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Why is the IQ of Ashkenazi Jews so High? - twenty possible explanations

Posted: Fri, June 07, 2013 | By: IQ

by Hank Pellissier

Ashkenazi Jews are smart. Shockingly brilliant, in general. Impressive in brain power. How did they get that way?

Ashkenazi Jews, aka Ashkenazim, are the descendants of Jews from medieval Alsace and the Rhine Valley, and later, from throughout Eastern Europe.  Originally, of course, they were from Israel. Genetic research from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine suggests that the Ashkenazi bloodline branched away from other Jewish groups there 2,500 years ago, and that 40% of them are descended from only four Jewish mothers. Approximately 80% of the Jews in the world today are Ashkenazim, with the remainder primarily Sephardic.

Researchers who study the Ashkenazim agree that the children of Abraham are on top of the IQ chart. Steven Pinker – who lectured on “Jews, Genes, and Intelligence” in 2007 - says “their average IQ has been measured at 108-115.” Richard Lynn, author of “The Intelligence of American Jews” in 2004, says it is “only” a half-standard higher: 107.5.  Henry Harpending, Jason Hardy, and Gregory Cochran, University of Utah authors of the 2005 research report, “Natural History of Ashkenazi Intelligence,” state that their subjects, “score .75 to 1.0 standard deviations above the general European average, corresponding to an IQ of 112-115.” Charles Murray, in his 2007 essay “Jewish Genius,” says “their mean is somewhere in the range of 107-115, with 110 being a plausible compromise.”

A Jewish average IQ of 115 is 8 points higher than the generally accepted IQ of their closest rivals—Northeast Asians—and approximately 40% higher than the global average IQ of 79.1 calculated by Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen in IQ and Global Inequity.

Plus, contemplate this astounding tidbit: Ashkenazi “visual-spatial” IQ scores are only mediocre; in one study their median in this category was a below-average 98. They surmount this liability by logging astronomic figures in “verbal IQ”, which includes verbal reasoning, comprehension, working memory and mathematical skill; a 1958 survey of yeshiva students discovered a median verbal IQ of 125.6.

What does it mean that Ashkenazim have a high IQ, in terms of producing “geniuses”?  With their population so small - a mere 0.25 of the world total - does it make any serious difference?  The answer is YES.  A “bell curve” is used to illustrate IQ percentile in a specific group – in a “general population” where IQ average is 100 the curve assumes these proportions:

less than 70 IQ  - 2.5%

70-85 IQ - 12.5%

86-100 IQ - 35%

101-115 IQ – 35%

116-130 IQ – 12.5%

greater than 130 IQ – 2.5%

Applying the same bell curve for Ashkenazim, but with a 17-point upward lift in median IQ (using the From Chance To Choice digit) produces the IQ upgrade below:

less than 87 IQ – 2.5%

88-102 IQ – 12.5%

103-117 IQ – 35%

118-132 IQ – 35%

133-148 IQ – 12.5%

greater than 148 IQ – 2.5%

This shifting upward of the bell curve by more than a standard deviation (15 points) means that more than five times as many Ashkenazim are eligible for Mensa (minimum 130 IQ) and more than five times as many have the average IQ of an Ivy League graduate.

In reality, Ashkenazim are enrolled in the Ivies by a proportion ten times greater than their numbers; for example they represent 30% of Yale students, 27% of Harvard, 23% of Brown, 32% of Columbia, and 31% of Pennsylvania.


This suggests that either the “bell’s curve” is lifted for the Ashkenazi a bit longer at the high end or there are additional factors that enhance their ability to succeed. Regarding the first possibility, Charles Murray notes that “the proportion of Jews with IQs of 140 or higher is somewhere around six times the proportion of everyone else.” Harpending, Hardy and Cochran sport roughly the same equation; “4 out of every 1,000 Northern European is 140+ IQ, but 23 out of every 1,000 Jew is 140+.” Murray also relays a report from sky-high up in the genius range, when he notes that a 1954 survey of New York public school children with 170+ IQs revealed that 24 of the 28 were… Jewish.

 Now that I’ve established that Ashkenazi have superlative IQ scores, let’s observe what they’ve accomplished with their highly functional brains. 

In the 19th century, Mark Twain noted that: 

[The Jews] are peculiarly and conspicuously the world’s intellectual aristocracy… [Jewish] contributions to the world’s list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine, and abstruse learning are way out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers. He has made a marvelous fight in this world… and has done it with his hands tied behind him.

Twain’s observation is not dated. Ashkenazi Jews have continued to mentally out-compete other demographics since his statement, often suffering horrendous consequences for their toil. Here is a brief list of Ashkenazi accomplishments in the last 90 years.

Nobel Prizes: Since 1950, 29% of the awards have gone to Ashkenazim, even though they represent only a small fraction of humanity. Ashkenazi achievement in this arena is 117 times greater than their population.  This pace isn’t slowing down; it is accelerating. In the 21st century, they’ve received 32% of the total, and in 2011, five of the thirteen Nobel Prize winners were Jewish – 38.5%.

Hungary in the 1930s: Ashkenazim were 6% of the population, but they comprised 55.7% of physicians, 49.2% of attorneys, 30.4% of engineers, and 59.4% of bank officers; plus, they owned 49.4% of the metallurgy industry, 41.6% of machine manufacturing, 72.8% of clothing manufacturing, and, as housing owners, they received 45.1% of Budapest rental income. Jews were similarly successful in nearby nations, like Poland and Germany.

“Significant Figures”: In “Jewish Genius” by Charles Murray, the author tallies up important contributing individuals in a variety of vocations, noting how immensely over-represented Jews are compared to what could be expected due to their small population.  His conclusion in various categories is: Biology – “significant” Jews appear 5 times greater their population, Chemistry 6X, Physics 9X, Literature 4X, Music 5X, Visual Arts 5X, Math 12X, Philosophy 14X.2 

USA (today): Ashkenazi Jews comprise 2.2% of the USA population, but they represent 30% of faculty at elite colleges, 21% of Ivy League students, and 25% of the Turing Award winners. Plus, “Jews have made up 50% of the top two hundred intellectuals… 40% of partners in the leading law firms in New York and Washington… 59% of the directors, writers, and producers of the fifty top-grossing motion pictures…” 

Israel: In 1922 this swamp-and-desert land had an impoverished population of 752,000 inhabitants. Today there are 7,746,000 residents, with a large Ashkenazi population (3 million, and 60% of the workforce) that has elevated it into a high-tech entrepreneurial nation with the highest per capita income in the region. Israel rates 1st in the world in graduate degrees, 1st in museums, 1st in home computers, and 1st in publishing scientific papers.

Personally, I find the Nobel Prize statistic the most amazing. Consider this: if everybody on the planet was an Ashkenazi Jew, would the result be 117 times more Nobel Prize-winning caliber individuals, with 117 times as many spectacular achievements, per annum? INSTANT SINGULARITY! Without any help from AI…

(Sephardic Jewish achievement is represented in many of the categories above, especially in Nobel Prize statistics. When this article was originally published - in a shorter version, on August 7, 2011 by the Institute for Ethics in Emerging Technology (ieet.org) – Sephardic Jews expressed some perturbation that they were omitted from the essay.  I’d like to acknowledge the immense contribution of Sephardic Jews with this all-too-brief list of notables from their lineage:

Elias Canetti (Nobel Prize in Literature, 1981), Tobias Michael Carel Asser (Nobel Peace Prize, 1911), Rene Cassin (Nobel Peace Prize, 1968), Franco Modigliani (Nobel Prize in Economics, 1985), Francois Jacob (Nobel Prize in Medicine/Physiology, 1965), Salvador Luria (Nobel Prize in Medicine/Physiology, 1969), Baruj Benacerraf (Nobel Prize in Medicine/Physiology, 1980), Rita Levi-Montalcini (Nobel Prize in Medicine/Physiology, 1986), Emilio Segre (Nobel Prize in Physics, 1959), Claude Cohen-Tannoudj (Nobel Prize in Physics, 1997), plus philosopher Jacques Derrida, economist/philanthropist Bernard Baruch, painter Amedeo Modigliani, and Benjamin Disraeli, the British Prime Minister. 

In the medieval era, Sephardic achievements were also quite significant. In George Sarton’s Introduction to the History of Science, the author notes that 95 out of 626 scientists in the world from 1150-1300 were Sephardic Jews -15% - far exceeding their population proportion.

However, when Sephardic IQ is presently recorded, the sums are no higher than the northern European average, and definitively not as elevated as Ashkenazi.)


Let’s proceed. With the facts I’ve laid out, only the most obtuse reader can resist my pronouncement that Ashkenazi Jews are, on average, extraordinarily intelligent. I’m not asserting Ashkenazi cognitive specialness because I’m Philo-Semitic, or Zionist, or pro-Israeli. I’m pointing it out because it is irrefutably true. 

That said, the question that my essay seeks to unravel is… Why? Why is the IQ of Ashkenazi Jews so high? Is the reason due to their genetics, environment, culture, education, or a unique combination of multiple factors?  

In my initial publication of this essay, I provided eight reasons for high Ashkenazi IQ.  But then, I received a flurry of email suggestions (many from professors) providing me with additional information. Twenty theories are now listed in this expanded essay, and I’ve attempted to give my sources the credit they deserve, even though – in several instances - I don’t have their actual names, just their Internet chat-monikers. Here’s my new list – many related to each other - presented in roughly chronological order:

Babylonian Eugenics – In 586 B.C.E., Jerusalem was totally destroyed by the Babylonians, led by their monarch Nebuchadnezzar, who “carried into exile… all the [Jewish] officers and fighting men, and all the craftsmen and artisans… only the poorest people of the land were left.” (2Kings 24:10-14) The Indestructible Jews, by Max Dimont, defines the deported people as “the flower of Judah’s aristocracy and intellectuals.”

The exiled Jews of this first Diaspora became highly successful in Babylon. Dimont claims, “In the libraries of Babylon, intellectual Jews found a new world of new ideas. Within five decades, exiled Jews bobbed to the surface of the top echelons on Babylonian society, in business enterprises, in the scholastic world, in court circles. They became leaders in commerce, men of learning, advisors to kings.”

In 538 B.C.E., the Persian king Cyrus the Great granted Jews permission to return to their homeland. Wealthy Jews - who had established successful trade routes and businesses in Babylon - financed zealous returnees who wanted to re-settle Judah.  Initial attempts failed, but eventually, 1,760 settlers led by the prophet Ezra and the governor Nehemiah rebuilt the wall of Jerusalem and resurrected the nation. These “Babylonian” Jews returning to Israel discovered that their poorer brethren that were left behind a half-century earlier had slipped away via assimilation, vanishing into neighboring pagan creeds. Cyril Darlington, in his The Evolution of Man and Society, suggests that the temporary separation of the Jewish elite, and permanent removal of the uneducated and unskilled, provided a genetic intellectual boost to the creed.

The returning Jews also instituted two customs that enhanced the mental solidity of their culture’s future. A ban on intermarriage with Gentiles was enforced, and the first five books of Moses were canonized, as the Torah.

People of the Difficult Book: The Torah (the first five books of the Jewish Bible) and the Talmud (recordings of rabbinic discussions) are intellectually complex and sophisticated. Practitioners of Judaism are required to learn and study the extensive, mentally rigorous laws. Thematic content of the scriptural passages is not simplistic or literal, it is, conversely, designed for comprehension on multiple, abstract, metaphorical levels. Blind faith and slavish devotion, encouraged by other faiths, is not conducive to Judaism. Instead, worship in the ancient monotheism demands significant literacy skills due to the cognitive demands of the texts, with tradition maintaining that understanding the Talmud requires “study of seven hours a day for seven years.” Charles Murray notes that, “no other religion made so many demands upon the whole body of its believers,” with the subsequent analysis that, “Judaism evolved in such a way that to be a good Jew meant that a man had to be smart.”

