Jewish people are overrepresented in politics and science especially in the United States. Do they have better cognitive abilities than average population? If yes, what is the reason for this?


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    $\begingroup$ Why would you expect 'cognitive abilities' to be important for being (over)represented in politics or science, over say 'economic privilege' or 'small sample bias' or 'cultural/historic coincidence'? $\endgroup$ – Artem Kaznatcheev Oct 25 '14 at 17:59
  • $\begingroup$ I listed statistic examples of US senators and Nobel prize winners. I would expect that Nobel prize winners have better cognitive abilities than average population. Not sure about US senators. $\endgroup$ – CuriousSuperhero Oct 25 '14 at 18:21

Your explanation limits your question to the present day United States. Richard Lynn (2004) indeed found that American Jews have a higher verbal intelligence than non-Jewish whites by an average of 7.5 IQ points. But since American Jews are largely descendants of European immigrants, their higher relative intelligence might be a result of so-called "eugenic practices" (Zeidner, 2012): many highly intelligent Jews (e.g. scientists and artists) received special help from foreign parties to flee the Nazi holocaust, and those that where wealthy (presumably because they were more intelligent) had better resources, e.g. to bribe German officials (which is documented) or simply to pay for their transportation. From the current situation in the US it is therefore unclear if Jews are hereditary more intelligent or other factors have influenced the selection of Jewish American immigrants, if compared to the descendants of non-Jewish immigrants, many of which where poor (and uneducated). As other studies show (e.g. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IQ_and_the_Wealth_of_Nations), intelligence is influenced by food (= wealth) and education (= wealth) by about 10 IQ points. So the higher intelligence of American Jews lies within what those factors might explain.

Taking a wider view, there are other studies that find higher intelligence in Jews as far back as the middle ages or in other areas of the world also. The debate is summarized in a Wikipedia article as well as countless articles on the web.


  • $\begingroup$ Although you put "natural selection" in quotes, I would go one step further and make this part more unambiguous by saying something like "cultural/historic forces". $\endgroup$ – Artem Kaznatcheev Oct 25 '14 at 17:57
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    $\begingroup$ I think it's necessary, if we're going to cite Richard Lynn's work, to acknowledge that he has been widely criticised as, variously, racist, xenophobic, homophobic, and guilty of gross statistical malpractice. While this isn't the place to discuss Lynn's legacy, we aught to at least mention that his findings aren't exactly without controversy. All that aside, nice answer. $\endgroup$ – Eoin Oct 28 '14 at 15:25
  • $\begingroup$ Oh my, 7.5 points. $\endgroup$ – Tomáš Zato Nov 24 '14 at 23:25
  • $\begingroup$ @TomášZato what did you ecpect? That all Jrws are Einsteins? 10 IQ points is the effect that training has on individual IQ or that schooling has on population IQ. It is not irrelevant when a whole population can achieve a few percent more. CEOs are being fired or celebrated for such minor effects. $\endgroup$ – user3116 Nov 25 '14 at 6:03

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