How Smart Are The Sephardim?

Average IQ estimates for Ashkenazi Jews range from 105 to 120. Average Sephardi IQs are about 97 and Mizrahi Jews average 92.

The average white IQ is 100, East Asian IQ is 105, Hispanic-American IQ is 90, and African-American IQ is 85.

Marc B. Shapiro writes: “While R. Shapira has great respect for the Sephardim of earlier generations, and also for special individuals such as R. Alfandari,[18] he thinks that most Sephardim of recent years are simply not that smart, and are thus able to believe all sorts of nonsense.”

From Metapedia:

Richard Lynn, reviewing earlier IQ studies on Jews, in 2011 described the measured average IQs of the different groups:[1]
Ashkenazi Jews: 110
Sephardi Jews: 98
Mizrahi Jews: 91
Ethiopian Jews: 68
Ashkenazi Jews score relatively higher on verbal/mathematical subtests than on spatial subtests. This is reflected in Ashkenazi Jews having performed relatively worse in areas such as visual arts, architecture, and engineering. These areas depend to a large degree on spatial abilities.[1]
Studies from the beginning of the 20th century have sometimes been cited as contradicting high IQ among Ashkenazi Jews. A 2006 paper stated that this is “a widely cited misrepresentation by Leon Kamin (Kamin, 1974) of a paper by Henry Goddard (Goddard, 1917). Goddard gave IQ tests to people suspected of being retarded, and he found that the tests identified retarded Jews as well as retarded people of other groups. Kamin reported, instead, that Jews had low IQs, and this erroneous report was picked up by many authors including Stephen Jay Gould, who used it as evidence of the unreliability of IQ tests (Seligman, 1992).”[2] Both Kamin and Gould are Jews. Also other Jews have considered the issue sensitive. Richard Herrnstein, one of the authors of the The Bell Curve, wanted to exclude the paragraphs on Jewish IQ.

The measured average IQ of Israel is 95 which may seem contradictory. However, while Ashkenazi Jews are the overwhelming majority of Jews outside Israel, the situation in Israel is different. In Israel, addition to Ashkenazi Jews, there are large groups of non-Ashkenazi Jews, Palestinians, as well as various small minorities. Also, many of the supposed Ashkenazi Jews in Israel are from countries such as Russia and are (according to Israeli demographers) often not actually Ashkenazi Jews or only so partially. This since many people have posed as Jews for reasons such as being able emigrate from the Soviet Union. This has caused the measured average IQ of Israeli “Ashkenazi Jews” to be lower than the measured average IQ of non-Israeli Ashkenazi Jews.

The eugenic hypothesis argues that Jews, and in particular, Ashkenazi Jews, have actually practiced eugenics. Judaism has had a long tradition of according high status to scholars as well as wealth which allowed those with higher intelligence to more easily reproduce and their children to survive. The Mishnah states that “under all circumstances a man should sell everything he possesses in order to marry the daughter of a scholar, as well as to give his daughter to a scholar in marriage…. Never should he marry his daughter to an illiterate man”. Jews have also practiced negative eugenics by disallowing marriages for poor (and likely less intelligent) Jews during certain periods when states explicitly limited the number of Jews. Poor Jews have also been particularly likely to leave Judaism. In contrast to Catholic priests, which may have caused a dysgenic effect on Europeans through their sometimes enforced celibacy, Jewish Rabbis were encouraged to marry young and have children. Rabbis were also often physicians which may have caused better medical care for their children.[1]
This can explain why Ashkenazi Jews score relatively better on verbal subtests since it was verbal ability rather spatial ability that was required for the studies of the Jewish scriptures.[1]
Another argued possibly eugenic practice is that “the “Shadchan,” or marriage broker, may also have played a significant role in Jewish eugenics: [T]he Pentateuch raised Eugenics into a matter of religion . . . The much-despised Shadchan or marriage broker as an institution had many obvious faults. Yet, in a quiet, unscientific manner he has been the means of curing mere sentiment and passion in the matter of mating of sons and daughters of Israel . . . The Shadchan is distinctively on the side of Eugenics in ‘regulating’ the union of men and women”.

Steve Sailer writes in 2005:

Because the Cochran-Harpending theory applies only to Jews whose ancestors spoke Yiddish, it raises the issue of the long term gap within Israel between the educationally dominant Ashkenazis and the faster-reproducing non-Ashkenazis, who are traditionally called “Sephardic” Jews, even though a large fraction of them are descended from Jews who were never in Spain. (American neocons will eventually figure out that they don’t like people talking about this because the Likud Party draws much of its support from the lower IQ sub-ethnicities within Israel. Of course, lower IQ individuals have just as much right to have their votes counted as higher IQ individuals, but everybody likes to believe that their views are self-evident to anybody with brains and that people who disagree with them must be mentally defective.)