Healthy Hygiene & Diet: Professor Sam Lehman-Wilzig of Bar-Ilan University in Israel provided me with this theory. His suggestion is based on the fact that - due to their customary practices - the Jews probably enjoyed better hygiene than Gentiles. He points to the Jewish washing of hands before every meal, the men bathing at least once a week in the “mikveh” (a purification bathhouse) and the women bathing at least once a month, after their menstruation was over. He also notes the restriction on pork prevented Jews from contracting trichinosis. (Famous casualties of this parasitic disease include Gautama Buddha and Wolfgang Mozart). With lower disease rates, Jewish bodies would not have suffered as much as Gentiles and this would have improved their mental capacities. 

This notion has been repeated elsewhere. In 1953, research by Johns Hopkins University pharmacologist David I. Macht surmised that all the dozens of meat items banned by Jewish dietary laws in Deuteronomy and Leviticus were, in fact, more toxic than the kosher flesh that was permitted. Additionally, in the recent book Survival of the Sickest, author Sharon Moalem suggests that Jews removing leaven from their homes during Passover helped keep out the rats that spread bubonic plague in the 13th century. Last but not least, wealthy Ashkenazi Jews dwelling in larger houses in eastern Europe would have survived epidemics easier because they didn’t suffer the same high multiple infection rate that occurred in smaller homes with greater crowding. 

Extensive correlation between high IQ, healthy diet, infectious diseases, sanitation, and home crowding, is examined via research studies in later chapters of this book, particularly in “Early Years.”

Education Emphasized, Way Back in B.C. – Jeremiah Unterman of Jerusalem informed me that the Torah instructs every Jewish father to teach the Torah to his children, and Marisa Landau notes on a futurepundit.com 6/4/05 discussion that it’s forbidden by the Jewish religion to keep child illiterate. Additionally, Landau  reports that Jewish women learned to read and write, a phenomenon that was unique in the ancient world. Landau also mentions that it has long been a custom among Jews to provide a full pension - for up to 10 years – to an intelligent son-in-law who wishes to entirely devote himself to study. The Jews, it seems, invented the notion of “scholarships.”

In the medieval era, the French monk, Peter Abelard (1079-1142) penned this about Jewish education: “A Jew, however poor, even if he had ten sons, would get them all to letters, not for gain as the Christians do, but for understanding of God’s law.  And not only for his sons, but his daughters.”

Mandatory Schools For Males - In 64 A.D., the high priest Joshua ben Gamla issued and implemented an ordinance mandating schools for all boys, beginning at age 6. Within 100 years, Jews had established universal male literacy and numeracy, the first ethnicity in history to achieve this.

The progressive, demanding edict created a huge demographic shift. The high, oft-times prohibitive cost of educating children in the subsistence farming economy of the 2nd to 6th centuries prompted numerous Jews to voluntarily convert to Christianity, leading to a decline in Jewish population from 4.5 million to 1.2 million.

Natural “eugenics” favored two groups in this situation: 1) the sons of wealthier, ostensibly more intelligent Jews, who could provide greater funding for the schools that maintained their offspring’s membership as Jews, and, 2) the smartest boys who could quickly learn reading, writing and arithmetic at a pace at which they could afford to “stay Jewish.” 

Who was left out? Removed from the gene pool? Answer: the poorer, uneducated Jews, and/or those with the lowest IQ. 

Urban Upgrade – 80-90% of Jews were farmers in 1 AD.  But only 10-20% remained in agriculture by 1000 A.D. The education required by Joshua ben Gamla’s edict delivered verbal and math skills to Jewish boys, enabling them to move out of subsistence rural life into highly-skilled urban professions, involving sales, trade, and financial transactions. 

Moving from a pastoral environment into cities implements an IQ boost, due to urbanism’s increased complexity, literacy, and technology. A Hanoi National University study in 2006 showed a whopping 19.4 IQ difference between city and country students.  A 1970 survey in Greece recorded a difference of 10-13 points. Other studies note smaller discrepancies of only 2-6 points, but unanimously, urban residents always score higher, and Jews are one of the world’s longest-urbanized ethnicities.

Dialectic and Rational Thought – Dr. Sam Lehman-Wilzig informed me that one of the noteworthy approaches to Jewish learning is “dialectic.”  The Talmud itself is not a “law code” but instead, a huge compendium of ARGUMENTS. Jews are encouraged to see different perspectives of an issue, and they’re taught to question everything, including the Law, the Rabbi’s logic, and one’s own belief system. Rabbis developed argumentative principles, an entire system of questioning that the Jews have utilized for 2,000 years in both religious and secular debates.

Dialectic was not a ‘Jewish’ invention: it was a learning technique that Jews borrowed and adapted from Greek philosophy; the synthesis is a ‘Socratic-Jewish methodology.’ Traces of the Greek influence are evident in the Passover Seder where the Jewish father reclines on a pillow (similar to the Greeks) while the youngest Jewish child asks Four Questions. This method of learning was unique during the Middle Ages, compared to Catholic Europe’s ‘authoritative’ traditions.

Dr. Sanford Aranoff, Professor of Science and Mathematics at Rider University, conveyed to me a similar message. In his opinion, Judaism is based on principles of rational thought. (Rational thinking begins with clearly stated principles, continues with logical deductions, and then examines empirical evidence to possibly modify the principles.)

The analytic, strategic skills developed in both Jewish dialectic and critical thinking are an important component of IQ tests, and they’re essential in legal, academic, science, and engineering careers.

Clever Clerics Propagate: A major difference between Catholicism and Judaism is that priests have been celibate since the 4th century Council of Carthage decreed that they abstain from conjugal relations, whereas Jewish rabbis have always been encouraged to marry and multiply. In the Middle Age this resulted in massive IQ depression for Catholics, because their brightest, academically gifted boys were usually locked up in seminaries that wasted their gene pool. Meanwhile… sage, scholastic Jewish rabbis were marrying smart women and creating large, clever families. Three tomes that examine this phenomenon are Robert Novick’s Anarchy, State and Utopia, Ernst Vandenberg’s The Jewish Mystique, and Paul Johnson’s A History of the Jews.  

Breeding for Brains:

“Our Rabbis teach, Let a man sell all that he has and marry the daughter of a learned man. If he cannot find the daughter of a learned man, let him marry the daughter of one of the great men of his day. If he does not find such a one, let him marry the daughter of one of the heads of the congregation, or, failing this, the daughter of a charity collector, or even the daughter of a schoolmaster; but let him not marry the daughter of an illiterate man, for the unlearned are an abomination, as also their wives and their daughters.”   P’sachim, fol. 49, col. 2.

Judaic texts like the one above emphasize repeatedly that knowledge and intelligence are supreme virtues, with ignorance the grossest liability.  Following this dictum, the Jews enhanced their gene pool for smartnesss. In A History of the Jews, author Paul Johnson notes that, “among the Jews the most intelligent people have always been very valued and sought after as husbands, so they procreate and spread their good genes.” Charles Murray observed another matchmaking tendency, when he notes that “by marrying the children of scholars to the children of successful merchants, Jews were in effect joining those selected for abstract reasoning ability with those selected for practical intelligence.”

Meanwhile, Catholics were marrying for “class” reasons, angling for blue-blood aristocrat gains that had no link to intelligence.  Physical strength and valor was also desired, via brave knights on the battlefield - this exaltation of brawn over brains likewise did nothing to advance that religion’s collective IQ.

Trading Tongues: Ashkenazi merchants plied their wares over a vast area, originally to Islamic regions, but later internationally - from rubber in Brazil to silk in China. To prosper in the exchange, they memorized multiple languages. The stateless tribe needed diverse fluency anyway, to communicate in adopted lands with their neighbors that spoke German, Polish, Latvian, Lithuanian, Hungarian, Russian, Ukrainian, French, Dutch, etc. 

The Ashkenazi developed a “fusion” tongue: Yiddish (German, Hebrew, Aramaic, plus other Slavic languages and a touch of Romance). At its height - before World War II - Yiddish was spoken by 13 million. The polyglot language produced exemplary culture in literature, theater, and film.

Neurologists today recognize that multiple language learning enhances memory, mental flexibility, problem solving, abstract thinking, and creative hypothesis formulation. Explanations of the benefits abound; I recommend listening to the video, “Bilingualism Will Supercharge Your Baby’s Brain.” 

Squeezed Into Brilliance: Jews in Europe were officially excluded from “common” occupations such as agriculture from 800-1700 A.D. Indeed, they were usually not allowed to own land. The restrictions forced Ashkenazim for 900 years into urban vocations that were cognitively more demanding, such as trade, bookkeeping, commerce, sales, and investment. The frequent Christian prohibition against charging of interest in money lending - prohibited as “usury” – assisted in opening up financial banking occupations for Jews. Historical records reveal that 80% of the Jews in Roussilon, southern France, in 1270 were money-lenders.

Later, after they were evicted from Western Europe, Ashkenazim were welcomed in Poland as urban investors and initiators of trade who could help modernize the nation. They were also in great demand in middle management positions because they had mathematic and business administration skills.

Ashkenazim who weren’t mathematically and verbally adept enough to succeed in these “white collar” jobs drifted away from Judaism—low IQs were pushed out. Conversely, the most successful merchants and number crunchers raised larger families, passing on an increasing percentage of algebraic brains.  

Winnowed By Persecution: The most intelligent and/or wealthy Ashkenazim were better equipped to escape Inquisitions, pogroms, persecutions, holocausts, and other genocidal threats because they: 1) could afford to emigrate; 2) could predict the need to do so; and 3) had social and economic opportunities in the nations they fled to. Poorer, less connected, and less astute Ashkenazi ranks thus were inexorably depleted.

The repeated annihilation, expulsion, and flight of the Jewish people is universally known. The first Diaspora to Babylonia has already been mentioned. A second Diaspora is popularly regarded as a series of dispersals from Israel after the failure of Jewish revolts against the Roman Empire from 70 C.E. – 135 C.E. In 629 C.E., King Dagobert of the Franks ordered the Jews to convert, leave his land, or face execution. The First Crusade, 1096-1099 C.E., cruelly slaughtered thousands of Ashkenazi, an estimated 25%. Jews were expelled from England in 1290, France in 1394 and parts of Germany in the 15th century. Pogroms in the Russian Empire in the 19th and early 20th century murdered substantial numbers of Jews, and the Holocaust, instigated by Adolf Hitler, led to the genocide of approximately six million, primarily Ashkenazi.

Whenever and wherever persecution began, Jews were more likely to escape if they could pay their way out, or were wealthy enough to have horses, carriages, employees as guards, rich relatives to flee to, and friends in “high places.”  High IQ has frequently been correlated with economic success.

Sick Genius: Ashkenazim are prey to about nineteen debilitating genetic diseases, and it’s been surmised that several of them might have cognitive “side effects” that can enhance intelligence. Many of the disorders can kill or severely weaken those who have two copies of the gene, but if you inherit just one, you get a “heterozygote advantage” that can include neuron growth promotion and accelerated interconnection of brain cells. For example, having just one of the allele in Tay-Sachs and Niemann-Pick – GM2ganglioside - could moderately increase dentrite growth.

Another Ashkenazi ailment is Gaucher’s disease, which seems to promote axonal growth and branching.  A survey discovered that out of 255 employed patients of Gaucher’s disease at Shaare Zedek Medical Centre in Jerusalem, were in occupations that require IQs over 120, and 15% were scientists. Another survey of Ashkenazim with Torsion Dystomia revealed an average IQ of 121.

I interviewed Gregory Cochran via email; he’s the University of Utah co-author of the 2005 research report, “Natural History of Ashkenazi Intelligence.” In his words, “any IQ boost due to Gaucher’s [would be] a good deal less than 10-15 points [but] It may be that big for Torsion Dystonia: everyone who has treated them marvels at how sharp they are… [However] only a fraction [of Ashkenazi IQ elevation] is due to particular mutations like Gaucher, in our opinion.” In another interview, Cochran pinpointed the fractions as, “One in two thousand Askenazi, at most, carry a Tay-Sachs mutation and a Gaucher mutation, the two most common.”

