The Ethnic Composition of US Inventors

27 Pages Posted: 31 Aug 2007 Last revised: 29 Sep 2013

See all articles by William Kerr

William Kerr

Harvard University - Entrepreneurial Management Unit

Date Written: December 22, 2008


The ethnic composition of US scientists and engineers is undergoing a significant transformation. This study applies an ethnic-name database to individual patent records granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office to document these trends with greater detail than previously available. Most notably, the contributions of Chinese and Indian scientists to US technology formation increase dramatically in the 1990s, before noticeably leveling off after 2000 and declining in the case of India. Growth in ethnic innovation is concentrated in high-tech sectors; the institutional and geographic dimensions are further characterized.

Keywords: Innovation, Research and Development, Patents, Scientists, Engineers, Inventors, Ethnicity, Immigration.

JEL Classification: F15, F22, J44, J61, O31

Suggested Citation

Kerr, William R., The Ethnic Composition of US Inventors (December 22, 2008). HBS Finance Working Paper No. 08-006, Harvard Business School Entrepreneurial Management Working Paper No. 08-006, Available at SSRN: or

William R. Kerr (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Entrepreneurial Management Unit ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Morgan 270C
Boston, MA 02163
United States

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