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Age and Scientific Genius

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

Abstract

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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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 19866.

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Date of creation: Jan 2014
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19866

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  1. Weitzman, Martin L., 1998. "Recombinant Growth," Scholarly Articles 3708468, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  2. Benjamin F. Jones, 2010. "Age and Great Invention," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 92(1), pages 1-14, February.
  3. Dalen, H.P. van, 1999. "The golden age of nobel economists," Open Access publications from Tilburg University urn:nbn:nl:ui:12-3107442, Tilburg University.
  4. David W. Galenson & Bruce A. Weinberg, 1999. "Age and the Quality of Work: The Case of Modern American Painters," NBER Working Papers 7122, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Currie, Janet & Madrian, Brigitte C., 1999. "Health, health insurance and the labor market," Handbook of Labor Economics, Elsevier, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 50, pages 3309-3416 Elsevier.
  6. Yoram Ben-Porath, 1967. "The Production of Human Capital and the Life Cycle of Earnings," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 75, pages 352.
  7. Levin, Sharon G & Stephan, Paula E, 1991. "Research Productivity over the Life Cycle: Evidence for Academic Scientists," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 81(1), pages 114-32, March.
  8. Diamond, Arthur M., 1980. "Age and the Acceptance of Cliometrics," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge University Press, vol. 40(04), pages 838-841, December.
  9. Sharon M. Oster & Daniel S. Hamermesh, 1998. "Aging And Productivity Among Economists," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 80(1), pages 154-156, February.
  10. David W. Galenson & Bruce A. Weinberg, 2001. "Creating Modern Art: The Changing Careers of Painters in France from Impressionism to Cubism," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 91(4), pages 1063-1071, September.
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