Ashkenazim are not an isolated ethnicity, after residing with Eastern European neighbors for over a millennium.  While many observers suggest that they’re 30% European, an Emory University study concluded that researchers “were able to estimate that between 35 and 55 percent of the modern Ashkenazi genome comes from European descent.”

Positive Thinking – Aubrey Max Sandman, PhD, an electrical engineer in London, sent me an email asserting that positive attitude is what counts, not genetics. His opinion is that non-Jews do not work as hard as Jews, to attain their full potential.

In actuality, “positive thinking” actually does elevate IQ.  2011 research at Michigan State University revealed that a subject’s “mind set” makes a difference in intelligence because their attitude determines if they react productively, or self-destructively, to their mistakes. The report will soon be published, hopefully with specific data charting IQ gains, in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science.

Check Mate: Chess historically has been a highly favored activity among Ashkenazim; a 1905 magazine described it as the “Jewish National Game.” Almost 50% of Grandmasters are Ashkenazi. The visual, organizational, and strategic skills required for chess build up the precuneus in the superior parietal lobe, and the caudate nucleus, a part of the basal ganglia in the subcortical region. Admittedly, these benefits are not hereditary, but youngsters who practice the game can elevate their memory storage, strategic planning, and IQ.

Additional information about the benefits of chess can be found in my later chapter, “School Years.” 

Melodic Minds: Music has been revered in Jewish religious traditions for 3,000 years. Klezmer “reached a very high level of sophistication and ornamentation,” according to the Jewish Music Institute, and Ashkenazi composers and instrumentalists contribute hugely to Western classical music (one history site declares,  “The Jews ‘Own’ the Violin”). Have centuries of practice paid off? Researchers today believe music training optimizes neuron development and improves brain function in math, analysis, memory, creativity, stress management, concentration, motivation, and science. 

Additional information about the benefits of musical training can be found in the following chapters: “Early Years” and “School Years.”

Comfortable Supportive Families, With High Expectations: Success promotes success, on the neurological level. Victory provides a rush of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that activates motivation for further accomplishments. Ashkenazi children generally understand they are capable of high achievement, and they’re urged to develop their skills for contribution to humanity. 

Is stern discipline necessary to produce these results? Ashkenazim have long discouraged spanking of their children; strong familial ties, incessant encouragement, and hard focused work at excellent institutions, seems to be sufficient.

Available income that allows offspring to study and develop intellectually is also important; wealth also permits access to elite schools. Surveys indicate that American Jews earn about twice the income of non-Jews, plus they have 2.5 times more capital assets. The result?  The average American Jew receives 2.5 more years of education. Even during the Middle Age many Jews were upper and middle class in economic status, a condition that secured good education for their children.

 Untermensch Go Elsewhere? A 40+-year old Jewish commenter from New York City with the nomenclature “ASAMATTEROFFACT” informed me that - in his opinion - Ashkenazi who lack high intelligence and creativity end up feeling inferior.  He believes this eventually leads to the “untermensch” marrying outside of the tribe. Only the ubermensch remain to reproduce. His point of view was echoed by another poster - Efox” - who stated that less intelligent Jews incapable of being their own “Priest” inevitably left Judaism to join another religion. 

Empathetic Rabbis – A commenter who identified himself as “zeev from jew york city” informed me that many rabbis were “Einsteins of Empathy” – amazingly kind, patient, loving and understanding of other humans. The high-level “empaths” impacted their congregations, making their lives better and promoting their ambitions and enterprizes.

In later chapters (“Early Years” and “School Years”) I discuss the IQ-boosting benefits of “Emotional Support” and “Teacher Effectiveness” – two gifts that were undoubtedly provided by compassionate rabbis.

Fear of Anti-Semitism? – Commenter “Morris Wise” stated a paranoiac position after reading my original article on the instapundit.com website.  In his opinion, Jews are driven to attain high academic success, career achievement, and wealth, because they want to feel safe, protected and insulated from anti-Jewish feelings in the outside community.  This point-of-view can, of course, be justified by the long history of resentment and persecution that Jews have experienced.


Twenty explanations for high Ashkenazi IQ!  My opinion? Regarding the fourscore? They’re possibly all correct, and valuable to contemplate. However, what I find most intriguing are the “environmental” factors that are accessible to all humanity.

I wonder: if the people of the world really want high-level intellectual achievement, why don’t we play chess with our children at night, instead of tossing them a violent video game? Why can’t we listen to their classical compositions on the weekend, instead of urging them to get concussions on the football field? Isn’t a “dietary code” actually an excellent idea, in American culture with its 33.5% adult obesity? Why can’t we provide them with excellent schools, entice them to learn foreign grammar, and convince them to believe in and expand their abilities, instead of forcing them to endure years of educational mediocrity and expecting nothing back but the same?

If all humanity adopted the best available characteristics of successful cultures like the Ashkenazi, would we, as a whole, immensely benefit? Would we learn more quickly, more deeply, and produce greater wonders? Would we become over- instead of under-achievers?

If we promoted high IQ behavior to humans everywhere, globally, would we all become… enhanced? Better humans?


To read the sixty-four footnotes and references, plus twelve additional essays on intelligence, you can purchase the book Why is the IQ of Ashkenazi Jews so High? Scientific Factors that Influence Intelligence

Hank Pellissier (author) is available as a speaker on this topic. He can be reached at hankpellissier@yahoo.com  or @ hankpellissier


What an interesting article, I am not a jew but i can see which perspective you are coming from. I think you are right. I served in the British Army, until 1987 and i was interested in the Israeli rescue of the Hostages in Entebbe in Uganda, and i think the success of the mission was because of the jewish ability for detail. if you read about the mission of which Benjamin Netnjahus brother was killed you can see how much detail had gone into the planning of ther mission. I would like to convert. anyway thankyou for an interesting report.

By Simon Gunns on Mar 15, 2013 at 12:54am

Carnitine—in the egg—in matzoh brie; gefilte fish, and chicken protein in their soup, may boost IQ of Jews somewhat.

By Alan Brooks on Mar 18, 2013 at 6:49pm

This article is a myopic one, I wouldn’t blame the author or anyone who accede to the possiblity of evaluating racial or ethnic supremacy in intelligence and achievement,  regardless of which, even though the Yorubas of today aren’t aware, their ancestors of old still remain those who has ever lived with the greatest IQ otherwise how were they able to achieve supernatural things yet unknown to the world today. Supernatural things persistently demonized as satanic and denigrated as diabolically occultic by the insidious presence of Christianity and Islam in our land. This is a chapter I’m researchly ensconced in, the Yorubas of today are still not aware of the incessant devastation the repackaged Abrahmic faiths forced down their fore-father’s throats by the European and Arab missionaries, colonialists, Jihadists and slave dealers has done and still does to them.

Only if they can ditch the foreign religions that has despoiled their land and go back to our ancient paganism and show the world what Einstein couldn’t even dream of; Kanoko: means of shortening long distance, Aferi: means of becoming invisible; Ayeta: our native sciences of rendering projectiles such as bullets, pellets, boris, arrows ineffective, Egbe: means of achieving teleportation, and hundreds of others that I am writing a pre-thesis on to be titled: Yoruba Advanced Sciences: Why I Am Not Yet An Atheist but an A’theist. I will disprove so many accepted theories and believes. The Yorubas of Old were, according to Ifa; our unwritten oratory bible were the first of mankind.


By Ghost of Sparta on Mar 30, 2013 at 9:43pm

I’m always suspicious of articles that are measuring us as a people but this was very delightful and insightful! I’m Ashkenazi with an IQ of 145. I commented on other page, so I’ll just say thank you for the fun facts!

By Sheila Epstein hunter on Apr 13, 2013 at 11:27pm

Fascinating. I am just discovering my ashkenazi routes

By Valma on Apr 16, 2013 at 10:27pm

It would be the same as being proud that people with brown hair are statistically smarter than people with blonde hair.  You’re not Einstein even if you have the same hair style as him.  Einstein had the right to be proud of his intelligence.  Feynman had the right to be proud of his intelligence.  You’re just living their shadows.

By Hummus on Apr 27, 2013 at 9:23pm

I am also an Askenazi with a 145 IQ.  Many years ago, when I was single, I attended my first and only Mensa event.  I thought it might be a place to meet an eligible guy.  First, my 145 IQ and female intuition didn’t notice any high-status cars in the parking lot; in fact, most were old and dented.  Most of the people seemed socially inept and didn’t seem to be doing anything interesting with their lives.  The Ashkensazi advantage may be soon lost, except for those in Israel, as intermarriage is at 50%,  and the wealthier, more educated and more intelligent evidence a lower birthrate.  My sister-in-law is Sephardic, and I believe the large families and less emphasis on education, especially for females, may account for some of the difference.  Now, I don’t put the kind of pressure on my kids that my generation received, but the idea that my kids would not attend college is unthinkable.

By Princess on Apr 27, 2013 at 9:59pm

Great article!

By olga on Apr 29, 2013 at 6:04pm

I would stay away from the bell curve and iq when making a point about ethnic superiority. They were both used by the american eugenics movement to show low intelligence of the eastern european immigrants (Ashkenazi?) And African Americans.

By Boychik on Apr 29, 2013 at 7:31pm

For the first time I encounter with a table spread and detailed analysis. I agree that the genetic code is influenced by many factors. All of them are important. But the base should be considered of Jewish tradition teached boys to read and write from three years, so they could study the Torah. 33 centuries of continuous mental exercise of children’s brain has formed a path to deep brain centers and is fixed at the gene level. Everything else is superimposed on that foundation.

By Joseph Kheyfets on Apr 30, 2013 at 10:30am

I hear what you’re saying but I am from a long line of Jews and have observed that although many Jews are very hard workers and apply themselves with strong focus, I find them almost always to have a blind side and to be extremely stupid in some areas to off set their success in another.

One of the weak spots I’ve noticed is an intolerance in regard to non-achievers,  slackers. and parasites over the age of 13. Although when we give alms we are grateful to the taker for the opportunity to give charity and love ourselves, the takers hate themselves if they aren’t given an opportunity to give something back.

  It is good to study the Kabbalahic concept that enlightens us about the right way to give.  It is important to acquire for the purpose of sharing rather than to acquire for ones self only.  It is a huge mistake to give without requiring something back in return because when we do so the taker loathes themselves and feels unworthy.
  That is why it is better to give someone a job than to give them charity for doing nothing.

  Unfortunately, under the growing socialistic economies people who work are require to give to people who are required to give nothing back, which makes people hate themselves and therefore hate us for stripping themselves of the oppportunity for self respect, self love and self esteem.
  Perhaps that is part of why so many people hate us.

By viqui on Apr 30, 2013 at 5:57pm

If Jews are so smart, why has Israel been completely unable to find a way to live peacefully with its neighbors? 


By peter on May 05, 2013 at 8:50pm

Due to the encouragement to argue each point of law in the Torah and Talmud, and listen to every argument for and against it, no wonder the Jews are some of the best lawyers in the world.  My father and grandfather were two such lawyers, well known in their city.

By Rivca Elias on May 06, 2013 at 7:08am

IQ is a score on a particular type of test emphasizing verbal and mathematical reasoning. It is highly dependent on educational level. My personal IQ testing as an example:

High school, rural Appalachia - 122
Undergraduate, small college - 135
Graduate school, major university - 148 or 156 depending on test type

By dep on May 08, 2013 at 5:20am

They are Raelian descendants…

By LoveYourDNA on May 08, 2013 at 10:34am

Another important reason: Jews are direct descendants of the Elohim, scientific creators of all life on Earth. See Raelian website for more info.

By Mehran - Raelian Bishop on May 08, 2013 at 1:54pm

Peter asks, “If Jews are so smart, why has Israel been completely unable to find a way to live peacefully with its neighbors?”

It’s a fair question.  Einstein and Freud exchanged a substantial amount of correspondence over the baffleplexing problems of conflict, violence, and suffering, lamenting the failure of the greatest thinkers and theologians to discover a practical way to solve any of them.

