The 25 Countries with the Most Brainpower

Jonathan Wai and Max Nisen, Business Insider, October 24, 2013

Which country has the largest stock of brilliant people?  The answer to this question depends in part on raw brainpower, but also on the size of a country.

Exclusively for Business Insider,  Dr. Jonathan Wai, a Duke University Talent Identification Program research scientist and psychologist, compiled a new ranking of countries based on scores on the 2009 PISA assessment , which tests reading, math, and science competency in 15-year-olds.

Multiple researchers have found that these tests, administered by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), are a good measure of “g,” or general intelligence.

In our list, the rank order is based on two things.  First, we identified the average percentage of teenagers in each country who achieved the top score of six on math or verbal tests (globally, around the 98th percentile). Second, we cross-referenced this percentage with population to estimate the number of brilliant people per country.


If you looked only at average scores, you’d find the U.S. is only ranked 24th, near the middle of the pack. But if you then take into account the high-scoring right tail and population, the U.S. is not doing so bad.


#1 The United States
On average, 1.7% scored at elite levels
5,336,300 brilliant people estimated

#2 Japan
On average, 4.05% scored at elite levels
5,167,800 brilliant people estimated

#3 South Korea

On average, 4.40%  scored at elite levels
2,200,000  brilliant people estimated

#4 Germany
On average, 2.60%  scored at elite levels
2,129,140  brilliant people estimated

#5 France
On average, 2.20 % scored at elite levels
1,445,400  brilliant people estimated

#6 Taiwan
On average, 5.85 % scored at elite levels
1,365,390 brilliant people estimated

#7  Canada
On average, 3.10 % scored at elite levels
1,081,280  brilliant people estimated

#8 Russia
On average, 0.65%  scored at elite levels
932,750  brilliant people estimated

#9 The United Kingdom
On average, 1.4%  scored at elite levels
885,220  brilliant people estimated

#10 Australia
On average, 3.3 % scored at elite levels
748,440  brilliant people estimated

#11 Italy
On average, 1% scored at elite levels
609,200  brilliant people estimated

#12 Poland
On average, 1.45% scored at elite levels
558,830  brilliant people estimated

#13 Singapore
On average, 9.10%  scored at elite levels
483,392  brilliant people estimated

#14 Turkey
On average, 0.65 % scored at elite levels
481,000  brilliant people estimated

#15 Hong Kong
On average, 6.00%  scored at elite levels
429,300  brilliant people estimated

#16 The Netherlands
On average, 2.55% scored at elite levels
427,635  brilliant people estimated

#17 Belgium
On average, 3.45% scored at elite levels
384,330  brilliant people estimated

#18 Spain
On average, 0.75% scored at elite levels
354,525  brilliant people estimated
Average score ranking: 35

#19 Switzerland
On average, 4.25% scored at elite levels
339,873  brilliant people estimated

#20 Brazil
On average, 0.10% scored at elite levels
198,700 brilliant people estimated

#21 The Czech Republic
On average, 1.80% scored at elite levels
189,180  brilliant people estimated

#22 New Zealand
On average, 4.1% scored at elite levels
181,753  brilliant people estimated

#23 Sweden
On average, 1.90% scored at elite levels
180,823 brilliant people estimated

#24 Finland
On average, 3.25% scored at elite levels
175,955 brilliant people estimated

#25 Austria
On average, 1.7% scored at elite levels
143,854 brilliant people estimated

Topics: , , , , , , , ,

Share This

We welcome comments that add information or perspective, and we encourage polite debate. If you log in with a social media account, your comment should appear immediately. If you prefer to remain anonymous, you may comment as a guest, using a name and an e-mail address of convenience. Your comment will be moderated.