­­­­Garett Jones

BB&T Professor for the Study of Capitalism

The Mercatus Center


Associate Professor

Department of Economics

Center for Study of Public Choice

George Mason University


Curriculum Vitae


Associate Editor

New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics


Editorial Board Member

Journal of Neuroscience, Psychology, and Economics



Econ Journal Watch



Adam Smith Reading Group


email: jonesgarett@gmail.com            twitter: GarettJones



As a macroeconomist, I investigate both long-term economic growth and short-term business cycles.  My current research explores why IQ and other cognitive skills appear to matter more for nations than for individuals. 


For example: A two standard deviation rise in an individual person’s IQ predicts only about a 30% increase in her wage.  But the same rise in a country’s average IQ score predicts a 700% increase in the average wage in that country.  I want to understand why IQ appears to have such a large social multiplier. 


The story is much the same for math and science scores: A person’s individual score predicts little about how she’ll do in the job market, but the richest and fastest-growing countries in the world tend to do much better on math and science tests.  If the IQ multiplier is even half as large as it appears to be, then health, nutrition, and immigration policies in developing countries should be targeted at raising the average intelligence of the world’s poorest nations. 


An even more important implication of my research is that low-skilled immigrants should be allowed to work in the world’s richest countries: Low-skilled immigrants have little or no net effect on the wages of the citizens of rich countries, but their lives massively improve when they are allowed to work in these countries.  I’m currently at work on a book on these themes: The working title is Hive Mind: How your nation’s IQ matters so much more than your own.


In the past, I’ve worked on Capitol Hill and I’ve studied the monetary transmission mechanism.   I speak on policy topics regularly in the media and in the Washington, DC, area.  Recent media appearances include C-Span’s Washington Journal, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Fox Business, and the New York Times; a full collection here.




Selected Academic Papers


IQ and National Productivity

(New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics, 2011)


Abstract: A recent line of research in economics and psychology hypothesizes that differences in national average intelligence, proxied by IQ tests, are important drivers of national economic outcomes. Cross-country regressions, while showing a robust IQ-growth relationship, cannot fully test this hypothesis. Thus, recent work explores the micro-foundations of the IQ-productivity relationship. The well-identified psychological relationship between IQ and patience implies higher savings rates and higher folk theorem-driven institutional quality in high average IQ countries. Experiments indicate that intelligence predicts greater pro-social behavior in public goods and prisoner’s dilemma games, supporting the hypothesis that high national average IQ causes higher institutional quality. High average IQ countries also have higher savings intensity by a variety of measures. Other possible IQ-productivity channels are discussed, as are possible environmental causes of differences in national average IQ.


Human Capital and Institutional Quality: Are TIMSS, PISA, and National Average IQ robust predictors?

(With Niklas Potrafke, Intelligence, 2014)


Abstract: Is human capital a robust predictor of good institutions? Using a new institutional quality measure, the International Property Rights Index (IPRI), we find that cognitive skill measures are significant, robust, and large in magnitude. We use two databases of cognitive skills: estimates of national average IQ from Lynn and Vanhanen (2012a) and estimates of cognitive ability based on Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) scores estimated by Rindermann et al. (2009). The Rindermann cognitive ability scores estimate mean performance as well as performance at the 5th and 95th percentiles of the national population. National average IQ and the 95th percentile of cognitive ability are both robust predictors of overall institutional quality controlling for legal system, GDP per capita, geography dummies, and years of total schooling. Some possible microfoundations of this relationship are discussed.


Patience, Cognitive Skill, and Coordination in the Repeated Stag Hunt

(with Omar al-Ubaydli and Jaap Weel, Journal of Neuroscience, Psychology, and Economics, 2013)



The O-Ring Sector and the Foolproof Sector: An Explanation for Skill Externalities

(Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 2013)

PDF                             Presentation Slides


IQ and Entrepreneurship: International Evidence

(with R.W. Hafer, April 2012)


Abstract: National measures of cognitive skill, including IQ tests, have received attention recently as a possible driver of cross-country productivity differences.  In a parallel literature, national measures of entrepreneurial activity and pro-entrepreneurship policies have received similar attention.  This paper is the first to demonstrate that higher national average IQ reliably predicts higher ratings for the Acs-Szerb Global Entrepreneurship Development Index (GEDI). Results hold after controlling for GDP, education levels, inequality, broad economic freedom indices, and other factors.  Microfounded explanations for these results are considered.


Will the Intelligent Inherit the Earth? IQ and Time Preference in the Global Economy

(February 2012)


Abstract: Social science research has shown that intelligence is positively correlated with patience and frugality, while growth theory predicts that more patient countries will save more. This implies that if nations differ in national average IQ, countries with higher average cognitive skills will tend to hold a greater share of the world’s tradable assets. I provide empirical evidence that in today’s world, countries whose residents currently have the highest average IQs have higher savings rates, higher ratios of net foreign assets to GDP, and higher ratios of U.S. Treasuries to GDP. These nations tend to be in East Asia and its offshoots. The relationship between national average IQ and net foreign assets has strengthened since the end of Bretton Woods.


