This article in the China Daily makes the claim that several Asian countries topped a survey of intelligence:

Asians dominated the survey compiled by Austrian researchers who drew on a variety of sources to produce average IQs for the population of each country, Sunday Star-Times reported in Wellington Sunday.

The survey comparing the intelligence of people from 50 countries and regions was conducted by the University of Vienna Medical School, according to the paper.

The survey said the people of Hong Kong topped the table, followed by South Korea, Japan and Singapore.

Is there such a survey of the smartest countries?

  • 6
    Asian is not a race. – user unknown Nov 14 '11 at 8:30
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    @userunknown, Randolf: I edited the question to remove that suggestion. – Oddthinking Nov 14 '11 at 9:37
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    @RandolfRichardson: Smartest races was the original wording, and meanwhile the question even took the tag racism. The rules for editing a question say, that you shouldn't change the meaning of a question, but here the meaning did change. Does the education of people or their race or both or none can change the results of IQ-Tests? – user unknown Nov 14 '11 at 9:47
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    @Userunknown: I originally edited the question with these steps planned: (1) Clean up the English. (2) Incorporate the quote from the original source. (3) Change the question to match the claim. Suddenly, all mentions of "race" disappeared. (4) Trivially find the original paper with a simple Google, and link it in.(5) Close the question as being self-answering. When I got to step (4), I found it wasn't as trivial as I expected, so I left the question open. I do feel nervous every time I edit a question and then answer it; I try to make sure I don't open myself up to such charges. – Oddthinking Nov 14 '11 at 10:03
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    is this downvoted due to politically incorrectness? – user4951 Nov 14 '11 at 11:12

The study appears to be this one:

Martin Voracek, National intelligence and suicide rate: an ecological study of 85 countries, Personality and Individual Differences 37 (2004) 543–553.

Dr Voracek was from the University of Vienna Medical School, Austria, and this article was available online from 19 November 2003, which is a few weeks before the article, so the dates line up.

While it isn't the main focus of the paper (which was trying to explain suicide rates), it does include a table (Table 1) with a list of 85 countries and their "National IQ". Of those 85 countries, 35 only have "estimated" National IQs, so the number of directly measured countries is 50, which matches the claim.

Further, Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea do have the highest values in the list.

The source of the National IQs are not derived in this document however. Dr Voracek references another study for the data:

Lynn, R., & Vanhanen, T. (2002). IQ and the wealth of nations. Westport, CT: Praeger

From the Google book preview, I can confirm that this book does have the National IQ chart for 81 countries. Apparently is calibrated to have the UK at 100. However, I cannot see the methods used (Appendix I), so I cannot comment on its validity.

  • I wonder if the suicide rates may be more heavily influenced by the pressures of local cultures, population density, crime rates, and other social factors than by IQ. – Randolf Richardson Nov 14 '11 at 9:25
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    @Randolf, from what little I read, I suspect that Voracek, Lynn and Vanhanen would argue that all those factors and National IQ are interrelated. – Oddthinking Nov 14 '11 at 9:35
  • That's good, because my gut feeling is that IQ probably isn't the only or primary causality. However, I can certainly see how a person with a big ego getting obsessed with their own IQ could lead to social problems for them (and I've known a few people like this over the years, some of whom even claim their IQs are over 200 and say things about groups like Mensa not being challenging enough for them). – Randolf Richardson Nov 14 '11 at 9:52
  • We asians use our IQ to screw each other more than cooperatively build better societies. So most of us are not as rich as whites. I guess not thinking too much that all things are related and pretty much the same and simply shrug of asians questioning things does have it's use :(. +1 though. – user4951 Mar 14 '12 at 3:42

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