Alex Bell, Raj Chetty, Xavier Jaravel, Neviana Petkova, John Van Reenen, 24 December 2017

Relatively little is known about the factors that induce people to become inventors. Using data on the lives of over one million inventors in the US, this column sheds light on what policies can be most effective in increasing innovation. In particular, it shows that increasing exposure to innovation among women, minorities, and children from low-income families may have greater potential to spark innovation and growth than traditional approaches such as reducing tax rates.

Philippe Aghion, Ufuk Akcigit, Ari Hyytinen, Otto Toivanen, 23 December 2017

Innovation is a crucial element of modern societies, but who becomes an inventor? This column shows that parental income affects the probability of someone becoming an inventor, but that this impact is greatly diminished once parents’ socioeconomic status, parents’ education, and the individual's IQ are controlled for. Overall, the results suggest a prominent role for parental education and for IQ in explaining an individual’s probability of inventing.

Ufuk Akcigit, John Grigsby, Tom Nicholas, 02 February 2017

A pressing issue facing policymakers around the globe today is how to generate long-term economic growth through technological innovation. Using a new dataset that matches 19th and 20th century patent records with census data, this column attempts to shed some light on the ‘golden age’ of US innovation. Population density and financial development are found to be important determinants of state innovativeness, while education appears to be the critical input at the individual level. These findings have important implications for innovation policy today.

Ufuk Akcigit, Salome Baslandze, Stefanie Stantcheva, 27 April 2015

Taxing high earners is an issue of growing importance in many nations. One concern is that raising rates will lead high earners to move elsewhere. This column suggests that top-tier inventors are significantly affected by top tax rates when deciding where to live. The loss of these highly skilled agents could entail significant economic costs in terms of lost tax revenues and less overall innovation.

Ajay Agrawal, Iain Cockburn, Alberto Galasso, Alexander Oettl, 23 December 2013

Many regions struggle to attract innovation activity. This column discusses new evidence suggesting that there is no universal ‘best’ policy. Policies focused exclusively on attracting ‘anchor tenants’ or cultivating new ventures may not be as effective as those promoting a mix of large and small firms. Regions with large firms but few young entrepreneurial firms may benefit from policies that cultivate new ventures, while those without large firms may benefit most from policies that attract some.

Otto Toivanen, Lotta Väänänen, 21 July 2013

Policymakers are worried that the number of inventors coming from the West is dwindling. Is the rising cost of higher education putting off innovative individuals? And are China, India and other emerging economies right to invest so heavily in academic subjects that produce inventors? This column argues that the number of inventors can be increased through the right educational policy. New research based on data from Finland and the US provides a justification for the policies adopted by emerging economies, and for Western policymakers’ worries about the decline of interest in Engineering and Science.

Carsten Fink, Ernest Miguelez, Julio Raffo, 17 July 2013

Migration is a hot-button issue across the globe. This column summarises new evidence on the patterns of skilled-worker migration, focusing on the specific case of inventors. A novel data source that traces worldwide migration flows for inventors suggests that, excluding a few nuances, the economic incentives for general migration also seem to influence inventors’ migration decisions.