Immigration and Inventor Productivity
24 Pages Posted: 5 Mar 2019 Last revised: 26 Oct 2019
Date Written: October 24, 2019
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: Suggested Citation