High status/high IQ jobs

Some jobs by their nature require a strong IQ, for example, you will not find people with low IQs working as physicists or mathematicians. Anyone who has to master a complex technical job such as flying an airliner will have a healthy IQ.

But not all high status jobs require the mastery of a particular skill or ability that can be objectively measured and there is good circumstantial evidence that in many high status jobs an individual can get by with only a mediocre IQ. It is also true that job status is strongly class-dependent. Some jobs which are considered to have relatively low status in the context of a society as a whole because they are mostly done by those drawn from the lower social levels may require a strong IQ, for example, the skilled mechanic, the rank-and-file police detective.

Jobs also have status within their social stratum. The skilled mechanic will enjoy high status within the working class; a brain surgeon will trump a bank manager in middle class circles. A few occupations are beyond class, for example, those who exercise serious political power or, in our celebrity obsessed world, the likes of film stars.

The status of a job and of a person’s position within a work hierarchy can play an important part in disguising incompetence, as can political ideology. The Bell Curve identified an interesting trait in US society: blacks and Latinos are over represented in reputedly high status jobs such as doctors, lawyers and teachers, the over-representation plausibly being the consequence of an ideologically driven policy, namely, “positive” discrimination: —

“We have obtained SAT data on classes entering twenty-six of the nation’s top colleges and universities. In 1975, most of the nation’s elite private colleges and universities formed the Consortium on financing Higher Education (COHFHE, which amongst other things, compiles and shares information on the students at member institutions, including SAT scores. We have obtained these data for the classes entering in 1991 and 1992… In addition, the figure includes data on the University of Virginia and the University of California at Berkeley in 1988.” (The Bell Curve p451).

“The difference between black and white scores was less than 100 points at only one school, Harvard. It exceeded 200 points at nine schools, reaching its highest at Berkeley (288 points). Overall, the media difference between the black and white mean was 180 SAT points, or conservatively estimated, about 1.3 standard deviations.” (The Bell Curve p451)

For US graduate schools Murray and Herrstein found that in Law school only 7 per cent of blacks had scores above the white mean. The figures for medical schools were similar to those of the Law schools, while the arts and sciences were slightly stronger. (The Bell Curve pp455-8).

As for teachers, affirmative action in the workplace Teacher competency exams showed whites passing at twice the rate of blacks in three of the four states cited – California, New York and Georgia – with Pennsylvania the odd man out with a white/black pass rate of 93/68. (The Bell Curve P494)

It is difficult to conclude anything other than that the intellectual quality of blacks working in medicine, law and education is on average substantially less than those of whites and Asians and that this inferiority will manifest itself in a reduced ability of blacks to do the job. However, many blacks manifestly do survive in such jobs. How do they do it? The answer is a mixture of the subjective nature of the subjects (even the law allows many interpretations), status and political correctness.

Take the case of medicine. It is far from being an exact science. Consequently, many mistakes remain hidden because an error can be explained away as being a reasonable opinion which just happened to be wrong, misdiagnosis would be the classic example of this behaviour.

To this “get out of jail free card” can be added the natural respect that a doctor carries for most people, including other medical staff, the ignorance of the general public on medical matters and a very strong reluctance on the part of medical staff to make a complaint about other medical staff. All this makes people generally reluctant to question a doctor’s behaviour. Where the doctor is from a group which is protected by political correctness these natural barriers become amplified.

The power of all these traits can be seen from the frequent cases of unqualified people successfully impersonating doctors for long periods of time. There have even been a few cases of people successfully impersonating surgeons for years.

But there is another reason why those with low to mediocre IQs get away with being doctors: medicine is not the most intellectually demanding profession (it used to be known as the stupid profession). To be medically competent a doctor needs a powerful memory – to master the very large amount of information presented to him during training and ongoing post-training experience – and personality traits which allow him to both judge patients and be able to inspire trust and confidence in them. What it does not require most of the time is very high level problem solving.

Despite the limited intellectual demands of medicine it is accounted a high IQ profession nowadays, at least by implication, and the academic entry requirements for medical school grow ever more stringent. Why?  There is great competition to enter the profession because it has high status and pays well. This means that higher IQ candidates for medical school will, other things being equal, be preferred to those with lower IQs. In short, medicine today is probably burdened with higher IQ personnel than it requires.

