Immigration and the Rise of American Ingenuity
Ufuk Akcigit, John Grigsby, and Tom Nicholas
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.