Shows the same biases I already found in WP content: excessive material about athletes and entertainers, much less material about everyone else.
His analysis showed roughly 30% of people found success through arts and entertainment, 29% through sports, 9% through politics, and 3% through science or academia. That breakdown was interesting on its own, but as Stephens-Davidowitz explained, the reasons for people's success stood out the most.
For one, geography played an enormous role in producing a Wikipedia success story. Out of the total boomer population born in California, for example, one in 1,209 had a Wikipedia page. Meanwhile, only one in 4,496 West Virginia-natives did. If you zoom in to the county level, he said, "the results become more telling." Boston's Suffolk County showed one in 748 boomers becoming successful; in other counties, the success rate was 20 times lower.
Looking deeper, geography seemed to matter most when people grew up near large, semi-urban college towns. For example, the counties containing Madison, Wisconsin; Berkeley, California; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and Ithaca, New York were all in the top 3% of page frequency. Those towns are home to the University of Madison, Wisconsin; University of California, Berkeley; UNC Chapel Hill; and Cornell.
Diversity also seemed to play an outsized role in shaping success stories.
"The greater the percentage of foreign-born residents in an area, the higher the proportion of children born there who go on to notable success," Stephens-Davidowitz wrote. The effect was so great, among two equal college towns, both of a decent size, "the one with more immigrants will produce more prominent Americans."