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Immigration and the Rise of American Ingenuity

Author

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  • Ufuk Akcigit
  • John Grigsby
  • Tom Nicholas

Abstract

This paper builds on the analysis in Akcigit et al. (2017) by using US patent and Census data to examine macro and micro-level aspects of the relationship between immigration and innovation. We construct a measure of foreign born expertise and show that technology areas where immigrant inventors were prevalent between 1880 and 1940 experienced more patenting and citations between 1940 and 2000. We also show that immigrant inventors were more productive during their life cycle than native born inventors, although they received significantly lower levels of labor income than their native born counterparts. Overall, the contribution of foreign born inventors to US innovation was substantial, but we also find evidence of an immigrant inventor wage-gap that cannot be explained by differentials in productivity.

Suggested Citation

  • Ufuk Akcigit & John Grigsby & Tom Nicholas, 2017. "Immigration and the Rise of American Ingenuity," NBER Working Papers 23137, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23137
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Benjamin F. Jones, 2009. "The Burden of Knowledge and the "Death of the Renaissance Man": Is Innovation Getting Harder?," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 76(1), pages 283-317.
    2. Aghion, Philippe & Howitt, Peter, 1992. "A Model of Growth through Creative Destruction," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 60(2), pages 323-351, March.
    3. William R. Kerr & William F. Lincoln, 2010. "The Supply Side of Innovation: H-1B Visa Reforms and U.S. Ethnic Invention," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 28(3), pages 473-508, July.
    4. Chang-Tai Hsieh & Erik Hurst & Charles I. Jones & Peter J. Klenow, 2013. "The Allocation of Talent and U.S. Economic Growth," NBER Working Papers 18693, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Francesco Cinnirella & Jochen Streb, 2017. "Religious Tolerance as Engine of Innovation," CESifo Working Paper Series 6797, CESifo Group Munich.
    2. Timothy J Hatton & Zachary Ward, 2018. "International Migration in the Atlantic Economy 1850 - 1940," CEH Discussion Papers 02, Centre for Economic History, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • N11 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913
    • N12 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-
    • 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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