Bryan Caplan  

International IQ Testing Bleg

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A series of queries that's stumping most of my favorite IQ researchers:
Are there any countries where IQ testing for hiring purposes is totally legal?  Largely legal? Do we have any idea if the education premium rose less in those countries than in countries that discourage or forbid IQ testing for hiring purposes?
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COMMENTS (14 to date)
LemmusLemmus writes:

Why would your default assumption be that it's illegal in other countries - after all, disparate impact is an iffy concept.

Empirically, I know that in 2009, in Germany, I was at a job interview that included a paper-and-pencil IQ-type test. One component was mental rotation. One was questions of the type, "John is older than Paul. Ringo is not older than Paul. Which of the following is not true?" I seem to recall that there were two other commponents, but not what they might have been. It was not a knowledge test.

This was a job that did not require a college education. Don't ask me about education premiums in Germany.

Hugh writes:

I believe that, here in Europe, IQ testing for hiring is totally legal.

Discrimination on grounds of gender, race etc. is, of course, not allowed.

James B. writes:

Isn't it "semi-legal" in the US. Despite Griggs the software company I work for (founded by a Russian immingrant) gives all applicants the Wonderlic test. Isn't that really just an IQ test?

And what about Google and MS and all their "How do you move Mt Fuji?" and "If 1.5 chickens lay 1.5 eggs in 1.5 days...." type questions?

Ramon writes:

In Mexico you can require IQ tests and almost everything. There are few restricctions.

The mexican constitution forbids several forms of discrimination, but in practice there little or no specific regulation, so the private sector can do things that are unthinkable in the U.S.

For instance, for a receptionist job you can publish an add in a newspaper with something like: "we are looking for a single woman, no children, ages 20-25, light skinned, good looks"

David Jinkins writes:

I don't think there are any discrimination rules in China. The help wanted signs on the windows of restaurants say things like: "We are looking for a good-looking, fair-skinned girl between the ages of 18 and 25 to be a server. Applicants should be at least 160 cm in height."

Mad Mat writes:

Isn't the US one of the only developed countries to outlaw these tests? It's a result of US's racial tribalism which isn't really present in Europe and Japan.

Britain quite commonly attaches IQ-style tests involving abstract puzzles to recent graduate job applications. They don't seem to have a major weighting though; they're just a filter to delete the bottom 50% of applications.

Can't say that the degree cargo cult is less significant there, though. Higher education exploded much later in the US but in response to the same stimuli - massive government subsidies.

Richard writes:

"I believe that, here in Europe, IQ testing for hiring is totally legal.

Discrimination on grounds of gender, race etc. is, of course, not allowed."

You say of course, but its not intuitively obvious that it would be that way across the continent. I've never heard of an employment discrimination case coming out of Europe.

ShardPhoenix writes:

I was given the Wonderlic test (basically a short IQ test) for a job in Australia, presumably legally.

Hugh writes:

@ Richard

To expand on my point: Article 14 of Europe's Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms states:

"Prohibition of discrimination: The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this Convention shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status."

The convention applies to all EU countries and was originally signed in 1950 (although there have been changes since).

P. writes:

"Britain quite commonly attaches IQ-style tests involving abstract puzzles to recent graduate job applications. They don't seem to have a major weighting though; they're just a filter to delete the bottom 50% of applications."

Largely the same in Brazil.

Stefano writes:

Italy: I did a IQ test for my first job. It was, and AFAIK it's still legal. Ads are required to be written in a gender-neutral way; discrimination on age is allowed; for jobs in the public sector Italian citizenship is required (this excludes most immigrants). I've never heard of anybody suing because of gender discrimination; it would be difficult to prove.

On the other hand, firms over a certain size must employ a minimum percentage of disabled people.

Ed Darrell writes:

IQ testing would be used to discriminate against the intelligent, if current trends and biases continue -- we don't need to give corporations another tool to beat workers with.

What we need is an affirmative action program that requires companies to hire a few smart people. It's worked well for handicapped and other discriminated-against minorities -- heaven knows we could use some brains in the corporate suites.

Might not hurt to require hiring of Girl Scouts, Campfire kids and Boy Scouts, too.

Richard writes:

@ Hugh

It looks that Article 14 can be read to apply to government policy and hiring, but it's not clear that it would prohibit private sector discrimination. I wouldn't be surprised if it was read that way, but like I said, I've never heard of an American-style private sector employment discrimination case coming out of Europe.

Mark Brophy writes:

According to a 2002 article in The Economist, "America's rash of lawsuits on sexual discrimination is spreading to Europe":


THE finance industry is renowned for its loutish behaviour, so it should come as no surprise that it seems to have more than its fair share of unsavoury practices against women. Last week, American Express, a travel and finance conglomerate, agreed to pay $31m to settle a lawsuit for sex and age discrimination filed on behalf of more than 4,000 women. Merrill Lynch and Salomon Smith Barney, two investment banks, settled two high-profile sex-discrimination cases a few years ago. Morgan Stanley, another investment bank, is in the throes of a similar lawsuit. And in January, Schroders' investment-banking unit, now part of Citigroup, was found guilty in a high-profile case of sex discrimination in London.

The Morgan Stanley and Schroders cases are similar in many ways, and they suggest that Europe may be following America's often flamboyant practices in such matters.

http://www.economist.com/node/1011872

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