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The "I"s Have It: Immigration and Innovation, the Perspective from Academe

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  • Paula E. Stephan

Abstract

Considerable attention has focused in recent years on the role the academy plays in fostering innovation. Here we demonstrate that the foreign born are a large and growing component of the U.S. university community. They compose more than 25% of the tenure-track faculty, make up approximately 60% of the postdoctoral population, and represent more than 43% of the doctoral degrees awarded in science and engineering. Almost 50% of the latter come from the three countries of China, India, and South Korea. The foreign born contribute to the productivity of the university. For example, 44% of the first authors of U.S. papers in Science are foreign. There is some evidence that the foreign born contribute disproportionately to exceptional contributions in science and engineering and, at least at elite universities, that their marginal product is higher than that of the native born. They also constitute approximately one-third of the placements of new PhDs with U.S. firms--a major mechanism by which tacit knowledge is transmitted from the university to industry. Not all of the foreign born who come to study or work in the United States stay. The 10-year stay rate for those who received their PhDs, for example, is 58%. It increased dramatically in the 1990s, but the pattern appears to have leveled off recently and is likely to decline as developing countries recruit scientists and engineers to work in newly emerging sectors as well as universities. Despite spillovers to other countries, the simplest of calculations leads one to conclude that in the past the United States has gained far more than it has lost by the foreign born coming to study and work in science and engineering at U.S. universities. Whether these benefits persist depends upon whether the foreign born continue to come in large numbers and to stay in large numbers. The stimulus package and President Obama's proposed 2010 budget, with its funds for R&D, provide resources that could encourage studying and working in the United States. They also provide for resources that could make careers in science and engineering more appealing to the native born, something that will be essential if the foreign born cease to come or stay.

Suggested Citation

  • Paula E. Stephan, 2010. "The "I"s Have It: Immigration and Innovation, the Perspective from Academe," Innovation Policy and the Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 10(1), pages 83-127.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:ipolec:doi:10.1086/605854
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Adams, James D. & Black, Grant C. & Clemmons, J. Roger & Stephan, Paula E., 2005. "Scientific teams and institutional collaborations: Evidence from U.S. universities, 1981-1999," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 34(3), pages 259-285, April.
    2. Shiferaw Gurmu & Grant C. Black & Paula E. Stephan, 2010. "The Knowledge Production Function For University Patenting," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 48(1), pages 192-213, January.
    3. Gregory Attiyeh & Richard Attiyeh, 1997. "Testing for Bias in Graduate School Admissions," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 32(3), pages 524-548.
    4. William R. Kerr, 2007. "The Ethnic Composition of US Inventors," Harvard Business School Working Papers 08-006, Harvard Business School.
    5. Grant C. Black & Paula E. Stephan, 2010. "The Economics of University Science and the Role of Foreign Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Scholars," NBER Chapters,in: American Universities in a Global Market, pages 129-161 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Wesley M. Cohen & Richard R. Nelson & John P. Walsh, 2002. "Links and Impacts: The Influence of Public Research on Industrial R&D," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 48(1), pages 1-23, January.
    7. Sharon G. Levin & Grant C. Black & Anne E. Winkler & Paula E. Stephan, 2004. "Differential Employment Patterns for Citizens and Non-Citizens in Science and Engineering in the United States: Minting and Competitive Effects," Growth and Change, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 35(4), pages 456-475.
    8. John Bound & Sarah Turner & Patrick Walsh, 2009. "Internationalization of U.S. Doctorate Education," NBER Chapters,in: Science and Engineering Careers in the United States: An Analysis of Markets and Employment, pages 59-97 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. William R. Kerr, 2008. "Ethnic Scientific Communities and International Technology Diffusion," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 90(3), pages 518-537, August.
    10. Adams, James D, 1990. "Fundamental Stocks of Knowledge and Productivity Growth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(4), pages 673-702, August.
    11. Paula Stephan & Jennifer Ma, 2005. "The Increased Frequency and Duration of the Postdoctorate Career Stage," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(2), pages 71-75, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Sari Pekkala Kerr & William R. Kerr & William F. Lincoln, 2015. "Firms and the Economics of Skilled Immigration," Innovation Policy and the Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 15(1), pages 115-152.
    2. Kenney, Martin & Patton, Donald, 2015. "Gender, ethnicity and entrepreneurship in initial public offerings: illustrations from an open database," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 44(9), pages 1773-1784.
    3. William R. Kerr, 2013. "U.S. High-Skilled Immigration, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship: Empirical Approaches and Evidence," NBER Working Papers 19377, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Paula Stephan & Giuseppe Scellato & Chiara Franzoni, 2015. "International Competition for PhDs and Postdoctoral Scholars: What Does (and Does Not) Matter," Innovation Policy and the Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 15(1), pages 73-113.

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