See “Why War: Einstein and Freud’s Little-Known Correspondence on Violence, Peace, and Human Nature” on Brain Pickings:


I’ve also ruminated for many years on a somewhat broader spectrum of seemingly intractable and insoluble problems that have long plagued humankind:  Conflict, Violence, Oppression, Injustice, Corruption, Poverty, Ignorance, Alienation, Suffering, and Terrorism.

Most of what I’ve written on the subject can be found on my blog:


The short answer is that all ten of the “plagues” are instances of a class of problems that modern mathematicians (or computer scientists) would call problems in “untamed recursion.”  Before the advent of modern mathematics, theologians had a different term of art for this class of problem. The called them “hellish” (or in the equivalent word in Hebrew, “the pits”).

They are actually solvable on paper.  But to solve them in practice evidently requires roughly 25% of the population to understand the underlying mathematics.  Otherwise, there is no reliable way to compel those without the deep mathematical apprehension to adopt the best practices that concord with the mathematical solution. 

Jesus actually had (and taught) the solution, but most of the followers of Jesus don’t understand how he derived the optimal best practice.  Without that mathematical insight, it’s unrealistic to expect lay people to adhere to the peacemaking protocol he recommended.

By the way, that difficulty does not apply to machines.  Computers on the Internet which strictly adhere to the TCP/IP Protocol inter-operate peaceably and efficiently with each other, in a manner analogous to what Jesus had in mind for errant humans.

By Barry Kort on May 08, 2013 at 3:16pm

This story is trotted out every few years.  I am half Jewish, and I find this offensive.  If any other racial group came out with an article like this one, half the population would be raising hell.  This does nothing but piss people off.  Bragging is for the schoolyard—best to leave it there.

By Aaron on May 08, 2013 at 6:12pm

The only IQ I care about is ethical IQ.

By Hernan Tasies on May 09, 2013 at 6:51pm

IQ is in the I of the beholder.

By May on May 10, 2013 at 9:41pm

Every time that anyone brings up this nonsense I think of my uncle, Joel. He always has an excuse, but never doubts that he is somehow superior.

There is an implicit insult within this and other “studies” directed at those who actually work hard for their success and their place in society.

By Dave on May 19, 2013 at 5:51am

OK I had to test this empirically.

I took 3 !Q tests and averaged the result (196)

then joined the local synagogue (thrown out twice as required)

became an orthodox askanazi then took the IQ test again.

IQ actually dropped 4 points.

By eldras on May 23, 2013 at 2:57pm

This is a biased topic from the start.  The very nature of it strikes me as no better than eugenics studies.  The sociological explanation for why Jews tend to be smarter (survived pogroms, discrimination, genocides, exceedingly high standards for spouses aka the Jewish Mom stereotype) may be accurate, but it can’t be proven objectively true—the claim is just too portentous. 

Interesting to bring math into a problem that is strictly sociological.  Computers don’t interact peaceably—they merely interact.  This is a subtle anthropomorphic overlay that has been going on since the explosive growth rate of our technological capabilities.  It is the same with our relationship to the animal world—domestic pets have higher value than their feral counterparts for no reason other than, they’re ‘ours’.  See Errol Morris’ Gates of Heaven for pet owner insanity.

By johndoe on May 24, 2013 at 10:36am

The Solomon hypothesis. It is recorded that God gave Solomon more wisdom and understanding than anyone else. It is also stated that as an opulent and affluent king he had 700 wives and 300 concubines.

If God altered Solomon genetically so that he could comprehend and store knowledge then that trait would on some level be transmitted to many Israelis as presumably at least the proper wives would be from Israel. With the offspring that would result the ubiquity of the gene or genes is virtually assured and would be present among the Jews today who have remained an insular people to a much higher degree than would be expected.

It is almost impossible to recognize that the Jews have genetic advantage when it comes to mental abilities, certain other environmental factors could explain achievement beyond IQ expectations but you can send a chimp to Harvard and he will still be a chimp after all.

By James Bowman on Jun 06, 2013 at 2:13am

While there may indeed be a genetic component to being endowed with a high-functioning brain (or at least one that is not organically damaged from genetically transmitted disorders), it occurs to me that culture and education may have a lot more to do with it than genes.

In Howard Gardner’s catalog of Multiple Intelligence, the ninth and most recent one to be added to his list is one that goes by more than a dozen obscure names.  Eventually Gardner proposed to call it Existential Intelligence. 

Aristotle didn’t have a name for the chapter that came after Physics;  he just called it “Metaphysics” (meaning “beyond physics”). 

Temple Grandin suggests calling it Pattern Thinking. 

If anyone had asked me, I’d have nominated Systems Thinking as the most appropriate name for the Ninth Intelligence in Gardner’s evolving catalog of different kinds of thinking.

Solomon exemplified the Ninth Intelligence.  So did Moses, Buddha, Hillel, Jesus, Lao Tsu, Beckett, Maimonides, Stephen Langton, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Mark Twain, and a host of 20th Century thinkers, notably including Gregory Bateson and the brilliant mathematicians who collaborated with him in the establishment of Cybernetics, Cognitive Science, and Systems Thinking.

See “The Ninth Intelligence” ...


By Barry Kort on Jun 06, 2013 at 8:45am

Wow that was an extremely interesting article! Couldn’t stop reading Once I started. I’m off now to play chess, write more music, stay healthy, learn a new language, be motivated!

By NickG on Jun 06, 2013 at 7:00pm

Barry not sure I agree, completely at least. I went to the link and read your blog and I’m a bit confused. The first part of the list for the ” Ninth Intelligence” all have an obvious connection to ethics yet the last few seem as if they belong on another list. Perhaps you could elaborate and show the correlation as you see it?

No doubt there is an innate understanding among us of right and wrong. So we humans understand to some degree at least what is ethical or not. Jesus said do unto others as you would have them do unto you, which is the most poignant way that gets to the heart of the matter.

The question that this article addresses is what caused the Ashkenazi Jews to have an undisputably higher IQ then the general population? I don’t think environmental factors alone suffice. Twin studies as well as Jews who were raised in distinctly non Orthodox or even in lower educated house holds still perform on another intellectual plane. Bobby Fischer is the first example that comes to mind. IQ has a very undeniable genetic component. This may be offensive to some people especially non Jews, but reallity doesn’t change to accompany our feelings. I try to remain objective and first determine if something is true or not before deciding the cause and implications that go along with it.

The Flynn effect certainly raises some interesting questions about heritabillity in a Lamarkian sense. It seems that scientists are discovering that our code is a little more bi-directional than it was once believed. In that thought perhaps you are correct that environment is what programs the genetic code and that programming could potentially be culmative over many generation. This going beyond selection for desired traits towards actually inducing those traits. Anyway the Ninth Intelligence is very interesting if not entirely relevant as I see it.

Thanks for the response to my comments Barry.

By James Bowman on Jun 06, 2013 at 9:02pm

I notice that many of the respondents are not comfortable with the idea that cognitive ability is inherited, not learned.  They are, I fear, a product of the “Nurture over Nature” movement that occurred after WWII.  I am reminded of a good friend who became an eminent pediatric psychiatrist, and whom, shortly before retiring, told me, “Some kids are simply wired wrong.”  When I commented to his sister than I, a biologist, was delighted to hear him say that, she replied, “Yes, but it took him thirty five years to say it.”

For whatever reason, a winnowing process occurred, selecting out the more intelligent members of the gene pool, who then continued to breed true by deliberate selection of intelligent spouses.



By Mac on Jun 06, 2013 at 9:46pm

James, the last few items in the list of synonyms for the Ninth Intelligence are firmly rooted in modern applied mathematics: Systems Theory, Pattern Recognition, and Cybernetics.  In that regard, they are not “Logos” (Narrative) but “Mathos” (Theory or Function).

“Theology” is the Word of God.  But if you look at the modern scientific models of Natural Law, they are typically expressed as Mathematical Models rather than as Narrative Stories.  You can think of these Mathematical Models as Templates or Blueprints or Formulas from which the exemplary narratives arise.

Umberto Eco said, “Whereof we cannot express a theory, we must narrate a story instead.”

For most of human history, cultural knowledge, wisdom, and insight was passed down through stories.  Even today, the study of mathematical models is limited to the STEM disciplines (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics).

If you read the Humanities, you rarely will find a mathematical, scientific, or analytical model embedded in the literature.

What the last few varieties of Existential Intelligence do is bridge the gap between narrative and theory.

See, for example, this presentation by Wai H. Tsang, a British neuroscience scholar who can effortlessly synopsize the modern mathematical scholarship in the corresponding theological or metaphysical version of the same ideas:

Becoming Aware of ‘Becoming Aware’


See also the other recent posts on my blog, which dive into many of the same questions.  Many of those blog posts have protracted discussions in the comments which further explore and fill in the gap between traditional narrative and modern theory.

If you have a Google Blogger account, you can join the discussions there if you like.

By Barry Kort on Jun 07, 2013 at 11:37am

Peter asks if Jews are so smart, why have they not found a way to live in peace.  Well, Peter, they would love to live in peace, however, their Arab neighbors deny their existence and would love to see Israel wiped off the face of the earth, that is why.  Have you ever visited Israel, I have. The Israelis treat the Palestineans in their hospitals, without predjudice, treat the Arab children who are cancer patients, free of charge with their wonderful medical research and would love to live side by side w/o the daily rocket attacks. When that day comes, peace will follow.

By Harriet on Jun 09, 2013 at 2:58pm

Ashkenazy IQ is not different from Asian IQ. I believe the major difference historically has been the (unwanted) role of Jews as “outsiders”. Every human group tends to cling to beliefs that become self-limiting. Jewish persecutions have the unwanted side-effect of forcing Jews to abandon fixed beliefs from groups they want to belong to, but which do not accept them. This is obviously true in Europe and the Muslim world; it is happening today. So Einstein, to name a famous example, began to wonder at age 16 “what would it be like to travel on a ray of light?” An unusual question, and possibly part of his status as an outsider. Einstein never had academic recognition until he published his five fundamental articles of 1905, his Annus Mirabile. Those articles were short, conceptual, and broke the fixed beliefs of conventional physics at the time. The amazing thing is that the small theoretical physics community was receptive to such revolutionary thoughts. Breaking set (fixed beliefs) is a key ingredient of scientific creativity, but it has to be very disciplined.

By Bernard Baars on Jun 11, 2013 at 4:56am

Bernard Ashkenazi IQ is measurably different even than their closest rivals the East Asians hence the discussion and subsequent hypothesises to give an explanation.

The politically correct response is to presume that it is the product of environment or more favorable conditions. This notion has been adequetly refuted for the most part, twin studies differing economic and social backgrounds etc… IQ is a largely heritable trait like height, eye color and so forth. Do I think ones environment effects individuals of course, I get a tan. Malnurished peoples are smaller in stature too but no matter how much time in the sun I will not get Sub Saharah African dark because genetically my abillity to produce melanin is predetermined. This is also confirmed in by albinism which is genetic.

My width seems to be more flexible than my heigth is even when overnourished. So no offence it is simply that observations tell us that Ashkenazi Jews in particular have a significantly higher IQ than the norm. As I already stated first determine what is true then proceed to determine what implications that has.

Why Jews have been persecuted throughout HIStory is an interesting topic in itself, I might suggest natural explanations alone fall short so my answer would be prophetic in nature. The answered question is are they smarter on the whole than other people groups, the remaining question is why? For me the next question is why can’t we accept it if it is true?

By James Bowman on Jun 14, 2013 at 5:14pm

Theoretically, all Jews should score about the same in IQ, given that there’s such an emphasis on education (whether holy or secular) among Jews in general and that that emphasis predates the contemporary Jewish divisions - Sephardim, Oriental Jews, and so on should be scoring about the same as the Ashkenazim.  But it seems to me that the Ashkenazim have had the advantage of living in more favourable general environments in the past couple of hundred years than other Jews, and of having been more isolated historically from the general population than the Sephardim etc.  Furthermore, in that article, there’s no mention of ultra-Orthodox/Hasidic Jews of Ashkenazi descent vs. other, more secular Ashkenazim (and it’s the latter who have been behind at least almost all the stunning achievements mentioned in the article).

