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7 April 2017
How immigrants invent: evidence from Sweden

Photo: Tsaiproject

The PhD thesis “How immigrants invent: evidence from Sweden” by Yannu Zheng investigates  the inventive performance of immigrants in Sweden based on a special database which links inventors to the general population of the country from 1985 to 2007. It shows that the inventive performance of immigrants is influenced by immigrants’ age at migration, region of origin, educational level, match between education and occupation and migration policy.

In general, first-generation immigrants are less likely to patent than native Swedes. The exception is the group working in the high-tech knowledge-intensive service (KIS) sector, where first-generation immigrants are more likely to patent than natives. This is mainly because in this sector, first-generation immigrants are educated to a higher level than their native peers; furthermore, their high and similar representation in high-skill occupations as natives enable them to have as high patenting rate as natives when other variables are held constant. In most sectors, however, the main barriers to first-generation immigrants’ probability of patenting are their over-representation in low-skill occupations and their lower education-occupation match compared with natives. When the analysis is limited to inventors, first-generation immigrant inventors perform as well as their native counterparts.

Second-generation immigrants with a non-Nordic European background perform better than native Swedes, which appears to be because they have more highly educated parents than their native counterparts. Their performance may also be positively affected from having non-native parents who originated from regions with close geographic proximity to Sweden. However, either disadvantage in educational attainment or lack of geographical or cognitive proximity of non-native parents’ region of origin to Sweden can hamper second-generation immigrants’ inventive performance.

The findings also suggest that, the liberalization of migration after the inception of the European Economic Area (EEA) in 1994 had a negative effect on educational profile of new EU-15 immigrants to Sweden in the short run when compared with new immigrants from ‘Other developed regions’, but there is no such effect in the long run; moreover, the liberalization of migration also has no systemic effect on the EU-15 immigrants’ probability of becoming an inventor both in the short and long run.

How immigrants invent: evidence from Sweden

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