of 42) is associated with a 2.6 percent increase in mathematicspublications and a 4.5 percent increase in mathematics citations. These correlations reflect both the extensive and intensive margins: strong IMO performers are more likely to become professional mathematicians (as proxied by getting a PhD in mathematics); and conditional on becoming professional mathematicians, they are more productive than lesser IMO performers, and are significantly more likely to produce frontier research in mathematics. The conditional probability that an IMO gold medalist will
The advancement of the knowledge frontier is crucial for technological innovation and human progress. Using novel data from the setting of mathematics, this paper establishes two results. First, we document that individuals who demonstrate exceptional talent in their teenage years have an irreplaceable ability to create new ideas over their lifetime, suggesting that talent is a central ingredient in the production of knowledge. Second, such talented individuals born in low- or middle-income countries are systematically less likely to become knowledge producers. Our findings suggest that policies to encourage exceptionally-talented youth to pursue scientific careers—especially those from lower income countries—could accelerate the advancement of the knowledge frontier.
This paper studies the impact of U.S. immigration barriers on global knowledge production. We present four key findings. First, among Nobel Prize winners and Fields Medalists, migrants to the U.S. play a central role in the global knowledge network—representing 20-33% of the frontier knowledge producers. Second, using novel survey data and hand-curated life-histories of International Math Olympiad (IMO) medalists, we show that migrants to the U.S. are up to six times more productive than migrants to other countries—even after accounting for talent during one’s teenage years. Third, financing costs are a key factor preventing foreign talent from migrating abroad to pursue their dream careers, particularly for talent from developing countries. Fourth, certain ‘push’ incentives that reduce immigration barriers—by addressing financing constraints for top foreign talent—could increase the global scientific output of future cohorts by 42 percent. We concludeby discussing policy options for the U.S. and the global scientific community.
-income countries who had the same score in the IMO, participants born in low- or middle-income countries contribute considerably less to published research over their lifetimes (see Chart 1 ). We reached that conclusion by counting individuals’ published work, as evidence of original research, and citations of their research by others as evidence of their findings’ influence. A participant born in a low-income country produces 34 percent fewer mathematicspublications and receives 56 percent fewer mathematics citations than an equally talented participant from a high
work determined by manual data collection). We further classify them into migrants to the U.S. if they did not represent the U.S. at the IMO and their place of work in 2016 was in the U.S. Finally, we measure the scientific productivity of IMO medalists in two ways. First, we use mathematicspublications weighted by cites as per the MathSciNet public author pages. 5 Second, we use a measure of community recognition independent of bibliometrics: being invited to speak at the International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM), a prestigious accomplishment for