While the article discusses Ashkenazi Jews and Northeast Asians among the highest achievers in our contemporary world, the author seemed to forget to mention smaller groups like the Armenians, Parsees, and Jains (the latter two of which are from India), and maybe the Lebanese Maronites as well, that have made a good number of contributions to the world as well.  These groups have been historically, just like the Jews and the Chinese in their Southeast Asian diaspora, businessmen and middlemen (and were more literate than most of the rest of the world).

(Full disclosure: I’m Ashkenazi.)

By Yosef on Jun 19, 2013 at 4:31pm

about the age of 12 my IQ was 124 .  Finished high school , but never attended
college .  About 65 years later I was given an extensive IQ exam and the result was
144 I was puzzled and so was the psychologist ,

By solomon rosen on Jun 21, 2013 at 2:08pm

some really good points here but healthy living will always play a part.

By kevin smith on Jun 24, 2013 at 4:25am

“Jews have made up 50% of the top two hundred intellectuals… 40% of partners in the leading law firms in New York and Washington… 59% of the directors, writers, and producers of the fifty top-grossing motion pictures…”

“Israel: In 1922 this swamp-and-desert land had an impoverished population of 752,000 inhabitants. Today there are 7,746,000 residents, with a large Ashkenazi population (3 million, and 60% of the workforce) that has elevated it into a high-tech entrepreneurial nation with the highest per capita income in the region. Israel rates 1st in the world in graduate degrees, 1st in museums, 1st in home computers, and 1st in publishing scientific papers.”

In academia, law firms and in Hollywood they practice racial exclusion. They prefer to hire each other to high positions. So for example will Jewish producers and directors favor Jewish actors, often when it could even hurt a movie’s or TV series’ success because the Jewish actor is less attractive than numerous other actors who could have won the role instead.

Israel’s wealth is not a testament to Jewish intelligence. Remove verbal skill from IQ tests, as is more and more often done these days in favor of pattern recognition in symbols, and Jewish average intelligence plummets. Therefore Israel’s average IQ is only 98. Israel receives massive economic aid from the U.S. every year, more than any other country, as well as enormous loans that they never have to pay back. Israel also enjoys favored trade status, for example access to the EU’s free-trade area without having to reciprocate by opening up its own domestic market to free-trade competition, thereby giving Israeli businesses a truly unique advantage. Also, Israel can exploit cheap labor from the former Soviet bloc without giving them citizenship. In fact, remove the free money, the trade privileges and the cheap labor, and Israel with its 98-average IQ and socialist policies would quickly have financial troubles.

By Carpenter on Jul 04, 2013 at 8:00pm

Obviously, Carpenter is not Jewish, much less of the Eastern European variety, or else he would know that verbal fluency is an overwhelming marker in the creation of intelligence; hence, one cannot separate verbal IQ out of the IQ debate because without language proficiency, we cannot form ideas, structure ideas, consider ideas, strategize and proceed in action.

In a rejoinder, if we factored out the rest of the world’s verbal IQ from the IQ equation, I suggest the number might be in the single digits, roughly equivalent to that of a radish.  That reasoning is as laughable as Carpenter’s anti-Semitic (read as “envy”) appraisal of Ashkenazim IQ.

By LaneyB on Jul 09, 2013 at 3:15pm

There must be some inherited trait that coupled with an environment that promotes learning for the sake of learning that shows up in IQ tests.  It can’t all be nature or all be nurture.  The results are too consistent across geographical boundaries.

By LaneyB on Jul 10, 2013 at 1:31pm

Carpenter Israel was a desert waste land, barren for the most part as you already noted. I don’t think Russia did nearly as well with the labor force so not sure why Israel succeeds with the same people? I find the notion that language be removed from the IQ equation as somewhat unfathomable, not unlike removing speed and strength from athleticism?

That Jews prefer Jews in Hollywood is of course true, but remember most of the major studios were started by Jews who were kept from show business to begin with. As much as I despise Hollywood they succeeded and even surpassed those who excluded them from the industry initially. This is itself a testimony to them being very smart imho. 

No the article makes more than a sufficient case that Jews are inherently more intelligent on average. Arguments to environment or even denial of a collectively higher IQ simply fail when looked at objectively.

As far as I know I’m not Jewish although some ancestral evidence suggests it is likely. All potential links are not in the paternal line so Y DNA testing wouldn’t be useful and autosomal tests seem to be very subjective and random. I score well on standardized tests but tend to score highest in the goyim visuospatial sections, yet reading comprehension and pattern recognition are very strong points too My weakest points by far are grammar and spelling so IQ alone isn’t as strong an indicator in my case. Doesn’t matter really just interesting to know I guess.



By James Bowman on Jul 13, 2013 at 4:55pm

im ashkanazi jewish from warsw

By stachowicz on Jul 16, 2013 at 3:40pm

placebo effect

By dan on Jul 20, 2013 at 8:24am

studies into placebo effect have showen that the expected outcome of a expermient affects the actual outcome of the expermient even when dealing with living subjects. In one case studies were carried out on students where their grades improved when expected to, The expectation was from observers that the students were not aware of. The observers were simply told that this group of students are very bright and will get good grades even thou they weren’t. The students preformed as expected and their grades improved. when there is a large group of people e.g christians that believe that the jews are the chosen people this sets up a very powerfull placebo effect. The question is would this placebo effect be powerfull enough to increase the iQ of a entire race of people placebo studies would say yes.

By Dan on Jul 20, 2013 at 8:55am

How about giving the most obvious answer a try? 
The Jews are God’s chosen people.
“For you are a holy people to YHWH your God, and God has chosen you to be his treasured people from all the nations that are on the face of the earth” (Deuteronomy 14:2).

By Matthew Foutch on Jul 22, 2013 at 9:56pm

Raelian’s are also chosen people, related to the Jews. Happy to say I’m one…

By LoveYourDNA on Jul 24, 2013 at 11:21am

In our modern culture, intelligence is more important than physical prowess, but only the jews seem to understand this. We should indeed encourage our children to engage in intellectually challenging hobbies (chess, music, mathematics, language etc). Ofcourse, the drawback has also been mentioned: people who can’t keep up the intellectually higher pace will feel alienated and will turn this kind of culture down. But this is also a problem of the current physic-based culture.

By YourConclusionIsCorrect on Aug 02, 2013 at 5:31pm

“Today there are 7,746,000 residents, with a large Ashkenazi population, 3 million”

But the IQ averange of Israel is only 94:


¿Why? ¿How explain this?

By Juan on Aug 04, 2013 at 6:52am

Simple the non Ashkenazi population has an IQ of 85 or so and if you average them in it brings it down to 94. What is the IQ of neighboring countries? Also that is including Palestinians who are essentially Arab. This is not a well researched answer but I bet if you look you will see explains most of the disparity.

By James Bowman on Aug 08, 2013 at 7:31pm

Interesting article!  I have studied this and related psychometrics for decades.  I always tell people about the high IQs of Ashkenazi Jews, and the reasons I give are thus:  Throughout the centuries Jews were persecuted and often forced to live in ghettos - especially the Jews of Eastern Europe and Russia.  Over the years, they tended to “out-breed” the dull and stupid ones who might put the group into jeopardy.

Having no outside influences, they also had to learn to entertain themselves:


By Steerforth on Aug 14, 2013 at 1:58pm

As an Ashkenazi Jewess who has voluntarily immersed herself in Jewish culture, history, language, etc., for five and a half decades, I was enormously impressed and fascinated by this article. It is brilliantly written, thought-provoking and convincing. Regarding early bilingualism, I spoke British English and Gaelic as a toddler and became easily proficient in Spanish, Hebrew, Serbo-Croatian as well as acquiring some Arabic and some Yiddish skills. Both of my parents were far more educated than anyone in their families at a time when women rarely went to college and men did not often earn a Bachelor’s Degree, let alone two Master’s Degrees, as my dad did. One of the gifts they bestowed upon me ( through genetic and environmental transmission, I’m sure) was the ability to express myself eloquently in English, through speaking and writing. I enjoy sharing my original humor (most of it Jewish-themed,) biting satire, and poetry with fans. Being born Ashkenazi certainly didn’t hurt!! You can be certain that I will recommend this article and your book to my friends, family, and cyberpals, many of whom are rabbis, Jewish professors, authors, musicians, scholars, and language students, as well as to my intelligent non-Jewish friends. I also enjoyed some of the thoughtful comments. I respectfully suggest that the foregoing is in alignment with the principles of Buddhist Right Speech. In fact, in closing, I’ll share a phrase which I coined: I am attached to non-attachment.

By Susan aka Queen Shamiram on Sep 05, 2013 at 6:27pm

Reading your article with natural criticism, your possible explanations show that the Jews have been trying to climb to the top of the food chain since biblical times. This overlooked theme is in disagreement with implying that the Jews and the Gentiles are born with equal footing and the Jews success rate is due to their IQ. Your explanations instead suggest that since biblical times, Jews have been acquiring money (Rothschilds) and status and this has been a plan for centuries, and now their children are born into a culture with disproportionate opportunities.
This writer is biased. If he’s not Jewish then he is trying to get a pat on the back from the elite who are largely Jewish. The percentages quoted don’t indicate genetic intelligence, but a more sinister status quo - the Jews have gained control of the money supply and are using their advantage; now they help each other into high places such as elite universities and jobs. The numbers don’t lie.
Proof that this writer is biased, besides his polite description of the Talmud which teaches that Jews are better than any other ethnicity, is that he implies admission into Yale and Harvard is based on intelligence. And we all know that isn’t true. There is more weight placed on the ability to pay the tuition. And according to the article, there is a long history of Jews obtaining a disproportionately large supply of the money, in multiple countries, the author cites himself.
The disproportionate success rates are hard evidence that they are at the top of the social and classist caste systems. Since IQ has been shown to increase with more education, the author (and the Ashenazi comments about having more education than anybody else) seems to be making my argument for me when stating that Jews make up such a large percent of Yale and Harvard scholars. IQs increase with more education, and the Gentiles are stonewalled from entering the rigorous colleges because they don’t have the finances that “stay in the family”. Because if the gentiles regarded themselves as an other and helped eah other into high places, or anything of that sort, it would be called discrimination, but the Jews don’t get that judgment.
“To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.” - Voltaire

By Claire Bennet on Sep 18, 2013 at 10:04pm

Very intersting points of view which deserve more attention and research.

By Oparod on Sep 30, 2013 at 8:49am

Oh look at all these people bashing this article. Come one people, it is OK to accept that some groups are smarter than others. The numbers prove jewish intellectual superiority clearly. This doesn’t mean that I support AA against jews or anything of that sort, since individualism is the optimum public policy.

By Arvind on Sep 30, 2013 at 11:49am

FWIW, a friend once told me that one reason for Ashkenazi intelligence was that, traditionally, the mother was charged with educating children—so they customarily sought out women with high intelligence and good education with whom to reproduce… traits not generally considered sexy in some other cultures I can think of…

By Pasiphae on Oct 01, 2013 at 8:17pm

I was tested at a government facility where over 900 medical doctors were employed.  Every employee was required to be tested before being hired to evaluate their knowledge and intelligence level.

I was informed my test scores were the highest ever seen at this facility and my IQ was said to be off the chart.  They were floored as I had no college education and had been diagnosed with ADD.  I am not jewish, nor were there any jews in my family history.

I had smoked tests several times in the past with one being the national all time high score of 98% on the 3 hour plus Federal Contract Specialist Exam which was geared for those with an MBA degree.  This test was discontinued as very few could score the minimum of 80% to qualify and affirmative action candidates were excluded.

By Richard K on Oct 10, 2013 at 11:31am

Sure Ashkenazi Jews have some impressive accomplishments ALWAYS within non Jewish civilizations. That is Jews have never been able to make extraordinary contributions within a Jewish civilization. As a matter of fact Jews have no developed a Jewish civilization.

