There are 100x programmers

Are there studies that show the large discrepancies in programmer productivity?

Here is a well-documented study. Individual productivity was not the aim of this document, but there is data related to your question. You can find a copy of the paper here

On page 22 you will find a box with the hours required to complete the program by language. Assuming that programmer productivity is time to complete a specific programming task, we have a maximum productivity range of ~ 4 hours - 63 hours in Java. We can say that the best programmer was ten times faster than the worst.

Original paper:

An empirical comparison of C, C ++, Java, Perl, Python, Rexx and Tcl for a search / string processing program by Lutz Prechelt (2000)

If you were interested, the paper has the raw data and you can do your own analysis of the distribution. The distribution would roughly tell you how many programmers it would take to say that the best programmer is 100 times more productive than the worst .

Larry OBrien

Prechelt is a good researcher. I would point out, however, that a developer who excels at a task may not do as well - familiarity with the task versus pursuing dead ends seems like an important part of the job to me. And maybe developers will retreat to the mean for many tasks.