A Science for Everyone, Demography

An IQ Too Low for the Military

Jordan Peterson has a brief video on youtube describing the IQ cutoff the US military uses in recruitment. (Jordan Peterson | The Most Terrifying IQ Statistic)  He explains that the army doesn’t recruit for people who score below 83 because they can’t be trained. 

I think he has simplified the explanation – the ASVAB is the military test.  While it is not technically an IQ test, it correlates closely.  I’m not about to fact-check Jordan Peterson on a technicality.  He explains that 10% of the population have an IQ below 83, and the chart shows that 11.5% of the population score 82 or below.  Definitely close enough for a short lecture.

I think back among my students, and recall asking the slowest veteran I ever had in a class what he did in the army.  He replied he had been a gama goat driver.  The photo suggests that he probably had skills that would transfer to operating a rubber tired skidder – but probably lacked the forest experience.  My experience tells me that he would have been a good, reliable tail chainman on a survey party – but even at that time, electronic measuring devices were replacing the chains.

All told, I think I understand why Jordan Peterson called it “The most terrifying IQ statistic.”  If he was close to correct – and I suspect he was – we’re looking at somewhere around one person in nine that can’t be trained to perform a minimum military job adequately.  I suspect the civilian world isn’t any more merciful.  Years ago, I had the privilege of knowing Doug.  The army had released him because of a low score – whether IQ or ASVAB makes no difference.  He was in his fifties, and remembered vividly the date when he learned he wasn’t good enough.  He made a living as a ranch hand, mostly working cattle, haying and fixing or building fences . . . he was conscientious and reliable at handloading ammunition, and a cautious, safe driver.  As I watched Peterson’s video, I realized how few jobs there are for folks like Doug.   There was a place for Doug in north central Montana, but few areas have that opportunity.  Doug couldn’t have made it in the urban technical world.   Anything that finds one person in nine untrainable is a terrifying statistic.