Fact of the Week: When Countries Double Immigration of Inventors From Places That Specialize in a Given Technology, They are 25 to 50 Percent More Likely to Produce new Patents in That Technology After 10 Years

Caleb Foote August 19, 2019
August 19, 2019

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Source: Dany Bahar, Prithwiraj Choudhury, and Hillel Rapoport, “Migrant Inventors and the Technological Advantage of Nations,” IZA Institute of Labor Economics Discussion Paper 12386, May 2019.

Commentary: When skilled migrants come to a new country, they bring both expertise in their fields and connections to experts in their home countries, increasing the likelihood that they will produce new inventions in the fields in which their home countries excel. New research has provided the broadest estimation of this effect, examining immigration between 135 countries and patents in 651 technological categories from 1990 to 2010. Controlling for investment and trade between countries, the study finds that when a country doubles the number of inventor immigrants it receives from nations that produce an above-average proportion of patents in a given technology, it is 25 to 50 percent more likely to create an above-average proportion of patents in that technology after a decade. To reap this benefit, the average country would need to attract only 25 additional immigrant inventors per year.