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A new study documents the role of immigrants in promoting inventions and economic growth in the United States. The study (abstract available here) was released today by the National Bureau of Economic Research and focused on the role of immigrants in the United States from 1880 to 1940, as well as the impact well after that. In the 10 states where the most patents were awarded per capita from 1880 to 1940, 20.6 percent of the population was made up of immigrants. In the states with the fewest patents awarded per capita, immigrants made up 1.7 percent of the population. Further, the technology fields in which immigrant investors were most active during this period had more patenting and citations than did other areas in the years 1940 though 2000.

One difference the study found between immigrant and nonimmigrant inventors: the immigrants earned less than did the American-born counterparts.

The study was by Ufuk Akcigit and John Grigsby, both of the University of Chicago, and Tom Nicholas of Harvard University.