Success secret? Location, location, location
Not so long ago, Wikipedia was a hazy outpost on the digital frontier, struggling for depth, consistency and credibility. There were horror stories about misinformation that got onto the site too easily and was far too hard to remove.
Having taken measures to meet those challenges, Wikipedia now has become a pillar of online respectability, and getting a separate entry in Wikipedia has become a badge of virtual distinction.
Writing in the New York Times, Seth Stephens-Davidowitz recounted his fascinating analysis of the 36,625 American baby boomers who have been deemed notable or successful enough to merit their own Wikipedia entry.
The mini-study focused on people born between 1946 and 1964 because they now have had most of a working lifetime to distinguish themselves. But Wikipedia-certified baby boomers are not evenly distributed throughout the country.
Stephens-Davidowitz found two clear predictors of Wikipedia notoriety.
One is geography. According to his analysis, Your chances of achieving notability were highly dependent on where you were born.
Thus, Stephens-Davidowitz found that baby boomers from counties with a large city or a fairly large college town were much more likely to earn an individual item in Wikipedia. In a chart accompanying his article, the counties that had the highest proportion of boomers who became notable comprised Boston (1 in 748) and San Francisco (1 in 765). But ninth on the list is Monroe County, home of Indiana University (1 in 1,1019).
Indiana’s Henry County, whose largest city is New Castle, was sixth from the bottom in terms of counties with the lowest proportion of baby boomers whom Wikipedia judged a success (1 in 21,170). Though the study was national, counties with fewer than 20,000 births during the baby boom years weren’t counted.
The other major indicator, Stephens-Davidowitz found, was the proportion of immigrants. The greater the percentage of foreign-born residents in an area, he wrote, the higher the proportion of people born there achieving something notable.