I would be surprised if there was no role. How immigrants are attacked despite they bringing benefits to the local economies.
The impact of immigration on US economic development has become a controversial issue in recent policy debates. This column, arising from a study linking Federal Census data with patent records, examines the historical role of immigrant inventors in the process of US technological innovation. Immigrant inventors appear to have been of central importance to American innovation during the 19th and 20th centuries, both through their own inventive activity and through their influence on domestic inventors.
Most innovators come from Germany:
Figure 1 shows the share of inventors who were born abroad in each state. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, economic activity was largely concentrated in parts of the Northeast and the Midwest (Glaeser 2011). Immigrant inventors were heavily concentrated in these places too, perhaps in response to the greater opportunities and rewards available to individuals with inventive capabilities. Indeed, prior work has shown that the movement of inventors across countries is affected by key economic variables that affect financial returns, such as tax policy (Akcigit et al. 2016). Meanwhile, immigrant inventors were far less represented in southern states, where opportunities, or societal openness to disruptive ideas, may have been more limited (e.g. Acemoglu et al. 2014).
Based on an analysis of US patent technology classes, Figure 2 shows the areas in which immigrant inventors were prevalent. Medical inventions (e.g. surgical sutures) accounted for the largest share of immigrants, but this category produced just 1% of all US patents. However, immigrants were also active in chemicals and electricity – two sectors that had a particularly large effect on US economic growth, accounting for 13.9% and 12.6% of all US patents, respectively. Noticeably, immigrants accounted for at least 16% of patents in every area. This evidence suggests that their impact on inventive activity was widespread.
Figure 2 also shows that the majority of immigrant inventors originated from European countries, with Germans playing a particularly prominent role. This is consistent with the findings of Moser et al. (2014) who show that German-Jewish émigrés who fled the Nazi regime boosted innovation in the US chemicals industry by around 30%. Today the closest analogue to these high-impact individuals would be inventors of Indian and Chinese ethnic origin who make substantial contributions to the development of innovation clusters in areas like Silicon Valley (Hunt and Gauthier-Loiselle 2010, Kerr and Lincoln 2010).
This does not mean immigrants alone help. Just that allow skilled people to more freely
In summary, our study – which is based on a large new data set matching millions of inventors from patent records to individuals in Federal Censuses – provides suggestive evidence that immigrant inventors were of central importance to American innovation during the 19th and 20th centuries. Although the migration of high-skilled inventors to the US involved some costs, immigrant inventors contributed heavily to new idea creation, through both their own work and collaboration with domestic inventors. Our evidence aligns with the view that growth in an economy is determined by its ablest innovators, regardless of national origin. The movement of high-skilled individuals across national borders therefore appears to have aided the development of the United States as an innovation hub.