New facts and hot stats from the social sciences
19, 1997; Page C05
The Washington Post
How to Raise
Many of us
think we're born just about as smart as we're ever going to be.
Yes, we can go to school and memorize lots of facts and learn lots
of skills and maybe collect lots of academic degrees. But when it
comes to our innate intelligence -- the mental "right stuff"
measured by our IQs -- we basically think we're playing with the
neurological hand that's dealt us.
Many of us
may be wrong, according to an article in the new American Psychologist.
Stephen Ceci and Wendy Williams of Cornell University have assembled
intriguing data they say shows that going to school raises your
IQ a few points for every grade you complete.
comes from unexpected sources: studies of Appalachian children,
of high school dropouts, of the youngest victims of World War II
and of kids on summer vacation. No single study clinches the case,
but taken together, psychologists Ceci and Williams say the data
are compelling. Judge for yourself:
of the hollows
boys and girls living in isolated parts of Appalachia uncovered
a startling fact: The older the child, the "lower was his or
her IQ," Williams and Ceci reported. In one 1932 study of children
living in remote hollows of Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains, the
IQs of 6 year olds were"not much below the national average,
but by age 14, the children's IQs had plummeted into the mentally
retarded range," with the degree of falloff directly related
to the years of school the child had missed.
in the Tennessee mountains found that children born in 1940 had
IQs that were, on average, 11 points higher than their brothers
and sisters born in 1930 -- and that the main difference appeared
to be the amount of time spent in school. The researchers who conducted
these studies looked at other factors -- such as nutrition and health
-- but concluded that access to school was key, Ceci said.
During the Summer
in the early 1980s confirmed something that every parent fears:
Kids not only forget facts over summer vacation, their IQs actually
drop. Psychologists who administered IQ tests to students before
and after summer vacation discovered that IQs fell by statistically
significant amounts. Moreover, a subsequent study showed far less
decline among kids who went to summer school or participated in
For Starting Late
start school late have lower IQs than those who start earlier, Ceci
said. After World War II, one research team studied children in
the Netherlands, where many schools had closed for several years
during the Nazi occupation. They found that IQs "dropped approximately
7 points, probably as a result of their delayed entry into school,"
Ceci said. Similarly, two separate studies in South Africa examined
the intellectual growth of children who entered school late because
of teacher shortages. "Children whose schooling was delayed
experienced a [reduction] of five IQ points for every year that
their school was delayed," he said.
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psychologists found that finishing high school bumps up IQ by about
8 points over what it would be if the same child had dropped out
after junior high. An American research team found that every year
of schooling increases IQ by about 3.5 points, Ceci said.
Why does schooling
increase IQ? Part of the reason is that "IQ tests reward modes
of thinking that are valued in schools," such as analogous
thinking, he said. Intelligence tests also inevitably measure some
things that are more readily acquired or reinforced in school, such
as vocabulary. Thus, time in school may continuously but subtly
sharpen the mental edge, and keep it sharp -- or at least sharper
than it would otherwise be.
a direct payoff for having a higher IQ: Workers who have them earn
more than their duller colleagues, independent of how long they
spent in school, Ceci and Williams reported in American Psychologist.
So what happens
when older folks go back to school? Do their IQs go up, too? "Good
question," Ceci said. "I have no idea . . . . My guess
is that they would improve if for no other reason than their vocabulary
would get refreshed by reading difficult material and listening
of adult men in a new Washington Post survey who say they've had
five or more sex partners since they were 18 years old. But only
16 percent of women said they've had sex with five or more different
men. One explanation: Somebody's lying, big time. Another explanation:
Some women didn't stop until way past five.
of money that wealthier Americans collect in Medicare benefits over
what they paid into the program during their lifetimes, assert economists
Jonathan Skinner and Mark McClellan in a new National Bureau of
Economic Research working paper. Less-affluent Americans collect,
on average, about $15,500 more than they put in. "Wealthy enrollees
pay more into Medicare than poorer people do," they found.
"However, they reap greater benefits over their lifetimes because
they live longer and use more medical services." The unintended
result is that Medicare "effectively transfers money from low-
to high-income groups."
of Americans who voted "incorrectly" in presidential elections
between 1972 and 1988. Using data from the University of Michigan's
National Election Studies, researchers Richard Lau of Rutgers University
and David Redlawsk of the Educational Testing Service said they
were able to determine the percentage of voters who cast ballots
for presidential candidates who didn't share their party or ideological
identification, or their positions on issues that were important
to those voters.
can reach The Unconventional Wiz at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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