IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/ehl/lserod/86616.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Who becomes an inventor in America? The importance of exposure to innovation

Author

Listed:
  • Bell, Alex
  • Chetty, Raj
  • Jaravel, Xavier
  • Petkova, Neviana
  • Van Reenen, John

Abstract

We characterize the factors that determine who becomes an inventor in America by using de-identified data on 1.2 million inventors from patent records linked to tax records. We establish three sets of results. First, children from high-income (top 1%) families are ten times as likely to become inventors as those from below-median income families. There are similarly large gaps by race and gender. Differences in innate ability, as measured by test scores in early childhood, explain relatively little of these gaps. Second, exposure to innovation during childhood has significant causal effects on children's propensities to become inventors. Growing up in a neighborhood or family with a high innovation rate in a specific technology class leads to a higher probability of patenting in exactly the same technology class. These exposure effects are gender-specific: girls are more likely to become inventors in a particular technology class if they grow up in an area with more female inventors in that technology class. Third, the financial returns to inventions are extremely skewed and highly correlated with their scientific impact, as measured by citations. Consistent with the importance of exposure effects and contrary to standard models of career selection, women and disadvantaged youth are as under-represented among highimpact inventors as they are among inventors as a whole. We develop a simple model of inventors' careers that matches these empirical results. The model implies that increasing exposure to innovation in childhood may have larger impacts on innovation than increasing the financial incentives to innovate, for instance by cutting tax rates. In particular, there are many “lost Einsteins” - individuals who would have had highly impactful inventions had they been exposed to innovation

Suggested Citation

  • Bell, Alex & Chetty, Raj & Jaravel, Xavier & Petkova, Neviana & Van Reenen, John, 2017. "Who becomes an inventor in America? The importance of exposure to innovation," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 86616, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  • Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:86616
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/86616/
    File Function: Open access version.
    Download Restriction: no
    ---><---

