Study: Innovation Depends on Environment, Not Just Ability

Study: Innovation Depends on Environment, Not Just Ability

New research by a team of economists from the Equality of Opportunity Project complicates the claim that people from certain backgrounds are just not as productive/innovative/creative/analytical as people from other backgrounds, hence their inability to achieve comparable levels of success in the workplace. The study, which Vox’s Matthew Yglesias got an early look at, found that strong test scores in childhood were less reliable predictors of becoming a successful inventor than growing up in an affluent family in a place with lots of other inventors—in other words, the smartest kids from wealthy families grow up to be inventors and entrepreneurs, but the smartest kids from poor families don’t:

[B]y linking patent application data from 1996 through 2014 to federal income tax returns, the team was able to track inventors’ lives from birth through adulthood to understand who is inventing things and where they come from. And by focusing on the geography of innovation, they show that direct exposure to a culture of invention and to role models appears to be playing a key role.

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