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The Collapse of the Soviet Union and the Productivity of American Mathematicians

  • George J. Borjas
  • Kirk B. Doran

It has been difficult to open up the black box of knowledge production. We use unique international data on the publications, citations, and affiliations of mathematicians to examine the impact of a large post-1992 influx of Soviet mathematicians on the productivity of their American counterparts. We find a negative productivity effect on those mathematicians whose research overlapped with that of the Soviets. We also document an increased mobility rate (to lower-quality institutions and out of active publishing) and a reduced likelihood of producing "home run" papers. Although the total product of the pre-existing American mathematicians shrank, the Soviet contribution to American mathematics filled in the gap. However, there is no evidence that the Soviets greatly increased the size of the "mathematics pie." Finally, we find that there are significant international differences in the productivity effects of the collapse of the Soviet Union, and that these international differences can be explained by both differences in the size of the émigré flow into the various countries and in how connected each country is to the global market for mathematical publications.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w17800.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 17800.

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Date of creation: Feb 2012
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Publication status: published as George J. Borjas & Kirk B. Doran, 2012. "The Collapse of the Soviet Union and the Productivity of American Mathematicians," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 127(3), pages 1143-1203.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17800
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  1. George J. Borjas, 2003. "The Labor Demand Curve Is Downward Sloping: Reexamining The Impact Of Immigration On The Labor Market," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(4), pages 1335-1374, November.
  2. Fabian Waldinger, 2009. "Peer effects in science: evidence from the dismissal of scientists in Nazi Germany," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 28518, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  3. Gauthier-Loiselle, Marjolaine & Hunt, Jennifer, 2009. "How Much Does Immigration Boost Innovation?," CEPR Discussion Papers 7116, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. Robert E. Lucas, 2009. "Ideas and Growth," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 76(301), pages 1-19, 02.
  5. Lucas, Robert Jr., 1988. "On the mechanics of economic development," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 3-42, July.
  6. Fabian Waldinger, 2010. "Quality Matters: The Expulsion of Professors and the Consequences for PhD Student Outcomes in Nazi Germany," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 118(4), pages 787-831, 08.
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