BB&T Professor for the Study of Capitalism
Editorial Board Member
Author of Hive Mind: How your nation’s IQ matters so much more than your own, published by Stanford University Press.
“Anyone interested in education, social science, or economics should read this book...a model of non-fiction writing.' –Adam Ozimek at Forbes
“…[T]he book is excellent, and well worth reading…This is a model of concise explanatory writing.” –Economist Dietrich Vollrath
“#HiveMind is a bit of a Trojan horse. It strictly limits itself to uncontroversial statements, but leads to lots of uncomfortable questions.” –Economist Salim Furth
“…[I]f you only have time to read one economics book this year, make it Garett Jones’s Hive Mind…” –Economist Scott Sumner
The introduction, free here, offers an overview of Hive Mind’s thesis, as well as evidence for the Paradox of IQ. Chapter 1, also free, reviews the mainstream evidence that IQ tests are more than just a test score: Modern IQ tests predict brain size, reaction time, job performance, and emotional intelligence.
Two podcast interviews about Hive Mind. Both discuss joint causation between IQ and income, the potential of genetic engineering, and more:
With Jim Pethokoukis of the American Enterprise Institute
And here, The Wall Street Journal tells the story of how I chose my book title.
In the past, I’ve worked in the U.S. Senate, and my research areas include behavioral economics, monetary economics, corporate finance, and economic growth. 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
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.
Average Player Traits as Predictors of Cooperation in a Repeated Prisoner’s Dilemma
(With Omar al-Ubaydli and Jaap Weel, Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics, forthcoming)
Abstract: Many studies have looked at how individual player traits influence individual choice in the repeated prisoner's dilemma, but few studies have looked at how the average traits of pairs of players influence the average choices of pairs. We consider cognitive ability, patience, risk tolerance, and the Big Five personality measures as predictors of individual and average group choices in a 10-round repeated prisoner's dilemma. We find that a pair's average cognitive ability measured by Raven's cognitive ability test predicts average cooperation rates robustly and average earnings more modestly. Openness predicts both greater joint cooperation and the use of reciprocity to sustain cooperation.
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
Abstract: If intelligence or other skills are as important as some people say, why do markets reward these skills so modestly? Informally, if you’re so smart, why aren’t you rich? I offer a general equilibrium model to explain this puzzle: The core assumption is that in some (but not all) sectors of the economy, lower-skilled workers can be good substitutes for higher-skilled workers. This is true even though in the cutting-edge sectors of the economy, lower-skilled workers are poor substitutes for higher-skilled workers. In equilibrium the economy-wide wage gap is pinned down by the sectors where high and low skilled workers are the best substitutes for each other, not the worst.
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
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)
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)
National IQ and National Productivity: The Hive Mind across Asia
(Asian Development Review, 2011)
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)
IQ in the Production Function: Evidence from immigrant earnings
(Economic Inquiry, 2010)
Are Smarter Groups More Cooperative? Evidence from repeated prisoners’ dilemma experiments, 1959-2003
(Published in Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 2008)
Dynamic IS Curves With and Without Money: An international comparison
(with R.W. Hafer, Published in Journal of International Money and Finance, 2008)
On Money and Output: Is money redundant?
(with R.W. Hafer and Joseph Haslag, 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)
Additional Writings and Presentations
A simple illustration of Buchanan-style Club Goods, some calculus
Will Open Borders change your nation’s SAT score?
10% Less Democracy: How Less Voting Could Mean Better Governance
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.
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.
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.
(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)
(Slide presentation for the Mercatus Center’s Capitol Hill Campus series, March 2009)
Imitate FDR’s Treasury Secretary: Bankruptcy not Bailouts
(November 2008: Published in U.S. Exchequer, pages 45-46)
My media clippings, catalogued by Mercatus.
My Twitter feed, GarettJones: All the economics I can fit into 140 characters.
A macroeconomic revolution all in one photograph.
An outdated photo of me in my office in Carow Hall.
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 TV series you really ought to watch, Milton Friedman’s Free To Choose.
And another: The first sitcom inspired by public choice theory, Yes Minister.
Another kind of spontaneous order.