Fact of the Week: After Swedish Emigration Increased by 10 Percent in the Late 19th Century, Patenting Increased by 6 Percent

Caleb Foote April 20, 2020
April 20, 2020

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Source: David Andersson, Mounir Karadja, and Erik Prawitz, “Mass Migration and Technological Change,” SocArXiv 74ub8, Center for Open Science.

Commentary: Emigration, especially of high-skilled workers, is often presumed to be a major problem for developing nations. However, emigrants can drive innovation in their home country by driving up the costs of wages, and thus the returns to labor-saving inventions. A new study supports this idea, comparing the rates of emigration and patenting between communities in Sweden in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Leveraging data on distance to migrant ports and agricultural harvests, the study finds that a 10 percent increase in emigration from 1867 to 1900 drove a 6 percent increase in patenting in the area from 1900 to 1914.