Economic hardship and lack of exposure to innovation are preventing minorities, low-income backgrounds and women from becoming inventors.
Those are the findings of “Lost Einsteins: Innovation and Opportunity in America,” conducted by the Equality of Opportunity Project (EOP). The study was conducted by researchers from Stanford, Harvard, the London School of Economics and MIT.
EOP analyzed the lives of more than one million inventors in the United States to understand the factors that determine who becomes an inventor in America.
“If women, minorities, and children from low-income families invent at the same as high-income white men,” the study concluded, “the innovation rate in America would quadruple.”
Patent Grants vs. Patent Success
Dramatic differences in patent grants do not account for lack of patent success.
The report did not examine reasons for the failure of “advantaged” inventors – those from better socio-economic background – to establish businesses, generate licenses and otherwise contribute successfully to innovation and technology. This may more likely be a result of weakened IP laws under the American Invents Act and a general lack of support for inventors, including those associated with corporate research departments and research institutions.
The study concluded that children who excelled in math were far more likely to become inventors but that being a math standout was not enough. Only the top students who also came from high-income families had a decent chance of becoming an inventor.
Low-income students who are among the very best math students – those who score in the top 5% of all third graders – are no more likely to become inventors than below-average math students from affluent families.
While minority inventors certainly should be nurtured, the high failure rate of innovators who had the benefit of and privilege raises serious questions about whether financial support and role-models are the only resources people from minority groups need to succeed.
The full Intangible Investor, “Minority Inventors ‘Lost,'” in the March IAM magazine, go here.
Study documents for the Equal Opportunity Project – including an executive summary, slides and a paper – can be found here.
For the summary slides alone, from which the above images were generated, go here.
Image source: equality-of-opportunity.org