Taxation and Innovation in the 20th Century

89 Pages Posted: 17 Sep 2018

See all articles by Ufuk Akcigit

Ufuk Akcigit

University of Chicago - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR)

John Grigsby

University of Chicago

Tom Nicholas

Harvard University - Entrepreneurial Management Unit

Stefanie Stantcheva

Harvard University - Department of Economics

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Date Written: September 2018

Abstract

This paper studies the effect of corporate and personal taxes on innovation in the United States over the twentieth century. We use three new datasets: a panel of the universe of inventors who patent since 1920; a dataset of the employment, location and patents of firms active in R&D since 1921; and a historical state-level corporate tax database since 1900, which we link to an existing database on state-level personal income taxes. Our analysis focuses on the impact of taxes on individual inventors and firms (the micro level) and on states over time (the macro level). We propose several identification strategies, all of which yield consistent results: i) OLS with fixed effects, including inventor and state-times-year fixed effects, which make use of differences between tax brackets within a state-year cell and which absorb heterogeneity and contemporaneous changes in economic conditions; ii) an instrumental variable approach, which predicts changes in an individual or firm's total tax rate with changes in the federal tax rate only; iii) event studies, synthetic cohort case studies, and a border county strategy, which exploits tax variation across neighboring counties in different states. We find that taxes matter for innovation: higher personal and corporate income taxes negatively affect the quantity and quality of inventive activity and shift its location at the macro and micro levels. At the macro level, cross-state spillovers or business-stealing from one state to another are important, but do not account for all of the effect. Agglomeration effects from local innovation clusters tend to weaken responsiveness to taxation. Corporate inventors respond more strongly to taxes than their non-corporate counterparts.

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Suggested Citation

Akcigit, Ufuk and Grigsby, John and Nicholas, Tom and Stantcheva, Stefanie, Taxation and Innovation in the 20th Century (September 2018). NBER Working Paper No. w24982. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3246779

Ufuk Akcigit (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Department of Economics ( email )

1126 E. 59th St
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.ufukakcigit.com

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) ( email )

London
United Kingdom

John Grigsby

University of Chicago ( email )

Tom Nicholas

Harvard University - Entrepreneurial Management Unit ( email )

Cambridge, MA 02163
United States

Stefanie Stantcheva

Harvard University - Department of Economics ( email )

Littauer Center
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

HOME PAGE: http://scholar.harvard.edu/stantcheva/home

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