Invisible Geniuses: Could the Knowledge Frontier Advance Faster?

Ruchir Agarwal, Patrick Gaule

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


A better understanding of the determinants of idea/knowledge production remains critical for long-run growth. Toward this end, this paper establishes two results using data from the International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO). First, individuals who excelled in teenage years are especially capable of advancing the knowledge frontier. Second, such talented individuals born in poorer countries are systematically less likely to engage in knowledge production. IMO participants from low-income countries produce 34 percent fewer publications and 56 percent fewer citations than equally talented rich-country counterparts. Policies to encourage talented youth to pursue scientific careers—especially those from poorer countries—could advance the knowledge frontier faster. (JEL D83, O30, O47)
Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican Economic Review: Insights
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020

Structured keywords

  • ECON Applied Economics
  • ECON CEPS Education


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