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Does Scientist Immigration Harm US Science? An Examination of Spillovers

Ajay Agrawal, John McHale, Alex Oettl

NBER Working Paper No. 24519
Issued in April 2018
NBER Program(s):Productivity, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship

The recruitment of foreign scientists enhances US science through an expanded workforce but could also cause harm by displacing better connected domestic scientists, thereby reducing localized knowledge spillovers. We develop a model in which a sufficient condition for the absence of overall harm is that immigrant scientists generate at least the same level of localized spillovers as the domestic scientists they displace. To test this condition, we conduct an experiment in which each immigrant hypothetically displaces an appropriately matched domestic scientist. Overall, we do not find evidence that immigrant scientists harm US science by crowding out better-connected domestic scientists.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w24519

 
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