How can we improve economic opportunities for our children?

We use big data to identify new pathways to upward mobility.

Our Latest
Who Becomes an Inventor in America?

Innovation is widely viewed as the engine of economic growth. In our most recent study, we analyze the lives of more than one million inventors in the United States to understand the factors that determine who becomes an inventor in America. We find that there are many “lost Einsteins” – women, minorities, and children from low-income families who would have had high-impact discoveries had they been exposed to innovation while growing up. If these groups invented at the same rate as white men from high-income families, we would have four times as many inventors in America today. Our findings suggest that improving opportunities for disadvantaged children may be valuable not just to reduce disparities, but also to spur greater innovation and growth. To learn more, see the non-technical summary, full paper, or data tables.

Project Motivation

A defining feature of the “American Dream” is upward income mobility: the ideal that children have a higher standard of living than their parents. Our work shows that children's prospects of earning more than their parents have fallen from 90% to 50% over the past half century. Understanding what has led to this erosion of the American Dream — and how we can revive it for future generations — is the motivation for the Equality of Opportunity Project.

For an overview of our work, please listen to this podcast on Freakonomics Radio.


Our mission is to develop scalable policy solutions that will empower families to rise out of poverty and achieve better life outcomes. We aim to achieve this mission by harnessing the power of big data to learn from areas where the American Dream is still thriving.

Research Areas

Want to Learn More?

Click here to read summaries and full-length version of our papers
and here to download publicly available data from the project.