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Is it harder to win a gold medal in luge or to win the Nobel prize in Economics?

I don’t know the answer to this question, I just throw it out for blog readers to ponder.

The competition for the Nobel prize in economics is a lot less fierce than most people think. Most of the winners graduate from a prestigious Ph.D. program (and this will be increasingly true in the future, I would guess). Each year, perhaps 200-300 students start Ph.D.s at these schools. Assuming things are in steady state, with roughly two Nobel prizes given in economics each year, if you can get into a top economics program there is roughly a one percent chance you will eventually win a Nobel prize.

There are four gold medals in luge handed out every four years (1 each for men and women in singles, 2 for men’s doubles — I don’t think there is a women’s doubles) . That is an average of one gold medal per year, which is less than the number of Nobels in economics. How many new folks per year set out to pursue a gold medal in luge? Maybe 100-200 is not an unrealistic number. In which case, the difficulty of winning the gold is about the same as winning the Nobel in economics.