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Does Scientist Immigration Harm US Science? An Examination of Spillovers

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  • Ajay Agrawal
  • John McHale
  • Alex Oettl

Abstract

The recruitment of foreign scientists enhances US science through an expanded workforce but could also cause harm by displacing better connected domestic scientists, thereby reducing localized knowledge spillovers. We develop a model in which a sufficient condition for the absence of overall harm is that immigrant scientists generate at least the same level of localized spillovers as the domestic scientists they displace. To test this condition, we conduct an experiment in which each immigrant hypothetically displaces an appropriately matched domestic scientist. Overall, we do not find evidence that immigrant scientists harm US science by crowding out better-connected domestic scientists.

Suggested Citation

  • Ajay Agrawal & John McHale & Alex Oettl, 2018. "Does Scientist Immigration Harm US Science? An Examination of Spillovers," NBER Working Papers 24519, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:24519
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Ina Ganguli, 2015. "Immigration and Ideas: What Did Russian Scientists "Bring" to the United States?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 33(S1), pages 257-288.
    2. 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.
    3. Richard B. Freeman & Ina Ganguli & Raviv Murciano-Goroff, 2014. "Why and Wherefore of Increased Scientific Collaboration," NBER Chapters,in: The Changing Frontier: Rethinking Science and Innovation Policy, pages 17-48 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Giovanni Peri & Kevin Shih & Chad Sparber, 2016. "STEM Workers, H-1B Visas, and Productivity in US Cities," World Scientific Book Chapters,in: The Economics of International Migration, chapter 9, pages 277-307 World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd..
    5. Iacus, Stefano M. & King, Gary & Porro, Giuseppe, 2012. "Causal Inference without Balance Checking: Coarsened Exact Matching," Political Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 20(01), pages 1-24, December.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • F22 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - International Migration
    • J61 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Geographic Labor Mobility; Immigrant Workers
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes
    • O34 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Intellectual Property and Intellectual Capital

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