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Immigration, Innovation, and Growth


  • Burchardi, Konrad B.
  • Chaney, Thomas
  • Hassan, Tarek Alexander
  • Tarquinio, Lisa
  • Terry, Stephen


We show a causal impact of immigration on innovation and dynamism in US counties. To identify the causal impact of immigration, we use 130 years of detailed data on migrations from foreign countries to US counties to isolate quasi-random variation in the ancestry composition of US counties that results purely from the interaction of two historical forces: (i) changes over time in the relative attractiveness of different destinations within the US to the average migrant arriving at the time and (ii) the staggered timing of the arrival of migrants from different origin countries. We then use this plausibly exogenous variation in ancestry composition to predict the total number of migrants flowing into each US county in recent decades. We show four main results. First, immigration has a positive impact on innovation, measured by the patenting of local firms. Second, immigration has a positive impact on measures of local economic dynamism. Third, the positive impact of immigration on innovation percolates over space, but spatial spillovers quickly die out with distance. Fourth, the impact of immigration on innovation is stronger for more educated migrants.

Suggested Citation

  • Burchardi, Konrad B. & Chaney, Thomas & Hassan, Tarek Alexander & Tarquinio, Lisa & Terry, Stephen, 2020. "Immigration, Innovation, and Growth," CEPR Discussion Papers 14719, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:14719

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Gagliarducci, Stefano & Tabellini, Marco, 2021. "Faith and Assimilation: Italian Immigrants in the US," IZA Discussion Papers 14567, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    2. Ana María Tribín-Uribe & Achyuta Adhvaryu & Cesar Anzola-Bravo & Oscar Ávila-Montealegre & Leonardo Bonilla-Mejía & Juan Carlos Castro-Fernández & Luz A. Flórez & Ánderson Grajales-Olarte & Alexander , 2020. "Migración desde Venezuela en Colombia: caracterización del fenómeno y análisis de los efectos macroeconómicos," Revista ESPE - Ensayos sobre Política Económica, Banco de la Republica de Colombia, issue 97, pages 1-74, October.
    3. Jeremy Ferwerda & Nicholas Adams-Cohen & Kirk Bansak & Jennifer Fei & Duncan Lawrence & Jeremy M. Weinstein & Jens Hainmueller, 2020. "Leveraging the Power of Place: A Data-Driven Decision Helper to Improve the Location Decisions of Economic Immigrants," Papers 2007.13902,

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    More about this item


    dynamism; Endogenous Growth; Innovation; Migrations; patents;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • J61 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Geographic Labor Mobility; Immigrant Workers
    • O31 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Innovation and Invention: Processes and Incentives
    • O40 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - General

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