Immigration and Inventor Productivity

24 Pages Posted: 5 Mar 2019 Last revised: 26 Oct 2019

See all articles by Gabriele Pellegrino

Gabriele Pellegrino

Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

Orion B. Penner

Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

Etienne Piguet

University of Neuchatel

Gaétan de Rassenfosse

Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

Date Written: October 24, 2019

Abstract

This paper studies the relationship between migration and the productivity of high-skilled workers, as captured by inventors listed in patent applications. Using machine learning techniques to uniquely identify inventors across patents, we are able to track, for the first time, the worldwide migration patterns of nearly one million individual inventors. The econometric analysis seeks to explain the recurring finding in the literature that migrant inventors are more productive than non-migrant inventors. We investigate whether the effect of migration is the selection of inventors with high ability or whether migration per se boosts productivity. We find that migrant inventors were indeed intrinsically more productive than non-migrant inventors before the move (selection effect) but they also became all the more productive after migration (boost effect). We estimate that about 85% of the productivity difference is explained by post-move productivity increase and the remaining 15% is explained by selection. We explore the policy implications of this finding. The disambiguated inventor data are openly available to encourage follow-on research.

Keywords: inventor; productivity; skilled migration

JEL Classification: F22, J61, O30

Suggested Citation

Pellegrino, Gabriele and Penner, Orion B. and Piguet, Etienne and de Rassenfosse, Gaétan, Immigration and Inventor Productivity (October 24, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3334085 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3334085

Gabriele Pellegrino

Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne ( email )

Station 5
Odyssea 1.04
1015 Lausanne, CH-1015
Switzerland

Orion B. Penner

Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne ( email )

Station 5
Odyssea 1.04
1015 Lausanne, CH-1015
Switzerland

Etienne Piguet

University of Neuchatel ( email )

1, A.-L. Breguet
Neuchatel, CH-2000
Switzerland

Gaétan De Rassenfosse (Contact Author)

Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne ( email )

Station 5
Odyssea 1.04
1015 Lausanne, CH-1015
Switzerland

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