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How Much Does Immigration Boost Innovation?

  • Jennifer Hunt


  • Marjolaine Gauthier-Loiselle


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 investors crowd out native investors, or an underestimate if immigrantes have positive spill-overs on investors. Using a 1950-2000 state panel, we show that natives are not crowded out by immigrants, and that immigrants do have positive spill-overs, resulting in an increase in patents per capita of about 15% 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 initial share of immigrant high school dropouts from Europe, China and India. In both data sets, the positive impacts of immigrant post-college graduates and scientists and engineers are larger than for immigrant college graduates.

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Paper provided by McGill University, Department of Economics in its series Departmental Working Papers with number 2008-07.

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Length: 47 pages
Date of creation: Aug 2008
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:mcl:mclwop:2008-07
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