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Blonde stereotype called into question by OSU researcher

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Jay Zagorsky, who published a study about hair color and IQ, has been an economist at Ohio State since 1995. Credit: Courtesy of Jay Zagorsky

Jay Zagorsky, who conducted a study about hair color and IQ, has been an economist at Ohio State since 1995. Credit: Courtesy of Jay Zagorsky

“Dumb blonde” jokes could be a thing of the past thanks to a new study coming from an Ohio State research scientist.

Jay Zagorsky, an economist and research scientist at OSU’s Center for Human Resource Research, has written a study showing that people with naturally blond hair do not have lower IQ scores than people with other natural hair colors.

Zagorsky, whose study was published on March 17, used the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 to gather his data and compare hair color with subjects’ IQs. The NLSY79 began interviewing teenagers in 1979 and conducts interviews with the same group of 10,878 people to this day.

“One of the things that I saw, was that no one had looked at IQ and hair color,” Zagorsky said. “Many, many researchers had introduced the IQ data, but the hair color data had been overlooked in the history of the survey.”

Asking subjects their hair color was necessary to make sure the same people were being surveyed each time, Zagorsky said.

“Because there’s (ethnic and racial) differences, I eliminated all the African Americans, and I eliminated all the Hispanics, and I focused just on white women and white men,” he said.

Zagorsky calculated the average intelligence for white men and women with blond, brown, red and black hair.

According to his research, the average IQ for blond white women was 103.2 and slightly higher than women with other hair colors. This not only disputes the stereotype but reverses it, showing that blondes may have a higher IQ than women of other hair color.

The data for men’s intelligence shows brown-haired men having the highest IQ, followed by blond men.

While it is beyond the scope of this research to investigate genetic relationships between hair color and intelligence, results suggested that blondes grew up in homes with more reading material than women of other hair color,” Zagorsky’s paper states.

Katie Foster, a second-year in sports industry, is blond and said she was not surprised to find out that the stereotype is false.

“I think sometimes people underestimate me and think that I might not be smart,” Foster said. “I don’t know if it’s because I’m blond, but I think it is important not to judge people on what they look like.”

Zagorsky, who is color-blind himself, said he did not have any preconceived notions going into the study because he cannot see the difference in people’s hair color.

“If believing in something silly — like blondes are dumb — is not true, imagine how many other prejudices we believe are also incorrect,” he said.

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