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To find out, he launched a study so extensive he would not live to see its fruition. Stanley set out to track the accomplishments, educational outcomes and well-being of a select group of gifted 13-year-olds over their lives. He recruited 1,037 boys and 613 girls within five years of one another in the 1970s. All were in the top 1 percent when it came to their mathematical reasoning abilities, based on college-level exams they took to qualify for the study. The children, he reasoned, would offer insights into how to help young people grow up to live successful, fulfilling lives.
He called it the Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth. And before his death in 2005, Stanley handed the reigns of the study over to fellow educational psychologist Camilla P. Benbow. Soon after, Benbow enlisted the help of her colleague David Lubinski.
In 2012, Benbow and Lubinski checked back in with the children, now between the ages of 48 and 53. Along with fellow researcher Harrison J. Kell, they administered a survey to find out how the study participants were faring, 40 years after they first tested into that top tier of academic achievers.
The STEM-minded kids didn't disappoint: Eight percent had earned a patent, 2.3 percent were top executives at "name brand" or Fortune 500 companies; 4.1 percent had earned tenure at a major university; 2.4 percent were attorneys at the country's top firms; and 3 percent had published a book.
But what specifically interested the researchers was the difference between how men and women fared:
"We wanted to investigate the lifestyle and psychological orientation required for developing a truly outstanding career and creative production," the researchers wrote in an article accompanying the survey results, published in November in the journal Psychological Science. "When SMPY was launched, many educational and occupational opportunities were just becoming open to women, so we paid particular attention to how mathematically precocious females, relative to males, have constructed their lives over the past 40 years."
So what insights did the high achievers offer?
Even at this level of intelligence, researchers found that the gender gap was real and obvious. Women in the study, as public discourse would suggest, were indeed interested in "having it all." Men were more focused on money than childcare.
But when it comes to "success," the achievers were varied in how they defined it, chased it and lived it out. As Lubinski told The Huffington Post, "There are many different ways to create a satisfying life."
“Most of the important things that happen in life involve tradeoffs, and this is what you’re seeing with this study."And at the end of the day, there was one place that no difference existed at all: Study participants across the board talked about their family when asked what made their life worth living.
Source: Huffington Post