February 2019

IZA DP No. 12190: Immigrant Entrepreneurs and Innovation in the U.S. High-Tech Sector

forthcoming in: I. Ganguli, S. Kahn, M.MacGarvie (eds.), The Roles of Immigrants and Foreign Students in U.S. Science, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship,'NBER, 2019

We estimate differences in innovation behavior between foreign versus U.S.-born entrepreneurs in high-tech industries. Our data come from the Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs, a random sample of firms with detailed information on owner characteristics and innovation activities. We find uniformly higher rates of innovation in immigrant-owned firms for 15 of 16 different innovation measures; the only exception is for copyright/trademark. The immigrant advantage holds for older firms as well as for recent start-ups and for every level of the entrepreneur's education. The size of the estimated immigrant-native differences in product and process innovation activities rises with detailed controls for demographic and human capital characteristics but falls for R&D and patenting. Controlling for finance, motivations, and industry reduces all coefficients, but for most measures and specifications immigrants are estimated to have a sizable advantage in innovation.