Innovation in Silicon Valley and immigrant migration

Researchers have examined how the San Francisco area grew from 5% of US domestic patents in 1975-1984 to over 12% in 1995-2004. They concluded that this growth was associated with the rise of a mobile workforce, specifically immigrants. “Immigrants are very important for U.S. invention, representing 24% and 47% of the US science and engineering (SE) workforce with bachelor and doctorate educations in the 2000 Census of Populations, respectively. This contribution was significantly higher than the 12% share of immigrants in the US working population at the time.

“Using Census records, we show that immigrant SEs are more mobile within the US than their domestic counterparts. Between 1995 and 2000, Immigrants represented 6% of the SE workforce in the 2000 Census but 25% of the net moves. This greater flexibility and growing immigrant contributions result in technology migration [to geographic clusters] being faster across clusters for technologies that depend heavily on immigrant SEs. This effect was particularly strong in the semiconductor industry.”

Research led by William Kerr.


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