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Lunchseminar in Economics: Why U.S. Immigration Barriers Matter for the Global Advancement of Science

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Speaker: Ina Ganguli, University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA
Event date: Wednesday, 16 June 2021 01:00 pm - 02:00 pm


This paper studies the impact of U.S. immigration barriers on global knowledge production. We present four key findings. First, among Nobel Prize winners and Fields Medalists, migrants to the U.S. play a central role in the global knowledge network—representing 20-33% of the frontier knowledge producers. Second, using novel survey data and hand-curated life-histories of International Math Olympiad (IMO) medalists, we show that migrants to the U.S. are up to six times more productive than migrants to other countries—even after accounting for talent during one’s teenage years. Third, financing costs are a key factor preventing foreign talent from migrating abroad to pursue their dream careers, particularly for talent from developing countries. Fourth, certain ‘push’ incentives that reduce immigration barriers – by addressing financing constraints for top foreign talent – could increase the global scientific output of future cohorts by 42 percent. We conclude by discussing policy options for the U.S. and the global scientific community.



Ina Ganguli is an Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Associate Director of the UMass Computational Social Science Institute (CSSI).  Her primary research areas are labor economics and the economics of science and innovation. Her recent research has focused on the migration of high-skill workers, gender disparities in the labor market, and the formation of scientific collaborations. She is a Research Affiliate of the Laboratory for Innovation Science at Harvard University (LISH) and a Research Fellow at the Stockholm Institute of Transition Economics (SITE) at the Stockholm School of Economics.  She holds a PhD from Harvard University.

Data: GANGULI Ina 16.06.2021.pdf 336.73 kB