Findings

Science  17 Feb 2012:
Vol. 335, Issue 6070, pp. 782
  1. Former Soviet Mathematicians Edged Out U.S. Scholars

    When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, hundreds of former Soviet mathematicians moved to the United States, displacing U.S. mathematicians in the process, a new report concludes.

    Two economists—George J. Borjas of Harvard University and Kirk B. Doran of the University of Notre Dame—pored over papers published over the past 70 years. They found that 336 Russian émigrés helped fill gaps in U.S. mathematical knowledge. But the newcomers also forced aside hundreds of budding American mathematicians, relegating those young scholars to publishing in lesser journals and ultimately pushing many out of a math career. In a paper in The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Borjas and Doran say the American protégés of the Russian mathematicians on average enjoyed higher lifetime productivity than their peers who studied under U.S. mathematicians, but overall per capita productivity dipped among American mathematicians in the 20 years following the Soviet immigration.

    Although the quality of the math itself didn't falter, many of the younger generation of mathematicians in the United States missed their shot. “The people who were displaced were on the younger side, and in mathematics, that means your period of peak productivity,” Borjas says.

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