Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Working Paper Series,
Research Institute of Industrial Economics

No 1462: Inventors among the “Impoverished Sophisticate”

Thor Berger () and Erik Prawitz ()
Additional contact information
Thor Berger: Department of Economic History & Centre for Economic Demography, School of Economics and Management, Lund University, Postal: Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study (SCAS), Uppsala University, Centre for, Economic Policy Research (CEPR), and Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN), Stockholm
Erik Prawitz: Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN), Postal: and Linnaeus University, Sweden

Abstract: This paper examines the identity and origins of Swedish inventors prior to World War I drawing on the universe of patent records linked to census data. We document that the rise of innovation during Sweden’s industrialization can largely be attributed to a small industrial elite belonging to the upper-tail of the economic, educational, and social status distribution. Analyzing children’s opportunities to become an inventor, we show that inventors were disproportionately drawn from privileged family backgrounds. However, among the middle- and working-class children that managed to overcome the barriers to entry, innovation was a path to upward mobility.

Keywords: Innovation; Inventors; Intergenerational mobility

JEL-codes: I25; J62; O31

Language: English

62 pages, May 17, 2023

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