But over-qualification applies only to those who are not beneficiaries of “positive” discrimination and lower IQ candidates disproportionately come from the groups who do benefit from such favouritism. For the reasons given above, they can survive because the job does not make intellectual demands which unambiguously reveal their inadequacy. In addition, those who benefit from “positive” discrimination will tend to generally benefit from political correctness, for this will drive those outside the protection of political correctness – in the developed world white doctors, nurses, technicians and administrators- to cover up the inadequacies of the low IQ politically correct protected doctor. Ironically, the higher than necessary IQ of those doctors outside the politically correct fold will assist in the process of covering up because they will tend to be more competent at doing so because of their higher IQ and greater competence.

What is true of medicine applies to many other high status jobs. People with low to mediocre IQs can and survive for long periods in positions which are patently beyond their competence (this of course applies to all races not merely blacks). There is far more to competence than just IQ, but often the incompetence is ascribable to a lack of IQ-related problem solving ability – the Dilbert cartoon strip deals brilliantly with both the question of incompetents in high places and the different qualities required by people in different jobs.

Even more fundamental to understanding how low IQ individuals survive in high status jobs is the fact that having an incompetent in a high status job does not automatically mean that the operation of the organisation or unit they work within is dysfunctional. If the incompetent person is a senior manager the people under him will compensate for the person’s incompetence by quietly ignoring what the manager says should be done, by using their intelligence and experience and by following standard rules and practices. Organisations of any size but the very smallest have an in-built functionality which transcends the individual.

The larger and more complex the organisation is the less important the position of a senior manager becomes, because the larger the organisation the greater the in-built functionality and the less the effect an individual can have on the organisation, try as they may. Anyone who doubts this should examine the careers of those who have risen to be chief executives of large public companies which they have not founded (entrepreneurs who create their own businesses are a different kettle of fish). Their careers are almost invariably patchy: they have success at one company then fail at another. But once they are on the corporate CEO gravy train it is the devil’s own job to get them off. Like high profile Premiership football managers, no matter how often they fail there is seemingly always another big job waiting for them.

What applies to private business applies in spades to public servants, both because there is no bottom line (the taxpayer pays regardless of outcome) and because those ultimately responsible are the politicians who misuse their power to cover up mistakes where possible, and where it is not, to pretend that a monumental piece of incompetence is nothing of the sort. They get away with it in the main because most so-called democratic systems (in reality elective oligarchies) are tightly controlled by an elite which manages to bar by one means or another (sociological inertia, control of the media and so on) any new political force from gaining power or even influence. Even where a new party does gain power, it is almost always comprised of the same class of people who held power before. The electorate is left with no meaningful choice and the politicians as a class are literally irresponsible in such circumstances.

Positions of authority generally offer the low or mediocre IQ individual a great deal of latitude, because such people are protected from an objective examination of their performance by their status and because they can call upon the ability of others to do the high IQ work. They can also take the ideas of their subordinates for their own and place the blame for failure on their subordinates. The higher the status of the job, the greater the ability of the low IQ individual to hide their inadequacies, both moral and intellectual.

Much of what those in positions of authority do is little more than the exercise of personality plus the acting out of learned positions. This is particularly obvious in the case of politicians who commonly operate simply on the recitation of learned statements rather than responding intelligently to questioning or the demands of situation. Often when politicians are forced by circumstances to make a serious attempt at explaining something they make a frightful hash of it because they do not have any proper understanding of the subject.

The case of George W Bush is an extreme example of this behaviour. When presented with a prepared speech which he has rehearsed extensively and with the use of a teleprompt, he can speak fluently, although even in these circumstances he will get some of the phrasing of his delivery comically wrong by placing stresses where there should be none. But put Bush into a situation where he has to answer questions without any prior knowledge of what is to be asked and his speech takes on a chaotic form with stretches of hesitancy followed by passages where he suddenly becomes fluent for a sentence or two, although the fluent passages often  have no direct relevance to the question he is answering – this, of course, is a common politician’s ploy, but Bush does not use the tactic as a means of avoiding the question but to fill the space with words, any words. This behaviour is easily explained: Bush cannot deal with questions on the hoof. This leads him to stutter and hesitate until he remembers something he has learned parrot fashion which he then trots out. Once this is delivered he is back to not knowing what to say and the stumbling hesitancy re-surfaces.

What applies to politicians has application to not only people in authority but in some degree to any person. For much of any person’s life, both social and working, the individual can get by without needing to exercise higher intellectual functions. For a large part of the population their lives can be lived without ever having to exercise high level intellectual functions because, contrary to popular opinion, most jobs in a modern advanced state are as they have always been: mundane.

