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Fact of the Week: 35 Percent of US Inventors Are Foreign-Born, Per a Recent CES Paper

Fact of the Week: 35 Percent of US Inventors Are Foreign-Born, Per a Recent CES Paper

November 21, 2022

Source: Ufuk Akcigit and Nathan Goldschlag, “Measuring the Characteristics and Employment Dynamics of U.S. Inventors,” Center for Economic Studies Working Paper Series, no. CES-22-43, September 2022.

Commentary: A recent paper published by the Center for Economic Studies links U.S. patent data with U.S. Census Bureau data for the period 2000–2016. It finds that just under 35 percent of inventors (those granted patents) in the U.S. in 2016 were born abroad. This increased from 25 percent in 2000 and is far larger than the demographic’s share of the U.S. population, which is just 13.6 percent, thus providing further evidence that the United States’ foreign-born population is more inventive than its native counterpart. Moreover, the foreign-born population accounts for an even larger share of patent citations (approximately 38 percent in 2013, the last year for which the paper reports data). However, the foreign-born share of young inventors (35-years-old or younger) peaked in 2009 at approximately 33 percent and decreased to its 2000 level of 25 percent by 2016.

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