Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Papers in Innovation Studies,
Lund University, CIRCLE - Center for Innovation, Research and Competences in the Learning Economy

No 2015/9: How Do the Foreign-born Perform in Inventive Activity? Evidence from Sweden

Yannu Zheng () and Olof Ejermo ()
Additional contact information
Yannu Zheng: CIRCLE, Lund University
Olof Ejermo: CIRCLE, Lund University

Abstract: Using a new database that matches patent applications by Swedish residents with demographic information from 1985 to 2007, we examine differences in inventive performance by individuals of foreign and domestic origins, in terms of quantity (probability of patenting, total number of patents per inventor) and quality (forward citations, probability of grant) of patents. We further compare adult and child immigrants with their Swedish-born counterparts. Holding other variables constant, we find that the immigrants are generally less likely to patent than the Swedish-born. Nonetheless, the general group of immigrant inventors, including those who migrated as adults, perform as well as the native inventors and therefore seem more positively selected. Compared with the Swedish-born, the immigrants who migrated as children are disadvantaged in both quantity and quality of patents, which may be linked to a lack of Sweden-specific human capital. Whether education was received in Sweden does not seem to make a difference for the immigrants who migrated as adults. In summary, this study provides an initial impression of the inventive performance, contribution, and challenges of distinct groups of immigrants who have differing characteristics and backgrounds.

Keywords: immigrants; inventors; children; adults

JEL-codes: J15; J24; N30; O31

53 pages, February 15, 2015

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