Human Capital, Skilled Immigrants, and Innovation

82 Pages Posted: 11 Oct 2016 Last revised: 17 Jan 2018

See all articles by Rasha Ashraf

Rasha Ashraf

Georgia State University - Department of Finance

Rina Ray

University of Colorado at Denver

Date Written: September 14, 2017


Before 2004, by sourcing skilled labor in the international labor market, large, innovative U.S. firms effectively utilized an alternative to investing in the existing human capital stock of these firms. After the immigration policy shock of 2004, when new skilled immigrant hiring became constrained, the firms dependent on skilled immigrant workers reduced R&D investment proactively and contemporaneously. Firm-level innovation outcome, measured by patents and citations, declined for these firms and there was an increase in Sales, General, and Administrative (SG&A) expense beginning three years after the shock. An increase in SG&A suggests a plausible increase in investment in the human capital of existing employees. Our results are robust to placebo tests, tests for alternative hypotheses, a set of falsification tests, and a battery of robustness checks. Although real wages declined for both immigrants and host-country workers after the shock, the decline is statistically significant only for the immigrant workers.

Keywords: human capital, immigration, innovation, patent, R&D

JEL Classification: G31, J24, J61, O31, O32

Suggested Citation

Ashraf, Rasha and Ray, Rina, Human Capital, Skilled Immigrants, and Innovation (September 14, 2017). Available at SSRN: or

Rasha Ashraf

Georgia State University - Department of Finance ( email )

35 Broad Street
Suite 1238
Atlanta, GA 30303
United States
404-413-7348 (Phone)
404-894-6030 (Fax)

Rina Ray (Contact Author)

University of Colorado at Denver ( email )

Box 173364
1250 14th Street
Denver, CO 80217
United States
303-315-8455 (Phone)

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