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Age and Great Invention

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  • Benjamin F. Jones

    (Kellogg School of Management and NBER)

Abstract

Great achievements in knowledge are produced by older innovators today than they were a century ago. Nobel Prize winners and great inventors have become especially unproductive at younger ages. Meanwhile, the early life cycle decline is not offset by increased productivity beyond middle age. The early life cycle dynamics are closely related to age when the PhD was received, and I discuss a theory where knowledge accumulation across generations leads innovators to seek more education over time. More generally, the narrowing innovative life cycle reduces, other things equal, aggregate creative output. This productivity drop is particularly acute if innovators' raw ability is greatest when young. © 2010 The President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Suggested Citation

  • Benjamin F. Jones, 2010. "Age and Great Invention," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 92(1), pages 1-14, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:tpr:restat:v:92:y:2010:i:1:p:1-14
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    File URL: http://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/pdf/10.1162/rest.2009.11724
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Benjamin F. Jones, 2009. "The Burden of Knowledge and the "Death of the Renaissance Man": Is Innovation Getting Harder?," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 76(1), pages 283-317.
    2. David W. Galenson, 2004. "A Portrait of the Artist as a Very Young or Very Old Innovator: Creativity at the Extremes of the Life Cycle," NBER Working Papers 10515, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Martin L. Weitzman, 1998. "Recombinant Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 113(2), pages 331-360.
    4. David W. Galenson, 2004. "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young or Old Innovator: Measuring the Careers of Modern Novelists," NBER Working Papers 10213, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Samuel S. Kortum, 1997. "Research, Patenting, and Technological Change," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 65(6), pages 1389-1420, November.
    6. 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, vol. 91(4), pages 1063-1071, September.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • O3 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights
    • O4 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity
    • J2 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor
    • I2 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education

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