Ethnic Scientific Communities and International Technology Diffusion

41 Pages Posted: 2 May 2007 Last revised: 15 Aug 2014

See all articles by William Kerr

William Kerr

Harvard University - Entrepreneurial Management Unit

Date Written: August 1, 2008


This study explores the importance of knowledge transfer for international technology diffusion by examining ethnic scientific and entrepreneurial communities in the US and their ties to their home countries. US ethnic research communities are quantified by applying an ethnic-name database to individual patent records. International patent citations confirm knowledge diffuses through ethnic networks, and manufacturing output in foreign countries increases with an elasticity of 0.1-0.3 to stronger scientific integration with the US frontier. To address reverse-causality concerns, reduced-form specifications exploit exogenous changes in US immigration quotas. Consistent with a model of sector reallocation, output growth in less developed economies is facilitated by employment gains, while more advanced economies experience sharper increases in labor productivity. The ethnic transfer mechanism is especially strong in high-tech industries and among Chinese economies. The findings suggest channels for transferring codified and tacit knowledge partly shape the effective technology frontiers of developing and emerging economies.

Keywords: Technology Transfer, Tacit Knowledge, Productivity, Patents, Innovation, Research and Development, Entrepreneurship, Immigration, Networks

JEL Classification: F22, J44, J61, O31, O32, O33, O41, O57

Suggested Citation

Kerr, William R., Ethnic Scientific Communities and International Technology Diffusion (August 1, 2008). HBS Technology & Operations Mgt. Unit Research Paper No. 06-022, Review of Economics and Statistics, Vol. 90, No. 3, pp. 518-537, 2008, Harvard Business School Entrepreneurial Management Working Paper No. 06-022, Available at SSRN:

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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