Skip to Content

Purdue Research Examines How Creativity Pays Off


There is a general consensus that to be creative in work and problem-solving is a plus – that creativity is a desirable quality.

Not as widely accepted is the notion that creativity nurtured and developed in childhood leads to real economic benefits in our adult lives, regardless of our field or profession.

Purdue University researchers David Gill and Victoria Prowse use data from a study that has followed almost every individual born in the United Kingdom in the first week of March 1958 throughout their life. Gill and Prowse find that their creativity as children, measured at age 7, predicts their success later in life.

Those who tested as more creative children earn more and reach higher levels of education, and tend to work in better quality jobs that require experience.

In the researchers’ quantitative analysis, every one-standard-deviation increase in childhood creativity is associated with a 2% increase in pay, and a 2.2% increase in the probability of working in a high-quality managerial or technical job.

“Creativity matters for important outcomes like career earnings, employment rates and educational attainment,” Prowse says.

She and Gill define creativity as the ability to produce ideas that are both novel and useful, and note that creativity is a skill essential to open-ended problem solving. Creativity is also resistant to automation, an ever-increasing reality in our modern, computerized workforce.

In their paper, The Creativity Premium, Prowse and Gill move beyond analyzing the rich data found in the National Child Development Study (NCDS). They highlight the importance of creativity in society and build upon previous research and evidence from psychology to propose creativity-improving interventions that could lead to real economic benefits.

“Learning should be more practical and experiential, with less focus on traditional classroom academics,” Prowse says. “Creativity training should build the confidence and independent-minded thinking needed to pursue creative ideas, particularly in the face of resistance and skepticism.”

Interventions to improve creativity should direct learners to redefine problems, challenge assumptions, combine concepts, criticize and evaluate new ideas constructively, and tolerate ambiguity while developing ideas.

These measures would develop practical skills critical to success in the labor market, Prowse says.

“A curriculum that fosters creativity in childhood could help to build practical skills in adolescence and early adulthood and, ultimately, pay dividends for individuals and society.”