NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Creative Careers: The Life Cycles of Nobel Laureates in Economics

Bruce A. Weinberg, David W. Galenson

NBER Working Paper No. 11799
Issued in November 2005
NBER Program(s):   LS

This paper studies life cycle creativity among Nobel laureate economists. We identify two distinct life cycles of scholarly creativity. Experimental innovators work inductively, accumulating knowledge from experience. Conceptual innovators work deductively, applying abstract principles. We find that conceptual innovators do their most important work earlier in their careers than experimental laureates. For instance, our estimates imply that the probability that the most conceptual laureate publishes his single best work peaks at age 25 compared to the mid-50s for the most experimental laureate. Thus while experience benefits experimental innovators, newness to a field benefits conceptual innovators.

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This paper was revised on November 7, 2007

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w11799

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