The high status people who cannot easily hide their incompetence are those who undertake jobs which can be judged objectively, most commonly those involving a technical ability such as an engineer or scientist. Bluff there will not carry you through, well, not unless you are a cosmologist.

Tellingly, although the black middleclass has increased massively in the USA over the past 50 years, the distribution of blacks across the full gamut of middleclass occupations is uneven. For example, black academics have become much more common in the USA in the past fifty years, but there are few in the indubitably high IQ subjects such as maths, physics and chemistry. I was tempted to include philosophy but that is a subject which is difficult to define. It is indubitably a high IQ subject when done well, but it can also be done badly and still get an academic hearing in a way that work by an incompetent physicist could not. Hence, quite a few blacks have entered philosophy departments but what they produce is more social commentary and political polemic than analytical philosophy in the Western tradition. Certainly, no major black philosopher in that tradition exists. Where blacks do appear in great numbers in academia is in “black” studies, an area in which they can rule the roost with virtually no academic challenge because of political correctness.

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  • antiphonsgarden  On November 28, 2010 at 11:15 am

    I just realised what kind of spirit you have.
    I cant believe some people still argue like that!

  • antiphonsgarden  On November 28, 2010 at 7:54 pm


  • antiphonsgarden  On November 29, 2010 at 12:16 pm


  • antiphonsgarden  On November 29, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    I doubt you might convince me of any link established between the vitamin D resorptive skin pigmentation factor and the IQ?

    • Robert Henderson  On November 29, 2010 at 2:00 pm

      I suggest you read the Bell Curve for a comprehensive and not too academic introduction to the subject. The racial IQ hiearchy in descending order is East Asians – whites – blacks.

      • Bourne  On June 30, 2012 at 8:14 pm

        ..but whites are more creative, which is the center of US prosperity.

  • antiphonsgarden  On November 29, 2010 at 10:42 pm

    I am very sorry for you that you need such divisions between humans and that you try to legitimate them with absurd generalisations.
    By the way..”black” or “white” or “yellow” humans don’t exist beside in some heads, and to generalise about humans that way, tells me about that some should first question their optic, second, figure out where they have inferiority issues to need such “superiority” fantasy’s.Calling that “science” is avoiding the fact that we are all more or less palish Africans who travelled a little bit over time, and that we as interconnected specie have truly more important things to care for in common.

    • William Gruff  On November 30, 2010 at 2:25 am

      Unless I am very much mistaken, the thrust of Mr Henderson’s argument is, in part, that the challenges posed by that ‘little bit of travel’ over time you allude to were the cause of the measurable differences in IQ that some have observed. I think that is probably the case.

      Whilst I am not convinced that the means by which IQ is measured are at all satisfactory, and I tend to agree with you that there is only one skin colour, which is skin colour, whatever the shade, it is undeniable that certain racial types have developed societies, technologies and cultures that others seem not only unable to develop but also unable to comprehend.

      In your evident excitement to demonstrate your respect for diversity and multicultural principles you seem to have overlooked, if you’d noticed at all, that orientals sit above Europeans on the intelligence curve yet have also failed to develop advanced cultures and have adopted or are adopting western models, the most striking example of which process must be that presented by the Japanese.

      An admittedly simplistic analogy can be drawn from the various types of domestic dog, all of which are differentiated by different traits peculiar to particular breeds, intelligence being one of those traits, yet they are all, effectively, the canine equivalent of ‘more or less palish Africans’. Your point fails to disprove Mr Henderson’s argument.

      As an aside: It seems to me that you are more likely to ‘generalise about humans’ than Robert Henderson.

      Does your leg jerk, antiphonsgarden, if an electrode is placed on one of your finger tips?

      • Robert Henderson  On November 30, 2010 at 9:33 pm

        “Unless I am very much mistaken, the thrust of Mr Henderson’s argument is, in part, that the challenges posed by that ‘little bit of travel’ over time you allude to were the cause of the measurable differences in IQ that some have observed. I think that is probably the case.”

        RH. Correct. If it is accepted that mental capacities – not just intelligence – are uniquely in organic life on earth not subject to natural selection, natural selection must operate on trait(s) which are measured by IQ tests. As homo spapiens lives in very different enviroments and is uniquely a creature of culture, it is easy to see how different population groups would differ in personality traits including intelligence.