Yes, the Bible is an extremely popular book but that is no indication of its value.But popularity does not equal soundness.

As a matter of fact most of those high accomplishing Jews are not Orthodox Jews, just as it happens with people raised within Christianity.

To me it is obvious the ancient Greeks were far more advanced than Jews in almost all respects, particularly in elevating human dignity by having the courage to discard the idea of the magical God, all powerful and that has all the answers fro everything. This is why Greek civilization really invented the World we live in now and that is the World for all human kind. The latest to join are the Chinese.

Unfortunately, the Bible was more popular and ruled the World until the Renaissance (not a Jewish movement). But popularity does not equal rationality.

The ancient Greek Hellenized the Jews, not the other way around.

Israel, the Jewis state, is not a model of anything. Far below the Scandinavian countries, Germany, Japan and Anglo countries in cultural level, standard of living, government functioning, crime rate, corruption civism, etc, etc. Even Israel is what it is thanks to the Westernized Jews originally from Europe and the US otherwise it would be closer to Jordan or Lebanon.

It is not intelligent after 2000 not to figure out a way to void being rejected and killed by practically all cultures since the Pharaohs.

Even if we accept that persecution and expulsion of Jews is never justified, it is obviously not very intelligent not to be able to figure out the triggers. It is even less intelligent to accept that fate of rejection and death.

I believe Jews are able to contribute in some areas because they are “integrated outsiders”; this enables them to look at things with more freedom when they are in non Jewish societies. That freedom of point of view sometimes is fantastic (Einstein and many others) sometimes is very destructive when, for example many Jewish social thinkers and artists spend their creative energy radicalizing and undermining the host society. I do not know their inspiration to be so critical. Perhaps it is because a non Jewish society is not worthy in their eyes or perhaps they just want to improve it. In either case they are very unintelligent because it only brings disaster for Jews and non-Jews over and over.

Jews did not create philosophy, mathematics, geometry, classical, music, literature, architecture, the alphabet, universities, banking, democracy, rule of law, electricity, the steam engine, the internal combustion engine, rocketry, the submarine, the airplane, chemistry, geographic and space exploration, medicine and on and on.

I just believe Jews just do not have it in their culture by itself the impulse to explore in the intellectual and physical sense. This is why their accomplishments are within more advanced cultures that do have the impulse to explore.

It would be idiotic to deny there is an amazing number of Jews that accomplish a lot in very specific areas but that does not prove higher intelligence it proves those specific accomplishments, no less no more.

It amazes me Jews in the US today are totally unable to see how non Jews are drifting apart from them and as the US continues its downward spiral the conditions for violent anti-Semitism draws closer.

Jews seem to think the Holocaust somehow protects them. How wrong they are. The fact is, as far as most non Jews are concerned Auschwitz would be a subdivision by now were it not for the Jewish ability and motivation, and understandably so, to keep the Holocaust in the front lines, but that will not last forever.

By the way, it is not very intelligent for the Jews to bank the survival of Israel on the support of the US and to bank the support of the US to the influence of the US Jewish community. If Jews move to Israel to escape future US anti-Semitism, then Israel will lose the support of the US and will collapse in short order. If they do not they will end up persecuted in the US and Israel will also lose US support. Either way it seems Israel is doomed and US Jews are comdemned to move on (if they are quick…)

Of course Jews will survive the coming catastrophe, they have done it before. But, is is rational if the survival of a belief that always brings death, persecution and humiliation to its followers is worth it or even moral? To me is not rational. As a matter of fact at one point in my life I was so impressede by Jewish accomplishments I became interested in Judaism. As I studied Judaism deeper I saw beyond the positive accomplishments the many destructive things about Judaism and its many flaws.


By lambsdorf on Oct 11, 2013 at 5:31pm

Thanks for your interesting article. How do I reference it?
I have bought your book and look forward to reading. If you have not already, you will want to see my book “Intelligence and How to Get It”. If you do read it, you will see that your thinking about IQ and intelligence is a little off in some respects. For example, Lynn’s data are mostly based on one IQ test, namely Ravens Progressive Matrices, which actually captures only one element in IQ and not necessarily the most important one. The claim is made for Ravens that it is culture-fair. If you read Flynn (or me) you will see that the Ravens is the very most culture-saturated IQ test around.
There is no word in your box!!
Best wishes,

By richard e nisbett on Oct 13, 2013 at 8:22pm

Claire Bennett’s comment seems neither friendly nor polite. She implies that the Jews have a nefarious PLAN to climb up to the top of the world (seemingly over the backs of Gentiles).
It’s rather creepy, though others should read it and assess what they think themselves.

By Linda Evans on Oct 14, 2013 at 5:24am

@lambsdorf your statements are so full of false presumptions one hardly knows where to start, your assessment of the scriptures and Christians is equally inaccurate without a historical basis. Let us see where we do agree. You are correct that popularity does not equate to soundness to use your own terms, keep that in mind about your opinion that has become popular in our day. As far as popularity being the same as value, well sure it is or at least as men assign value to things which is inherent in the definition of value itself. Value is a term that has to do with cost, so if human beings are willing to pay for something it by definition has value. Therefore your statement is careless and inaccurate.

King David and more so his son Solomon had accomplished great things, not the least of which is bringing us proverbs, psalms and prophetic writings that are read and believed by millions around the world yet today, far more so than the ancient Greeks or any other civilization the world over. They influenced the foundation of America profoundly which became the most powerful nation in the world. I know there was a popular myth that there was no actual King David, or Solomon but archeology is quickly putting that notion to rest. Two Steles mention the House of David and now a palace has been unearthed as well. In times past scoffers mocked the Bible proclaiming the Hittites were not a people, and yet today we understand the rivaled Egypt in scope. Countless other examples exist, but my point is made.

Greek influence on civilization exists undoubtedly, but historically the Greeks were nothing of an atheistic society you described, that construct is your own imagination. They tended to be pantheistic following a host of gods. That is what they wrote not me. Now when you get to Socrates, and Plato they were far more monotheistic so much so that Flavius Josephus accused them of plagiarism and stealing from the Jewish scriptures. The Apostle Paul even seems to be referencing them in Acts 17. The Greeks had the only other translation of the OT Hebrew scriptures called the Septuagint, which might have played a role in their advancement on the world stage.

As far as accomplishment of the Jews goes, what is idiotic is to assume that IQ doesn’t play a role, as no matter where they were they excelled. However this article didn’t draw it’s conclusions based on accomplishments, but rather based on IQ tests. How anyone could read the article and miss that is hard to imagine. The fact of a higher IQ has been settled to those who are willing to examine it honestly.

In the list of accomplishments you say Jews didn’t create, they have contributed far in excess of what their miniscule percentage of the population globally should have be possible. Go look at Nobel peace prizes in science and see how disproportionally great their results have been. Again if you presume intellectual endeavors are not impacted by ones intelligence why try to downplay them? Check out Jewish chess champions, less than 1% represents almost 50%. Explain that or is chess not a game that relies on intellectual ability?

As far as the Jews counting on America, you are correct it is a vain hope, America too will turn against them and many of the far left are already doing so in earnest. So it is only a matter of time before the whole world turns against them just as was foretold of in the writings you suppose are of no value.

As far as Israel’s lagging behind other advanced societies? The land they occupy was barely more than a desert wasteland only 70 years ago, yet in that short period it is growing into an economic and technology power house. Not too shabby considering they have been under violent assault and started from virtually nothing. Of course this too was prophetic fulfillment from the Bible. Not sure what Greek writings told of future events, feel free to enlighten us.

As far as your HIStory is concerned the Bible had been suppressed by Popes and the “Catholic Church” so that was hardly known until the Protestant Reformation. That the Renaissance coincided in time and geographical bounds with proliferation of Gods word is a topic for future discussion, but shouldn’t be swept aside as inconsequential nor unrelated. 

Lastly if you didn’t reject the Bible and were not hostile towards Jews and Christians you would also recognize that it was prophesied that he Jews would be scattered globally, abused where ever they went and would also have a home land again in one day, returning to that land, only to be hated by all the nations of the world. Ironic as you even stated that America would turn against them and it plays out on the world stage before our eyes.

The Jews are a unique and peculiar people no doubt, as a Christian it is yet another confirmation of God’s word. I look towards a land that was barren and see another rebirth and know the time is short.


By James Bowman on Oct 16, 2013 at 1:46am

“Originally, of course, they were from Israel.”  Well, originally Jews came from the Middle East but there was no Israel at the time of their migration. Small detail but incorrect and significant of the Zionist ideology, so better to pay attention to such details. BTW, Ashkenazi Jews are strongly mixed with local population along their migration pathway.

By kashmiri on Oct 21, 2013 at 5:34am

The latest genetic studies of Jewish populations, show that at the high middle ages the Ashkenazi population in Europe was reduced to 400 families, at most 50000 people. That bottleneck acted as a giant accelerator for natural selection. It is fair to believe that those 400 families that survived destruction had a very high proportion of gifted hi IQ individuals. Moreover probably had many other attributes that comprise general intelligence as well as resilience. Only 400 years later they had grown to be 90% of all Jews. It should also be noted that as you analyze the distribution of IQ, if a group with defined boundaries as the Ashkenazi jews has a mean distribution one whole standard deviation higher than the general white population as you go searching for higher IQ numbers the group will finally have the very few highest.

By Hank Raven on Oct 27, 2013 at 5:21pm

Hank, that was a very astute paragraph you wrote—impressive and informative. It certainly strengthens the theories with which we are dealing.  It’s a joy to read such an articulately expressed, cogent, and relevant comment. Bravo to you!

By Susan aka Queen Shamiram on Nov 03, 2013 at 12:43pm

I would like to make some points.
First, having an x% higher IQ does not mean that there would be x% more achievement, in fact, it would be much more, this is due to the fact that achievement does not have a linear relationship with the IQ, it has a steeper relationship, ex. quadratic or exponential or anything else. So, a slightly higher IQ means a considerably higher achievement.
This is also without taking standard deviation into account.
Second, don’t miss the point that Jews are severely lacking in arts, and are average or below average in visuo-spacial IQ. Their are incredibly higher than the average in verbal IQ which means more success in life and more money which overestimates their achievements.
Third, the high IQ only pertains to Ashkenazic Jews, which are mostly of European extraction (genetic studies are conflicting on this issue, but my belief from what I see is that they look unquestionably European), so taking into account that also Europeans are above average IQers, it seems to me that the cause of this is of a selected intelligent Europeans, who were isolated by religion, and due to hardships on religious minorities and intermarriage, there was natural selection for high IQ which was also high to begin with.

By Karl on Nov 14, 2013 at 10:14am

Regardless of anthropological explanations, which other than using in debates about “which came first”, Jews consistently are at the far right side of the IQ Bell Curve.

What, exactly, is the argument here?

By LaneyB on Nov 15, 2013 at 9:25am

I I am not at all convinced that Ashkenazi Jews are, on the average, any smarter than a lot of other peoples.  In fact, I consider at least half of them to be unbelievably stupid for supporting Obama.

  Before the concentration camps were filled, many German Ashkenazi Jews thought Hitler was okay.

  I my closest Ashkenazi friends because they stopped talking to me for not supporting Obama.

  Even those with some good incomes, who seem smart, were blind when it came to Hitler and Obama.

  I love studying the Torah but IL notice that many of my Ashkenazi friends don’t look into what is written between the lines and over look or misunderstand integral parts of it.

  I believe Christians Jews and Muslims are all equally intelligent and equally stupid, - and that we are actually three branches of one basic religion invented by Abraham.  Moses used the Torah to enslave the descendants of the slaves he supposedly freed, and the New Testament and the Koran did the same thing to Christians and Muslims.

  If people were really smart they’d see we are using religion to create teams to attack each other and prune the human population. All creatures, even those ‘less intelligent’ ones behave similarly to us, but we lie to ourselves and say that we kill because the others don’t worship the same god, but the fact is we all worship the same blood thirsty god, and share an unspoken agreement to keep the population of humans from becoming a cancer on this planet, by reproducing too much and infringing on the other organs- or organisms- necessary to keep the Living Earth alive and well.

