?  We’re leaving the labor force at only a 5% rate.

Whereas socioeconomic status seems to play a “reversed role” here, IQ is a dramatic predictor in labor force participation.

Probability of Being Unemployed

The second measurement of employment prospects is the rate at which folks find themselves unemployed.  Unemployed is different than being out of the labor force, of course, because being unemployed implicitly acknowledges that an individual is looking for work.

Again, I’ve peeked at the impact that the socioeconomic status of the family has on the unemployment prospects of an individual, and the results are in; almost none.  About 1% separates the poorest families from the wealthiest.

And the impact of IQ?

Again, powerful.

Those folks scoring lowest in IQ tests are predicted to have a 16% chance of being unemployed for a month or more in 1989.  Those scoring the highest?  4%.  In other words, those scoring low on IQ tests have a 400% better chance of being unemployed than those scoring on the high end on those same tests.

Being rich or poor has little impact.  Scoring well or not has a massive impact.


Employment: Socioeconomics vs IQ – The Bell Curve

This post continues the comparison of the impact of the socioeconomic status of individuals and the IQ of those same individuals.  I’m going off the book “The Bell Curve” written by Herrnstein and Murray.  So far I’ve covered the comparison with respect to poverty and education.  This post will deal with employment, keeping it and looking for it.

Back when I started this series, I demonstrated data that spoke to each topic using SES data only.  For example, looking at the probability of being out of the labor force for 1 month or more in 1989 bases on SES, the data showed this:

The data seems counter intuitive.  As the SES status of the family increased, the chance that a young man would drop out of the labor force increased as well.  This may be explained by the fact that wealthier families could afford to have their son’s not work for a time while those from poorer families felt a greater need to earn money.

Next we looked at unemployment.  That is, still in the labor force but not working for a month or more in 1989.  Here is the impact of SES:

There is no impact.  The SES of the individual’s family doesn’t impact the unemployment of the young man.

Let’s compare SES and IQ.

First, go back to labor force participation:

As man with very low IQ had a 4x percent chance of remaining out of the labor force compared to a man with very high IQ. Even moving in one standard deviation, the less intelligent man had more than twice the probability of staying out of the labor force than the more intelligent man.

Those men that are unemployed?


Again, not close.  While SES has non meaningful impact on the probability of unemployment, it’s clear that IQ does.  Mirroring labor force participation rate, the unemployment rate for the least intelligent is nearly 4x that of the most intelligent.

The idea that the SES of an individual or his family influences the fate of that person has significant influence in today’s debate.  And I’m sure that folks with money are more able to offset life’s unexpected challenges.  However, it may be that the intellectual ability of an individual has dramatically more impact on his or her success than the wealth, or lack thereof, of his or her family.