Fact of the Week: An American Child Born to Parents in the Top 1 Percent of the Income Distribution is 10 Times More Likely to Grow up to be an Inventor Than a Child Born to Parents With Incomes Below the Median

John Wu April 23, 2018
April 23, 2018

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An innovation-centric education policy should nurture children with the proclivity for scientific inquiry toward careers engaged in innovation. Unfortunately, certain socio-economic and demographic factors in the United States determine the likelihood that a child will grow up and decide against such a path. By analyzing education and family records of more than 1 million U.S. inventors, five researchers present several key findings on the country’s innovators.

First, an American child born to parents in the top 1 percent of the income distribution is 10 times more likely to grow up and be an inventor than a child born to parents with incomes below the national median. Second, white children are three times more likely to end up being inventors than black children. Third, although the gender gap between inventors is shrinking, at current rates, it is doing so at a pace that will take 118 years to close. Because of all this, the researchers conclude, “There are many ‘lost Einsteins’—people who would have had high-impact inventions had they become inventors.”

To learn more about America’s innovators, read ITIF’s report The Demographics of Innovation in the United States.