        “Whilst I am not convinced that the means by which IQ is measured are at all satisfactory, and I tend to agree with you that there is only one skin colour, which is skin colour, whatever the shade, it is undeniable that certain racial types have developed societies, technologies and cultures that others seem not only unable to develop but also unable to comprehend.”

        RH The fact that there are population groups with sufficient similarity within each group to allow both the group to indentify those within the grouops and those outside the gropup to perceive them as belonging to a racial group, is evidence of bopth the importance of racial type as a primary assortative mating prompter and the imporance of racial perception to homo sapiens generally.RH

  • antiphonsgarden  On November 30, 2010 at 11:11 am

    I seem to be able to see what we humans have in common, what matters far more than some pretend surface divisions , some seems to need out of not innocent reasons.
    All this breast beating wannabe alpha noises show one thing for sure…a complete missing of historical understanding and an insistence to sound “scientific” like some with disastrous mindsets, not able to see that the conclusions out of their divisive views.

    What an inner essential missing ,people of the kind of “intelligence” you assume as “superior” must have!
    Testosterone addiction is not maturity.

    A bunch of little boys playing with matches.
    Not the first ones, not the last…but each time a burden to humanity.

    Disdain or compassion, that is how I see a temporary difference in humans.I assume that those who understand the last surviving optimum who was, is, and will always be natural in humans, are nearer to both: their own nature and their universal culture.

    • Vuil Uil  On June 30, 2013 at 3:24 pm

      A late, late reply, but I could not resist. Perhaps like a murderer you will return to the scene of your crime. The place where you murdered the English language.

      @ antiphonsgarden: Are you for real? Your post is ridiculous. Garbled language and garbled thought. I suppose you are trying desperately to show that you are not a racist and rambling on about ‘testosterone addiction. You feel that somehow helps do you?

      I thought the article was well written and raises interesting questions regarding intelligence and IQ and whether it is really necessary in professions such as medicine. It implicitly examines the whole issue of affirmative action.

      Alas to those posters who stupidly deny racial differences – the ‘we are all the same under the skin’ brigade (one can almost hear violins playing in the background): How to explain the very real differences between groups. (denial will not suffice.)

      Black athletes consistently outperform whites and Asians. (I’ve long argued for affirmative action in the 100 meter sprint: white athletes should be given a 10 meter start 🙂

      Most Chinese have perfect pitch and this translates into better musical ability than whites. Asians also have better visio- spatial abilities/IQ than whites. Whites on the other hand have slightly better verbal intelligence and based on anecdotal evidence, not tests, they are more creative than Asians. (Indeed blacks too are more creative than Asians.)

      So now that you are feeling better that certain groups are ‘superior’ to whites in one way or another let’s tackle IQ.

      Whether you deny IQ or not the fact remains that there is good correlation between scoring well on IQ tests and general success in life. And lest you bring up the old canard of cultural bias be aware that modern testers have worked hard to remove any cultural bias.

      And whether you like it there is a consistency of score across particular groups. Certain groups of people score better, on average, than other groups. The evidence is irrefutable. Saying it isn’t so won’t make the fact go away. It is what it is.

      The Chinese average is 105; the white average is 100 and the black average (in the US) is 85. The averages have a standard deviation of 15.

      One final note to the author of the article: certainly Bush was astonishingly inarticulate in office, but an interesting side note is that both Bush and Kerry did the same IQ test in the military. Bush scored about 3 points higher than Kerry.

  • William Gruff  On November 30, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    Actually I have a good grounding in history and some understanding of the subject, and a deep distrust of ‘scientific’ methods, as I thought might be clear in what I have written. Perhaps your evident lack of experience prevents you from seeing that, or perhaps I haven’t expressed myself with sufficient clarity. I may be guilty of making an unfounded assumption but I can’t help thinking that your accusation that I suffer a ‘ … a complete missing of historical understanding … ‘ alludes to what, without exception in my experience, people of your persuasion think of as the only historical event of any significance, for no obvious reason other than that they have been programmed to think that way and lack the capacity to think for themselves. That being so your ‘world view’ is unlikely to be very broad. I could be wrong but I feel that you are more likely to be part of the problem than the solution.

    I had a jolly good chortle at ‘testosterone addiction is not maturity‘ (Who taught you that?) since the same could equally be said for a brain rotting addiction to oestrogen.

    Mr Henderson’s blog isn’t the place for a slanging match and it would be impolite of me to trespass further on his hospitality, besides which I’m disinclined to engage in a slanging match with a precocious adolescent, so I’ll leave you with the last word.