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Chetty, Raj & Bell, Alex & Jaravel, Xavier & Petkova, Neviana & Van Reenen, John, 2019. "Do tax cuts produce more Einsteins? The impact of financial incentives vs. exposure to innovation on the supply of inventors," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 102606, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    2. Philippe Aghion & Ufuk Akcigit & Ari Hyytinen & Otto Toivanen, 2017. "The Social Origins of Inventors," CEP Discussion Papers dp1522, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    3. DiNardo, John & Fortin, Nicole M & Lemieux, Thomas, 1996. "Labor Market Institutions and the Distribution of Wages, 1973-1992: A Semiparametric Approach," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 64(5), pages 1001-1044, September.
    4. Aghion, Philippe & Howitt, Peter, 1992. "A Model of Growth through Creative Destruction," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 60(2), pages 323-351, March.
    5. Anthony B. Atkinson & Thomas Piketty & Emmanuel Saez, 2011. "Top Incomes in the Long Run of History," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 49(1), pages 3-71, March.
    6. Pierre Azoulay & Joshua S. Graff Zivin & Gustavo Manso, 2011. "Incentives and creativity: evidence from the academic life sciences," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 42(3), pages 527-554, September.
    7. John Van Reenen, 1996. "The Creation and Capture of Rents: Wages and Innovation in a Panel of U. K. Companies," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 111(1), pages 195-226.
    8. Raj Chetty & John N. Friedman & Emmanuel Saez & Nicholas Turner & Danny Yagan, 2017. "Mobility Report Cards: The Role of Colleges in Intergenerational Mobility," NBER Working Papers 23618, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Jones, Charles I & Williams, John C, 2000. "Too Much of a Good Thing? The Economics of Investment in R&D," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 5(1), pages 65-85, March.
    10. Nicholas Bloom & Mark Schankerman & John Van Reenen, 2013. "Identifying Technology Spillovers and Product Market Rivalry," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 81(4), pages 1347-1393, July.
    11. Raj Chetty & John N. Friedman & Nathaniel Hilger & Emmanuel Saez & Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach & Danny Yagan, 2011. "How Does Your Kindergarten Classroom Affect Your Earnings? Evidence from Project Star," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(4), pages 1593-1660.
    12. Ufuk Akcigit & Murat Celik & Daron Acemoglu, 2014. "Young, Restless and Creative: Openness to Disruption and Creative Innovations," 2014 Meeting Papers 377, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    13. Ufuk Akcigit & Salomé Baslandze & Stefanie Stantcheva, 2016. "Taxation and the International Mobility of Inventors," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 106(10), pages 2930-2981, October.
    14. Bronwyn H. Hall & Adam Jaffe & Manuel Trajtenberg, 2005. "Market Value and Patent Citations," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 36(1), pages 16-38, Spring.
    15. Alex Bell & Raj Chetty & Xavier Jaravel & Neviana Petkova & John Van Reenen, 2019. "Who Becomes an Inventor in America? The Importance of Exposure to Innovation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 134(2), pages 647-713.
    16. Goolsbee, Austan, 1998. "Does Government R&D Policy Mainly Benefit Scientists and Engineers?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(2), pages 298-302, May.
    17. Adam B. Jaffe & Manuel Trajtenberg & Rebecca Henderson, 1993. "Geographic Localization of Knowledge Spillovers as Evidenced by Patent Citations," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 108(3), pages 577-598.
    18. David Card & Laura Giuliano, 2014. "Does Gifted Education Work? For Which Students?," NBER Working Papers 20453, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    19. Hall, B. & Jaffe, A. & Trajtenberg, M., 2001. "The NBER Patent Citations Data File: Lessons, Insights and Methodological Tools," Papers 2001-29, Tel Aviv.
    20. Nir Jaimovich & Sergio Rebelo, 2017. "Nonlinear Effects of Taxation on Growth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 125(1), pages 265-291.
    21. repec:fth:harver:1473 is not listed on IDEAS
    22. Kevin M. Murphy & Andrei Shleifer & Robert W. Vishny, 1991. "The Allocation of Talent: Implications for Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 106(2), pages 503-530.
    23. Enrico Moretti & Daniel J. Wilson, 2017. "The Effect of State Taxes on the Geographical Location of Top Earners: Evidence from Star Scientists," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 107(7), pages 1858-1903, July.
    24. Jinyoung Kim & Gerald Marschke, 2005. "Labor Mobility of Scientists, Technological Diffusion, and the Firm's Patenting Decision," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 36(2), pages 298-317, Summer.
    25. Leonid Kogan & Dimitris Papanikolaou & Amit Seru & Noah Stoffman, 2017. "Technological Innovation, Resource Allocation, and Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 132(2), pages 665-712.
