California is the largest state in the union and, arguably, the wealthiest. Golden State residents might also be the smartest people across the land, too.

Cecilia A. Conrad, vice president of the MacArthur Fellows Fellows Program, examined its famed “genius grant” winners from the awards' first year, in 1981, to their latest, in 2013, and found that California was home to more of these ultra-intelligent elites than almost any other state.

See also: Caltech is World's Best University; UCLA Ranks 13

We practically own these American fellowships. But:


Most of the winners weren't born in California.

It's just that, compared to any other state, the largest number of them had migrated here by the time they received these prestigious grants, which include $625,000 in payments, according to Conrad.

The Golden State has seen 113 transplants win MacArthur grants, more than those of any other state, her analysis found.

California has seen a total of 172 McArthur Fellows since 1981, only 59 of those being natives, according to Conrad's work.

New York has more native genius grant winners (160) and more overall (188), including those who had migrated there, she found. The Empire State only had 28 transplants who ended up winning, though.



Past recipients of the awards have included fiction writer Karen Russell, the youngest-ever winner (she was 32), bestselling author Junot Diaz, and composer Vijay Iyer.

Conrad calls California “the most popular destination state for fellows.” She explained:

People move for a variety of reasons, but one driving factor is economic opportunity. Scientists tend to cluster near the research universities and high-tech corridors of Massachusetts and California. For those in the arts, the concentration of potential employers and prospective customers in New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco makes these urban centers attractive places to live. In addition, there are spillover benefits of being surrounded by other artists – the density of artists makes it possible for supporting services such as art supply stores or instrument repairers to prosper.

So the next time someone tells you L.A. people are airheads, let them know California is a global hotbed for brainiacs.

The next class of MacArthur Fellows will be announced Sept. 17. Cross your fingers for the Golden State.

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