By Sheb on Nov 23, 2013 at 1:04pm

Oh brother, Sheb. You Obama haters are really something else when it comes to trying to have a rational discussion.

By LoveYourDNA on Nov 26, 2013 at 11:53am

Sheb? How to answer or maybe wiser not to answer at all. You may see me as a slave to religion, I see you as a slave to sin and lies with a confused view of HIStory.

If you go back to recent human HIStory it is the antireligious that have pruned the most people from our planet. Joseph Stalin, Moa Zedong and Khmer Rouge have in a short span murdered and oppressed more humans to a higher degree of cruelty than has been committed in the name of all religions through out all of HIStory, but that is never mentioned by the haters of religion.

None the less let us turn away from dark philosophies and distorted beliefs about the past and return to the topic at hand. The topic is why are Jews on average more intelligent than other groups, the Ashkenazi in particular?  Obama and peoples opinion of him as a litmus test for IQ says more about their own than the Jews. When using IQ tests which by definition test for what we define as IQ Jews certainly score higher than other groups is a demonstrable fact. All the evidence suggests there is a strong genetic component to it also as reasonable spelled out as was well argued in the article. If you have counter arguments beyond Obama logically state them. The question you in no way addressed is WHY are Jews more intelligent? Simple question but you would never know it by the off topic rants.

Do you have a theory as to why or not?

By James Bowman on Nov 28, 2013 at 8:12am

The article always uses semantics to somehow prove that Ashkenazi Jewish IQ is higher than any other ethnic race. I have a question for the person who wrote this article:

What about the the great Scots mathematicians, physicians, chemists before the Scottish enlightenment when Scotland was the most literate nation in all of Europe?

It is important that the Scottish population in Scotland was LOWER than the Ashkenazi Jewish population that is incredibly spread throughout all of eastern Europe. What kind of semantic argument can you throw at that?

Articles like this are interesting, but very dangerous and are probably one of the reasons why the Ashkenazi Jewish population have been so oppressed in the non-Jewish European lands they have lived in. 

By Luke Thompson on Dec 02, 2013 at 12:09am

This is a very touchy and sensitive subject that can be embraced for vainglorious purposes.  Most humans have within them a high capacity for narcissism.  In the case of intellectual vanity, even below average people enjoy the ego trip ride of delusions of intellectual grandeur.  Prisons contain many below average people who genuinely believe they are geniuses on par with the greats.

New (late 2013) evidence clearly shows that Jews (I’m “genetically” 50% Ashkenazim from Italian ancestry) and Europeans have virtually identical DNA (i.e., more than 95% the same), which means Jews can consider themselves genetically as ~100% European, and Europeans can consider themselves genetically as ~100% Jewish.  Ashkenazi Jews and Sephardi Jews are ~100% genetic Europeans with Jewish identity and culture.  Okay, but why is this subset of the European gene pool intellectually gifted?  The answer clearly resides in “natural selection.”  The least intelligent reproduced less or not at all.  Of course, the means by which this dynamic played out certainly would contain a high level of complexity.

Since the 1950’s in the United States, huge numbers of young people have gone to university (i.e., intellectually competitive institutions).  The least intelligent cannot compete.  They flunk out, leaving a more intelligent residuum.  Opposites among the intelligent residuum attract, get married and have families.  Surprise, their children are . . .  intelligent.  Gedanken: continue on this trend for 2000 years into the future and consider where it will end up.  This is simplistic, but something along these lines, along with numerous other complicated dynamics, could explain higher intelligence within a subset of the European population with Jewish identity and culture.


By James Pasquale on Dec 03, 2013 at 12:46pm

Luke Semantics really? No it uses empirical data from standardized testing not word craft to make the case. Why is it so offensive to observe reality? All humans have far more in common with each other than not genetically and phenotypically which is no way denied in this article? When you get to the far end of the scale you find Jews which are more than two standard deviations above the norm which is very statistically significant.

Europeans themselves vary genetically by geographical location enough to be significant, Jews even more so or we couldn’t identify them genetically and we can. Significant European admixture yes European Hitler didn’t think so, along with countless others. Political correct thought is the equivalent of ostrich mentality, stick your head in the ground and pretend the world isn’t there. No matter for supposedly being only 5% genetically distinct it is hard to explain a correlation 15% difference in IQ.

Oh well not sure why I should even attempt to argue with those who refuse to be persuaded by evidence, the well written article could not do so why should I expect to.

No offence towards anyone Jewish or otherwise, we are all brothers.

Yawn why bother everybody is exactly the same and to say or notice otherwise makes you a bad person. Ahhh ok all is good as you were ;0]

By James Bowman on Dec 10, 2013 at 7:27pm

@ Lambsdorf.
You comments are exactly what I tell people the real feeling of this country is. Yes it is dangerous for Jews in America but no one listens to me. I am. a Jew and I am proud of my people but despite these idiotic studies. I don’t think Jews are better or worse than anyone. We have our share of idiots like any other. However, the Chinese own us at this point so I wouldn’t worry about Israel considering how many of them are in the world if the Jews were wiped out you’d still have to deal with them. And I guaranty you that you can’t outrun however many billion of them there are now.
By the way my IQ tested between 115-120 so I’m probably right about the Chinese taking over.

By Anonymous on Dec 11, 2013 at 2:36am

I just have a question. Wouldn’t the modern day Ashkenazi be so diluted with European blood that you would be denying the Sephardic origins? You couldn’t test anyone from the ancient or Middle Age times to compare. And in fact there was restriction of inter-marriage so the blood line would have been even more pure Sephardic. Just an observation not so much a question. In any case, with all due respect articles like this are dangerous. The conspiracy theorists just feed on it.

By Anonymous on Dec 11, 2013 at 3:09am

Why is the article dangerous, it is simply looking for an explanation for why Jews on average have a higher IQ. As far as being correct because your IQ tested at 115-120 that makes me question the validity of the test you took? You are correct based on facts not your IQ, or other wise if somebody with a higher IQ says you’re wrong then you are wrong and so forth.

I’m scared when people want to stop people from speaking openly and honestly. Discussing things in an intelligent well reasoned manor usually is a good thing in my opinion.

Nobody has so far presented a logical well reasoned case that the conclusions are incorrect, several reject the conclusions but not based upon facts.

I’m not sure what my IQ is exactly but using the ASVAB and other standardized tests I’m guessing around 135-140 including informal IQ tests. As far as I know I’m NOT Jewish, but I don’t resent them either.

Oh well I think I’m done with the comments, and will look at the article which is rather interesting. Don’t be afraid of finding out the truth folks simply embrace it and be kind to each other.

By James Bowman on Dec 11, 2013 at 9:13pm

I admit that I’m biased in favor of Hank Pellissier’s article, but it seems to me that the most credible, sensible, intelligent, well-reasoned, and balanced comments come from those who support the article and evidence therein. More than a few of the comments proffered by dissenters appear to be baseless, hostile, counterintuitive, and poorly thought out.

By Susan aka Queen Shamiram on Dec 12, 2013 at 7:51am

Some of those who disagree with the article are focused upon refuting the evidence. They seem to be missing the point. The point of the article is not whether or not Ashkenazim have higher IQs. The research, which, I assume, is rigorously done, shows that these Jews DO have higher than average scores on intelligence tests. The article offers many hypotheses as to why NOT whether the scores are higher. Those who say, “We’re all equal; there are no differences; all groups have some variations within them, etc.,” are flying in the face of the data. I’m pleased to be an Ashkenazi in this lifetime; but if the data showed that Ashkenazis were not above average, I would need to accept the truth and not deny it due to unsubstantiated facts and misguided opinions.

By Susan aka Queen Shamiram on Dec 13, 2013 at 4:51am

I have noted that when Ashkenazis reach an IQ of 199 they turn into atheists. But then so do the goyem. A fine article, though.  Worth saving.

By Andy Halmay on Dec 16, 2013 at 4:18pm

P.S.  Since some of the comments get into politics I need to mention an observation.  Jews, of course, are as diverse as all other folks who are weaned in different cultures.  An oddity I found among American Jews who like all other Jews are distantly related to Arabs. While Arab families produce suicide bombers, American Jewish families produce suicide voters.

By Andy Halmay on Dec 17, 2013 at 5:24pm

Andy Halmay: I love your comment because it’s kinda true. Maybe intelligent people don’t need religion to explain how we were created? When I heard the Raelian messages, it immediately explained all the questions for me Christianity couldn’t. I’m now an atheist…

By LoveYourDNA on Dec 17, 2013 at 6:22pm

@LoveYourDNA Most intelligent people throughout HIStory have believed in God and recognized the inherent order and design that exists as evidence to that end. That is not saying many intelligent don’t reject God that too is true but trying to categorize people as smart or stupid using that as a basis shows a lack of intelligence. Isaac Newton who is arguably the greatest scientists that has ever lived wrote more on the Bible and prophecy, which he took literally, than he wrote on science. I have a copy of copy of “The Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse of John” myself. Of course there are many who use illogical arguments against the person instead of empirical evidence, which is an ignorant and false argument.

Of course LYDNA I’ve never heard the explanation of how things randomly become intricate and complex, which is contrary to the known laws of nature. Maybe the Raelian message is a transpermia hypothesis or something of that nature? If so instead of insinuating that people who don’t share your views are inherently stupid, you could support your ideas with evidence as the universe I observe sends me towards God. I have heard people attempt to use DNA as evidence against a supreme creator, which always struck me as being tantamount to taking someone to a library to show authors don’t exist. See look around at all these books and not one author that settles it. ;0]

Andy how many 199 IQ people do you have to draw your conclusions from?

By James Bowman on Dec 22, 2013 at 9:07pm

Certainly intellect & IQ is beneficial in many ways to improve one’s (and others) standard of living… yet the greatest of human minds have often missed some of the more important things in life, i.e. hearing and communing with GOD, family life, contentment, happiness… considering that knowledge is infinite and mans reason (no matter how great) will never hold a candle to it, then Faith then becomes not only important, but vital to true fulfillment in life. mans reason wont easily allow him to accept what an all knowing CREATOR whispers is his heart.

By annonymous on Dec 22, 2013 at 9:40pm

I found a huge error in your writing:
“Originally, of course, they were from Israel.”  Well yeah, of course they would make that claim to justify taking the land there from the original inhabitants using religion as the justification. However, science is proving the claim wrong:

“Genetic Roots of the Ashkenazi Jews
Most Ashkenazi Jews, traditionally believed to have descended from the ancient tribes of Israel, may in fact be maternally descended from prehistoric Europeans.
Source: http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/37821/title/Genetic-Roots-of-the-Ashkenazi-Jews/

By Error in writing on Dec 23, 2013 at 10:18am

Sorry, James, I don’t get into debates with believers. You have bliss and sometimes I even envy you for it. But I can’t escape the fact that belief is the lowest form of thinking.  Have a happy holiday and excellent 2014.

By Andy Halmay on Dec 23, 2013 at 10:19am

Verbal IQ I think is were it is at, someone mentioned Armenians above and I will always remember hearing growing up when the Armenians move in the business district, the Jews leave lol!  Also the old saying, it takes two Greeks to outfox a Jew and two Jews to outfox an Armenian??!

By Avram on Dec 27, 2013 at 10:58pm

As an Ashkenazi myself, I am glad that people like you are investigating this mystery.

Now I am contemplating a new business approach. Selling my DNA.

