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How Much Does Immigration Boost Innovation?

  • Hunt, Jennifer

    ()

    (Rutgers University)

  • Gauthier-Loiselle, Marjolaine

    ()

    (Princeton University)

We measure the extent to which skilled immigrants increase innovation in the United States by exploring individual patenting behavior as well as state-level determinants of patenting. The 2003 National Survey of College Graduates shows that immigrants patent at double the native rate, and that this is entirely accounted for by their disproportionately holding degrees in science and engineering. These data imply that a one percentage point rise in the share of immigrant college graduates in the population increases patents per capita by 6%. This could be an overestimate of immigration's benefit if immigrant inventors crowd out native inventors, or an underestimate if immigrants have positive spill-overs on inventors. Using a 1940-2000 state panel, we show that immigrants do have positive spill-overs, resulting in an increase in patents per capita of 9-18% in response to a one percentage point increase in immigrant college graduates. We isolate the causal effect by instrumenting the change in the share of skilled immigrants in a state with the state's predicted increase in the share of skilled immigrants. We base the latter on the 1940 distribution across states of immigrants from various source regions and the subsequent national increase in skilled immigrants from these regions.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 3921.

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Length: 50 pages
Date of creation: Jan 2009
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in: American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, 2010, 2 (2), 31-56
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp3921
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  1. Giovanni Peri & Chad Sparber, 2008. "Highly-Educated Immigrants and Native Occupational Choice," CReAM Discussion Paper Series 0813, Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM), Department of Economics, University College London.
  2. Niebuhr, Annekatrin, 2006. "Migration and innovation: Does cultural diversity matter for regional R&D activity?," IAB Discussion Paper 200614, Institut für Arbeitsmarkt- und Berufsforschung (IAB), Nürnberg [Institute for Employment Research, Nuremberg, Germany].
  3. Jaffe, Adam B & Trajtenberg, Manuel & Henderson, Rebecca, 1993. "Geographic Localization of Knowledge Spillovers as Evidenced by Patent Citations," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 108(3), pages 577-98, August.
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  11. Bottazzi, Laura & Peri, Giovanni, 2003. "Innovation and spillovers in regions: Evidence from European patent data," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 47(4), pages 687-710, August.
  12. William Kerr & William Lincoln, 2010. "The Supply Side of Innovation: H-1B Visa Reforms and US Ethnic Invention," William Davidson Institute Working Papers Series wp978, William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan.
  13. Bronwyn H. Hall, 2004. "Exploring the Patent Explosion," NBER Working Papers 10605, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Card, David, 2001. "Immigrant Inflows, Native Outflows, and the Local Labor Market Impacts of Higher Immigration," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 19(1), pages 22-64, January.
  15. Morgan, Robert P & Kruytbosch, Carlos & Kannankutty, Nirmala, 2001. " Patenting and Invention Activity of U.S. Scientists and Engineers in the Academic Sector: Comparisons with Industry," The Journal of Technology Transfer, Springer, vol. 26(1-2), pages 173-83, January.
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  18. Agrawal, Ajay & Kapur, Devesh & McHale, John & Oettl, Alexander, 2011. "Brain drain or brain bank? The impact of skilled emigration on poor-country innovation," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(1), pages 43-55, January.
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  23. repec:fth:harver:1473 is not listed on IDEAS
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