Where do the most successful Americans come from? I was curious. So I downloaded Wikipedia. (You can do that sort of thing nowadays.)
With a little coding, I had a data set of more than 150,000 Americans deemed by Wikipedia’s editors to be notable. The data set included county of birth, date of birth, occupation and gender. I merged it with county-level birth data gathered by the National Center for Health Statistics. For every county in the United States, I calculated the odds of making it to Wikipedia if you were born there.
Seth Stephens-Davidowitz downloaded Wikipedia, limited his data set to American-born baby boomers, excluded those famous for being criminals, and found out that roughly one in 2,058 of them were “deemed notable enough to warrant a Wikipedia entry.”
It turns out that while there was a surprisingly wide variance, the two biggest geographic predictors of success were that you either 1) lived in a big city or 2) lived in a college town.
This was particularly interesting:
…there was another variable that was a strong predictor of Wikipedia entrants per birth: the proportion of immigrants. The greater the percentage of foreign-born residents in an area, the higher the proportion of people born there achieving something notable. If two places have similar urban and college populations, the one with more immigrants will produce more notable Americans.
Children of immigrants! Apparently the 100 “most famous white baby boomers” (um, okay), are 3x more likely to be children of immigrants than the general population.
Obviously defining success by whether or not one has a Wikipedia entry has its ISSUES, which Stephens-Davidowitz acknowledges. But it is fun to look at, if not base your life decisions around.