Where are Famous People Born? Are You Spiteful?

Curated by CLAI

GEOGRAPHY OF FAME: Your chances of achieving notability were highly dependent on where you were born.

  • STATES: Being born in San Francisco County, New York City or Los Angeles County all offered among the highest probabilities of making it to Wikipedia. New York City produces notable journalists at the highest rate; Boston produces notable scientists at the highest rate; and Los Angeles produces notable actors at the highest rate. Remember, we are talking about people who were born there, not people who moved there.
  • COLLEGE TOWNS: Many of these counties consisted largely of a sizable college town. Sons and daughters of professors and graduate students tend to be smart. And, indeed, having more college graduates in an area is a strong predictor of the success of the people born there.
  • SUBURBIA: Suburban counties, unless they contained major college towns, performed far worse than their city counterparts. Moving from cities to suburbia to raise children is potentially a mistake, at least from the perspective of having notable children. A kid born in New York City is 80% more likely to make it to Wikipedia than a kid born in Bergen County. These are just correlations. But they do suggest that growing up near ideas is better than growing up near backyards.
  • INNOVATION: Early exposure to innovation: One of the fields where college towns are most successful in producing top dogs is music.
  • RACE: A black kid born in Tuskegee had the same probability of becoming a notable nonathlete as a white kid born in some of the highest-scoring, majority-white college towns.
  • IMMIGRANTS: The greater the percentage of foreign-born residents in an area, the higher the proportion of people born there achieving something notable.
Notable Boomers on the US Map

Notable Boomers on the US Map (Bill Marsh, NYTIMES)

SPITE: Men were generally more spiteful than women. Young adults more spiteful than older ones. Spitefulness generally cohabited with traits like callousness, Machiavellianism and poor self-esteem — but not with agreeableness, conscientiousness or a tendency to feel guilt.

 

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