[FoRK] 36 is the new 30 (for scientific careers)?

Gordon Mohr gojomofork at xavvy.com
Sun May 29 23:17:24 PDT 2005


The good news: breakthroughs are coming from older people. The
bad news: it's because it takes longer to get up-to-speed in a
field, and by the time you're up-to-speed you're past-your-prime
so the productivity per mind is less.

(via Slashdot)

Age and Great Invention, Benjamin F. Jones
http://papers.nber.org/papers/w11359

# ---- Abstract -----
#
# Great achievements in knowledge are produced by older innovators
# today than they were a century ago. Using data on Nobel Prize
# winners and great inventors, I find that the age at which noted
# innovations are produced has increased by approximately 6 years
# over the 20th Century. This trend is consistent with a shift in
# the life-cycle productivity of great minds. It is also consistent
# with an aging workforce. The paper employs a semi-parametric
# maximum likelihood model to (1) test between these competing
# explanations and (2) locate any specific shifts in life-cycle
# productivity. The productivity explanation receives considerable
# support. I find that innovators are much less productive at
# younger ages, beginning to produce major ideas 8 years later at
# the end of the 20th Century than they did at the beginning.
# Furthermore, the later start to the career is not compensated
# for by increasing productivity beyond early middle age. I show
# that these distinct shifts for knowledge-based careers are
# consistent with a knowledge-based theory, where the accumulation
# of knowledge across generations leads innovators to seek more
# education over time. More generally, the results show that
# individual innovators are productive over a narrowing span of
# their life cycle, a trend that reduces -- other things equal --
# the aggregate output of innovators. This drop in productivity is
# particularly acute if innovators' raw ability is greatest when
# young.

- Gordon



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