By Thomas Russo on Jan 05, 2014 at 3:00pm

The writer seems to have overlooked one very important possible cause for the askenazi genius: money and influence. They have friends in high places and select eachother for influencial jobs. The same goes for nobel prizes. More often than not nobel prize winners are selected for political reasons instead of mere intellectual ones, so that doesn’t prove anything. Their influence has developped since thousands of years ago. And I don’t have to point out to you that, if your family has enough money, it is far easier to become a college graduate. And if you don’t have the brains for it, you can always bribe some people with influence. And if you have friends in high places, sometimes you don’t even have to bribe them, they will be glad to help you out. As for living healthy: this too is far easier if you have enough money to buy good foods. Ashkenazi people are not always easily recognized, for many have changed their names, but they have a lot of influence in the world and own most influencial businesses, like the media, Hollywood, the music industry, the banks etc., so they decide what we watch, what we listen to, what we buy, what we read and what we eat. And more and more it is known that the prepared foods in the shops are not the healthiest ones, since they are full of additives that are bad for you. And they make sure they only eat organic foods themselves. So maybe the question here shouldn’t be ’ Why are they so intelligent?’, but rather: ‘Why are the rest of the people less intelligent?’ or maybe even ’ How have they managed to dumb everybody else down so well?’.

By jvdm on Jan 08, 2014 at 3:58am

Excellent response, jvdm!

By LoveYourDNA on Jan 10, 2014 at 5:19pm

Ashkenazi are indeed clever and cunning, their intellectual contributions to humanity are only because of the European atheists objective scholarship and tolerance based on apathy.  They are an emotional histrionic people believing in much nonsense with no empirical basis. They have an irrational pride in their abilities. My conversations with them occasions them to umbrage as my vast knowledge seems to be a humiliation to them when they learn despite my name and looks that my astounding erudition includes no Jewish DNA. The assertion of their claimed superior empathy is ridiculous. Ashkenazi marriages to East Asian women is because they perceive them to be sexually more desirable, not intelligence. They cannot yet accept that factually, humans are biochemical robots.

By Lawrence on Jan 20, 2014 at 3:26pm

what a precious privilege to be a member of the jewish community. Never so few contributed so much to human knowledge. The contribution to knowledge of Sephardic jews has been impressive: Moses Maimonides and Baruch Spinoza come to mind.  Let us not forget that Albert Einstein believed in Spinoza’s God, who rereveals Himself in the lawful harmony of the world….... 
More recentlty, Serge Haroche was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2012.

By Roberto Benzaquen PhD on Jan 20, 2014 at 7:27pm

Baruch Spinoza was a pantheist, an ancient superstition, no contribution to knowledge. His rejection of the Torah caused his Jewish community to issue this formal curse upon him.  Cursed be you when you wake, cursed be you when you sleep, cursed be those who speak with you, who feed you, etc. etc.  Maimonides was an itinerate Doctor practicing either useless or harmful cures. All humans are glorified monkeys. Some say there is honor and glory in being the smartest monkey.

By Lawrence on Jan 23, 2014 at 3:28am

I can just see the confused expressions on the faces of these biochemical robots when the meshugener, Lawrence, shares with them his immense knowledge.

By Andy Halmay on Jan 23, 2014 at 9:19am

It is realism, it is not pleasant, knowledge is not pleasant.

By Lawrence on Jan 23, 2014 at 10:29pm

Way to go, Andy. I laughed out loud at your astute and humorous rejoinder. As I’ve been reading the comments, I am again “underwhelmed” by the lack of writing ability and logic expressed by the detractors and naysayers of the original premise: that the IQ of Ashkenazi Jews is significantly higher than any other group. The negative and acerbic responses appear to be wishful thinking based on anger-infused emotion and not on rational thought supported by incontrovertible evidence. The ignoramuses aren’t convincing me of anything but the truths which they are attempting to refute.

By Susan aka Queen Shamiram on Jan 24, 2014 at 4:19am

For some obscure reason the piece and the commentary remind me of an intercourse between H.L. Menken and a southern redneck - “My friend, when your ancestor were still living in trees and caves, my ancestors had already developed peptic ulcers.”

By Andy Halmay on Jan 24, 2014 at 11:13pm

I forgot to mention….a thousand excuses for this….another illustrious Sephardic jew…..Solomon ibn Gabirol.  I wonder what was his IQ ? It does not take a very high IQ to understand that when you start as a goup measuring the level of its intelligence through stupid measurements, such as the IQ test, it is clearly the beginning of the decadence of that group. Do we care about Einstein’s IQ ? What matters here is the profound contribution to knowledge of its General Theory of Relativity, among other things…the same reasoning holds for Newton’s Theory of Gravitation or Galileo Galilei revolutionnary conception of the universe or again Baruch Spinoza fundamental and revolutionnary contribution to philosophy….he is considered among the greatest philosophers of all time. Try to measure the IQ of this one ?For those with a small IQ, please note that philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems linked to human existence.

By Roberto Benzaquen PhD on Jan 25, 2014 at 7:51am

Seems like someone has big superiority issues…
So, let us see now…
Jews, who lived among Arabs and other Middle Easterners have lower IQ, same as Arabs & other Middle Easterners.
Jews, who lived among Europeans have higher IQ, same as the white Europeans themselves.
There is no question, that some mixing took place between both the Sephardi and Ashkenazi Jews with their host populations. There is no question that IQ is determined by one’s DNA.
There is no question that white Europeans have higher IQ.
You connect the dots. Higher IQ of European Jews may be the result of mixing with European DNA. Make Jewish geniuses do mtDNA and Y-DNA tests, and verify that.


“About 80 percent of Ashkenazi maternal ancestry comes from Europe, not the Near East, according to a study that suggests a mass conversion of women to Judaism may have occurred in Europe more than 2,000 years ago.

The findings come from studying mitochondrial DNA, which passes from mother to offspring, in about 3,500 people, the authors wrote in a paper in the journal Nature Communications. About 80 percent of the maternal linages of Ashkenazi Jews came from Europe, the scientists found.”

Also, there is no need to be so thrilled about the higher IQ. IQ higher than certain “golden ratio” level may be not a blessing, but a curse.

By someone on Jan 25, 2014 at 4:36pm

I have not seen any well-conducted statistics on the matter but in my own experience I have always found people of mixed origin to be more talented than ones with ‘purer’ origins. This extends to Jewish people in so far as those people I know of, who have one parent that is Jewish, but another that is not, are nearly always extremely talented.

Because of this I find noxious hypotheses (aka theories) such as expressed here:

‘“ASAMATTEROFFACT” informed me that - in his opinion - Ashkenazi who lack high intelligence and creativity end up feeling inferior.  He believes this eventually leads to the “untermensch” marrying outside of the tribe. Only the ubermensch remain to reproduce.’

to be highly ironic. People of higher intelligence are less likely to follow arbitrary religious commandments. They are also less likely to be constrained by cultural norms, and closeted by communal practice. Racial identity will not be top of the list in priorities when they choose a mate.

A similar view is expressed here:

‘His point of view was echoed by another poster - Efox” - who stated that less intelligent Jews incapable of being their own “Priest” inevitably left Judaism to join another religion.’

In Judaism each person is not ‘their own Priest’. On a literal level this is obvious. The Kohanim were a particular group, and after the exodus it was the Rabbis that held all authority. On a less literal level, those who cling to outdated dogmas cannot be dignified with such regal descriptions as ‘their own priest’. Those who believe in torah from Sinai, must reject much empirical evidence and be happy to abdicate their own judgment. And those who do not really completely believe it - but who unthinkingly adhere to custom - are clearly not of superior intelligence.

Actually, the mere inclusion of such remarks, even when it is made clear that they are not necessarily the author’s own opinion, makes the whole article seem dubious!

By Merlin on Jan 27, 2014 at 5:15am

I think the #1 reason that there’s so many Jews in the Ivy League is because 23 of the 24 spots of Dean, President and Provost are occupied by Jews.  The older generations are smart to have attained these positions.

However, in the elite NYC speciality high schools, there’s almost no Jews.  It’s the closest thing to a pure meritocracy in education that we have.

Also, if a group had a 125 median verbal IQ, then we should literally have somewhere around 300,000 Jews in America that are comparable to Plato, Shakespeare, David Hume, etc, along with another 16,000 or so literary geniuses, the likes of which the world has never seen.  That is obviously absurd.  I mean any unbiased reasonably intelligent people should be able to figure this out.

The most recent IQ tests of Ashkenazi Jews have their IQs testing from 101 to 107.  It’s most likely that the Jews of past generations had such a high IQ due to the tragic culling of their dumber members, and a skewed sample was tested.

We’ve now had a few generations to allow a regression to the mean happen, and their IQ test scores have been dropping.  This is supported by the lowering achievement we see by Jews in meritocratic fields.  They’re not dumb, but they just aren’t as smart as we once thought.

By Jaime on Jan 27, 2014 at 2:27pm

The subject seems to have magnetic power. The volume of comments may be now dwarf the original article.  At the risk of digressing, it has occurred to me that if I.Q. tests had been done in the 19th Century or early 20th Century on Ashkenazis or any other group and compared these to I.Q. tests on similar contemporary groups we would find a dramatic drop in intelligence in today’s sample.  This thought came to me while watching the Grammys.  The quality of music often mirrors the intelligence of a culture and the greatest DNA will lose out to drugs and bad music every time.

By Andy Halmay on Jan 29, 2014 at 8:27pm

If they had been so smart they would have used technologies from ancient civilizations they lived in (Rome/ Greece/ Babylon/ Egypt) and by means of that technologies and knowledge they woul have created superpower 1000 times stronger then all other countries combined togeter. They would have won all the deseaes, their space ships would have been exploring the space…But no they are so retarded that they were not able even to keep that in their silly heads.
And after collapse of ancient civilizations they were waiting for emergence of new white cvilizations in Europe to join like retarded pupil who is waiting for freshmen to help him to to pass 1’st grade for 100 times.
example: Einstein was idiot and cheater, so was Weiner (so called cybernetic genius who did nothing)  and all others.
All resent studies showed that thei intellect is poor iq in Israel is 90.
And samrt ppl (nation) nver boast how they are smart))
No I am sorry - tank merkava they created themselves.

By CoolMan on Feb 15, 2014 at 6:40am

No sooner do I mention the creatures on the Grammys and one crops up here big as life - a perfect specimen to prove my previous point.
I’ll let you in on a big secret, Mr. CoolMan.  Computers now come with “Word” or “Open Office” which provide “SpellCheck” for Neanderthals who failed to pass kindergarten. Type up whatever garbled thoughts you have and SpellCheck will correct the spelling for you. Then simply copy and paste it into the comment window to save you from totally discrediting and embarrassing yourself.

By Andy Halmay on Feb 18, 2014 at 7:19pm

“I have not seen any well-conducted statistics on the matter but in my own experience I have always found people of mixed origin to be more talented than ones with ‘purer’ origins.”

This is where you start to counter statistical evidence and testing data from diverse sources? Not good but all too common. I’m glad your feelings and anecdotal observations differ from empirically derived conclusions but your opinion seems just that an opinion based upon personal biases and nothing more.

“to be highly ironic. People of higher intelligence are less likely to follow arbitrary religious commandments. They are also less likely to be constrained by cultural norms, and closeted by communal practice. Racial identity will not be top of the list in priorities when they choose a mate.”

Another unsupported opinion stated as fact. Well let me counter with my equally unsupported opinion. I see that intelligent people tend to follow rules of law religious or otherwise and people of lower intelligence from an early age are incapable of doing so whether on tests or in practice during everyday life. Our prisons are full of people who could be used to make that point. The average IQ I’m sure would be in the 80% range.

What intelligent people tend to do is spot hypocrisy and inconsistent application of said rules so they would also be able to confirm that all religious rules are not arbitrary. I guess if you are unable to see the connections then the connection must not exist. Just as a 1400 elo chess player might not see a checkmate in 4 while a 2500 usually would, it is because the 1400 is the better player not bound by the rules and patterns of chess?

“On a less literal level, those who cling to outdated dogmas cannot be dignified with such regal descriptions as ‘their own priest’. Those who believe in torah from Sinai, must reject much empirical evidence and be happy to abdicate their own judgment”

Really can you make the case or is this another feeling? You never make a case from empirical evidence the article you label as dubious however did just that.

Jews religious or otherwise are more intelligent collectively period, attempting to classify “religious people ” as ignorant is a bad place to start. Common but wrong Merlin. Try and be more objective look at the evidence there is a lot of it.


By James Bowman on Feb 19, 2014 at 8:27am

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