The H. Gregg Lewis prize for the best paper published in the Journal of Labor Economics during 2010-2011 has been awarded to William R. Kerr (l) and William F. Lincoln (r) for “The Supply Side of Innovation: H-1B Visa Reforms and U.S. Ethnic Innovation,” which appeared in the July 2010 issue.
The Prize Committee consisted of Enrico Moretti (Chair), Chris Robinson (previous Lewis Prize winner), and Bruce Weinberg. The committee identified many excellent articles -- pieces on interesting and important topics using strong research designs and, in many cases, original data work. Kerr and Lincoln’s piece reflects all three qualities, standing out even from this impressive cohort of articles.
Kerr and Lincoln’s piece is a timely analysis of high-skilled immigration. They seek to understand how increased immigration affects employment and patenting among natives, a serious issue and one at the center of policy discussions. To identify exogenous variations in immigration, they use variations in the cap on new H-1B admissions between 1995 and 2008 interacted with geographic variation in the dependency on H-1B immigrants. Increases in H-1B immigrants increase total employment of science and engineering workers in a city, but there is no evidence of crowding out of domestic science and engineering workers. To explore the effects of science and engineering immigrants on innovation, their creative method to identify the ethnicity of immigrants uses the names of inventors on U.S. patents. These data show that total patenting, patenting by Chinese, Indian, and other, non-Anglo-Saxon ethnicities goes up, but there is no reduction in patenting among Anglo-Saxons. In addition to being excited by the piece and its execution, the committee hopes that the article will stimulate additional, related work.