Howard Metzenberg has written a critique of the Cochran-Hardy-Harpending paper called “An Unnatural History of Jewish Population Genetics” that argues against a strong distinction between the Ashkenazis and others.

First, Metzenberg rightly notes:

“One source of confusion in any discussion of the relative intellectual performance of different Jewish groups, is that the label “Sephardic” is sometimes attached to all non-Ashkenazi Jews, although some are more accurately labeled Mizrahi, and others such as the Ethiopians, are none of the above.”

So, it’s important to keep in mind that the glittering northwest European colonies of Sephardic refugees that produced Spinoza, Ricardo, and Disraeli aren’t totally representative of this All Other category in Israel.

Metzenberg asserts:

“The best evidence is that Jews of the urban Sephardic and Mizrahi communities in countries such as Egypt, Iraq, and Iran were concentrated in intellectual occupations just as the European Jews were.”

Probably. But we’re they concentrated just as much? The historical record shows the Jews in Islamic countries periodically getting kicked out of the good jobs in finance and being sent off to be tanners or other jobs where there’s not as much upside for high IQ individuals. That’s not true for Northern Europe, where Jewish occupations were consistently upscale until the great Ashkenazi population surge of the last few centuries.

No doubt the Middle Eastern Jews were often smarter than the local Arabs, but that’s not necessarily the same as being smarter than the local Germans. With Arab IQs today typically running in the 80s, you don’t have to be an Einstein to be brighter than them.

Nor is it clear that Middle Eastern Jews were consistently the brightest minority in their region, as you would see in Europe. I believe Evelyn Waugh reported an old saying he picked up while traveling in the Near East that went something like this: It takes two Arabs to outsmart a Greek, two Greeks to outsmart a Jew, and two Jews to outsmart an Armenian. (Waugh was a big fan of Armenians.)

Then Metzenberg asserts that the three papers the authors cite on the IQ gap in Israel between Ashkenazi and the others are outdated. Granted, there hasn’t been, as far as I can tell from a cursory Google search, a lot of published work on the IQ gap in Israel in recent years, although that is more likely to have to do with the rise of the Likud Party to power than that the IQ gap has disappeared. Back when the Ashkenazi-dominated Labour Party beat Likud eight times in a row, data on the IQ gap was less resented by the government than today when Likud is frequently running things. If the gap has disappeared, I think you would have heard about it.

Metzenberg claims that the Israeli population is now so mixed that nobody could possibly unravel the Ashkenazi from all other today, but I don’t think that complete melding has quite gone through the formality of taking place yet. It’s true that, with the exception of the one-time event of the arrival of the Russian Jews, Israel has been becoming culturally less of a European and more of a Middle Eastern country. But it’s hardly true that social science research has stopped on the subethnic gap within Israel.

For example, in 2004, Cohen, Haberfeld, and Kristal wrote:

“This paper analyzes gaps in the college graduation rates of third-generation Ashkenazim and Mizrahim (the two major ethnic groups among Israeli Jews), in comparison to the same gaps among members of the second generation. The empirical analyses have been performed using a special file of the 1995 Israeli census which matched records of respondents to their parents in the 1983 Census, thereby allowing identification of the ethnicity of the third generation for a representative sample of men and women, 25-34 years of age in 1995, as well as the identification of persons of mixed ethnicity. The results suggest that the gaps between the two major ethnic groups are not smaller in the third generation than in the second generation. Persons of mixed ethnicity – of both the second and third generations – are located about midway between the two ethnic groups with respect to their college graduation rates.”

Even an article in Haaretz entitled “The Ethnic Gap Is Closing” makes clear in its opening line that that’s not the general opinion of Israelis:

“Despite the conventional wisdom, the ethnic gap in Israel is consistently narrowing, and will be eliminated within a generation, says a new study.”

The study goes on to document that the gap between Ashkenazim and “Sephardim” in secondary school attendance has narrowed. However, the last paragraph makes clear that this increasing equality in secondary education is more quantitative than qualitative:

“The bad news is that in spite of the narrowing of the gap in high-school education, there are indications of a new trend of a gap in how the students read the labor market. Friedlander, who will be featuring the subject in his next research study, says, “There is a very basic difference between Sephardim and Ashkenazim in the choice of what they study in high school. We feel that students of Asian and African descent do not always study the `right things’ in terms of the needs of the labor market or future income. Admission to universities is now very much conditional upon knowledge of English and mathematics, but the percentage of Israelis of Asian and African descent who take enriched English and mathematics in high school is very small in comparison to Israelis of European and American descent. I would say that there is no difference in quantitative exposure to high-school study, but there is a significant difference, I’m afraid, in what they study, and this of course has an effect on admission to university.”

This sounds similar to the narrowing of the gap in high school attendance between black and white Americans without much narrowing of the IQ gap.

So, it would appear that there is still a gap within Israel between the Ashkenazis and the All Others.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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