Abstract

Great achievements in knowledge are produced by older innovators today than they were a century ago. Nobel Prize winners and great inventors have become especially unproductive at younger ages. Meanwhile, the early life cycle decline is not offset by increased productivity beyond middle age. The early life cycle dynamics are closely related to age when the PhD was received, and I discuss a theory where knowledge accumulation across generations leads innovators to seek more education over time. More generally, the narrowing innovative life cycle reduces, other things equal, aggregate creative output. This productivity drop is particularly acute if innovators' raw ability is greatest when young.

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