Article | Journal of Labor Economics | July 2010

The Supply Side of Innovation: H-1B Visa Reforms and U.S. Ethnic Invention

by William R. Kerr and William F. Lincoln


This study evaluates the impact of high-skilled immigrants on U.S. technology formation. We use reduced-form specifications that exploit large changes in the H-1B visa program. Higher H-1B admissions increase immigrant science and engineering (SE) employment and patenting by inventors with Indian and Chinese names in cities and firms dependent upon the program relative to their peers. Most specifications find limited effects for native SE employment or patenting. We are able to rule out displacement effects, and small crowding-in effects may exist. Total SE employment and invention increases with higher admissions primarily through direct contributions of immigrants.

Keywords: Engineering; Governing Rules, Regulations, and Reforms; Policy; Immigration; Innovation and Invention; Patents; Business and Government Relations; Science; United States;


Kerr, William R., and William F. Lincoln. "The Supply Side of Innovation: H-1B Visa Reforms and U.S. Ethnic Invention." Journal of Labor Economics 28, no. 3 (July 2010): 473–508. (Winner of H. Gregg Lewis Prize for Best Paper in Journal of Labor Economics 2010-2011.)