Employment, Innovation, and High-Skill Immigration

Award Year


Grant Type

Policy research grant


The United States is poised to invest tens of billions of dollars in promoting R&D and knowledge creation, largely because of the belief that such investment will result in better wages and employment outcomes. At the same time, many opinion leaders are calling for an increase in the number of high-skill immigrants, claiming that this will increase knowledge generation and thus spark economic growth (The Economist, 2009). Yet, little is known about the effect of the entrance of high-skill immigrants on knowledge generation or the effect of knowledge generation on the employment of existing workers. This research analyzes the intersection of employment, innovation, and high-skill immigration by focusing on a specific case: the influx of Soviet mathematicians in some subfields of mathematics in the United States in the 1990s following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The study uses this influx of eastern-block mathematicians to identify a causal relationship between the flow of new entrants into a narrowly defined field of research and the rate of innovation and employment in that field.

Grant Product

Cognitive Mobility: Labor Market Responses to Supply Shocks in the Space of Ideas
Journal of Labor Economics 33 (S1): S109-S145. DOI:10.1086/676659

The Collapse of the Soviet Union and the Productivity of American Mathematicians
Quarterly Journal of Economics 127(3)(August 2012): 11143-1203. DOI:10.1093/qje/qjs015