Each year, the MacArthur Foundation provides grants to some of the most talented minds in the country to provide them with the resources to pursue incredibly creative projects that just might change the world. That’s why they’re often called the “genius awards.” And it turns out that Connecticut ranks in the top 10 in recipients. Connecticut, with 18 recipients living in the state at the time of the award, ranks behind only New York (188), California (172), Massachusetts (107), Illinois (44), New Jersey (41), District of Columbia (32), Michigan (25), and Pennsylvania (22). Tied with Connecticut ranking 9th is Washington state (18).
The MacArthur Foundation recently released data that shows where the 897 exceptionally creative individuals who have been recognized since 1981 were born, where they lived at the time they received the award and how mobile they are. This is the first time the data has been compiled and made publicly available.
This year's recipients will be announced on Sept. 17. The MacArthur Fellows Program awards unrestricted $625,000 fellowships to talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction. Chicago-based MacArthur is one of the nation's largest independent foundations.
Another interesting finding is that MacArthur Fellows tend to not stay in one place. They will more likely end up somewhere other than their birthplace by the time they receive their award. California is the most popular state for fellows to move to with 113 new residents, followed by Massachusetts (58), New York (28), New Jersey (16) and a tie between Virginia and Arizona (10 each). Connecticut also shows a net gain, at plus four. Nationwide, 20 states reflect net gains, the remaining states have tended to lose future geniuses.
Nevada, Wyoming and Vermont, are the only states never to have produced a MacArthur Fellow.
The most recent Connecticut recipient is Daniel Spielman, a computer scientist at Yale University, selected in 2012. As the Henry Ford II Professor of Computer Science, Mathematics and Applied Science, Spielman “is a theoretical computer scientist studying abstract questions that nonetheless affect the essential aspects of daily life in modern society—how we communicate and how we measure, predict, and regulate our environment and our behavior,” according to the MacArthur profile of his selection.
In 2009, Richard Prum, an ornithologist at Yale University was among the 24 selected. In his work, Prum draws from a wide spectrum of disciplines, including developmental biology, optical physics, molecular genetics, phylogenetics, paleontology, and behavior ecology, to address central questions about bird development, evolution, and behavior.
Officials note t hat innovative people tend to cluster near cultural centers and hotbeds of technological and scientific research, such as states with large cities like New York, California and Massachusetts, which may explain the mobility patterns of the fellows. That may also have influenced Connecticut push in recent years into the biotechnology field and related disciplines.
The data also highlight the contribution of immigrants to the creative culture of the United States. Nearly a quarter of MacArthur Fellows were born outside of the country. Though Fellows must be citizens or residents of the United States, their countries of origin span the globe.
Historian and 2003 Fellow Anders Winroth was born in Sweden and was teaching at Yale University at the time of the award, for example. The data indicates that 79% of the Fellows lived, at the time of the award, outside the state where they were born. By way of comparison, according to recent U.S. Census Bureau data, approximately 30% of the general population and 42% of the college-educated population live outside the state where they were born.
An overwhelming number (169) of fellows were born in New York. Other top states include California (59), Pennsylvania (52), Massachusetts (29) and Illinois (39). However, if you look at the data by per capita, those states are joined by Connecticut, Delaware, Rhode Island, Idaho, Montana and South Dakota, due to their relatively small populations.
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, according to its website, “supports creative people and effective institutions committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. In addition to selecting the MacArthur Fellows, the Foundation works to defend human rights, advance global conservation and security, make cities better places, and understand how technology is affecting children and society.”