Lost Marie Curies: Family, Education, and the Probability of Becoming an Inventor

H.C. Kongsted, Karin Hoisl, Myriam Mariani

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperResearchpeer-review


We document women and men’s trajectories toward becoming inventors. Using Danish registry data on 1.4 million individuals born 1966 - 1985, we show that parental resources and education predict children’s school-track choices and thus influence their probability of becoming inventors. The effects are two to three times larger for sons than for daughters. Parental inventorship plays a crucial role in the transition to an inventive career, on top of children’s scientific education, and significantly more for boys than for girls. To investigate these gendered associations causally, we use the random occurrence of the gender of a second-born sibling. We find that parental inventorship significantly increases a firstborn daughter’s probability of becoming an inventor herself, but only if she does not have a secondborn brother. When the second sibling is a boy, a sizable effect of parental inventorship is lost, amounting to 49% of the inventor propensity predicted for daughters who have a sister. The effect of parental education, instead, does not depend on the gender of the second-born sibling. Our results are consistent with a story of role models for the intergenerational transmission of scientific education. The gendered intergenerational transmission of inventorship, on the other hand, is likely based on considerations of the costs and returns of being in this profession, which parents who are themselves inventors anticipate. Thus, to increase the proportion of female inventors, we need to not only encourage women’s enrollment in STEM subjects but also to combat the threat that this profession is a male domain.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2021
Number of pages35
Publication statusPublished - 2021
EventDRUID21 Conference - Copenhagen Business School, Frederiksberg, Denmark
Duration: 18 Oct 202120 Oct 2021
Conference number: 42


ConferenceDRUID21 Conference
LocationCopenhagen Business School
Internet address

Cite this