Talent is distributed, privilege is not

Researchers Bell, Chetty, Jaravel, Petkova, and Van Reenen studied data from the lives of 1.2 million inventors/patent holders in America in an attempt to understand the impact of nature and nurture. The found that –

1. A child’s chances of becoming an inventor vary sharply with characteristics at birth – such as their race, gender, and parent’s socioeconomic class.

2. Children from high-income (top 1%) families are 10 times as likely to become inventors as those from below-median income families. These gaps persist even with similar math test scores in early stages (highly predictive of innovation rates)

3. Children whose families move to a high-innovation area when they are young are more likely to become inventors.

4. Girls are more likely to invent in a particular class if they grow up in an area with more women (but not men) who invent in that class.

This study is a landmark study in its ability to explain the real drivers of of success. Talent and mindset play far less important roles than the stories we’re told would have us believe. Below is my hypothesis on how it actually works. (Based on the data from this study, it may well move from completely unscientific to being backed by some science. :))

Talent, it turns out, is well distributed, privilege is not.