NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Age and Scientific Genius

Benjamin Jones, E.J. Reedy, Bruce A. Weinberg

NBER Working Paper No. 19866
Issued in January 2014
NBER Program(s):   LS

Great scientific output typically peaks in middle age. A classic literature has emphasized comparisons across fields in the age of peak performance. More recent work highlights large underlying variation in age and creativity patterns, where the average age of great scientific contributions has risen substantially since the early 20th Century and some scientists make pioneering contributions much earlier or later in their life-cycle than others. We review these literatures and show how the nexus between age and great scientific insight can inform the nature of creativity, the mechanisms of scientific progress, and the design of institutions that support scientists, while providing further insights about the implications of aging populations, education policies, and economic growth.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w19866

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