Nature | Research Highlights: Social Selection

Unequal fates for maths superstars

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A gift for numbers can take a person far in life, according to a report getting plenty of online attention (D. Lubinski et al. Psychol. Sci.; 2014). A survey of 1,004 men and 601 women who were identified as 13-year-old mathematics prodigies in the 1970s found above-average levels of accomplishment in fields including business and academia. “How do things turn out for math prodigies? Pretty well, it seems,” tweeted Tyler Cowen, an economist at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. Cowen told Nature that he shared the report on Twitter because he suspects that many of his followers have gifted children. “I was delivering good news,” he says.

However, success was not evenly distributed. On average, the women in the survey earned about US$80,000 a year. That is more than double the amount that US women with full-time jobs typically make in a year, but about $60,000 less than the men in the survey. Zhana Vrangalova, a sexuality researcher at New York University in New York City, summed it up on Twitter by noting that the survey participants had accomplished “a lot more than the average Jo/Jane”. See for more.

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