Friday, December 08, 2017

Lost Einsteins: New Report Demonstrates Variation In Innovation Opportunity by Class, Race and Gender

There’s an interesting new report (from Stanford’s Raj Chetty) showing how lack of diversity in STEM is leading to reduction in the number of innovations being created in this country, even by low-income children who would be expected to be inventors due to their proficiency in math in school. (Generally proficiency in mathematics is a predictor of patent filing.) The report calls the result of this gap “Lost Einsteins.”

The researchers worked with the Treasury Department to link the tax records with patent records. Doing so allowed them to study the backgrounds of patent holders (and the study focused on the most highly cited, significant patents). The researchers — Chetty, Alex Bell, Xavier Jaravel, Neviana Petkova and John Van Reenen — were also able to link these records to elementary-school test scores for some patent holders.
Not surprisingly, children who excelled in math were far more likely to become inventors. But being a math standout wasn’t enough. Only the top students who also came from high-income families had a decent chance to become an inventor.
This fact may be the starkest: Low-income students who are among the very best math students — those who score in the top 5 percent of all third graders — are no more likely to become inventors than below-average math students from affluent families.
Here is a graphic which demonstrates the difference in patent-holding by income level.

Of course there is also variation by race and by gender as well:

This report explains why broadening the participation in STEM is so important. As Chetty says "There are great differences in innovation rates. Those differences don’t seem to be due to innate ability to innovate.”

Our goal should be to make sure that the difference in innovation rates are not related to race, gender or income.

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