    26. F. M. Scherer & Dietmar Harhoff & J, rg Kukies, 2000. "Uncertainty and the size distribution of rewards from innovation," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 10(1), pages 175-200.
    27. Zvi Griliches, 1998. "Patent Statistics as Economic Indicators: A Survey," NBER Chapters, in: R&D and Productivity: The Econometric Evidence, pages 287-343, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    28. Benjamin Jones & E.J. Reedy & Bruce A. Weinberg, 2014. "Age and Scientific Genius," NBER Working Papers 19866, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    29. Josh Lerner & Julie Wulf, 2007. "Innovation and Incentives: Evidence from Corporate R&D," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 89(4), pages 634-644, November.
    30. Stefanie Stantcheva, 2015. "Optimal Taxation and R&D Policies," 2015 Meeting Papers 1533, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    31. Bettina Becker, 2015. "Public R&D Policies And Private R&D Investment: A Survey Of The Empirical Evidence," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 29(5), pages 917-942, December.
    32. Robert H. Topel & Michael P. Ward, 1992. "Job Mobility and the Careers of Young Men," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(2), pages 439-479.
    33. Romer, Paul M, 1990. "Endogenous Technological Change," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(5), pages 71-102, October.
    34. Paul M. Romer, 2001. "Should the Government Subsidize Supply or Demand in the Market for Scientists and Engineers?," NBER Chapters, in: Innovation Policy and the Economy, Volume 1, pages 221-252, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    35. Bernard F. Lentz & David N. Laband, 1989. "Why So Many Children of Doctors Become Doctors: Nepotism vs. Human Capital Transfers," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 24(3), pages 396-413.
    36. Ufuk Akcigit & John Grigsby & Tom Nicholas, 2017. "The Rise of American Ingenuity: Innovation and Inventors of the Golden Age," NBER Working Papers 23047, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    37. David S. Abrams & Ufuk Akcigit & Jillian Grennan, 2013. "Patent Value and Citations: Creative Destruction or Strategic Disruption?," NBER Working Papers 19647, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    38. Patrick Kline & Neviana Petkova & Heidi Williams & Owen Zidar, 2019. "Who Profits from Patents? Rent-Sharing at Innovative Firms," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 134(3), pages 1343-1404.
    39. Benjamin F. Jones, 2010. "Age and Great Invention," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 92(1), pages 1-14, February.
    40. Matthew J. Lindquist & Joeri Sol & Mirjam Van Praag, 2015. "Why Do Entrepreneurial Parents Have Entrepreneurial Children?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 33(2), pages 269-296.
    41. Devin G. Pope & Justin R. Sydnor, 2010. "Geographic Variation in the Gender Differences in Test Scores," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 24(2), pages 95-108, Spring.
    42. Giuri, Paola & Mariani, Myriam & Brusoni, Stefano & Crespi, Gustavo & Francoz, Dominique & Gambardella, Alfonso & Garcia-Fontes, Walter & Geuna, Aldo & Gonzales, Raul & Harhoff, Dietmar & Hoisl, Karin, 2007. "Inventors and invention processes in Europe: Results from the PatVal-EU survey," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 36(8), pages 1107-1127, October.
    43. Roland G. Fryer & Steven D. Levitt, 2006. "The Black-White Test Score Gap Through Third Grade," American Law and Economics Review, Oxford University Press, vol. 8(2), pages 249-281.
    44. Raj Chetty & Nathaniel Hendren & Lawrence F. Katz, 2016. "The Effects of Exposure to Better Neighborhoods on Children: New Evidence from the Moving to Opportunity Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 106(4), pages 855-902, April.
    45. Jerry Thursby & Marie Thursby, 2005. "Gender Patterns of Research and Licensing Activity of Science and Engineering Faculty," The Journal of Technology Transfer, Springer, vol. 30(4), pages 343-353, October.
    46. Shulamit Kahn & Donna Ginther, 2017. "Women and STEM," NBER Working Papers 23525, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    47. Roland G. Fryer & Steven D. Levitt, 2004. "Understanding the Black-White Test Score Gap in the First Two Years of School," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 86(2), pages 447-464, May.
    48. A. D. Roy, 1951. "Some Thoughts On The Distribution Of Earnings," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 3(2), pages 135-146.
    49. Lisa D. Cook & Chaleampong Kongcharoen, 2010. "The Idea Gap in Pink and Black," NBER Working Papers 16331, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    50. repec:hrv:faseco:30367426 is not listed on IDEAS
