Does Scientist Immigration Harm US Science? An Examination of Spillovers
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.
We thank Bill Kerr, Joshua Gans, Avi Goldfarb, Will Strange, Scott Stern, William Lincoln, and Mercedes Delgado as well as seminar participants at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, Harvard, and National University of Ireland, Galway for helpful comments. This research was funded by the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto, the Martin Prosperity Institute, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Science Foundation Ireland, and the Kauffman Junior Faculty Fellowship. All errors are our own. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.