The Contribution of Skilled Immigrants to US Innovation in the First Half of the 20th Century
34 Pages Posted: 27 Jan 2020
Date Written: March 25, 2018
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: Suggested Citation