Do rich people have a higher IQ?
We might assume that the people who come out on top in life are smarter than the rest of us.
But not according to recent research.
It found that the world’s wealthiest don’t score any higher for intelligence. In fact, the uber-rich may even be less smart.
The study noted that the top 1 percent of earners score lower in cognitive ability than people making less than them.
So what gives?
Let’s take a look at the reasons why rich people aren’t necessarily more intelligent than you.
1) Luck plays a part
Ah, lady luck.
It’s an age-old debate:
It’s unsurprising that anyone who is doing well for themselves tends to insist they earned it.
But the research suggests that luck plays a bigger part than they care to admit.
In fact, it’s quite common to underestimate the many factors that we cannot control in life which accounts for how far you go.
The study concludes: “If it is true that some degree of talent is necessary to be successful in life, almost never the most talented people reach the highest peaks of success, being overtaken by mediocre but sensibly luckier individuals,”
As galling as it may be, being in the right place at the right time can make all the difference. Certain opportunities in life do come from getting lucky.
And we’re not just talking about flukes like winning the lottery.
Because maybe you win the so-called life lottery and are fortunate enough to have been born into circumstances that give you a leg up.
2) Money and opportunity tend to run in the family
There are plenty of rich and successful people that seem far from geniuses.
It’s no coincidence that he came from a powerful, wealthy, and politically active family.
The point is that money is generally passed down. That sets certain people up before they were even born.
Rich people are also able to pass on to their children opportunities and resources not readily available to other folk.
Influence and money go hand in hand.
And it’s not only through inheritance and good social networks that you can win the “ovarian lottery”.
3) Other socioeconomic conditions count too
The culture and country you were born into are going to define many of the opportunities you have access to.
I am British and was raised in a relatively economically stable country that provides access to free education.
There is little doubt that this has impacted my earning capability in life.
Research has shown that intelligence test scores and educational duration are linked. Aka, the longer you stay in school the smarter you get.
No surprise there.
But your socioeconomic background not only factors into your access to good education, it can also play a significant role in how you think and behave too.
Experts argue that people born into lower social classes pay a psychological price, often defining themselves as inferior.
That leads to greater self-doubt, social anxiety, stress, and fear than privileged people experience. This can go on to shape your personality.
4) Your personality factors into your success
We all know by now that there are many ways to get ahead. Being personable can be just as useful, if not more, in winning favor and influencing others.
And research agrees that certain personality types may well do better financially than others.
After surveying over 72,000 people data suggests that extroverts, sensors, thinkers, and judgers enjoy greater success.
- Extroverts (as opposed to introverts) — gain energy being around others
- Sensors (as opposed to intuitives) — prefer concrete and factual information
- Thinkers (as opposed to feelers) — make more rational decisions
- Judgers (as opposed to perceivers) — organize their life in a structured way rather than being spontaneous.
Meanwhile, another research study looking into how your character impacts your earnings concluded that:
“Emotional stability is positively associated with the wage of both women and men, while agreeableness is significantly associated with lower wages for women. Men are rewarded for autonomy as tenure increases, while conscientiousness tends to be rewarded at the beginning of an employment relationship.”
It’s a complex picture.
But as we can see, your personality in big ways and small all filter into how you behave and how other people perceive you.
And that is bound to make a difference to your bank balance.
5) Tenacity and perseverance matter
Most success stories come with a story of struggle. Not many people are fortunate enough to catch a lucky break the first time around.
The truth is that it takes hard work to make it. That’s why many people who do make it to the top claw their way there.
They fight for it.
They find the discipline and diligence to apply themselves. And then when the going gets tough they ride it out with some much-needed perseverance.
You can have all the natural talent in the world, but if you don’t apply it, will it really make a difference?
Not according to research that says conscientiousness counts more.
I guess the good news is that effort is the leveler among us.
We can’t all be born into money. Neither can we change our basic DNA to become a natural Einstein. But we can all choose to apply ourselves or not.
You may argue that this comes down to personality, and so should be included in the reason above that we just covered.
But I’d argue that it’s also a skill.
We can develop tenacity as we journey through life.
Every time we face our fear, get knocked down, and decide to get back up again we strengthen it.
6) Plenty of smart jobs don’t always pay well
I started my career in broadcast journalism over twenty years ago. I was warned about the bad wages, but I didn’t listen.
The fact is that news doesn’t generate all that much money, so you generally don’t get paid much for doing it. The higher level of education needed to get into the field made zero difference.
It was the price I was prepared to quite literally pay to do something I found interesting. And it’s a picture that is replicated across many creative professions.
But it’s also one we see in plenty of very clever professions too — such as academia or science.
There is no getting away from the fact that we live in capitalist societies.
The bottom line is that to earn a lot of money you have to be in an industry that makes lots of money.
For plenty of careers that demand high levels of intelligence, that isn’t always the case. One of the reasons being — you can be clever in a variety of ways.
7) There are many ways to be intelligent
We tend to think of intelligence as being synonymous with your IQ. But that’s really not the case.
But scientists have identified over 1000 genes that are implicated in intelligence. Generally, we mark intelligence as how well you:
- Learn from experience
- Recognize problems
- Solve problems
But that fact remains this can show up in different ways, including:
- Spatial intelligence
- Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence
- Linguistic intelligence
- Logical-mathematical intelligence
- Interpersonal intelligence
- Intrapersonal intelligence
- Musical intelligence
- Naturalistic intelligence
- Existential intelligence
Yet again, not all these different types of intelligence are equally rewarded financially in society.
To conclude: We live in an unequal world
The harsh reality is that 20 percent of humanity enjoys 80 percent of the wealth.
And researchers say “The maximum success never coincides with the maximum talent, and vice-versa.”
Perhaps in an ideal world, merit would dictate our levels of financial success.
But then again, even trying to define what qualities and skills we should reward isn’t quite so simple either.
Would it be any fairer if the smartest people in life were the richest?
Maybe not at the exclusion of kindness, altruism, creativity, etc.
Perhaps our only consultation is that success looks different to us all. And research shows that you can still be fifthly rich and miserable as hell.