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Does scientist immigration harm US science? An examination of the knowledge spillover channel

Ajay Agrawal, John McHale and Alexander Oettl

Research Policy, 2019, vol. 48, issue 5, 1248-1259

Abstract: The recruitment of foreign-trained scientists enhances US science through an expanded workforce but could also cause harm by displacing better connected domestically-trained scientists, thereby reducing localized knowledge spillovers. We develop a model in which a sufficient condition for the absence of overall harm is that foreign-trained scientists generate at least the same level of localized spillovers as the domestically-trained scientists they displace. To test this condition, we conduct a hypothetical experiment in which each foreign-trained displaces an appropriately matched domestically-trained scientist. Overall, we do not find evidence that foreign-trained scientists harm US science by crowding out better-connected domestically-trained scientists, measured by citations by the US scientific community to their publications.

Keywords: Immigration; Displacement; Spillovers; Knowledge flows; Scientists; Externalities (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: J61 O31 O33 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2019
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