    May I take the liberty of offering some advice before you put fingers to keyboard? Watch your spelling and punctuation, and far more importantly be very careful of your grammar, yours is appalling (Is English your first language?). Finally, do try to resist the tendency to sagacity and profundity: You simply appear trite.

  • antiphonsgarden  On December 1, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    So, it was not about racism?

  • TerryMae  On February 20, 2012 at 6:03 pm

    You’re definitely a racist. Congratulations, douchebag!!

  • wesley allen.  On May 3, 2012 at 3:14 pm

    I.Q.ism…. :-)>>>

  • daisy  On November 12, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    Clearly you are living in a madhouse! Your premise built on fallacious statistical data.

    • Robert Henderson  On November 12, 2012 at 4:51 pm

      If you want to be taken seriously, Daisy, you need to offer argument and facts to support assetions.

  • Phil  On August 17, 2015 at 10:30 am

    RH I have reconsidered. I have no truck with my ex employers and have wish to embarrass them so please consider this edited version and discard my original post.

    I’ve only just discovered this blog and I’m glad I did. The article in question here is well written and raises fascinating points. Above all, it provides a perspective that is impossible to find in any mainstream media so I regard it as brave as well. Discussing race, skin colour, IQ and occupational competence is a bit like working in a bomb disposal squad; very high risk. Academics have had their careers ruined and their reputation destroyed by trying to objectively address this issue. The academic papers that there are out there broadly agree that there are differences in intelligence by country and also by race. This information though is denied a platform and anyone who raises it is ruthlessly put down.

    I was a service manager for many years in the NHS. It was clear to me that certain doctors in the the service were incompetent, some dangerously so. Virtually nothing was ever done to try to bring these doctors up to speed, they were simply protected. It is also absolutely true that poor clinical decisions were rationalised as diverse clinical decisions for which the clinician was entitled to take. While it’s true that two perfectly able clinicians can take differing clinical views on a patient’s condition, one can tell by their line of inquiry whether or not they reached that position in a competent way.

    I appreciate this is an anecdotal post, but in my thirty year career in mental health I did not work with one caucasian doctor who I thought was dodgy, or incompetent. That was my experience, and yes of course there are incompetent caucasian doctors. If anyone wants to make a Freedom of Information request to the GMC you will find that doctors from ethnic minority backgrounds are well over represented in disciplinary cases.

    So from my own experience I welcome this article from RH. It is virtually impossible to objectively discuss such issues safely unless it’s on a blog, or one is a well established Teflon character like Rod Liddell of the Spectator, which lets face it, most of us aren’t. It is also not racist.
    Thank you RH, keep them flowing.

  • Matt  On November 15, 2017 at 5:31 am

    I realize that this is resurrecting a dead discussion, but you are very much oversimplifying the relevance of standardized tests. There is an unmeasurable cultural component to every standardized test (note that standardized tests are intimately dependent on language which differs between ethnic groups). Fine, we all accept that underrepresented minorities can have lower test scores, but it’s also relevant that people of the same ethnicity are more likely to trust care from the same ethnicity. We have a moral obligation to generate enough doctors from all ethnic backgrounds.

    Onto my next point, you write like someone who has no idea what medicine actually consists of. It’s true that one can practice medicine by following memorized algorithms; however, the reality is that medicine is far more complicated than that. If fact, medicine has been determined to be the most complicated human organizational structure. Fine, you might have memorized the algorithms, but that is barely the surface of what you need to understand. A good physician will understand why something is happening. You think the concepts in medicine are simple…fine, try to understand the ocular tilt reaction. Never mind the fact that most things in medicine are incompletely understood. That is where creative reasoning comes in. We contribute to research and scientific literature. When there is a gap in knowledge comes experience and practice. Medicine is an art. There is no perfect solution for anyone, and memorizing algorithms is not nearly enough to be competent.

    • Robert Henderson  On November 15, 2017 at 9:44 am

      “it’s also relevant that people of the same ethnicity are more likely to trust care from the same ethnicity. We have a moral obligation to generate enough doctors from all ethnic backgrounds.”

      So, you would rather have a less competent black doctor rather than a more competent white one? I don’t think many blacks would think that way when they were seriously ill. Moreover, doctors of any colour will normally have a mixed racial patient list. What you are advocating is that people who are not black should have to tolerate less able black doctors. Or are you suggesting that black doctors only treat blacks?

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