HKS Authors

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Robert W. Scrivner Research Professor of Economics and Social Policy


Knowledge generation is key to economic growth, and scientific prizes are designed to encourage it. But how does winning a prestigious prize affect future output? We compare the productivity of Fields Medal recipients (winners of the top mathematics prize) to that of similarly brilliant contenders. The two groups have similar publication rates until the award year, after which the winners’ productivity declines. The medalists begin to “play the field,” studying unfamiliar topics at the expense of writing papers. It appears that tournaments can have large postprize effects on the effort allocation of knowledge producers.


Borjas, George J., and Kirk B. Doran. "Prizes and Productivity: How Winning the Fields Medal Affects Scientific Output." Journal of Human Resources 50.3 (July 1, 2015): 728-758.