    51. Benjamin B. Lockwood & Charles G. Nathanson & E. Glen Weyl, 2017. "Taxation and the Allocation of Talent," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 125(5), pages 1635-1682.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Chetty, Raj & Bell, Alex & Jaravel, Xavier & Petkova, Neviana & Van Reenen, John, 2019. "Do tax cuts produce more Einsteins? The impact of financial incentives vs. exposure to innovation on the supply of inventors," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 102606, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    2. Dechezlepretre, Antoine & Einiö, Elias & Martin, Ralf & Nguyen, Kieu-Trang & Reenen, John Van, 2016. "Do tax incentives for research increase firm innovation? An RD design for R&D," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 66428, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    3. John Van Reenen, 2020. "Innovation and Human Capital Policy," NBER Chapters, in: Innovation and Public Policy, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Ufuk Akcigit & John Grigsby & Tom Nicholas & Stefanie Stantcheva, 2018. "Taxation and Innovation in the 20th Century," NBER Working Papers 24982, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Nicola Bianchi & Michela Giorcelli, 2019. "Scientific Education and Innovation: From Technical Diplomas to University STEM Degrees," NBER Working Papers 25928, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Nicholas Bloom & John Van Reenen & Heidi Williams, 2019. "A Toolkit of Policies to Promote Innovation," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 33(3), pages 163-184, Summer.
    7. Pontus Braunerhjelm & Ding Ding & Per Thulin, 2018. "The knowledge spillover theory of intrapreneurship," Small Business Economics, Springer, vol. 51(1), pages 1-30, June.
    8. Philippe Aghion & Ufuk Akcigit & Antonin Bergeaud & Richard Blundell & David Hemous, 2019. "Innovation and Top Income Inequality," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 86(1), pages 1-45.
    9. Xiao, Hongyu & Wu, Andy & Kim, Jaeho, 2021. "Commuting and innovation: Are closer inventors more productive?," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 121(C).
    10. Chen, Jie & Leung, Woon Sau & Evans, Kevin P., 2016. "Are employee-friendly workplaces conducive to innovation?," Journal of Corporate Finance, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 61-79.
    11. Drivas, Kyriakos & Economidou, Claire & Karamanis, Dimitrios & Sanders, Mark, 2020. "Mobility of highly skilled individuals and local innovation activity," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 158(C).
    12. Ufuk Akcigit & William R. Kerr, 2018. "Growth through Heterogeneous Innovations," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 126(4), pages 1374-1443.
    13. Grossmann, Volker, 2007. "How to promote R&D-based growth? Public education expenditure on scientists and engineers versus R&D subsidies," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 29(4), pages 891-911, December.
    14. Daron Acemoglu & Ufuk Akcigit & Harun Alp & Nicholas Bloom & William Kerr, 2018. "Innovation, Reallocation, and Growth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 108(11), pages 3450-3491, November.
    15. Baghai, Ramin P. & Silva, Rui C & Ye, Luofu, 2018. "Teams and Bankruptcy," CEPR Discussion Papers 13198, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    16. Neves, Pedro Cunha & Sequeira, Tiago Neves, 2018. "Spillovers in the production of knowledge: A meta-regression analysis," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 47(4), pages 750-767.
    17. Burak Dindaroglu, 2010. "Intra-Industry Knowledge Spillovers and Scientific Labor Mobility," Discussion Papers 10-01, University at Albany, SUNY, Department of Economics.
    18. Paola Giuri & Myriam Mariani & Stefano Brusoni & Gustavo Crespi & Dominique Francoz & Alfonso Gambardella & Walter Garcia-Fontes & Aldo Geuna & Raul Gonzales & Dietmar Harhoff & Karin Hoisl & Christia, 2005. "Everything you Always Wanted to Know about Inventors (but Never Asked): Evidence from the PatVal-EU Survey," LEM Papers Series 2005/20, Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM), Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy.
    19. Giuri, Paola & Mariani, Myriam, 2007. "Inventors and invention processes in Europe: Results from the PatVal-EU survey," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 36(8), pages 1105-1106, October.
    20. Alessandra Scandura, 2019. "The role of scientific and market knowledge in the inventive process: evidence from a survey of industrial inventors," The Journal of Technology Transfer, Springer, vol. 44(4), pages 1029-1069, August.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    inventor; America; innovation;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • N0 - Economic History - - General
    • R14 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics - - - Land Use Patterns
    • J01 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General - - - Labor Economics: General

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:86616. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: . General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/lsepsuk.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: LSERO Manager (email available below). General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/lsepsuk.html .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.