The Positive Correlation Between IQ and Income


Intelligence Quotient (IQ) has long been a topic of interest among psychologists, educators, and researchers. While it’s just one measure of cognitive ability, numerous studies have shown a positive correlation between IQ scores and various measures of success, particularly income. This article delves into the relationship between IQ and success, examining the factors that contribute to this correlation and its implications.

Understanding IQ

Before diving into the correlation, it’s essential to understand what IQ is. IQ tests measure a range of cognitive abilities, including memory, problem-solving, and logical reasoning. While they don’t capture every aspect of intelligence or potential, they provide a standardized way to compare cognitive abilities across individuals.

The Correlation Between IQ and Income

  1. Statistical Evidence: Numerous studies have found a positive correlation between IQ scores and income. For instance, a study published in the “Journal of Economic Perspectives” found that a one-point increase in IQ was associated with a 0.8% to 1.2% increase in hourly earnings.
  2. Job Performance: High IQ scores are often linked to better job performance, especially in complex roles that require problem-solving, strategic thinking, and adaptability. As a result, individuals with higher IQs are more likely to be promoted and earn higher salaries.
  3. Educational Attainment: People with higher IQs tend to perform better academically, leading to advanced degrees and qualifications. This educational advantage often translates into better job opportunities and higher income.

Beyond Income: Other Measures of Success

While income is a tangible measure of success, it’s not the only one. Other indicators include job satisfaction, leadership roles, and contributions to society. Research has shown that people with higher IQs are more likely to occupy leadership positions and engage in innovative activities, further solidifying the link between IQ and broader measures of success.

Factors Influencing the Correlation

  1. Socioeconomic Background: While IQ can influence income, one’s socioeconomic background also plays a significant role. Individuals from wealthier backgrounds often have access to better education and opportunities, which can amplify the effects of a high IQ.
  2. Soft Skills: Emotional intelligence, communication skills, and other “soft skills” can also impact success. A high IQ combined with strong interpersonal skills can be a powerful combination in the workplace.
  3. Opportunities and Environment: The environment in which one grows up and the opportunities available can either enhance or diminish the potential advantages of a high IQ.


While there’s a clear positive correlation between IQ and measures of success like income, it’s crucial to understand that IQ is just one factor among many. Success is multifaceted, and while cognitive ability can provide an edge, other factors like determination, environment, and opportunities also play pivotal roles. As society continues to evolve, it’s essential to consider a holistic view of success and the various paths that lead to it.

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  1. Can Intelligence Predict Income? | Institute for Family Studies
    • This article discusses the role of IQ as a predictor for various social science variables, including income.
  2. Intelligence and socioeconomic success: A meta-analytic review
    • This meta-analysis reviews the correlation between intelligence and socioeconomic success, discussing varying opinions on the strength and significance of this relationship.
  3. Do you have to be smart to be rich? The impact of IQ on wealth, income, and financial distress
    • Using data from the NLSY79, which tracks a large group of young U.S. baby boomers, this research shows the impact of IQ test scores on income and wealth.
  4. The plateauing of cognitive ability among top earners – Oxford Academic
    • This study examines the correlation between cognitive ability and wage, discussing the monotonicity of the relationship and its implications.
  5. Top psychologist: IQ is the No. 1 predictor of work success – CNBC
    • This article highlights findings from Vanderbilt University psychology researchers, indicating that people with higher IQs tend to earn higher incomes on average.

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