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Being richer doesn’t necessarily mean you’re smarter, study finds

By Tara De Boer, CTVNews.ca writer

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    TORONTO (CTV Network) — The highest-paying, most prestigious jobs are apparently filled by the smartest people, right?

Well, not according to new research from Linköping University in Sweden, published in the peer-reviewed journal European Sociological Review, which finds that high-earning individuals don’t necessarily have higher intelligence than those in lower-paying jobs.

In order to understand the relationship between wages and intelligence, researchers looked at the income data of 59,000 Swedish men, as well as cognitive ability test scores taken from military conscripts aged 18 and 19, which consisted of a series of physical, psychological and intellectual tests.

While people with higher incomes often scored higher on IQ tests, this appeared to only be true up to a point. The researchers found that the highest earners – the top one per cent – actually scored slightly lower overall compared to people with incomes of €60,000 ($86,251.50) and above annually in Sweden.

Surprisingly, people with jobs often seen as prestigious and requiring higher education, such as accountants, doctors, lawyers, professors, judges and members of parliament, were not found to have higher cognitive abilities.

As for everyone else, the majority of citizens were found to earn a salary on par with their intelligence level.

One noteworthy limitation of the study is that it didn’t consider the non-cognitive skills of high earners, such as motivation, social skills, creativity, mental stability and physical ability, which could be other contributing attributes to success.

Another caveat is that the data was pulled from military research, so women and immigrants were not included in the study, which could affect the results.

Studies in the past have researched intelligence and wage earnings, but this is the first to examine the cognitive abilities of those in the highest earning bracket.

The study authors wrote that people with the most prestigious jobs hold the strongest economic and political power, which is why examining the intelligence of those in elite job positions was important, as the influence of their decisions can be vastly consequential.

Data has shown for the last number of decades that top income shares in all Western countries have been on the rise, furthering wage inequalities.

For example, the top one per cent in the U.S. accounts for 20 per cent of the national income.

With this in mind, the researchers say that it is critical that those with the most money, and resulting power, are highly capable individuals.

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