Average IQ By U.S. State

Whether you love your state or hate it, there is one question that everybody wants to ask: just how dumb is my state?

Thanks to the work of numerous researchers and The Washington Post, we’ve got a breakdown of the average IQ by each and every state within America. Before you can understand what these numbers mean, though, you need to know a bit more about how IQ works (and how it doesn’t work).

Get ready to do a deep dive into the world of IQ. Who knows — by the end of the article, maybe you can help kick your state up a notch or two!

What Does IQ Mean?

It’s important for us to start with the basics and then work our way to more advanced concepts. Let’s begin with a simple question: just what the heck is IQ, anyway?

IQ is an acronym that stands for Intelligence Quotient. Generally speaking, IQ measures somebody’s intelligence by factoring in things like their actual age, their mental age, and performance on a variety of tests.

There are plenty of different ways to measure IQ, which is one of the reasons that it’s a less reliable indicator of intelligence than you may think.

Why Is IQ Hard to Measure?

So, what makes IQ hard to measure? The answer is simple: there are so many different ways to measure intelligence and each way has its own strengths and weaknesses.

For example, the most direct way to measure intelligence is an IQ test. These tests measure a few different things that range from the retention of new information, past learning, and the ability to forecast future outcomes.

However, the simple truth is that some students test better than others. And different IQ tests may assess different things. That’s why The Washington Post study looked at factors beyond simple IQ tests.

What Was the Research Methodology For These Scores?

The Washington Post study began with the obvious metric: average IQ scores from 2015, as recorded by each state. But they also took a number of other factors into consideration.

For example, they looked at standardized test scores (including SAT and ACT test scores for each state) and they also tried to estimate how many people in each state were college graduates. 

While this research methodology was more robust than the norm, it helps to highlight how difficult it is to accurately record the average IQ for each state.

Does IQ Really Measure Intelligence?

We’ve been dancing around it, but let’s get to the elephant in the room: does IQ really measure intelligence?

The answer, of course, is “yes and no.” Generally, IQ tests measure things like mathematics, spatial reasoning, language, and memory. And scores in these areas are generally an accurate measurement of someone’s particular skills.

However, there are a few issues with such tests. We’ve already touched on one issue: test anxiety. Just as very smart students may end up bombing a standardized test, very smart individuals may not get a stellar score on an IQ test.

Additionally, not all IQ tests measure someone’s emotional intelligence. It’s possible for someone with a high IQ to have a low EQ (emotional intelligence quotient) and therefore be perceived as less intelligent. Conversely, someone with a higher EQ may have less raw intelligence but be perceived as more intelligent because they are better with people.

Why Do We Still Rely On IQ?

So, you now know that there are a few potential problems with measuring intelligence. That brings up a simple question: why do we still rely on IQ?

The simple answer is that we need to have some kind of baseline level of individual intelligence. One child may be developmentally delayed and another may be quite gifted. But we have no way of knowing about either one without relying on some form of IQ test.

And these tests also give people a chance to improve themselves. After all, IQ can change dramatically over time. By treating it like any other standardized test, someone can use an IQ test to determine which areas they need to spend more time studying.

Why Do Some States Have Higher IQ Than Others?

Another big question we need to tackle: just why do some states have a higher average IQ than other states?

The short answer is “it’s impossible to tell for sure.” For example, one possible answer is that the states that invest more in education will do better on these tests. That’s one reason that Massachusetts consistently tops the list of smartest states in America.

However, some states spend their educational funds in ways that may not show up on these lists. For example, states that invest mostly in higher education are not going to see any bumps when an IQ test is looking at things like ACT or SAT scores (tests which are primarily taken before someone enters college).

And there may be other factors that you’d never guess. When researchers tried to find the biggest worldwide denominator for intelligence, they determined that lower levels of infectious disease were the biggest factor.

The Surprising Results

Before you check out the results, we should touch on one surprising finding: that the difference between these states isn’t as extreme as you may think.

Everyone wants to brag on their state and bag on everyone else. But look at how small the difference between Massachusettes (in first place) and Mississippi (in last place) really is: 10.1 points. That’s actually not that extreme, and may underscore that we are all more similar than we are different.

With all that in mind, here are the results you’ve been waiting for! 

Average IQ By U.S. State, From Highest to Lowest: 

Massachusetts    104.3

New Hampshire    104.2

North Dakota    103.8

Vermont    103.8

Minnesota    103.7

Maine    103.4

Montana    103.4

Iowa    103.2

Connecticut    103.1

Wisconsin    102.9

Kansas    102.8

New Jersey    102.8

South Dakota    102.8

Wyoming    102.4

Nebraska    102.3

Virginia    101.9

Washington    101.9

Ohio    101.8

Indiana    101.7

Colorado    101.6

Pennsylvania    101.5

Idaho    101.4

Oregon    101.2

Utah    101.1

Missouri    101

New York    100.7

Michigan    100.5

Delaware    100.4

North Carolina    100.2

Texas    100

Illinois    99.9

Maryland    99.7

Rhode Island    99.5

Kentucky    99.4

Oklahoma    99.3

Alaska    99

West Virginia    98.7

Florida    98.4

South Carolina    98.4

Georgia    98

Tennessee    97.7

Arkansas    97.5

Arizona    97.4

Nevada    96.5

Alabama    95.7

New Mexico    95.7

Hawaii    95.6

California    95.5

Louisiana    95.3

Mississippi    94.2

Related: The 10 Most And Least Educated States In The U.S.