U.S. Troops and Foreign Economic Growth

(with Tim Kane, Defence and Peace Economics, 2012)

PDF                 Excel with Readme               Original Kane Dataset on Troop Deployments, 1950-2003


The Bond Market Wins

(Econ Journal Watch, 2012)



Human Capital in the Creation of Social Capital: Evidence from Diplomatic Parking Tickets

(with John Nye, 2011)

Link                             Media Coverage in WSJ, Real Time Economics


National IQ and National Productivity: The Hive Mind across Asia

(Asian Development Review, 2011)

Link                             Presentation Slides


Speed Bankruptcy: A Firewall to Future Crises

(Published in Journal of Applied Corporate Finance, Summer 2010)



Cognitive Ability and Technology Diffusion: An empirical test

(Economic Systems, 2012)

PDF                             Presentation Slides


IQ in the Production Function: Evidence from immigrant earnings

(Economic Inquiry, 2010)

PDF                             Presentation Slides                 


Are Smarter Groups More Cooperative?  Evidence from repeated prisoners’ dilemma experiments, 1959-2003

(Published in Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 2008)        

PDF                             Results for Corrected and Extended Datasets, 2013


Dynamic IS Curves With and Without Money: An international comparison

(Published in Journal of International Money and Finance, 2008)



On Money and Output: Is money redundant?

(Published in Journal of Monetary Economics, 2007)



Intelligence, Education, and Economic Growth: A Bayesian averaging of classical estimates (BACE) approach

(Published in Journal of Economic Growth, March 2006)




Past Teaching

Syllabus for Fall 2014 Ph.D. Mathematical Economics

Syllabus for Spring 2014 Principles of Macroeconomics

Syllabus for Fall 2013 Ph.D. Mathematics for Economists

Syllabus for Spring 2013 Principles of Macroeconomics

Syllabus for Spring 2013 M.A. Macroeconomics

Syllabus for Fall 2012 Ph.D. Mathematics for Economists

Syllabus for Spring 2012 Principles of Macroeconomics

Syllabus for Spring 2012 M.A. Macroeconomics

Syllabus for Graduate Public Choice

Syllabus Fall 2011 M.A. Mathematical Economics

Syllabus for Graduate Monetary Economics

Syllabus for Ph.D. Macroeconomics I

Syllabus for M.A. Mathematical Economics

Syllabus for M.A. Macroeconomics

Syllabus for M.A. Economic Growth

Syllabus for M.A. Time Series Econometrics

Syllabus for Undergraduate Public Choice

Syllabus for Undergraduate Economic Methodology

Syllabus for Principles of Macroeconomics

Syllabus for Principles of Macroeconomics

Syllabus Spring 2010 M.A. Macroeconomics





Additional Writings and Presentations


10% Less Democracy: How Less Voting Could Mean Better Governance

Slides, PDF


Precautionary Saving: A two-period illustration

There are few good closed-form results for precautionary saving, here’s a simple example that you might find useful if you’re learning or teaching dynamic economics with a little math.

One page PDF                         Excel with graphs, closer to the intermediate macro level



Using the Solow Growth Model as a Forecasting Tool

Does today’s fast growth in country X signal that country X is catching up to the economic frontier? Or will the growth likely sputter out far before country X catches up?

Abstract: If a moderately rich country grows fast, that’s a strong signal of convergence, according to the Solow Model. But a poor country has to be growing exceptionally fast for it to be a signal that they’re one their way to catching up with the global frontier.

Excel File


Taxes Rational Workers Want: An Illustration of the Chamley-Judd Theorem

A 2-page discussion of the Redistribution Impossibility Theorem, with links to two simple Excel simulations, March 2013

Abstract: As a rule, rational workers prefer to tax workers, not capitalists.

PDF                             Excel 1: Paying for government         Excel 2: The Impossibility of Redistribution


Did Stimulus Dollars Hire the Unemployed? and No Such Thing as Shovel Ready

(Mercatus Center Working Papers, with Daniel Rothschild, 2011)


A Political Coase Theorem for the Intelligent

(Slide presentation at Konstanz University, 2011, and Public Choice World Congress, 2012)



The Economics of Financial Crises

(Slide presentation for Moscow State University graduate students visiting GMU, December 2009)



The Great Recession

(Slide presentation for George Mason University’s inaugural Alumni Weekend, October 2009)



Economics of the Geithner Plans

(Slide presentation for the Mercatus Center’s Capitol Hill Campus series, April 2009)



Tax 101

(Slide presentation for the Mercatus Center’s Capitol Hill Campus series, March 2009)



Artificial Intelligence and Economic Growth: A few finger-exercises

(January 2009: A response to a discussion between Robin Hanson and Eliezer Yudkowsky at Overcoming Bias)



Imitate FDR’s Treasury Secretary: Bankruptcy not Bailouts

(November 2008: Published in U.S. Exchequer, pages 45-46)

PDF                             Link to U.S. Exchequer         






My media clippings, catalogued by Mercatus.


My Twitter feed, GarettJones: All the economics I can fit into 140 characters.


An old photo of me at the birthplace of a leading driver of U.S. productivity.


A 2009 photo of my brother Jerry and I backpacking in the Vogelsang section of Yosemite National Park.  Photo taken by my brother Mitch. 


A macroeconomic revolution all in one photograph.


A photo of me in my office in Carow Hall. 


A TV series you really ought to watch. 


And another: The first sitcom inspired by public choice theory.


Another kind of spontaneous order.