clock menu more-arrow no yes

Map: Where MacArthur “geniuses” come from

On September 17, the MacArthur Foundation will announce its 2014 class of fellows — between 20 and 30 so-called "geniuses" working in a variety of fields that will each get $625,000 to spend however they like.

If history is any guide, the odds are surprisingly high that one of them will hail from Washington DC.

macarthur 2

Note: State populations from the 2000 census were used, since they're (roughly) a midway point for the 1981-2013 period.

The MacArthur Foundation recently released data on the birth state of every one of the 704 fellows born in the US (195 were born outside the country). You might have to squint to see it on the fellows per capita map above, but DC is a true outlier — with six times more fellows per capita than any state in the country.

The raw number of fellows born in each state isn't all that surprising — New York leads with 160, followed by other large states like California (59), Pennsylvania (52), and Illinois (39). But divide these numbers by the population of each state, and a few surprising trends emerge.

On a per capita basis, California doesn't actually have that many MacArthur Fellows — but New York and Pennsylvania still do. The small East Coast states of Delaware, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut are all in the top-ten per capita as well. So are the Idaho, Montana, and South Dakota — not because they've had huge numbers of grants, but because they've had a few (5, 3, and 3, respectively) and their populations are so tiny.

On the other hand, Nevada, Vermont, and Wyoming have never produced a MacArthur genius. We can only assume that proud Vermonters are hoping this is their year.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for The Weeds

Get our essential policy newsletter delivered Fridays.