The Contribution of Skilled Immigrants to US Innovation in the First Half of the 20th Century

34 Pages Posted: 27 Jan 2020

See all articles by Elior Cohen

Elior Cohen

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Department of Economics; University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - California Center for Population Research

Date Written: March 25, 2018

Abstract

The first-half of the 20th century is characterized by mass migration from Europe to the US and rapid technological progress. Exploiting national immigration policy changes together with historical settlement patterns of immigrants’ across US counties, I estimate the effect of skilled immigration on local patenting rates. I find that counties that received more skilled immigrants had no impact on total patenting rates, but that this null effect masks a positive effect on the growing electrical and chemical fields and a negative effect on the traditional mechanical and textiles fields. Furthermore, I find that most of the effect is due to skilled immigration from Non-English Speaking Countries and from Countries with long patenting traditions. I offer a mechanism by which skilled immigrants act as ”Transmitters of Knowledge”, that is, they impact innovation primarily by introducing new knowledge that did not exist in their destination prior to their arrival.

JEL Classification: J1, J6, J61, O3, O31

Suggested Citation

Cohen, Elior, The Contribution of Skilled Immigrants to US Innovation in the First Half of the 20th Century (March 25, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3513622 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3513622

Elior Cohen (Contact Author)

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Department of Economics ( email )

8283 Bunche Hall
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1477
United States

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - California Center for Population Research ( email )

337 Charles E Young Dr E
Los Angeles, CA 90095
United States

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