An interview with William Kerr in Harvard Business School’s Working Knowledge: The Changing Face of American Innovation

The contributions made by immigrant scientists and engineers for developing new U.S. technologies have been formidable—but not always well described.

What we do know: While the foreign-born account for just over 10 percent of the U.S. working population, they represent 25 percent of the U.S. science and engineering workforce and nearly 50 percent of those with science and engineering doctorates. And at the Ph.D. level, ethnic researchers make an exceptional contribution to science as measured by Nobel Prizes, election to the National Academy of Sciences, patent citation counts, and so on.

Now new research based on patent and trademark data by Harvard Business School professor William Kerr drills down to further identify the probable ethnic composition of U.S. inventors, the industries they influence, and the geographies they work in.

But the paper, “The Ethnic Composition of U.S. Inventors,” also documents a significant transformation in ethnic composition of U.S. scientists and engineers over the last 30 years, as Chinese and Indian inventors grew in importance as drivers of U.S. innovation…